Stigma of PTSD

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?  What if you were afraid yet had to rely on your own personal courage?  We all have courage and the day my courage was tested is a day I will not soon forget.  Courage is not endless yet there is no chart on which to measure, but all courage has its limits. I am sure if you take a moment you can remember a time when your own courage was tested and the feeling of reaching the limit and telling yourself that it was a close call. I have found myself, more times than I can count in the past years, relying on my courage. Most of the time It was an expected feeling and I actually put myself it that situation. For instance, the summer of 2008 while in Dyea, Alaska coming face to face with an Alaskan brown bear (grizzly bear) the urge to run fast and far from this magnificent creature was stifled by my desire to take his picture and to enjoy that very moment.  The feeling of adrenalin pumping through my body with all its might is something I will never forget. It’s the unexpected courage that is the hardest to deal with, all the while feeling I have reached my limit of courage yet somehow pushing myself to extend the limit just a little bit further.

Where am I going with this?  I don’t know, but if you keep reading, I will keep writing and try to explain a time in my not so distant past when I reached my absolute limit.  It was my courage to live. I had convinced myself, and was content with my plan, to end my life. That’s when someone close to me had to get up the courage to call the police, my doctor, and the VA hospital to get me the help I needed so desperately.  I hated this person for that.  I realize that hate is a strong word, but it is not strong enough to describe my feelings. “I had a plan, and you screwed everything up. I hate you!” I think were my exact words. I held on to that for a very long time. This week I found myself needing to do the right thing and not taking the feel-good easy way out of a bad situation.  I had to call and get help for someone who was not able to help himself. The battle in my head and the battle with my heart were powerful. I realized I was being selfish and thinking about how he was affecting me and I did not want him to hate me the way I so easily once hated. I pulled up the courage and made the call for help. This only took seconds to make up my mind, but it felt like an eternity.

After this emergency was out of my hands and in the control of a doctor, I sat and cried, once again feeling the adrenalin of courage I am so very familiar with. I just went numb, but started to feel I did the right thing.  Then I realized I did not just help this person but I also recognized the hate I once felt toward the person who had helped me. This was a gift I was not able to recognize in my time of need.  Today, however, I did recognize it as a true gift, so I called the person from my past and said I was sorry for putting her in a position that made her have to call the police.   Just like that, the hate I have felt all these years toward this person was gone.

The courage to fight the stigma of PTSD is something I battle every day. The comfortable feel-good place of hiding in my house is just not an option I am willing to settle for. So if you need to seek help but are worried about being labeled with PTSD remember it is not a weakness to ask for help.  It takes courage to tell a friend or make a phone call but you are not alone and “If we all do it, we can break down the stigma and help others who are not quite so strong yet, to have hope.”

Copyright Thomas P Skinner

Brown Bear in Dyea Alaska, By Thomas Skinner

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One Response to Stigma of PTSD

  1. Catherine T. says:

    This story shows courage on so many levels.
    * It took courage to save your friend even though it might make him hate you.
    * It took courage to recognize your own past hatred for the person who saved you.
    * It took courage to call her to apologize.
    * It took courage to share this whole story so openly.

    Not to mention the CRAZY courage of letting a grizzly bear get in your face!! That is one amazing piece of video.

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