Therapy for PTSD isn’t just about dealing with traumatic memories, but also fixing the person that has been changed emotionally and cognitively by the exposure to traumatic experiences. To do this requires one to actively engage in self-reflection, a difficult and oftentimes extremely painful exercise. This self-reflection typically leads to a greater awareness of one’s shortcomings and a genuine desire to change them. How many people truly get the opportunity to reinvent themselves? That is what PTSD has given to me, and that’s why I see it as a gift. I am becoming a better person because of it. I am not rediscovering or uncovering the old me, the person before PTSD, but I am creating a brand new me, a person I now respect, a person I now like, and a person I don’t mind sharing my physical body with.
Where once my view of the world, others, and myself was simple and single-minded and governed by a multitude of PTSD-caused cognitive distortions, I’m now able to reframe my thoughts, sometimes in real time, looking at events, issues, and people, myself included, from different perspectives, generally trying to choose the perspective that best suits my goal of positivity and optimism. It doesn’t happen all the time, and I sometimes need to be reminded of my quickly forgotten new perspectives. There have been many backslides, but my fundamental views of the world and others are slowly evolving for the better.
Where I once was judgemental of literally everybody and everything, I am now starting to see everybody as individuals who are not required to meet my sometimes—okay, oftentimes—unrealistic expectations. I still have many expectations of others and myself, but I’m now fully aware of how expectations cloud one’s view and am actively working to rid myself of those problematic expectations. Expectations no longer form the window through which I look at everybody else. I can’t lie, sometimes that viewing window gets clouded over, but I do try to clean it often.
Where I once felt angry all the time, almost just for the sake of being angry, I now appreciate the beauty of things and of mother nature and let her wind, waves, sun, and wildlife take me to a place of calmness, a place of peace and a time bounded by the present. Mother nature is so simple, birds fly, water flows, rain falls, and the sun shines. Nothing more, nothing less. No desires, no goals, no agendas, just right here, right now. The epitome of being peacefully present.
Where once my mind raced with chaotic thoughts, almost like a whirlwind tornado creating chaos as it passes by, now there are many times when I can sit in stillness enjoying just watching those “squirrel in traffic” thoughts float by. I have come to accept that there is beauty in chaos, and not everything needs to be perfect, myself and my thoughts and feelings included. There are still times when those chaotic thoughts invade my mind but they no longer consume weeks or days of my life.
Where once I looked upon everything going on around me as a problem to be solved and felt the overpowering need to be the master and provider of the solution, I now can sit back, observe, and understand that many times problems solve themselves without my intervention. I have finally accepted that not all problems are mine to solve.
Everything I have done towards my recovery from PTSD has directly and indirectly contributed to the evolution of who I am now. I will never be the person I was before being burdened with PTSD, a fact I am actually quite willing and happy to accept. I am becoming a newer and better person, an evolution of who I was all because of PTSD and my recovery efforts. It is for this very reason that for me, PTSD has not been the curse that it is for many, but a gift. PTSD has gifted me a new me!