There is a sense of merriment and joy that is supposed to represent this time of year. It's supposed to be a time for being thankful, gathering with family, friends, and loved ones near and far. On the flip side, this time of year can be difficult for those suffering from trauma and post-traumatic stress. It can become a time of year that creates anxiety, stress, depression, and an internal wanting of it to just be over and done with so we can get on with our lives. But that leads me to two questions: What does it mean to "get on with our lives"? and two, What is this expectation that this time of year has to be a time of merriment and celebration?
Let's start with the first question because I know the second was confusing and somehow surprising. Facing the holidays after you have experienced trauma, loss, combat, intense training,and separation from families, can be difficult. Perspective has changed, simple things don't seem so simple anymore. Everything seems to bear a weight that you can't understand and from my own experiences, often felt as if it was more of a burden than a celebration. So once the holidays are over.........."How is it that we "get on with our lives"? What do we do that is different after the holidays than what we do during the holidays? Is behavior really different? From my own perspective, the answer is no. However, what is different is the expectation we've put on ourselves and the expectations of the season. We also face the expectations of those around us wanting for us to be as we were before our trauma.
January comes and there is a collective sigh of relief, a new start, but yet the burden is somehow still present in a different way.
What if we took a moment to honor where we are, who we are, and what we've been through at the holidays? What if instead of looking at ourselves as broken, damaged, and somehow not worth joy or interested in celebration, we take a deep breath and honor that the holidays may be a time of solace, quietness, being in tune with who we are at this time. It is a time of accepting that our bodies and minds need to reintegrate with what joy truly is inside of ourselves. The expectations of decorations, parties, being jolly, celebrating, and the stress of preparations that don't seem to feel like they did earlier in our lives are too high a bar to reach right now. Consider the thought that we have to set our own expectation of saying, "Its okay to take our time".
Meditation became the constant for me that I turned to no matter what the expectations were around me, on me, or for me. It became the place I went for balance and connection to the moment because many times we lose our internal equilibrium because we are taking in so much information. One negative thought leads to another before you know it you are the miserable. You don't know why you feel as you do, nor can you explain it those who are pressing you to be "normal".
Which leads me to the next question.............
"What does it mean to be normal after trauma?"
Have you ever thought of PTSD as a normal response to extraordinary circumstances? Contemplate that for a bit and see how you feel about it. It is a profound statement I learned from my training. Maybe the process that we go through with stress and trauma is normal and we have to find a way to manage it through medical care, therapy, counseling, and the benefit of complementary therapies like meditation, energy work, etc.
Meditation can help you to be connected to the moment you are in. This is even if your mind is wandering around in the past making you feel like those events are happening all over again or if your mind is wandering around the future where it worries and becomes frightened. What is your mind saying in the present about where you are right now? Many times, in my experience and the experiences I've had with military personnel, we often don't know what our mind thinks about what's happening right now because we've had no way to listen or connect to it.
Consider the idea that meditation can be an inner resource that is always with you, no matter how you are feeling or what the expectations are that are being placed on you, your environment, or other people.
It's a place for you to be who you are, as you are.
*image: Google Images