There is an old story I have heard a number of times, in a number of ways. I don't know the true origin of it, but its' lesson speaks volumes. It goes something like this......There are two wolves at war within us. One of light and one of darkness. The question is always.......Which wolf will win? The answer: The one we feed.
As someone with firsthand experience with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, I can tell you that we often don't even realize which wolf we are truly feeding. We aren't aware that every thought we have feeds one or the other. Each time you put yourself down for not being able to be "fixed" or each time that you lose your temper over something seemingly insignificant in the grand scheme of things, think about which wolf you are feeding. Think about if you feel like you have a choice in which one you feed. This awareness is where it all begins. With PTSD, it often feels as if you do not have choices. You didn't choose your injury. You didn't choose your trauma. You didn't choose to be unhappy, depressed, or angry. It chose you. Frustrating, I know. But if you begin to recognize that there is a battle going on inside of you and you develop the awareness of what you are feeding with every thought, the choices begin to appear. At first it's a disconcerting feeling to realize that you have a choice in the matter because at some point, saying you didn't choose this is somehow a security blanket making you unable to step forward towards recovery. But as much as the appearance of choices can become a mirror of what you are choosing for yourself on the inside, it is also a liberating feeling once you get past the initial discomfort. Choices feel good. It means we aren't victims of our trauma, we are simply living our lives and had a different kind of experience than the person next to us. Even two people who were in the same war, on the same base, on the same mission, can have two separate experiences. When you honor your experience as simply being your own and honoring that it has lessons to teach you about who you are, you will begin to grow with it instead of against it. Not every lesson is meant to be learned in the moment of trauma, some are learned in the journey through the recovery from trauma.
Our lives are meant to be lived, not simply survived.
There is still so much for us to learn, so much for us to teach each other, so much for us to give back to those who are on the earlier part of their journey. Giving up isn't an option. It wasn't part of the briefing or the mission, so you mustn't give up on yourselves. Your new mission is to reclaim you.
*Photos: Susie Guckin