As a public school teacher, my book has made an impact on my students. Many have had a myriad of inquisitive, educated questions about my experiences. I worked closely with my administration and the guidance department to develop a character education presentation based on my book to help the students to better understand my experiences and how they can apply the principles of courage, compassion, and resiliency to the challenges they face at their young ages. The presentations were fruitful, productive, and rather remarkable. Each of the six sessions was twenty minutes in length and students sat so quietly with their eyes wide, listening to a teacher tell her story of struggling behind the scenes of life.
Some of the questions I received had to do with maneuvering changes in friendships, the emotional toll my brain injuries took on me, how my experiences impacted my self-esteem, how I learned to deal with people that aren't kind when you are going through something difficult. Other questions had to do with the memory loss and how I learned to cope with not knowing who I was or how to function from day to day being so worn down. Many of the students asked if the cover of the book was me and what it represented.
When the students asked me how it felt when I lost friendships and how did I make new friends, I shared with them that the soldiers were there for me along the way. Each positive interaction I had with the troops became the makings of a new pathway in my brain. I was developing understanding, awareness, and the ability to embrace my own courage. I told the kids that the troops taught me that courage is never about not being afraid....even the troops are scared. They are scared going into war and they are scared coming home from war, but the idea that something is more important than fear is the key. My mission was always the well-being of my students. My issues could not take the forefront. The mission had to be bigger than myself and well, it still is. I continue to experience triggers and deficiencies, but I also continue to experience an abundance of healing through the mission that continues to be bigger than myself. The well-being of my students is still paramount, but now my classroom is much larger. It encompasses a global community that has suffered from post-traumatic stress in silence, confusion, guilt, and self-defeat. It is a global community that knows the peril of brain injury and invisible wounds of the heart. I will continue to experience healing for the rest of my life because the mission of educating others is more important than my fear, than my brain's inability to recover lost memories, and it is more important than what no longer serves me.
I'd like to add that my audience was comprised of ten and eleven year old students with an abundance of wisdom and compassion. I anticipate that this group of children has something very special to offer the world. I, in turn, received thoughtful notes, cards, and pictures expressing their feeling inspired, motivated, and touched by my ability to share what happened to me; Having an adult say to them that I understand how it feels to not want to talk about something, to admit that I also sometimes feel scared, to admit as an adult that I don't always fit in, is all okay. I told the kids that when I realized I didn't fit in anyone else's box, was the day I learned to build my own box and I rather like what I've built. They are welcome to build their own too because they can make it something that matches them and I hope that their challenges are what helps them grow, not what holds them back.
So to all of you suffering from PTSD coming back from war or traumatic experiences, you may not fit in the same box you were in before. Don't tear yourselves down because you out-grew a box that was never meant to be forever. It served its' purpose at the time, but you've grown. Growing sometimes comes with growing pains. Allow yourself to expand and take up space, build that new box, and amazing things begin to follow. Others will follow your example and begin to build their own too, next thing you know we've created a community that is healing not only ourselves, but each other.
Thanks to all of you for the continued visits to my blog. Thank you for sharing the message of me, my book, and the resources I offer. It is making an impact far bigger than I could have imagined. The troops have long told me I think too small....the message I am sharing is big.....I just have to go through the process of embracing that.
Meet me at the upcoming national and international book events in Orlando, Beijing, Frankfurt, and Pasadena. There will be some local events popping up soon too. Stay tuned.