When you begin to discover PTSD is active within yourself, behaviors can and do change. I think most of us who have it would agree that our behaviors changed long before we even recognized what we had and oftentimes long before a diagnosis is officially given. But this notion of strategic disengagement is so important because I know how important that time on my own is to my daily balance. I have to have that time and I look forward to that time. I think of it like charging my cell phone. If my phone isn't charged, it isn't going to operate effectively. On a low battery, the light dims, certain apps slow down, it doesn't respond as quickly, and so on. As a person, I am the same way; my light dims. I do not respond effectively if my energetic battery that operates my brain, emotions, and rational thinking is drained.
I no longer feel compelled to explain to others why or how I live as I do and I know many veterans and police officers who are put in positions where they feel they have to explain or else they are "razzed" for lack of a better word for not part-taking in the rowdy camaraderie that sometimes takes place.
Once you've been to that dark place within yourself, the lense in which you see the world is very different. It is so different you don't even bother trying to explain it to others, nor do you want to. Taking the time to say no to certain activities that involve rowdiness, loud chatter, drinking, and other activities is hard, especially when that is sometimes part of the culture. I personally don't think it's always just the culture of camaraderie, from what I have learned, it is part of how the brotherhood and sisterhood have learned to cope when other things are not considered as acceptable. So again, taking time to bow out of certain activities that you know aren't helping you through your process is challenging, but saying yes to what is good for you should be easy. If you know that through strategic disengagement you feel healthier, more connected, maybe you feel like a better person, then why wouldn't you listen to that? It's complex isn't it? Why wouldn't we listen to that? Well, because that is all part of our struggle with stress, PTSD, injuries, and trauma. Sometimes we don't listen to what is best for us because we are terrified of the unknown. Sometimes the less than savory that we do know becomes comfortable, so we stay there. I know that place too, but this other place I've found is way better and there are a lot of people here just like me who know what it is like on both sides.
Find your place and your time of strategic disengagement and allow yourself to connect, recharge, and ponder. Pondering what your life would be like without your trauma is okay. I couldn't do that for a long time because the steadfast part of me was realistic. It told me that no matter what I am stuck with this condition. There's no cure. PTSD has no cure? No cure? Am I okay with that? If there's no cure, then what do I do? I'm not really sure, but I seem to have found my way and as always, it was because of the troops who consistently reminded me that who I am is not only enough, it has been a profound blessing to them. Me and my PTSD were a blessing? Who knew?
The tree I'm sitting in, in the photo above had a heartbeat. I was so intrigued by it and the photographer just happened to have caught a shot of me looking up at it. I've had a number of people say it looks like I'm having a conversation with it. The way I see it, it had something to teach me. It is clearly weathered, could have been there for years and years, beyond what I could ever imagine, yet there it stands growing out of rock. If it can do that, then I can to. The rigidness that is born from trauma and PTSD can give way to vulnerability and new growth. There are many day to day things that escape my perception, like working doorknobs and figuring out things that many take for granted, but the grander scale of how our lives are vastly connected through our trauma does not escape me. The lessons for weathering the storm are found in nature and that is often where we find the reflection of what we are searching for within ourselves. Where do you go to strategically disengage?
Janise Witt Photography