I am being asked the question from my previous letter to the editor (Record, Nov. 21) on recovering from post-traumatic stress: “What can I aim for in my everyday life to relieve the symptoms of PTSD or to help the one I love suffering from it.”
The answer so often lies in the cause.
It was my last day in Angola. Along with 150 others, I had contracted yellow jaundice and was about to be flown out.
I had not eaten for two weeks, not drank liquids for days, I had lost 45 pounds and my body was starting to go into convulsions.
The past six months of fighting was like a dream that I was waking from; and I was about to be sucked into a deeper, longer sleep. I was lying in a sunny hollow, too weak and too oblivious to move into the cool shade of the thick surrounding bush.
The deadly, guttural growl of approaching MiG fighter jets had become a very familiar sound and a freshly dug fox hole was as necessary as a will to live. The latter, though, I seemed to have freed myself of. It was only seconds later that a low flying MiG crept over my small view of a diminishing life.
Being one of the fastest fighter jets in the world, MiGs do not creep; however, it seemed as though my time had finally unwound and everything was slowing to a halt.
As everyone else scurried to their foxholes I gazed up at the pilot who was sketched on my final scene. I awaited the inevitable blast with unperturbed anticipation. I had finally realized the dream and was now happy to wake at will.
The resultant sense of peace was unlike any that I had ever experienced. As I let go of resistance to death I also ironically let go of the resistance to life.
I had surrendered and immersed myself fully into the present moment. This realization only came years later and is the answer to the question.
If you need a bearing on your journey back to yourself, let it be the present moment. Try to be present in everything that you do and try to feel more.
The defence mechanism in which you are locked will try to keep you from the seemingly vulnerable state of feeling and in the ‘controlled’ state of logic. There is a joyful, innocence that, according to logic based on past events, needs to be protected; but this suit of armour will only keep you trapped in post-traumatic stress.
It is not the people and events in your life that you are irritated and angry with but at yourself, at not being able to join them. Awareness is the first and biggest step. If it is the person that you love that is suffering try to be present for them. You can act as a beacon, showing them the way.
There is a legendary journey taken by a young girl on a yellow brick road, on which she searches for the courage and wisdom to return home.
Similarly, you will need to travel this path to find your courage and wisdom to love again; and as you travel along this path you may become ensnared in the thorns of regrets and stuck in the potholes of despair, but it is taking you home.
And you will arrive back where you started to view the present moment through loving, wiser eyes. Practices like yoga and meditation act as vehicles to usher you along the path; but remember, even if you choose to travel alone, the journey only ends after the first step is taken.