Our Family Toolbox…
A flash of lightening and an instantaneous clap of thunder sent me into a dissociative flashback. My 18 year old daughter was sitting just feet from me on our screened in patio. We had been enjoying listening to the rain when the lightening sent me back to Iraq.
Vaguely, I could hear her asking if I was alright, but I was unable to process the question, let alone answer her. She knows I have PTSD. She has had to deal with my symptoms as she grew into the wonderful young woman who sits beside me now.
My service dog, Chauncey, had gone inside…following one of my younger children into the house. When my episode hit, I could see him staring at me through the door, but I couldn’t move. My daughter stood, went to the door and opened it, telling Chauncey to come to me. After Chauncey brought me out of my terror, I was able to thank my daughter.
In our battles with PTSD, we tend to alienate our biggest allies. Our family members can be the best tools in our arsenal, but we have to allow them to be so. Too often, whether consciously or not, we push them away…perhaps to protect them from our inner demons, but we push them away nonetheless.
As Warriors, we must learn to use the weapons and tools we have before us. Just as we relied on our training and weapons, we must learn to allow ourselves to be vulnerable to our family members so that we can rely on them in our times of need. This is not an easy thing to do. We often see ourselves in the ‘protector’ role when it comes to our spouses and children. Many have children who we see as too young to burden with our cares. It has been my experience that even my three year old can tell when I’m having a rough time and will start to be silly, or climb up and give me a big hug. She is just starting to get big enough that her weight can provide some level of deep pressure just by snuggling. My older girls are beginning to know when I just need some quiet time…now that doesn’t always mean they give it to me because they also seem to mimic my stress levels (and every kid knows where their parents buttons are located); but I have come to realize this and have put it in my tool box…recognizing more clearly when *I* need a time-out.
Our spouses, parents, siblings and other family members can also be extremely useful in our battle. I can’t count the times that family members have made themselves a buffer for me when I needed it most, or stood up to uneducated business owners who would try to exclude me because of my service dog.
Long story short…we need to embrace those who love us and ALLOW them to help us. We didn’t face battle alone in uniform, we don’t have to face it alone now. We have our fellow warriors that will always stand up for us, but they are not always available face to face…our family is with us every day. We must learn how to embrace them and not push them away. Yes, there will be some who will walk away and we must learn how to let them go. In the absence of abuse, we must realize that they choose to leave because THEY are weak…and we will lose those we love, it’s a fact of life. Its learning to trust those who choose to remain, who choose to walk beside us in our darkest hours…it is our choice to allow ourselves to utilize the tools that they willingly present. We must realize that their gift just might tip the battle in our favor.