I have learned today, that you have to be able to forgive, if you want to turn a burden into a memory, to be able to return it to the past, so it no longer haunts you. With PTSD is this is very evident, in my therapy I had to learn to forgive myself for the anger and pain I had directed at others, I had to learn to forgive the victims and criminals whom I blamed for my condition. I had to learn to forgive the RCMP for not reading my mind, or figuring out what was wrong with me which sadly is beyond their scope of expertise. The memories we carry when we have PTSD are like a caustic poison and they are as real and vivid today as they were at the point of inception, if you have not or are not being treated by a competent therapist. Only through therapy, hard tears and forced reliving of painful terrifying incidents and situations. I was able to take those burdens of pain and remorse and misery and turn them into just simple memories over the course of years, (seven and counting), of therapy. I remember them all but in remembering them they do not bring me new pain or anxiety, I have resolved those feelings.
My team is comprised of medical practitioners who are PTSD trained and experienced, that is the key. Medical help for those with PTSD must come from providers who are not just familiar with PTSD but who are clinically proven to be expert at treating us. There is no cure for PTSD because, like an echo or a whisper, there are tendrils of emotion that lay dormant and these are what trigger in us a feeling associated to the anxiety and anger of past trauma. A smell, a sound, a car full of teenagers, being cut off in traffic, trying to get through a large crowd, losing sight of a loved one all of these normal everyday things can awaken a whisper or an echo. So I live in a bubble.
As someone who loves a member who has PTSD, here are some signs that let you know if you have a bubble dweller.
I reduced my circle of friends, I do not like to socialize with non-police people, I will not go to a movie in a theater. I have only a few restaurants I can eat at and they were ones I used while on duty. I don’t like talking to police officers in uniform unless I know them. I cannot go to a detachment to visit. I become vacant sometimes and don’t pay attention. I have to have a schedule and routine and I cannot tolerate deviation, I do not like surprises or unannounced activity, I have no spontaneity. I want others to make the choices and decisions so that the burden of being wrong or making the wrong choice is removed from me. I am more comfortable away from my city of residence, I can meet strangers in another land and never tell them who I am and that lets me, be the me, I am today. These are all MY symptoms, some are unique to me others are not and there are many others I do not have.
PTSD puts you in a bubble, a physical and emotional bubble. Treatment teaches you how to expand that bubble and to push your boundaries out a little at a time until you reach a wall, then you follow the wall for a time until you find a gate. Just as my therapist says, we will always come up against the wall, but don’t stand there butting your head, turn slightly and follow the wall, there WILL be a gate along there somewhere. As a spouse partner or loved one, you have slowly learned how to “behave” around your member and that is so sad and heart breaking as I watch my wife live in the bubble with me. She is one step ahead of me and she has a door in our bubble that she can use any time to do the things she loves to do and not be trapped in the bubble with me. It is very important that we with PTSD learn to let our loved ones have that door or one day, they leave by the real door and you will be in that bubble alone. We are difficult to live with so please allow your spouse, partner and loved ones time and space outside the bubble.
In closing out this look into my bubble world let me just say that even though there is no cure, there is a life and that it does get better and you do get stronger never lose sight of your path to wellness.
Dave J Hale