You’re potentially in 1 of 3 columns as you’re reading today’s post;
- You either struggle to find good, true friends since being open about your battle with the demons of PTSD or mental health challenge,
- You carry on with your days free of any mental health challenges yet wonder why your friend is always cancelling plans at the last minute, or sits in the corner when you’re at another of the numerous gatherings you and your friends host,
- For fear of losing the friendship, support, and understanding of those most important to you, you’ve chosen to fight the urge of letting anyone know that you’re struggling with PTSD, anxiety, etc.
If you’ve fallen into column #1, then I’m sorry. That struggle is very, very real, and I can attest to it. For so many reasons (mostly misunderstanding of what you’re going through), people tend to pull away from those who’ve chosen to be forthcoming about how trauma has affected them. It most certainly happened to me, and I unfortunately cannot guarantee it will not happen to you. With luck (and sometimes just ‘time’), those who care the most – and who are wanting more to be around you than not, will emerge, and will stand with you as you work through to better days.
"The reality is one of the main reasons they DO pull away, is the 'unknown'."
That uncomfortable next social event or meeting where they’re afraid they’ll say the wrong thing. That you’ll ‘snap’, or that they’ll embarrass themselves, or you. It comes from a misunderstanding, and from the mere fact we’re truly only now starting to delve deeper into what this traumatic aftermath is all about.
The column #2 people I’ve honestly not ever quite understood, but we’re all wired differently, right? Hey, I’ve known salespeople who will research every aspect (personal and professional) of a prospective client for weeks before moving in for the kill, yet won’t take an hour some evening to research more about PTSD, anxiety, or mental health challenges in general for the sake of better understanding their friends’ dilemma. For those of you IN column #2, I’m simply saying that maybe your friend is worth taking some time.
"Try exercising some understanding."
You could sit in front of CBC, CNN, or Global News trying to figure out the rationale of some newly elected official for hours and hours on end after the kids are in bed, OR I have to imagine you could pop your iPad open and pull up a few reputable studies on how best to support a friend with PTSD.
Column #3 are the ones I worry about the most, though…as I was once one of you. Having been raised – and to have come through FIRE/EMS in a time when speaking on your ’emotions’ was even less welcome than it is today, I fought myself hard in neither recognizing what was happening, NOR saying a word about it once it became all to clear. It’s those in column #3 who we’re almost most shocked to learn have unexpectedly taken their own lives. The lesser being that their once seemingly perfect marriage has ended abruptly, or they’ve been arrested while intoxicated, medicated, and causing a disturbance at a casino. All cliché statements – and certainly not painting everyone with the same brush, but where would you assume cliché statements come from, exactly?
Furthermore, the shock after the fact may come from the fact you were not a police officer. Had not responded to medical emergencies for 21yrs in the back of an ambulance. Had not been overseas in conflict, nor have crawled through an unfamiliar burning home at 3AM looking for a family of 6. No, you worked as an accountant within a mid-sized company in your city of 60,000 people. Home most evenings with your family, and took 2wks to head south in your RV every summer, stopping along roadside diners and purchasing mementoes as you toured. One night, though, 3yrs ago on your way home from work, you were 4th to come across a horrific car accident, and helped others on scene try and figure out what you could possibly do to help until emergency crews arrived. Unfortunately you’ve since spent your time trying to figure out what kind of a God in the world allows such carnage to be thrown upon an otherwise innocent and unsuspecting family who were simply traveling along the highway to a birthday celebration.
It’s not always about emergency crews and military personnel…and that’s another big part of the misunderstanding.
Listen, I’ve not yet decided whether this article is to drive guilt, feed loneliness, or further perpetuate the clichés and stereotypes of a still largely-misunderstood response to a variety of traumatic events and experiences. What I DO know, though, is that if you’re in any of these 3 columns, you NEED to make a move.
Explain how you’re feeling to friends.
Do some research on what it is your friend is battling through.
Don’t take your life away from us without having reached out.
And if you ever DO feel the need to reach out and chat with someone who gets it, you know where I am. You don’t have to be alone, but you are valid, and the struggle is most certainly real. If you’re in column #2, though, remember NOT to tell your PTSD friend or colleague “It’s going to be fine. Let’s go out and have some drinks, and you’ll forget all about it!”. If it were only that easy.