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As a mental-health advocate, part of the work I do is to try to get people to understand the plight of those suffering from mental illness. This, as you well might imagine, is no easy task.
But perhaps even more difficult is living with/trying to explain to someone why you, say, jump at literally every single noise. You know, this is classic PTSD and its startle response. However, it’s been my experience that the majority of people who aren’t cursed with this invisible taser-like affliction, will likely see you as jumpy. Furthermore, rather than seeing you as ill, people who don’t know will either laugh or pay it zero attention. Hell, I’ve even been told to calm down. There are, without question, two sides to every story.
One thing I would like to get better at – and I wish the rest of us would too – is learning to think deeper than just what we observe on the surface from others. Personally this has been a reoccurring theme in my life and it has done some real damage.
For instance, we could stop and ask ourselves what’s really causing the behaviour that we are seeing. Now, I know that this really isn’t the way we – at least the majority of us – think. However, it would help us better understand and thus better empathize with those around us. So maybe empathy is something we should teach in schools…?
Empathy allows us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, to try and understand and work with people who are having unique challenges. In my case, if I disappear and withdraw for example, I’m not avoiding you intentionally. I am trying to recharge, so I can cope with the world around me. Understanding how depression works will help you see that it’s not you; thus you may have more empathy for my predicament. The lack of trying on the part of others is, as far as I am concerned, further proof that there are two sides to every story.
The sad reality of a person with PTSD is that the person you loved and once knew is gone. For us, this is a huge part of our journey because we are wrestling with a loss of identity. Our sense of self was once wrapped up in the services, our lives literally put on hold countless times to run to the aid of others. PTSD takes that from us, at least in the way we once knew it.
There are two sides to every story – yes, even that of the non-sufferer.
With all that said, we, the mentally ill must consider that there are two sides to every story of those on the outside looking in. For example: do they know anything about PTSD, depression or any other form of mental illness? Furthermore, do we have a right to be mad at every human being who “doesn’t get it?” While this may be difficult to answer, it’s my contention that, no, in fact we can’t be mad with every John and Jane, especially if they have only heard tell of PTSD on the TV or internet. Some people will never get past the words, “Oh my, that’s terrible.” What can I, or you do about that? Others are outright dismissive while others are avoidant.
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Rally Point Retreat provides a quiet, safe, and relaxing, rural setting on Nova Scotia’s South Shore as a respite for essential services members in treatment for CIS/CSI/OSI/OSIS/PTSD to regroup themselves and reconnect with their families, to prevent further collateral damage from traumatic events.
While deep down I find that a bit sad and frustrating, especially when I have to provide a crash course on trauma wherever I go, I do accept that not everyone cares. It’s just the way it is. Does that mean we give up the fight? Of course not.
The most effective tool we as the ill have, is the amazing power of education, not through agitation. The exception? Family and close friends. If they want to and love that special person with PTSD, they are going to have to commit like never before. I recommend that one’s partner, children and friends seek out the assistance of a mental-health professional, educate themselves on the disorder and train themselves to look for the signs. Letting someone who’s post-traumatic know that you are going to make a loud noise is just but one of the ways you can help.
So, it’s imperative that we see that there are two sides to every story. Firstly, people with mental illness need love, support and customization. It would be helpful for society as a whole to recognize this, but that’s not practical. Two, we must understand that it’s not realistic to assume that the entire population is educated about mental-health conditions or that they are cable of understanding it. This reality necessitates that we move away from the non-empathic or ignorant.
So, my fellow suffers, let’s educate and not hate. We will reach some. And others? Well, what can we do? I have always felt that the best way to change the world is by one person at a time. I will worry about those who are willing, and not waste my very limited mental resources on those who don’t know or care. Remember, if we choose to fight against mental-illness stigma, we must not waste our fuel. Rather we must ration it to help move the cause forward on the willingness to learn.
Checkout the book I helped to write:
Created by Josh Rivedal and Kathleen Myre, Lemonade Stand: Vol. III is a compilation of 20 stories from those who have served in the emergency services and the military. In it, the authors talk about their battles with PTSD, a debilitating and for many, a life-long mental illness. So, if you are from the military or emergency services, perhaps this book can help you combat the feelings of isolation and fear that frequently comes with post-traumatic stress disorder. Sometimes, just knowing that there are others out there, just like you, can provide you with the strength and courage to speak up and or get the help you need. The intention of this book is to help with that…. You’re not alone.
Also, Lemonade Stand: Vol III was written to help combat the stigma that often accompanies mental illness. Best of all, it attempts to give all who served their countries and communities a voice… Which is amazing!
There are two sides to every story, copyright, 2020
If you are struggling please go here for help: Crisis Services Canada
Contact me on my Facebook page: The Road To Mental Wellness