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Meeting My Hero

I got to meet my hero today. How often does that actually happen in life?! A surreal feeling to be sure and one I can still hardly believe occurred. Retired Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire ( spoke virtually to a small group of volunteers I’m part of. His passion, drive, and “no bullshit” attitude for saving the lives of those who live with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Occupational Stress Injury (OSI) is something unmatched by anyone else I know of. To top it off, I actually got to ask him a question! His answer is what I want to tell you about.

I wanted to know how he balanced self-care with having PTSD and also doing the amount of advocating and volunteering he does (reminds me of someone I know wink wink). He said he didn’t do self-care for a long time and was actually working himself to death on purpose. I thought back to all the times people have asked me, “why do you volunteer so much?”, “why don’t you just say no?”. My resume is, no word of a lie, thirteen pages long….and that’s just the stuff I remember to write down! For years and years I worked myself to the bone. I had a compulsive need to go, go, go. If I had downtime, the pain would gush in and I couldn’t allow that to happen. Had I too been trying to work myself to death without realizing it?

He then went on to say something which will never leave me. What got him through, and still does, is summed up in one thing… A small and simple word that means so much. The love of others is what gets him through and, when I think back, its been what has sustained me in the darkest of moments. I am a daughter, a sister, an aunty, a cousin, a friend, a godmother, and a co-worker. In all those relationships there is one common thread and that is love. I give it and receive it each and every day. Its there when I hear “Hey Aunty”; its there when I get a text message asking how I’m doing; its there when my mom invites me over for dinner.

In the dark moments that mental illness can bring, its easy to forget about love. You feel alone and the brain tells you that no one cares. Its not our logical minds talking to us then, it’s the damaged and emotional parts. PTSD and depression take away our ability to see how much good there is in our world. So many nights I have laid in my bed sobbing and believing that no one does or would ever love me. Worse still, if I even thought about those in my life at all, I would tell myself they were better off without me. That’s a very hard reality to acknowledge and comes with immense shame and guilt.

I know there is love all around me. And I know that it has sustained me through all the hard times, even if I couldn’t truly feel it in those moments. When General Dallaire said the word “love” today, I was reminded of just how much the people in my life have saved me over and over again. Every time I have tried to run away from life, they pulled me back in. When I fell down, they lifted me back up. If I hit the wall, they helped me climb over it.

The wave of emotion that engulfed me upon hearing that word ‘love’ is not because it was a concept I didn’t know or understand. It instead came from a place of truth and connection. To hear it from a man I so respect and admire was a gift I will always be grateful for. This man is a true PTSD warrior through and through!


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