The Warrior Concept
I believe everyone who has experienced trauma or deals with a mental illness is a warrior and it is why I use the words PTSD Warrior in the title of my website. The term warrior is defined by Dictionary.com as 1. a person engaged or experienced in warfare, 2. a person who shows or has shown great vigor, courage, or aggressiveness. I know those words may not seem like they relate to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but just bear with me.
Everyone who experiences any type of trauma goes through a battle of some kind, what differs from person to person are the results of that warfare. Some remain completely unscathed, some suffer minor injuries, others are wounded severely, and, sadly, some don’t make it. Many factors contribute to the outcome and are based on such things as the type of trauma experienced, the persons own life experiences, and, some suggest, genetics. Not matter what the trauma is, it sucks and it is painful. For the severely wounded, something changes in the brain and many now consider it to be a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Scans of the brains of people with PTSD actually show major differences in various parts which regulate emotion and memory. For those who are skeptical I suggest you read The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk.
Just getting through traumatic events is hard enough but imagine if your brain ceases to work in the same way it did before. Imagine trying to move past the event only to have it constantly be “present” in flashbacks and horrible nightmares. Imagine battling with your own brain to try and function in the here and now while it is processing over and over the trauma of your past. My baby brother passed away in front of me two days before my fifth birthday. The images from that day haunted me as it would anyone, but the difference is my body experienced them as if it was happening in the present even decades later. The day he passed, my brain changed and has never been the same since. The flashbacks came anytime. I was and still am hyper-vigilant to loud sounds, yelling, and being surprised (you can literally warn me you are going to come up and scare me before you do it and I will still jump ten feet in the air when it happens). Your body goes in to a flight or fight mode and consistently stays there, which is beyond exhausting. The demon of depression and its soul sucking friend anxiety joined forces with the PTSD enemy to fight me at every turn.
I’m not going to romanticize the wars we warriors face. It’s an ugly one. Its days spent hiding from the world. It’s not showering or bathing because the effort is too much. Its eating too much or too little. It’s using substances to self-medicate. Its pushing friends or family away even as you crave connection. Its flashbacks and nightmares that paralyze you. Its fighting to get out of bed every morning. Its despair and frustration and anguish, often at each and every moment. Its struggling to actually enjoy the happier moments because you fear when the darkness will descend again to take it all away.
If you have PTSD or battle any kind of mental illness, whether you believe it or not, you ARE a warrior and I see you fighting. I know you feel like some days you just can’t go on. But you do because you are courageous and brave and strong. You find a way to make each day happen, even if it’s just to stay alive. That is the concept of the warrior as I see it.
Bad shit happens, we all know that. I don’t wish trauma or rotten things on anyone and if you have ever had to get through those types of moments I am truly sorry. For those who continue to battle the nightmares over and over please remember this – the fact you have made it this far is what makes you a warrior. Don’t ever give up.