ERV BARNES, PhD; Author, Educator, Advocate
Journey to Adventures Beyond
Recovery is a process of learning to celebrate the journey of life through awareness, acceptance, and adaptation.
Life happens, we cope, and more life happens. Along the way, we develop skills to help us cope with the events of our lives. Sometimes life presents challenges that overwhelm our present coping skills, and we adapt. Or, not. Sometimes, we break, but life goes on.
Adapting to stressors, especially traumatic events, can change our perception, our cognition, and our volition. Adaptation can change the way we see, think, and choose. It is a survival mechanism.
Stress of traumatic events prompts us to change our behavior, but it sometimes also causes physical changes to our brains that help us react to stress. Some brain structures enlarge while others shrink. Changes in brain biochemistry and function can be observed. We have adapted to combat.
Our brains will probably never change back. For all our lives, we remain ready for combat--but we may each live in a house with family, in a neighborhood with friends, in a community with fellow citizens. We are ready for combat but not so ready for this life.
Life goes on. We must adapt, again, or we will not survive--or, at least, we will not thrive.
Our brain structures and functions do not change back, but our behavior must. If we do not adapt, we will live angry, addictive, miserable lives that adversely affect our families, friends, and fellow citizens. This time, we must adapt only by learning. We can do that.
The day I buried my mother was a good day. Logically, it was a celebration of a life well lived, a life of 96 years, 9 months, and 3 days. Emotionally, it was a good day because I was surrounded by family. Because my daughters live 2 thousand miles apart, I seldom see them together with their aunts, uncles, and cousins. It was a difficult time, but I was able to cope and grieve appropriately.
Life still goes on. People get sick and die. Accidents happen. Tragedy occurs. I cope without the depth of fear or rage I experienced in the past. I face the day with less dread. I tolerate situations I used to avoid. I have learned to be comfortable and happy more often.
This is my personal experience. If you think or feel you MIGHT have PTSD, I implore you to seek help. The VA has help for combat veterans. My counselor has also published a book that I find very useful: An Operators Manual for Combat PTSD: Essays for Coping by Ashley B. Hart II, Ph.D.