Now that I’ve had the chance to really process the last week, I want to take a sec to talk about it.
I Did Something Cool
A few weeks ago I did something that I never thought I’d be capable of doing. I told a small, but still very personal, piece of my story to a reporter. Yeah…I did an interview, I spoke in a video, and passed on a piece of my history. This is something that I was once incredibly ashamed of, but now I have informed a million people, potentially. Of course that wasn’t the amount of people that read the article or watched the news report, but I still did it with the knowledge that it was possible, and that is a HUGE leap for me.
I’d be lying if I said that I went into the endeavor confident and feeling nothing but excitement. In reality, while I am now and was then so thankful for the opportunity to pass the lessons that I’ve learned on, I was scared completely shitless. I mean, who wouldn’t be? The negative thoughts rushed in, those that bring up worst-case scenarios of actively turning myself into a social pariah, burning bridges and more. This is what my therapists, my former commander and I call “Asshole Jones”. He’s sort of like an alter ego who’s sole purpose is to tell me that I’m a pathetic failure, a burden, an oh so much worse. There is a big difference, though, between how I handle him now and how I used to. The man I am today is able to dispute and then ignore “Asshole Jones”. I’m equipped with the ability to forgive myself more and be okay with who I am and all that comes with that. I’m learning to not let that alter ego drive my train…and that’s a powerful step in the right direction.
You’re Not Alone
The day the paper came out, I woke up to texts from all of my volunteer buddies, letting me know that I made the front page! Of course I got a paper…or fifteen…as soon as I could. I also later learned that the local news had aired my story the morning prior, a Sunday, on TV. My story of helping birds of prey and how they help me was EVERYWHERE. My daughter’s babysitter read it, the lady at the gas station we volunteers frequent read it, many other people read it and they let me know.
While talking to all of them, I learned two cool pieces of information that helped me solidify my personal foundation during it all. The first is that people really loved reading the story, like high school friends tearing up loved it. The second is that so many people that I have talked to have also known someone who has, or they themselves have, been impacted by PTSD or mental illness in general. You want a reason to not feel alone? The metropolitan area and the people back home gave me further proof that I’m not.
Of course I know that this story will be forgotten by many, but I know that it won’t be forgotten by all. The people that got something out of it might have gained some inner strength themselves. They may learn they’re not alone. Who knows, maybe one person has taken the next step toward opening up to a loved one about their own struggle. I just know that I did something that could help somebody somewhere and I might never even know about it. That’s a cool thought. That feeling of joy from helping others who are fighting is one that I’ve come to really enjoy. I don’t mean that I enjoy their pain, I mean that I truly appreciate knowing that I could help guide them toward gaining a foothold on their life. …anyway, I’m rambling.
I want to close up by saying that the cat is out of the bag. I can’t realistically hide this from everyone around me at this point, and this position that I was so intensely afraid of, is actually freeing.