As a kid, my father and I would watch endless hours of war movies together. One of my favorites was Full Metal Jacket, well, the first hour anyways. If you’ve seen the movie you know exactly what I’m talking about, I remember laughing at the foul-mouthed drill sergeant with the Smokey the– Bear hat and all the crazy things he would say and do. Some of the best insults I have ever heard came from that movie, although most of them I didn’t understand at the time. Just imagine an 11-year-old boy turning to his father and asking him exactly what the term ‘skull-fuck you’ means.
But I never understood why the soldiers were treated so horribly during their army training. I would ask my dad why the military would treat their men like that. After all, they were about to go to war, to fight for their country, risking their very lives. I mean what an honor! Wouldn’t they want the men to feel confident and invincible? Not useless and stupid! I remember my dad explaining to me that it was to save their lives. They were heading to war after all. The soldiers needed to be broken down and hit rock bottom to make them stronger. They needed to be tough. They needed to know how to be resilient and to build themselves up from nothing. Simply put, they had first to be broken down to save their very lives. It was then I understood, Why sometimes it’s necessary to strip someone down to nothing to make them stronger.
Now what I’ve found the greatest weapon PTSD has is isolation. You want to be alone, away from everyone and everything. It takes away your happiness and replaces it with an overwhelming feeling of dread –it’s rocket fuel for your fears. It can turn the most optimistic individual into a miserable prick.
Then you start to believe that everyone else is an ass- hole, not you. You’re fighting with anyone and everyone for no good reason at all, losing friends along the way. And before you know it, you’re totally and completely alone. You are completely stripped down. It’s a real kick in the pills if you ask me. But you keep fighting with everyone, and you keep isolating from everything. You have no idea why you are doing it. And you likely don’t even realize that you are. And before you know it, you are at the bottom of a dark, soul-sucking pit and have no clue how you got there. And you certainly have no clue how to get yourself out. Now you start to understand the warning signs of PTSD, and how it can crush your very spirit; just how powerful it is.
Now, the good thing about hitting rock-bottom is you have nowhere to go but up. Sure, you might choose to stay down there for a while, but eventually, you will want to get up and get out. So now you have to fight some more. But not against others, now you are fighting for your very life in your personal war. Except now you are stronger, because you have been stripped down to nothing and you have regrouped the troops, and you are tougher than ever. It doesn’t matter what gets in your way, what obstacles you come upon, or who tries to ‘skull- fuck’ you. And sure, life was hard getting down to this point. And now you have to fight your way back, and the way back is uphill. As long as you keep moving forward, you can’t lose.
It has been said that there is nothing stronger than the human spirits with a purpose. I think you may be surprised at how many fights your spirit can have. Don’t underestimate how fast your mind can reset once it has a purpose. For me, it felt like my soul woke up from a 12-year nap. I found I could recall memories faster. Everything seemed clearer in my mind. I had no desire to eat crappy food anymore, and damn, I used to fucking LOVE crappy food! But most importantly, I felt the desire to do things again. Little things. Like talking a walk was fun again. I know how ‘white-jacket’ crazy that sounds, but it’s true. It was a nice change if you ask me. I now understand why my dad took the time to explain this very important lesson to me; why the drill sergeant with the Smokey the– Bear Hat was so hard to his men. He was hurting them to save them. He was pushing them to their breaking point to prove to them that they can always fight though (well maybe not good old Gomer Pyle, but you get the point). If the United States Marine Corps were to arm their soldiers with only one weapon, it would be the will to survive.
It hurts, it’s soul crushing, it breaks you down, and it makes you feel weak. But as the title of this post suggests, don’t believe that’s necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes a ‘bad thing’ may be just exactly what you need. Look at it this way. Maybe PTSD is hurting you now, but this will only save you in the long run. You have to go through this process today so that you can have a long, successful, happy career; one that makes you proud, one that you are happy to go to every day. Don’t get me wrong; it certainly sucks at the time. But you WILL get through it, and one day maybe even look back at it, knowing it made you a stronger person. And when you are not working, you will enjoy living a life with the people you love.
Only you know where you are in this process. You know if things are going well, or if you’re heading down the road of shitty times. But don’t ever think for a second that this is a bad thing; it very well may be the greatest journey of your life.
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