Finding your People
We received this email tonight and I felt compelled to share it with permission from the author.
It illustrates that when we are open to connections, we can make connections with people we never dreamt of connecting with, in ways we never thought possible, with people we never thought would understand.
Regardless, I hope that each of you finds your people that will support you if you are living with PTSD.
I saw you today at the library--tucking yourself clear back into the corner, hidden behind stuff to eat your lunch while you kept scanning the room. And I understood.
When I walked by, and waved to you, I saw your eyes widen briefly, your body go slightly stiff, and then relax a little as you saw my smile. And I understood--at least a little--and I grieved. I grieved for you, personally, as I saw the fear flash for a slight second in your dark eyes, and I continued to grieve afterwards, not only for you, but also for my own friends in law enforcement.
I never would have thought that I would find my heart's home with my law enforcement friends, but I have. They are the ones who I can text after another PTSD nightmare has me fighting my way to the surface of wakefulness, heart pounding, drenched in sweat, and shaken to the core. I can say, "Please pray for me!" and they get it, and do.
They are the ones who understand why I don't want anyone coming up behind me unexpectedly, why I try to sit where I can watch the doors, and always am checking that I have a clear path to the doorway, and why it's an act of trust to let anyone "block me" in a restaurant booth or somewhere similar.
When I struggle to express myself, to talk about what has shaped my life, they are the ones who are gentle and kind and tell me I don't need to be afraid to tell them whatever I want to. They listen well, but they don't dig around painfully. They know sometimes things just can't be easily talked about, and that talk will come when I am ready and can--just as it does for them.
And I can tell them my quirks and they don't think I'm too crazy--they get that it was probably wise for me to have learned to recognize hands and shoes, and to be able to identify anyone by their hands or shoes after seeing them once. I have never told them it was all black shoes either when I was a kid--but even if I ever would, I know they'd take that in stride and probably get that my crazy skill came from a place of self protection in a world where I was constantly at risk.
For whatever reasons, even though I know what has brought us to similar places in life has been very, very different, I am still deeply moved by compassion for law enforcement officer's struggles. What has shaped each of us has been harsh and cruel, for all of us, even if the evil is different for each of us.
While I hate that we can have empathy for each other in this way, I'm also truly grateful that we can. It's a fearful thing to feel alone, odd, and like no one gets what you are struggling with. It's comforting to know you are understood and accepted, quirks and all. It's a wonderful thing to feel safe and like your heart has a home. It doesn't get rid of the PTSD, it doesn't get rid of the hyper alertness, it doesn't fix the garbage from years of multiple kinds of evil, but in my experience, it HELPS ever so much.
So tonight, I'm praying for you to have those kinds of personal friends for yourself. Friends where your heart will feel safe and at home. Friends who will have empathy for the tough things you are going through, and who will create a safe haven for your heart. I'm so grateful for my LEO friends who are doing that for me, and that is always what I want to do for them.
So when I pray (as I do each day for my LEO friends) I will add you to that list. I will pray for you all to have the comfort and peace you need each day as you put on your shoes and pick up your badge and all the other tools of your job. I'll pray for your heart, your mind and your soul to be protected from the horrific and evil things you have to see and hear. I will pray for your physical safety too.
Because even if I don't get it entirely, I care. Deeply.
Sincerely, and Gratefully,
Written in 2018