It’s ok to be ok.
I really had no idea the impact that statement would have when I first wrote it. That I would get messages from all over the world in agreement and support. Some saying that it was the first time they’ve ever heard that perhaps, just perhaps, it was ok that they were ok.
Reality check, it IS ok to be ok.
That concept would give a lot of comfort to those thinking that something ‘must’ be ‘wrong’ with them if they weren’t left struggling from a traumatic experience. The ones, like I have, that were told by friends that they obviously have PTSD even though experts said you’re healthy. The ones called crazy for expressing the desire to go back on another deployment. It’s easy to think that there’s something wrong with you.
As mentioned in the first article on trauma and growth; “as long as you’ve processed the event and you’re not bottling up your experiences for a dark rainy day…it’s ok to be ok too. […] We experience/process/feel/cope/heal differently which is part of the beauty. It is how we perceive the event and there are so many factors that come into play with that…well, a person with a much higher education than mine should explain it. That said, no one is unique in their experience/process/feelings/coping/healing. We are diverse but never alone.”
So why aren’t we having these conversations more? Broadening our understanding around the extremely complex world of how humans experience and process trauma? Well, lemme tell ya, you very quickly learn not to talk about your experiences or more importantly not talk about how you feel positively about those experiences. At all. Ever. Listen, I could talk about it, because I’m ok with it and talking about it only furthers healthy understanding. The roadblocks, however, are many.
Option A: Everyday friends
First, who are you going to talk to? I’ve tried talking to the average non-military friend about it. Ouff, talk about the quickest way to stop a conversation before it’s even started. “I had the wildest experience once, there was a mass casualty, this guy’s leg was blown off, then there was a child…but the wildest part was when…”. I’m comfortable, happily chatting away with fascination…and they are bright-eyed and horrified. They either think that you’re severally disturbed, or that they should lead the pity party parade for you. Worse yet, is if the story is traumatizing to them. And you realize this. They are uncomfortable and now you are uncomfortable. Um. Ya. I need to tone this story down. I need to tone my obvious nostalgia down. It’s poorly articulated (on my part) and as a result, misunderstood. You quickly learning to shut the hell up. So, let’s go back to talking about the weather then ok? Ok.
Option B: Military friends
Then there are your military friends, but there again you quickly learn not to talk about things. In this case though, it’s out of respect for those that are struggling with their own demons from traumatic experiences. Bringing up such events could either trigger a negative response, or you feel like an absolutely arse for being ok while they are working through it. I was walking the hallways of work once and ran into an old friend that I haven’t seen in over ten years. It was genuinely great to see him. It wasn’t so great for him to see me however. He was one of the ones that was with me during a traumatic event overseas. Unknowingly, I became the trigger and after our quick hellos he drove straight to psych and went on extended stress leave. So, let’s go back to talking about politics or the stupid shit Dave did last week then ok? Ok.
Option C: Health professionals
Next option is to chat away to a psych if they’ll have you. I’ll straight up say that I’m a fan of therapy. A huge fan. Of course, it’s a bit like finding a good hairdresser, you need to find one that works for you. Once you do however, they can be utter gold. I’ve gone several times, either because you’re ordered to go after certain events or self-directed thinking that I ‘should’. Each time however, I get kicked out after a few sessions. “Vickie, you don’t really need to be here, you’re good” they say. I know. Because it’s ok to be ok…but I always like to check. I suppose I could sit there and tell stories but that would kinda get expensive for no reason ya know? I’d rather put that money towards new hiking gear. **shrugs shoulders**
The bottom line
The reality is that neither option a, b, or c work out well which is why that over the years, I simply don’t mention anything too deep about the career I loved most. With exception of the odd funny story. Because really, how exactly do you articulate that you enjoy being in the middle of traumatic events without sounding like you’re the conductor of the crazy train?
Carefully. Very, very, carefully.
It is not the trauma that is enjoyable because there is nothing, absolutely nothing more horrible than a human experiencing trauma. The ability to respond to that trauma with confidence, knowledge, and training in the hopes of alleviating or at the very least minimizing the physical and psychological damage which is fulfilling AF. It is providing order to chaos. Doing good in the midst of something bad. It is being adaptable to the situation. Allowing the stress to fuel you instead break you down. That, ladies and gentlemen, is why we can go to bed with a clear conscious. Doing good feels good.
It’s ok to be ok and Girl Gone GOOD
On quiet days, I can take a little moment to myself, with a good cup of coffee in hand in my fancy schmancy city condo and smile at the memory of past adventures. I know what I know, I’m comfortable with my abilities during chaotic events, and comfortable in my adaptability to life.
As Jane Fonda once said; “we’re not meant to be perfect, we’re meant to be whole”. The growth from traumatic events and the new life I’ve built (with a shit ton of support from family and friends) since releasing leaves me feeling whole. I don’t need to talk about it, there’s comfort is simply knowing that I can continue to do a little good in the world – just in different ways.