My memory is fleeting. I’m often startled by my actions. My doctor is either the world’s worst doctor, or the most brilliant doctor. I sweat…and sweat…and sweat. Sleeping with a mouth piece sucks. Enough about the easy things in my life…let’s dive into what is really tough about living with PTSD.
I’m a 23-year (and counting) Air Force Veteran….Combat Correspondent…aka…Broadcast Journalist. My list of ailments reads like a novel: A.D.D, PTSD, Sleep Apnea, Anxiety, and General Depression. Add to this list, the fact for some reason my memory is deteriorating. If that were not enough, the doctors have found a growth on my brain. The good news is…it is NOT cancer. That really is all I have to go on right now. I absolutely hate taking medications because my body general has a tough time with them. With that said, I firmly understand there is a time and place for meds…and currently, I’m taking several. Did I mention…I’m also a yoga instructor? Yep!
I began practicing yoga back in 1999. Got hooked! Was able to come of all of my A.D.D. meds for several years because of my practice. In 2007, I began teaching yoga while deployed to Baghdad. Then, I transferred to Vicenza Italy where I taught yoga twice a week. I’ve studied and trained with experts in areas like: trauma sensitive yoga, veteran’s yoga, yoga for vets with PTSD, mindfulness, and meditation. I’ve spent the past six years leading veteran-based (to include spouses) yoga and mindfulness classes. I know this must sound like a lot of, “I I I,” and it should! It is for effect.
“I” got so wrapped up in being a “care-provider,” that I neglected to notice, “I” needed some of the medicine I was sharing with others. To make matters worse, I am no longer comfortable in my own seat. In other words, when I lead a yoga practice, or meditation practice, everything is great. However, when alone, with my thoughts…it is often a nightmare.
I struggle every day with so many different what if, or how questions. How could I have PTSD? I’m not an infantryman! Why is my meditation not as good as it used to be? Why can’t I sit? I have the secret decoder ring…now damn it…let me meditate! I know the benefits of food, movement, and mindfulness. (meditation/prayer) So…why can’t I just “let-go,” (aparigraha) use my military and yoga discipline, (tapas) and do what I know needs to be done?
The answer is much simpler than the solution. Acceptance or Contentment! (Santosha) I can’t find my “seat” because I’m still looking for my old seat. Turns out, that’s not mine anymore. Clearly, I’m not the same person I once was. Simple public math would suggest that my “seat” isn’t the same either. Well…that was easy!
The problem is…my wounds and injuries are all invisible. When I look at myself in the mirror (minus the wrinkles, less hair etc…) I still see a very able person who rightly should be able to do anything…to include sit in “MY SEAT!” How can I accept and be content when I know I’m able? I found my answer in two different locations.
I have a friend who is wildly successful as a military photojournalist. I heard him talking to a class of brand new photojournalists about a mistake he made as a young photojournalist. Turns out, JT was constantly in “friendly” completion with Preston a fellow photojournalist. Preston aspired to be just like Joe McNally a very famous photographer. JT tried to emulate Preston’s photos which emulated McNally’s. It wasn’t until a training seminar when JT saw the work of another photojournalist, Mary Calvert. JT liked her work…realized he needed not to worry about what Preston was doing, rather find out what was so special about himself. Once JT figured out his “seat” when it comes to taking pictures, he began to start taking some incredible images. Today, he is the reigning Military Photojournalist of the Year…an award he has won an unprecedented seven times.
Sadly, the second place I found my answer…was from me! As a yoga instructor, I find myself spending a lot of time doing three things. 1) I’m always looking for new ways to say the same thing in as many different ways as possible. It is important to me to be able to relate to my students. I know that everyone has different points of reference, so I need to be able to figure out what their reference point is…and use my words to connect with them. 2) I also make sure everyone knows that everybody’s body is different. There is no need to worry about what the yogi to your left or right looks like in pose, or what they can do that is better than you! 3) I’m always encouraging my students to be the best “YOU” they can be. Did you see the answer? It’s there.
My body is not your body. Hell…my body really is no longer the body I had before. There is no need for me…or YOU to beat ourselves up to be someone, or something we no longer are. Just be the best “YOU” you can be. That “You,” might change…and that’s OK…adjust and find your new “seat.”