Recently, I had an opportunity to hear a Doctor of Psychology speak about Post Traumatic Growth. I had never heard this term and as the scientist explained the phenomenon, I realized that I had experienced that very thing. And it is what my book explains. The term perfectly describes how my experience with clinical depression (a bleak and deep hole from which I was convinced I would never find my way out), generalized anxiety, and PTSD transformed itself into something new. I learned much about myself through the ordeal – which spanned about 10 years of on-again-off-again symptoms – and it shaped the best parts of who I am today.
Finally able to leave the darkness behind, I felt compelled to tell my story of hope in the form of a memoir, A Joyful Life. The notion that I could emerge from that darkness into a life choc-filled with joy, gratitude, great friends, a healthy marriage, a fulfilled woman with a creative attitude of anything is possible, was unimaginable given where I had been. There is no way that these opposing realities could happen to the same person only a decade apart! And yet, this is what happened.
As I learned from the talk, what I experienced is called Post Traumatic Growth. And I chose to tell the world about this wonderful story because if it hadn’t happened to me I would not have believed it possible, to enjoy bright and blooming growth from such a devastatingly dark experience. An experience that caused a deep-seated, frantic fear of relapse, which kept me from experiencing life while I guarded my safety from a distance, with all my might.
I stayed away from opportunities because I feared the worst. How did I know what would trigger the next paralyzing episode of depression? People ‘out there’ like my doctors certainly didn’t know. So I would be vigiliant and stand guard against the world. “Oh no, no, new experience, there is no room for you here. We are safe just as we are, and I’ll thank you to go back to where you came from. We have no use for you here.”
What I learned from the safety of my medical leave over 13 months, is how to become whole again, how to mend the broken parts, how to develop the skills to keep me safe while engaging life rather than observing it from inside my protective armor.
In a sense, having my story published was a ‘coming out’, my chance to tell the world that I had a mental illness and that it need not be a life sentence. It could even could become the catalyst for an incredible growth experience, one that no one could correct, judge or dismiss.
I no longer have PTSD; I transformed that label into PTG, one that I am pleased to live with. Hallelhuia!
Read about “Ten Things I Learned from Struggling with Depression for Ten Years” in The Mighty, with 150 million readers… Yes, dear readers, you read that number right!