This Week: June PTSD Awareness
Ok, it’s July 1st. But I want to go back to June for a moment. You see June is PTSD Awareness month. I didn’t see much awareness going on in our community of “crazy”, but there were some pretty epic races going on. Now that we can all stop dot watching, I think it’s important to celebrate the “why” that weaves its way thru so many of our stories.
PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, often gets lumped into depression and anxiety (or is it the other way around?), which is it, but it’s so much more. PTSD comes in all shapes and sizes, emotions and behaviors both constructive and harmful.
I can say this with non-medical professional confidence because I’ve lived thru most. I’ve been a recluse; i’ve been the life of the party. I’ve been the designated sober; I’ve been asked to leave bars. I can be manic at times; I’ve cried for days straight. And thru it all I’ve graduated with honors, had successful & progressive employment, less successful relationships (ha), but long term nevertheless built on love & friendship.
I recall a moment when I was 14 or 15 and I was struggling with a life that was too heavy and terrifying to process. I was crying unconsolably in the hallway at school. A teacher came up to me and walked me to the counselors office where I was basically told to get my shit together. That school wasn’t an appropriate place to deal with emotions. In that moment, I remember being so angry, but also determined to “put a smile on it”.
And guys, I got really fucking good at smiling. I am really good at smiling.
This is not a brag. In fact, I’d say it’s a terrible learned behavior. It’s a behavior that has isolated me at times. Kept me from being vulnerable and setting boundaries. Stopped me from asking for help or accepting help even as my insides became comfortable tied into knots of fear.
Enter ultra running. And what you learn real quick in training and racing ultras is that the journey cannot be done alone. And that all these emotions: stress, anxiety, fear, doubt, confidence, joy, excitement, they’re just part of the process. You have to embrace the stress, take a step, embrace the fear, take a step, acknowledge the confidence, another step, accept the joy, take another step, vomit, keep going. Even after the finish line, we’re all just stepping, maybe crawling : ), to the next training run or race day.
I’ve spent a lot of time “unlearning” and taking notice of my physical responses to emotions thru my time on the trails and in the mountains, thru conversations and new relationships. My trauma will always be sitting below the surface, but now I am ok with that (take a step).
If you’re reading this and have been having a shit time, know there is a group here waiting to be your crew. That no matter your story, it’s an important story. Your trauma is valid. That however you got yourself to this very day, we’re so glad you’re here.