As many of my blogs have suggested, I have struggled with finding my purpose and meaning while living with PTSD. So this week I have spent the time reflecting on why I need to have purpose and meaning. The only time life made sense to me was when I was teaching in the inner city. It was a time when I found I had great strengths in my ability to love, to be compassionate and empathetic. Furthermore, it taught me about people who hold power and the powerless. It ignited in me a strong passion for social justice. For me, these were values of my more authentic self. As I looked back at this week, I realized that this work also filled an existential emptiness in me that went so deep. It gave me reason for my ability to exist. It made me feel that I am enough and worthy. This is the reason that I grieve so deeply over my inability to be about this work.
In addition, finding my purpose and meaning at the age of 21 provided me with a freedom I had never felt before. It gave me a break from the internal war I was always in because I was about something bigger than myself. It gave me relief from searching for “happiness”.
I associate all these gifts as gifts you get for working and making a difference. I want that in a big way. The reality is I cannot work. I cannot build my ego on my ability to effect and change lives through my work. I didn’t push myself so hard to get myself educated so I could aspire to be on disability for the rest of my life. From a conversation I had with my therapist this past week, I heard her say that it was time for me to deal with the reality of my life and to move on from my trying to figure out how I could work. I say I heard her say it but deep down inside I think this is how I really feel.
I feel the emptiness that comes with that loss of meaning and purpose. I feel challenged to see that my dedication to my own self-evolution as a worthy enough goal. Can I see developing my fullest potential as an evolving universal human be my commitment to the common good and my being a productive member of society? Why do I need to have this so much in my life? Is it because of the stigma of people who are on disability? Is it because of what I use to think of people on disability? I was brought up to think that people on disability were taking advantage of the system and that they were lazy. I think my younger selves still hold these beliefs. I am terrified to think that other people think that about me. I see their expressions when I say I am on disability. I take on that shame. I feel weak and ashamed because I have failed over the last 10 years to cure myself. It doesn’t help that I have tried every technique research says can cure PTSD with no avail. I feel such shame that I am not living the life of the successful norm. I get this sense that I am looked down upon by society. This is why I can’t stop driving myself and convincing myself that I must figure out a purpose that makes me worthy of being alive.
There is this sadness in my heart. I felt I had healed the shame of living with trauma. Now I have to live with the shame that I cannot live the life that we are taught by society to aspire to so you can be seen as successful. Deep underneath I feel useless because I cannot work and save the world. I feel shame that my life is about managing a physical illness although it is labeled as a mental illness. PTSD is a result of the effect trauma had on the brain and body.
I still have not grieved the loss that I went from having a successful career for 25 years to seeing a successful activity as getting dressed and taking my pills. Deep down inside I am terrified that I will never be able to work. However, I am learning to redefine success. I see I live a successful life because I have this complete openness to evolve and grow into my fullest potential while managing PTSD. Furthermore, I see I am leading a successful life because after 10 years of deep inner work, I have the skills and ability to embrace love and being loved. In addition, I see the value of being an authentic, vulnerable self who shares these gifts with others.
Although I am redefining success, nothing seems to take away the emptiness of not being able to work. I grieve it deeply every day and I am trying to appease this grief by redefining a purposeful life.
Wow. I love everything you wrote. I connect with all of it. I’ve gone through a very similar grieving stage where i finally had to accept that I can’t work. Its so hard because i LOOK perfectly healthy. I can still laugh (now anyway) and have good conversations etc. So, I appear as though I should be working and be able to work just fine. Then if I work, and the physical manifestations of my mental issues start to get triggered, it STILL just looks like I’m fine so I must be LAZY. Or emotional and I need to just snap out of it. I even thought I was finally better once and went back to work in a field that I love (Doggy daycare) but all my fear and panic came back. Having an employer is what triggers it for me. It’s an authority figure. On top of that, one of the girls there was very gruff and had way too strong of an aggressive energy and it freaked me out and set me off every day. But you know what- it set the dogs off too. I can’t believe she was there for as long as she was. I reacted to her presence the same way the dogs did. We all got extremely wired, nervrous, stressed etc. We have a couple of dogs that have very nervous natures and she would just walk past our areas, and those dogs would instantly jump out of their spots and start pacing and having the dog version of an anxiety attack. I took comfort from that. I had solidarity with the dogs. They knew what I knew. LOL. Also, I realized Im never going back to work. I lasted three months and now I know I’m never ever going to be able to work for anyone. I can only work for myself. I;m looking forward to catching up on your other posts and, hopefully, making a new friend 🙂
Thanks for reading my blog and commenting. It means so much. I think it is great that you can laugh and have good conversations. I am glad you look perfectly healthy but I understand those things can make others as well as yourself question why you can’t work. Glad you are understanding how much people’s energies effect us. I am really sensitive to the energies and emotions of other people. That is why I find it hard to leave my house sometimes.
I too am trying to figure out how I could work for myself and out of my home but nothing has come up yet. Reality is that sometimes I struggle with self care. However, I have really learned to care for my needs and to find bliss and purpose in my life.
It would be great to meet a new friend.
It is really rough that you can no longer do a job you loved and felt called to do.
I relate to this, though it hasn’t worked itself out in this way for me exactly. I feel my own issues severely hampered my ability to find a meaningful career. I didn’t start working at a real job until I was forty. I need to work in order to support myself, and I now do that, but that is the purpose – I don’t have hugely meaningful work, though I would like that. I would have liked to go further with school, but couldn’t, despite having ability.
I really relate to how PTSD limits our possibilities.
Thanks for your comments. PTSD has limited me in some ways but in other ways it has led me to my most authentic, wise self. It has brought me a bliss I never thought I would have in my life. I am learning to redefine my purpose but most importantly it has led me on this deep inner work that is helping me to evolve in so many more powerful dimensions.
You commenting on my blog has given me new meaning and helping me to grow and articulate what I believe so it is purposeful to me. I am sorry you are not finding meaningful work but there are lots of ways to find meaning. My blogging has come to mean so much to me. My personal growth has come to mean so much to me. I am 55 and am seeing all sorts of possible future avenues that may not involve work but will contribute to a more universal human. Who is to say that school could not be in your future? There are so many ways to take classes on line and scholarships for returning students. Just my thoughts. Wishing you much peace on your adventurous journey.
I so enjoy reading your writing. You are inspirational. My sister has been on disability for about 15 years. She feels horrible that she is on disability, but I really think that she is paranoid that if she appears to be “too normal” people will expect her to be able to work (and not that she doesn’t want to be able to work, but she knows she cannot) and so she becomes anxious about that and abuses her medication and ends up in the hospital. It is a vicious cycle for her. The last job she had, she became so paranoid, she started yelling that everyone was staring at her and that they were trying to get rid of her and they had pushed her desk in the corner? I spoke with her co-worker (and friend of hers) and she said my sister’s desk was in the same place as the day she arrived, five years prior. My sister is so creative and she loves mysteries and thrillers. Years ago I suggested she start writing stories. No pressure, just for fun. She wrote two pages and became so stressed out, she took to drinking. I don’t suggest anything anymore. I just let her live her life the way she needs to live it. ❤
Thank you. I am glad you enjoy reading my writing. I find great pleasure in writing them from my heart. I am sorry your sister is struggling but I know how your sister feels. I too feel horrible being on disability. I can understand why she is afraid to appear being too normal. There is this experience that people are always looking for ways to prove that you can work even though daily self care is a challenge.
I think it is very wise of you to let your sister lead the life she needs. I find my life fulfilling in many ways but I live very differently than the norm. I live a pretty solitary life but I connect globally through my few online communities. I live with daily distress but I also live with great bliss. I will be thinking of you and your sister. She is lucky to have someone who cares about her welfare.
The PTSD is amazing to me because even with a job, a job that “helps” people I still have felt without purpose and hope for the future and it is a real struggle. Trauma is a thief, and I hope time will restore what was stolen from you. Please don’t accept the shame of trauma, it was not your doing. I have found that some days I still “freeze” and this makes work hard, you need to heal and little by little with baby steps each day you will be able to work again, believe it. You are made of the same “stuff” as others who have healed from trauma and went on to as normal of a lives as possible and you will feel joy again. It does take getting rid of prejudices we had and the beauty in that it that it is an opportunity to grow and in the end feel the strength of being wiser and without so many prejudices that held us back before. I wish you joy and peace, sooner rather than later.
Thanks for your comment. I am beginning to find purpose in this new social movement I have become involved in Conscious Evolution. It is igniting some of my passion and desire to do more. be more. I have to just be patient as it unfolds. I wish you much joy and peace as well.
Thank you, and I am glad to hear you are finding something that ignites passion, that is inspiring and gives me hope.
I am glad it gives you hope, I am glad it gives me hope and life anew,
If you owned a car and it was scratched would you throw it away? I will take a chance and offer ‘no’ as your answer. That’s you now; scratched, but there is more to you than what’s on the surface I would imagine by reading your clearly written coherent thoughts. What you must do is try. What you must not do is give in!
Nothing is easy with PTSD nor knowing that you’re vulnerable. Life is never going to be the same for you, it will get better but only if YOU want it to. Good luck in your efforts, you are not alone in having suffered depression, I for one have.
Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog. Life is better than I ever believed it could be. I have sense of bliss in my life that I only dreamed of. I just grieve the loss of my activism but I do believe I will get back to it in some way in the years to come. I am involved with this social movement called Conscious Evolution. I have no idea where that will lead it is igniting my passion.
PTSD is a struggle every day. You are right in saying that it is a physical illness that is labelled a mental illness. There is plenty of research backing up the fact that there are organic changes within the brain.
You are helping other with your blog. You are doing good internal work and also external work, by sharing and validating others.
I feel very blessed that I have discovered blogging. I was not as in touch with the things that were causing me pain, before I began to interact with other people with PTSD on here.
We are all growing and learning together. Maybe that is what can be defined as “success”
Thanks for your response. I think you are right. I have come to believe that a “successful life” is about being in a process of continuous evolution and expansion. This is what I have committed my life to. I think it is also about being a presence in the world. I feel like I am doing that as well.
I am glad that blogging has helped you in your development. It has certainly helped. Hearing and understanding other people’s experience managing PTSD makes all the difference.