Friday, April 1, 2022

Keeping First Things First - Ways to Connect

 

There is a lot going on right now. For many of us (including me) it's one final push to the end of the semester, offices are under-staffed and over-worked, everything feels phenomenally expensive, and our "to do" lists are overwhelming. On top of this, world events are dire.

How can we stay grounded in a crazy world and keep first things first? Let's start with perspective. 

My favorite version of the Serenity Prayer goes like this: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know that that is me." 

It's a short prayer, but there is a lock packed in it. Serenity, acceptance, courage, and wisdom are simple concepts, but they are not easy. In order to find serenity, or peace, I have to practice recognizing what is and is not in my control (again, this is simple but not easy). 

With PTSD and Moral Injury, we can become prisoners of our past. As for why, this starts off with who we were before we joined the military or public service. It takes a certain type of person to commit to service. Most of us were young and inexperienced in life when we joined or were drafted into service.

When we started out, we wanted to help others and make a difference. We made a commitment - to the service and to each other - and there was something simple and pure about that. Never leave a buddy behind. Follow the Rules of Engagement. Bring everyone home. But that didn’t always happen. We used deadly force, gave orders, and followed orders; it was neither simple nor pure.

Whether we perpetrated it, witnessed it, or failed to prevent it, things happen in war and in life that make us question who we are now and who we can be going forward. 

The Serenity Prayer is about letting go of situations beyond our control and taking action toward things within our control. This is not easy and it is definitely not an overnight process; serenity is a life-long practice. We will never get it right, and we don't have to.

In this overwhelming season, I have been reaching out and connecting with others - and it has helped. I can get stuck in my own head and lure myself into a self-condemnation spiral easily. I have a strong therapy group I am in and I work hard to surround myself with supportive people. My support network took a while to build, and here are some resources we can access from the comfort of our own homes right now:

Warmlines are peer-run listening lines staffed by people in mental health recovery themselves. Sometimes, we all need someone to listen but we know that a call to a crisis line may not be appropriate. Warmlines fill this gap. Here is a directory of warmlines across the U.S. 

12-step programs are powerful in terms of providing social support and accountability, and there are anonymous groups for any number of addictions. In addition to AA, NA, and Al-Anon, Codependents Anonymous (CoDA) is a powerful change agent, as are groups for Gambling and Survivors of Incest. Not everyone is a fan of the program, and I get it – there are plenty of lousy groups and crappy sponsors. There are also dynamic, inspiring groups and amazing sponsors. Since the pandemic, many groups have gone online and meetings are on Zoom. Here is the line to AA Online Intergroup for a list of online meetings. (The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.

Support groups bring together people who are going through similar experiences. Visitors are welcome to share as little or as much as they like. Support groups can be powerful because it reminds us that we are not alone and that others have also persevered through challenges. Support groups can help us feel less isolated, especially when we can relate to others in a similar situation. NAMI.org lists support groups for mental health issues and SAMHSA.gov lists many resources for alcohol and substance use, as well as mental health and other important topics. Survivors of Loved Ones' Suicides (SOLOS) is an especially powerful peer-led support group.

Online groups. Full disclosure: I have not fully leapt into the 90s in terms of keeping up with social media, but I am impressed at the amount of social support my clients have found available online in chat forums and social media groups. To find one, try using a search term like “online support group PTSD." 

Fr  Friend, this is a batty season for lots of folks - you are not alone. And what do you have to lose by trying one of the suggestions here?

*****

If you believe change is possible, you want to change, and you are willing to do the work, you absolutely CAN get your life back.”

The best way to start is to identify the problem. Download our free PTSD workbook and take a No-Sh*t assessment of where you are at today.


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