PTSD and Dharma?

I’m very grateful that I’ve been reading Stephen Cope’s book The Great Work of Your Life.  I’ve read it before, but this time many things spoke to me in a very personal way. I’m wondering about looking at my struggle with PTSD as my dharma, as a learning to work with, not a battle to the death.  In the last chapter he talks about Harriet Tubman and Gandhi, how they asked for guidance, listened for the answer, did what they were told.  Put their lives in service to some good for everyone.

Cope says “If you don’t find your work in the world, you will inevitably make yourself your work.” p244  Is that what I’m doing with my hard work in therapy?  I think about Journey Into Courage, how I saw myself as a voice for the voiceless.  Seeing the video of Journey I was reminded that I was guided to it when I talked about wanting to make guerrilla theater about domestic violence.  When I realized I couldn’t do it by myself, I said to God “If you want this to happen, I can’t do it, so you have to make it happen.”  Almost the words of Harriet Tubman.  Then Lynelle saw a poster for a “Drama class for survivors of domestic violence” and I went eagerly.  This was Bess O’Brien’s way of starting to create a theater piece about domestic violence, which became Journey Into Courage.  When the movie had been made and we were no longer doing performances, I dropped into a serious depression.  I was guided to get on medication, and then Lynelle got me to try Somatic Experiencing, and I discovered that I was, in truth, suffering from PTSD.  I was guided to Erica, and the work with her seemed to reach the foundations.  Does in fact work at the foundations, but it’s harder and more painful than I ever imagined.  I guess I could say that I was guided to “Kindred Spirits” by Erica being away for three weeks and what Jack said about people in AA telling the truth.  When I got there, I found out what it was like to feel like I was OK just as I am.  I didn’t have to hide my defects, and I didn’t have to hide my gifts.  That is my goal.  Not fame or fortune, but to feel OK just as I am.

In my life here in Franconia I’ve discovered that I simply don’t have enough support to be OK just as I am, and as a result I’m unable to share my gifts with people who would benefit.  Kendal was, in many ways, a good solution.  Moving to Kendal means that I will have enough support to begin to share my gifts with other people in a way I can’t do here.  I could teach astronomy, teach circle dance, facilitate writing groups around grief, writing for recovery, writing for healing.  But in moving I have to abandon my dear friend of thirty years.  Eleanor has been living in the apartment attached to my house, but if I move she won’t be able to live there any more.  She’s on disability and has a housing voucher, so moving, especially if she has to move to another state, is full of difficulty and risk.  She has enough stress in her life, aging abusive parents, many health problems along with PTSD, a therapist who isn’t really helping her, etc.  I feel terrible about letting her down, and it also triggers early trauma about having to take care of my younger siblings, and not having my needs acknowledged.

This conflict/crisis has caused me enormous pain and mental/emotional confusion so that I have made serious mistakes in relationships with people who matter to me.

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