Just Keep Swimming
Today’s guest post is from Jessica Charles. This from Jessica: I am Corporal Joshua Alexander Harton’s Big Sister. I am his sister and I protected him his whole life. That is until September 18th, 2010 when a bullet from Taliban’s rifle went through his neck, cutting his carotid artery, moving through his torso and destroying organs and finally leaving his body at the left hip and shattering his Kevlar armor. I am Josh’s sister and I need you to know that my little brother is dead and my epic life will never be the same again.
What is living with PTSD like?
Uh, it is like….ummm well, you know.
And then people think Rambo:First Blood or some recent tragedy where a returning soldier kills his ex wife and her boyfriend.
It is NOT like that.
It is a lot like Finding Nemo, the kids’ movie where a father crosses an improbable ocean to save his son learning lessons on the way.
Try and remember the movie and I will outline it as I go. This explanation should be so simple that even civilians can follow.
The movie starts with Mommy fish and Daddy fish (Pearl and Marlin) admiring their new home and envisioning the future life of their many children. Then tragedy strikes. A big fish eats the babies and the mommy fish defends them, she also dies (And I thought Bambi was bad).
One egg survives, and Marlin (dad of the year) promises that from this moment on “Nothing will ever happen” to his baby Nemo.
Marlin has PTSD. Marlin spends the next few years (or however long it takes in fish time) protecting his son from EVERYTHING, because in truth, the world is a scary place and it will kill you. And it would seem paranoid and crazy except that Marlin is often proven right.
His son dares to leave the safety zone and is kidnapped. Marlin follows and is almost devoured by sharks, blown up, eaten by a monster fish with a flashlight, lost, shocked by jellyfish and lost again only to be eaten by a whale. Life is bad, and that is the only lesson Marlin can learn because it is the lesson he already knows.
Dory his adorably absent minded buddy doesn’t have any preconceived lessons. She “just keeps swimming”. To Marlin she is an imbecile because everywhere they turn there is obvious danger. Danger is all Marlin can see. And he isn’t wrong, but as Dory teaches him, he isn’t entirely right.
If Marlin hadn’t tried to force Dory away from the sharks, well there would have been no bloody nose to insight the hungry beasts. If Marlin hadn’t been so rude to the school of fish, he would have gotten directions earlier and more completely and would have avoided the jelly fish all together. In Marlin’s haste to protect himself from the world he makes it a more dangerous place. That is what living with PTSD is like.
I have always had PTSD. I have always lived in a world that was scary and dangerous and I have never been good at seeing the world as a place of both danger and joy. Someone once said, “The war is over.” And with the intensity of someone who feels threatened, I screamed, “No sir, it is still going on”.
It is true, I am still at war, still in war and still protecting myself from the enemy. The enemy is the world and as Marlin learns not only can you not protect yourself or your beloved child from the world, you shouldn’t because as Dory says, ” Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo”.
Not much fun… yeah, fun, thriving versus surviving. Learning HOW to do that, instead of just over thinking every moment until you can plan for all foreseeable outcomes except the one where you may enjoy yourself.
So what is living with PTSD like? It is like Finding Nemo. And I hope everyone out there has a little blue buddy who can help them out, even if some days it is all you can do to just keep swimming.