Joshua picked out Bear Says Thanks (that he received in one of his kids’ meals) to read before bed a few nights ago. We’ve read it many times, but the gravity of the storyline finally hit me! This particular story tells how Bear planned a party and all of his animal friends showed up with something for the meal, but he realized that he had nothing to contribute to the meal. All of his friends consoled him and told him not to worry because they had plenty. This was the point where my tears started flowing!
“Lifers” (as my BFF likes to call lifetime friends) don’t concern themselves with how much their friends can or cannot bring to the proverbial table. There are times in our lives where we have nothing to give, not even to ourselves. This past year, especially, has been a perfect example of this for me. Between my cancer scare and PTSD diagnosis, to my mental breakdown, social isolation was common of me towards my family and closest friends. Many of my friends took it personally and I rarely hear from them anymore. However, my “lifers” realized that my emotional cupboards were so empty, that I had nothing to contribute to a friendship. Despite that fact, it didn’t worry them about our friendship. There will be times where I can reciprocate and give everything I have to help a friend in distress and then I have times such as this where I just can’t. Even in my recovery, I still feel empty but I can feel myself slowly coming back. Not only am I coming back, but I’m coming back with a fire and even bigger than ever.
What research says
From a trauma like mine, my trust in humans was lost, I felt like the world was hostile and scary, and that it was only up to me to protect myself. While I was in the Army, we were trained to trust our colleagues like family and, well… that just didn’t happen reciprocally for me. I trusted my colleagues, but my trust was lost after being harassed over a situation that I had no control. Social Bonds and Posttraumatic Disorder is a literature review that focused on how social interactions play a role in PTSD recovery. A long story short – personal assaults negatively affect how someone views friendships and trust, regardless of how positive a relationship might be. While it is intuitive to say that positive relationships should aid in the recovery of PTSD, it isn’t always so.
PTSD sufferers have it in their heads that all people are bad and so much so, that we feel the need to shield our emotions even more from further attacks. All I can ask for friends of friends with mental health disorders is to be patient and don’t pack your bags just yet. Please understand that our emotions are barren at the moment. I have some ways that you can show your steadfastness as a friend, that will help build up our confidence:
- mail a letter of encouragement;
- send a quick text to say hi;
- post a funny meme to your friend’s social media page;
- send encouraging quotes or greeting cards; and
- stick around!
It will get better! I promise.