“But you see, I am here, too.”

A meditation of the last year has been:

Before one can surrender or give one’s self–we first need to have a self.

My priest says it like this sometimes: “Don’t pack up your soul and run away.”

(Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus replenishes that self as we empty it. But we do need to connect with that self, and stay connected to allow this to occur.)

As my Discernment has continued, a few months ago I did a nice thing for some of my peers, and and then very quickly received a “rant” thinly disguised as an apology. What I wrote in response describes how one presbytera/pani started being availably present– without packing up her soul and running away:

_____

“Sorry Susan…. I happen to know that at least two people are quite upset over being reminded of past traumas….

But you see, I am here too, and your words don’t quite look or feel like an actual apology. (If they are, then I guess I’m not up on [your culture’s] modes of redress.)

I too am reminded of past traumas– on almost an every-[forum] visit– some I am sure you cannot even imagine.

PTSD is LIKE that. It isn’t helped by life stopping. It also isn’t helped by shutting up about it. Some people talk about. Some don’t. That’s their choice. And that’s my choice too.

Some people yell “shut up” about it. Some people welcome any opportunity to heal, wherever and however it presents itself.

When we had our December 2000 housefire, for example, and I had just left my Red Cross job (which involved counseling FIRE VICTIMS), the job itself had become a new source of PTSD. Not the service work– I loved learning¬† about and delivering five disparate and complex types of community services while finding and training new staff and leadership to deliver and fund them. No, the unmitigated stress was the administrative end of cleaning up a longstanding, many-tentacled regulatory mess… amid organization members still present who had a stake in keeping it all hushed up. It was a brief but incredibly intense assignment– a 15 year process condensed into three years.

For several years after this assignment– and our own fire came weeks after the assignment came to its planned close– I could not talk about the Red Cross without a meltdown; sometimes I might say to Greg, “Please… not now.” But did it mean the county’s blood drives and billboards for disaster relief funds could be avoided? No, it meant that I archived my Red Cross work, and spent some time healing.

We never had even a day off to deal with our own fire. We lived IN the fire stink; I cleaned and did insurance and learned all about being sued while Greg (an intensely private person) freaked out about the fire itself, about being sued, and about people having had to invade his home and privacy to stop the fire and look for our daughter, and then investigate the fire’s cause which the insurance lawyers tried to pin on HIM!

The healing interval took about…. 10 years.¬† During some of that time, I watched from a distance as the chapter I’d given my sanity to save ate itself alive. During that time Greg and I also buried– we did the funeral– one of the local colleagues the chapter had eaten up. And counseled his family. And spoke about his Red Cross service.

All this… with no counselor available to me during any of the time we have been here. [Now I see one three hours away.]

So I would say I learned quite a bit about PTSD. I have never certainly enjoyed the luxury of just avoiding it!

When I was ready, I opened the archives to re-connect with the colleagues who had helped me.

PTSD bumps one up against the pain, on a daily basis. One dealing with it deals with it as best one can. We choose when (and how deeply) to engage.

Those of us who enter the healing professions deal with it openly; our own healing becomes yeast which others’ healing depends upon– like my own priest yesterday helped me by telling me a few glimpses of her own horrific childhood events, and how she has grown past them with Grace and human help. (She’s about 5 hours’ drive away. It took me almost 20 years to find one not embroiled in our own circle of colleagues.)

What people here never seem to GET is that I am committed to a vocation that has precluded talking about my own real life, EVER. There has often been nowhere just to breathe. There is often nowhere where I can focus on my own perspective, my own thoughts, my own discoveries.

I don’t ask anyone else to walk a mile in my shoes, but surely I don’t appreciate being messed with by people who don’t know a thing about what we actually are and do– out here in the real world where the real, practical help is given to people.(People like you who have received our help?)

Yesterday, for example, we two tackled unanticipated emergencies with two members of my family– terminally ill and about as far from me as Scotland is from Albania…. Greg had driven four hours to get home from an intense conference; before dinner had gotten into his bloodstream (he’s diabetic), he got a call to a deathbed and went off on that…. while both our phones rang with homeless people needing beds….

And while YOU were sitting around exacerbating the very thing you thought so troubling to the people you “happen to know are upset.”

Now I ask you, is that right? Yes, I ask. Because you see, I am here, too, and I am not going away.

~Susan

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One response to ““But you see, I am here, too.”

  1. Wow, thank you Susan for your honest sharing, and for all the good work that you and Father Hinton do. It’s certainly not in vain. You guys are totally in my prayers.

    My family was involved in a house fire years ago. The kids were just babies. We were fortunate to escape with our lives. The house was pretty much gutted inside. It’s definitely a traumatic life event.

    God’s peace.

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