My teacher talked about life being a spiral, where we periodically seem to end up in similar situations but we are no longer the same. This speaks to the opportunities we have to heal, over and over, the way we relate to life – the spiral always ascends.
Recently I found myself at a noticeable point in my life spiral. In the past, I became a single mom and left teaching to work in the private sector. Now, I am a single mom again and about to leave teaching for the private sector. The situation feels similar but not the same as before. What has changed?
When I first entered the private sector I was ambitious and focused on single-mindedly climbing the ladder of “success.” I was intelligent and ruthless. And, underneath it all, I had no idea that I had PTSD and perceived threats around every corner. My desire for success was, in reality, the desire to control my life so that I would be safe and not hungry, unlike in my childhood.
Now, I am about to enter the corporate world again. However, this time, I value relationships with people above all else. There is not a ruthless bone left in my body! I am humbled, curious, and sensitive to the bigger picture in which I will play a role. I am also excited to be solving puzzles again, which I didn’t really get to do as a teacher very much. After teaching for five years, I realized that I missed interacting with teams around real-world problems and tapping my creativity. I thought teaching would be a creative outlet for me, but it was eventually deadening to me.
After having applied to a number of jobs, I was rejected. The experience gap didn’t look good on the newly-polished resume. I lay in bed one night and felt the currents of life running through my body-mind. This inspired me to feel and become aware of where they plug into in the larger picture – where do I connect? Which relationships await me? I felt the magic of that morphing through me and as me into an intricate map. I just lay there and was in awe as I allowed this awareness to occur.
The next day, I was meeting an old colleague for lunch. He helped me spice up my resume and I wanted to thank him for his help. As I waited for him to arrive to the restaurant, I got a call from an agent about a potential position 15 minutes away from my home. She said it would be a way for me to show my skills and get my foot in the door after the experience hiatus. In addition, I was contacted by a second company looking to train me for a very specific role and pay me to train – regardless if I was hired in the end. Furthermore, I got invited to an interview to a teaching position at a lovely school that is also a short drive from my home. All this in one day.
Since that day, I have attended to the life stream linking me to the intricate web of life and just following Its lead. Throughout, I had to face my anxiety and PTSD flashbacks – overcoming each and every challenge. Now, here I am.
During this process, I got a very strong insight that eventually my PTSD will heal and the body chemistry will readjust to normal. That would be wonderful! It’s hard to navigate life in a vehicle that is conditioned for threat and does not easily maneuver.
I’ve learned that many people do not understand PTSD – they think one should just be able to “snap out of it.” Often, those with PTSD get misdiagnosed until the trauma aspect becomes obvious and no other diagnosis makes sense. Then, everything falls into place. If someone wants to learn what PTSD is like, I would ask them to imagine that they are being brutally attacked. Really, imagine how that would feel. Then, take away the specifics of the attack and just keep the feeling of it. Then, imagine having that feeling wax and wane but never go away while living your life. And this feeling is hardwired into the body mind. Finally, add to that the periodic vivid visuals of the attack occurring unpredictably throughout the day – a lot like having a nightmare while being awake and trying to function in life.
Now, many PTSD people may not even have the awareness of having flashbacks or that they are seeing everything through a PTSD lens – they think that’s just how life is! It takes a lot of work for these people to build awareness and start to manage their symptoms. Most have no sex drive – especially those with sexual trauma. Most have neverending anxiety even in fairly benign situations. Most do not want to leave their house and avoid socializing. This is “normal” for PTSD.
So, I went through losing a job and finding a job (a fairly grueling process) with PTSD. I can’t just “get rid of it,” so I had to take it with me every time I sent a resume or attended an interview. There were frequent panic attacks just leaving my home to go to an interview, and I was aware of it all.
I am seeing more clearly how the spiritual process, when interwoven with everyday life challenges, elicits deeper connection to life. Even as I feel the PTSD symptoms, I also feel other things – like excitement, curiousity, caring, and creativity. Even though my body mind is still under the PTSD influence, I know that this is not who I am.
As I gradually ventured away from looking for teaching jobs, I began to experience more ease and excitement. This was a reminder to always align myself with whatever makes me feel creative and to recognize quickly when I no longer feel that. For some reason (well, I know the reasons!), I decided that I had to make teaching work for myself even while it was literally killing me with dullness. As soon as I freed myself from feeling obligated to make it work, new opportunities showed up – seemingly out of nowhere. But I had to be ready. I had to be free first.
In supporting my family, there was always the thought of having to do whatever it takes to provide. I was ok with sacrificing myself for them. It took me awhile to realize that I can support my family while also honoring my creativity and life force. This was not obvious at all, even though it sounds completely reasonable. To live that takes a lot of courage to let go. I let go just a little bit more with the help of the light.