Sunday, July 21, 2013

Have you forgiven yet?

Have you forgiven yet?
De-tour Combat PTSD Survivor's Guide
Kathie Costos
July 21, 2013

Some people may tell you "get over it" or forget about it. Totally wrong and unrealistic advice because you are not supposed to forget about it or get over it the way they think you can.

Picture a huge wall. You are standing on the side with a huge dark cloud over your head. On the other side of the wall there is sunshine, green grass, shady trees and wildflowers. You know what you could be living in but that wall is in your way. You try to climb it, but you slip and fall. You try to break it down but it is just built too strongly and withstands anything you try to do. That wall has been built on pain, regrets, hardships and heartaches.

On your side you see hopelessness, friends walking away as you push your family away. You convince yourself you are perfectly fine on your own and don't want anyone in your life anyway. After all, they'll never understand you anyway.

There are still moments when you feel the loneliness. Looking over the wall you see people your age with their families. Holding hands with their spouse. Picking their kids up with a smile on their face and you want what they have. You want to feel love again. To know what it is like to have someone touch your hand and you don't want them to let go. No one is on your side of the wall. Or at least that is the way it seems.

They were there all along. You just didn't notice. Too many other things were taking place. Things were done to you that were bad. You may have done bad things. So what do you do now? Do you stay on that dark side of the wall or do you find a way over to the other side? Are you really happy there in the dark?

The first step is to build stairs to get you over the wall.

The base has to be strong or you'll sink in the mud. The foundation begins with looking backwards. From the start. Ask yourself why you wanted to join the military in the first place. What was training like and what drove you when your body wanted to give up? What caused strangers to become your friends? What was it like when you discovered they would die for you? What did it feel like to think about you may have to die for them?

What was it like when you arrived on your base the first time? What was it like seeing everything for the first time? Believe it or not, you brought along everything that happened in your life to that point in time. All your hopes, dreams, failures and successes went with you. Everyone that did something for you as well as against you is part of you. The good they did makes you happy but the harm done caused harm to the way you see yourself.

Add in combat. Add in the fact people were trying to kill you. Weigh that against the ones willing to die for you. If you focused more on your opponents you were trying to stop, it was hard to be able to see your comrades you were trying to save.

Seeing the good that was there even in horrible moments is the next step to build on. It is so much easier for people to focus on bad. It has a stronger hold on your memories. Much like a horror movie captures your attention more strongly than a comedy does, it works the same way. Newspapers are always filled with the bad for a reason. It is human nature. It is also human nature to look for hope within the stories we read. How did they survive? How did they move on with their lives? Why didn't they just give up?

At the end of a horror movie there is a survivor and that makes the make-believe seem real. If the only survivor was the monster, you'd ask for your money back because it made you feel as if you were ripped off and wasted your time.

Sometimes after deployment you may feel as if you have become a monster. You watched people die. Your enemies as well as your friends. If all you focused on were the bad outcomes, those events become the most powerful. If you have no reminders of the good, then you are left without hope. If you do not know the parts of who you were before survived, then you cannot see how strong you were to go through it in the first place.

Remind yourself of what was good. Did you see one of your buddies do something good? Did you do anything good? Did you shed a tear? Say a prayer? Feel compassion at any point? It is a safe bet that a lot of that happened but you didn't remember it. Much like the reasons you had to join in the first place are forgotten once you are doing what you wanted to do, good intentions didn't change but you did.

The next to the last step is to forgive others.

Look at yourself. Do you need to forgive someone? Do you need to forgive your enemies? Do you need to forgive your friends? Your Commanding Officers? Your families? Did someone say something that hurt you? Did they think it was funny to tease you when you needed them to listen instead? Did they judge you or blame you for something? You need to forgive all of them no matter what it was.

A Marine told me the story of how he was sick one night he was supposed to go out on patrol. A buddy took his place. They were ambushed and the buddy died. When the rest of the men came back, one of then blamed him. "It should have been you and not him." He knew he was too sick to go but that didn't ease his judgment against himself for a time. Then anger took over and he was angry at everyone in his unit. Only one blamed him but the others didn't stand up for him, so he blamed all of them.

He had to forgive them before he was able to start to heal. He understood they were trying to make sense out of what happened and wanted an easy answer. Blaming him was just the easy way out for what they went through.

Forgiving others is hard but the last step is the hardest.

If you believe in Christ then you know you are forgiven by God for whatever you feel you need to be forgiven for. You still have to ask others to forgive you if you did intentionally cause them pain. The hardest person to get to forgive you is in fact you.

Look back on what you had for reasons to do what you did and then look at what happened before that.

A National Guardsman was on patrol in Iraq one night when a car started to get too close. The Iraqis were warned to stay away from convoys. It kept getting closer. Suicide car bombers were a constant threat along with bombs planted in the roads. It kept coming closer and faster. He had to open fire. When they went to see who was in the car, it was a Dad driving with his wife and kids in the back seat. He blamed himself for killing that family. It nearly destroyed him. He was wounded and sent back home.

When he came home, he didn't think he deserved his wife or kids. By the time he tried to commit suicide for the second time, it was all gone. His wife and kids went their separate way. His Mom had gotten to the point where she couldn't take it anymore and was sick of his drinking and lies. He ended up sleeping on couches of friends that let him stay the night. Virtually homeless and thinking of suicide for the third time, he was walked back over the whole event.

I asked him what his worse nightmare was and he told me the story with the beginning and end but the middle wasn't mentioned. I started to ask him questions to help him remember what was was missing.

He told me how he shouted, prayed, screamed, threw rocks and fired warning shots in the air.

I asked him what he was thinking. He said all he could think about was that it could be a suicide car bomber and his buddies would get killed.

Then I reminded him there was no way for him to know who was in the car.

A little while later he was able to forgive himself as well as the Dad for making the bad decision that caused him to do what he felt was the only thing he could do. He also forgave him for causing all the pain he had to deal with since that night.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17
He was forgiven all the way around. He forgave the people he needed to, including himself and then started to heal. He made it over the wall. You can too.

This isn't magic. It has been known since man first went to war with other nations. It has been recorded in the Bible going back centuries. When we forgive others, it is for our own sake because of all the damage we do to ourselves by refusing to forgive.

So have you forgiven yet?

No comments:

Post a Comment