By Dr. Ayla Wolf DAOM, L.Ac.
On almost a daily basis, it is not uncommon to overhear someone declare, often casually, “I have PTSD!” PTSD has erroneously become a common vernacular term to describe the average person who feels overwhelmed and anxious by life, continuously living in a state of burnout, which, these days, is practically everybody. The danger in this casual adoption of a serious condition is that the people who truly do have a disorder — a post-traumatic stress disorder, likely feel that the severity has been downplayed by a society where everyone feels entitled to the title.
The upside to this cultural dilemma, however, is awareness. Society as a whole is now highly aware of PTSD and acknowledges that traumatic events can have long-term severe consequences. The fact that conversations are happening is much better than the alternative of the past, which was to shove your feelings and emotions down, and please don’t talk about it. Or as country singer Miranda Lambert so eloquently mocks the sentiment, “Hide your crazy and start acting like a lady.” Luckily, we live in a society where openly talking about traumatic experiences is now acceptable.
Is the glass half empty or half full?
When we talk about resilience, it is often the innate ability to see the glass as half full. The more resilient a person is, the more likely they are to quickly bounce back after difficult experiences. Post-traumatic growth is different. Post-traumatic growth happens after someone has experienced trauma that shattered that proverbial glass into a million pieces, leaving them not knowing what half full even looks like. The very foundation they thought they stood on was ripped out from under them.
Post-traumatic growth happens during the dark night of the soul, the epic journey of darkness and struggle, of battling your demons, facing your biggest fears, of wanting to give in and give up but somehow continuing to claw your way through the sludge. It is the frightening realization that you do not feel equipped to deal with the trauma at hand, and if you don’t figure it out, and fast, you will drown.
We can all agree that trauma creates stress. For many, though, the conversation stops there. The trauma and the stress are perseverated on, identified with, and labeled. Who is focusing on the growth? The reality is that trauma as uninvited as it is and will always be forces growth.
Stress forces growth.
The kind of growth we are talking about here is spiritual growth: valuing yourself enough to walk away from those who value you less, jumping into the abyss of the unknown, rather than staying in a known version of misery and pain. Taking the leap out of a bad situation into the unknown isn’t necessarily rewarded with life getting instantly easier. It just gets different, and ideally, the post-traumatic growth allows for a more soulful experience moving forward.
Dr. Amy Ayla Wolf is a Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine specializing in neurological disorders, concussions and traumatic brain injuries. She is a faculty member of the Carrick Institute of Clinical Neuroscience and Rehabilitation. She teaches courses for healthcare practitioners across the country on neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, functional neurological exam techniques, and neuro-rehabilitation utilizing acupuncture and Chinese medicine. She also offers advanced courses on concussion recovery. Her online courses and additional resources can be accessed at www.acupunctureneurology.com.