Part 2: Owning my PTSD story

Thank You

Wow. There has been an overwhelming and incredibly positive response to my first blog, ‘Part 1: My journey with PTSD.’ (Please click through to the 1st blog if you are a new reader). In addition to receiving messages of support, love and hope, I’m humbled that so many got in touch to share deeply personal and raw experiences with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder directly.  To those who have reached out, I would like to take the opportunity to spread a message of thanks. Thank you very much for the kind words of support. Thank you to those who displayed enormous strength and courage in allowing themselves to be vulnerable with me. Thank you to those who took a leap of trust and shared their deeply personal stories. I am humbled and incredibly grateful for these experiences.

Owning My PTSD Story

PTSD does not belong in the shadows. In order to remove any stigma attached to mental health, a light must be shined and conversations of shared experiences, support and change must be had.

PTSD is still part of my life. It doesn’t conveniently disappear when you make the decision to move forward and leave the situations that caused the mental illness in the first place. It’s a constant and daily battle. Each day I make the decision to reframe my experiences as ones that made me who I am today instead of ones that broke me. I am consciously aware of this battle and the difficulties of reframing these experiences. We (and I say we because Lisa and I both were affected) live these difficulties every day and I know we are not alone.

I know from my time in the emergency services, that exposure to instances of primary and secondary trauma during the course of employment happens on a daily basis. In Australia, there are over 80,000 full-time emergency workers who perform a vital role in protecting and providing emergency assistance to other citizens. In total, there are close to 400,000 full time, part time and volunteer emergency service workers across the country.

Approximately 10% of all emergency service workers have or will experience PTSD but it is thought that these numbers may actually be higher due to the rate of undisclosed or undiagnosed PTSD. Source via Phoenix Australia.

But what does this really mean? We’re talking about at least 8,000 (probably closer to over 10,000 due to undiagnosed instances of PTSD) emergency service personnel alone. This does not account for the Defence Force or civilian numbers who experience primary or secondary traumatic incidents in their private lives.

Within the Australian military community, PTSD rates of 8% in currently serving Defence personnel and up to 20% in veterans deployed to combat and peacekeeping operations have been reported. Further, the research conducted by Phoenix Australia indicates that over one million Australians a year suffer from PTSD and an estimated total of 15 million who collectively experience trauma-related mental health symptoms (source via Phoenix Australia).

The numbers are crippling, yes. But let’s reframe them to consider the tremendous strength and unity we can derive from each other, a community of those who touched by PTSD.

I am empowered by this unity, in that I, you and WE – the collective, are not alone.

I reflect on the strength of the WE. Together WE  can rally to change the responses from organisations who deal with trauma as part of their core business and empower their members to be heard, understood and helped. Strength, in that WE can shine a bright light on mental health, remove any associated stigma and support those affected to receive the professional support they may require. Strength in that WE can positively influence and change the face of mental health.

Vulnerability Can Equal Strength

To truly own my PTSD journey, I know that I have a personal and public responsibility to raise the profile of PTSD and to empower those who suffer from the debilitating disorder to seek the support of professionals who can help them recover. I have chosen to assist others who may be suffering from PTSD and lead by example by making my story and my journey public. I have chosen to do something which terrifies me, but for all the right reasons.

Up until now, I have been unable to sit for long periods of time in my own thoughts. For it’s in this quiet or reflection that thoughts, feelings, and memories associated with traumatic incidents generally occur. I am terrified at the thought of enduring these nightmares for a sustained period. So, what am I going to do about it? Well, true to my ‘all or nothing’ personality, I’ve crafted up a scenario that gives me no option but to do exactly what I’ve been avoiding. In late August I will be facing this fear head-on by tackling an ultra-endurance event where I will be forced to sit with my thoughts and negative cognitions associated with my PTSD journey over six self-reliant days. I can only imagine how emotionally confronting this might be, more so than the physical challenges.

Extreme Measures: Passion meets process

Iceland01Iceland’s 250KM ‘Fire and Ice Ultra Marathon’.

In August 2018, I will be competing in the ‘Fire and Ice Ultra Marathon‘, one of the toughest multi-terrain races in the world, spanning 250 km through undulating terrain situated in the Icelandic Highlands. I will be representing Australia in Iceland, competing against some of the world’s most elite ultra-runners.  Whilst training for and competing in this gruelling event I am championing support and raising the awareness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the exceptional work conducted by Phoenix Australia – The National Centre for Excellence in Post Traumatic Mental Health,

Fire and Ice looks a little something like this…

My pursuit is to assist in changing the stigma that surrounds mental health, raise the profile of PTSD and to empower those who suffer from the debilitating disorder to seek the support of professionals who can help them recover. No one should suffer from this condition alone – I am racing to bring about change, raise awareness about trauma and PTSD and let others know that there is help available.

In competing in this event, I have the honour of being sponsored and supported by Kathmandu, who are supplying the technical gear and apparel required. I am truly grateful for their support! However, I am still responsible for my own training, travel, race fees, insurance, accommodation and on the ground expenses.

I know this is a big ask in so many ways: emotionally, physically and financially. I’m reaching out to ask for your help. I cannot complete this task without your support.

How To Show Your Support

  1. If you wish to support my participation in this ultra-marathon you can do so by making a donation through my ‘mycause’ page www.mycause.com.au/page/162984 until 1 August 2018. Funds raised through this platform will help to offset the significant preparation costs in representing Australia on the world stage as I run to raise the profile of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
  2. Help me in my goal of raising awareness of PTSD and support options and my journey by subscribing to this blog, sharing it with your friends and social  media platforms
  3. Pledge a donation to Phoenix Australia: Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health via my ‘mycause’ page www.mycause.com.au/page/162984 as well. Your support means more than you realise, not only myself but to others who endure Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

2018: Where To From Here?

My next series of blog posts will cover both the physical and mental elements of training for the ultramarathon race (including strength, conditioning, mobility, recovery, mindset and nutrition), as well as my ongoing journey with PTSD. This will include the highs and the lows of relapse (being triggered and re-experiencing primary trauma symptoms), recovery and the residual symptoms associated with the reality of living with PTSD.

Further, in upcoming blogs, I look forward to sharing resources, books, podcasts and publications that are essential to have in all PTSD toolkits. If you’ve read or listened to something that you think is worth including in this list, please reach out – the more the better.

I would like to finish this blog post in a similar fashion to my last…

If you or someone you know and love experiences Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I invite you to get in touch via email or leave a comment below. If you were triggered or affected by this post, I encourage you to contact a service from the list below and reach out for support.

Seeking Help for PTSD

Credit: Black Dog Institute

If your life is in danger call emergency services:

  • Australia – 000
  • New Zealand – 111

Lifeline Counselling (24 /7)

  • Australia – 13 1114
  • New Zealand – 0800 543 354

Men’s Line Australia – 1300 78 99 78
Kids Help Line – 1800 55 1800
Suicide call back service – 1300 659 467

You can also: talk to someone you trust, visit a hospital emergency department, contact your GP, a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist.

Yours in health,

James

7 Replies to “Part 2: Owning my PTSD story”

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