I have a thing now. For the last 3 years.
With ambulances. And Emergency Rooms.
PTSD is real. And it sucks. It is what happens when, for example, I pick Cade up after a track meet and he's dazed, confused, and having trouble expressing himself and using words correctly. This disorder can rear its head when my daughter is sleeping heavily and doesn't wake up right away.
Other times, it shows up.
In the middle of the night.
For no good reason.
Robbing my sleep.
Robbing my breath.
I am immediately in the spot I found myself on the morning of Monday, August 27, 2012. I can know in my head exactly what is happening logically to my body, but I am unable to change the emotional impact, lack of reserve, tragic thinking--in that moment. No matter what my head says.
And, NO, PTSD is not about facing or being in physical combat in war, though that is a prevalent situation in and among the military. PTSD is a stress condition, as a result of emotional and/or physical trauma, that can change the brain when the brain goes through some type of trauma.
So my post on Facebook last night is that. That post was NOT posted in the worst moment. Usually, I have enough sense not to do that. I didn't post until we were settled in the ER, and I had already expressed myself. To my people. And did exactly what I needed to. And they did exactly what I needed. Let me be mad. Let me be. They did not chastise me, or patronize me, or deny my feelings or their validity. They didn't tell me to clean up my language. Or to quit worrying. Or that it's all going to be just fine. Or that being mad wouldn't actually do anything. No big deal. These peeps hold space for me.
I shared a post a few days ago on Facebook from a woman I'd never heard of. The article, How to "Hold Space" for People, plus Eight Tips for Doing it Well, by Heather Plett is the most impactful, on point blog post I have read--probably EVER. Plett correctly, articulately, and compassionately explains what it means to hold space.
"What does it mean to hold space for someone else? It means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control."
Plett's article is so good, so accurate, so helpful. The traffic with this post and her website completely shut it down for over 24 hours. Completely. I implore you to read it. And then read it again. Not for me. For you. For your family. For your friends. For your acquaintances. For people. If I never write a sentence again, it will be ok if you just read this. And try it out.
This is what we humans need of each other, especially in times of crisis. Everything I have been trying to share, encourage, model, educate others on in the last 3 years is this. HOLDING SPACE.
People talk, especially in religious circles in recent years about "doing life" together. (In several churches I've attended.) This holding space Plett speaks of? THIS is doing life in the truest and purest sense. It is not about seeing each other at church or small group. Sharing information, your story, this does not cause "doing life" to happen. It does not include "speaking truth." Giving advice. Sharing competing stories. Your own examples. Showing up for the parties and fun times, this is not "doing life" either. Not in the sense that truly hurting, struggling, grasping people need. Really need.
People holding space walk in everything with you, they do it with love, and without judgment or trying to take control or asserting their influence. In a crisis, in a PTSD moment, we need that space held so that we can express safely what we need to, be validated, heard and understood, SO THAT WE GET IT OUT. SO THAT WE CAN MOVE FORWARD, BACKWARD, OR SIDEWAYS. Which way we're heading isn't as important in the moment as that we are truly safe and protected and feel nothing but LOVE with someone. Holding space isn't a physical activity, though it can be. You can be present and hold the space by being nearby, listening, supporting without words. That's the hard part for many of us. Not using words. Looking straight in the eyes. With nothing but love. Reflecting, loving, acknowledging.
Holding Space is about BEING not DOING or PERFORMING. WHO YOU ARE BEING for someone who needs their space held. THAT is the POINT.
Even more so, holding space is emotional, relational, and psychological. Our natural bent is to try to fix people or situations, give our uninvited advice, express our opinions, ask a lot of questions, or share our judgments of decisions. I am guilty as charged. We ALL tend to that. Not helpful. Not holding space.
So, holding space is INTENTIONAL. I have to make a conscious choice, to chuck my own ego, opinions, judgments, advice, questions, and thoughts out the window. If someone is holding on to these things while holding space, attitudes communicate it--not just our words communicate if we are truly HOLDING SPACE. You know it. I know it. I can say the right things, I can even attempt to carry the right things out. But if I am still holding to an opinion, a judgment, what I think is right for someone else, what I want them to do, trying to fix it--I will communicate that in my attitude and body. Clear as a bell. Words and actions and attitudes must align to truly hold space for someone.
Yesterday, Plett posted another blog post as a follow up for Holding Space. She writes about what it means to hold space for ourselves, and this is the hardest space to hold for most of us. We need to hold space for others, we need others to hold space for us, but we especially need to hold space for OURSELVES. Ourselves. We are part of it. All the space needs to be held for us, by us for ourselves, so we CAN hold it for others.
How timely it was, that this article was posted and read by me, not too long before I picked up Cade and began a stressful, scary couple of hours. I knew in the thinking part of my brain what was happening, and that I didn't have much reserves, and I knew last night in the ER that I do NOT hold space well for myself. It's crucial. It's putting on the oxygen mask, taking care of ourselves so that we can take care of others.
We MOMS. We want to fix, smooth, and take care of everything for everyone. We put our children first, and we push and pull and trudge through anything and everything for our kids. Yet, we don't do it for ourselves. But that is part of holding space for ourselves, putting on our oxygen masks, and being our best selves. For our families. So counter-intuitive for most of us!
Not holding space for myself? It's why I am on my 3rd antibiotic without stopping, my 3rd round of steroids, and have gained weight. We just can't do it all, especially when life is stressful, as is mine on a regular basis these days.
Today, I have held a little more space for myself, but I'm definitely a work in progress. I have communicated some with my people. I crawled in my bed and turned off all the lights and didn't join the dinner table, with no judgment or derision towards myself. (And I like everyone sitting down to the dinner table together. We still do this nearly every night in our house.) But. Tonight. I needed quiet and my bed and sleep. Tonight, I am going to take a Xanax. And I'm going to rest fully. Give my head and stomach a break. It is an oxygen mask for me. And one my psychiatrist recommends. With good reason.
In case you are unaware, if you/a friend/family member is dealing with a mental health condition--whether chronic or situational, there is help. In therapy, in support groups, in education, and in medication. If sufferers do not get help from these best practices, they overwhelmingly turn to alcohol and/or drugs to self-medicate. Research backs it up. Over and over.
So, don't judge. Just hold space. Let go of your ideas, suggestions, and advice. We know it is often shared in love, but we just don't need that kind of love. Not right now.
We need a love that just envelops.
That just is.
That just warms
and touches our spirits.
From ourselves, to ourselves, from each other and for those around us.