PTSD: Is it possible to Forgive and Forget?

There is a lot of media out there from both organizations and individuals who claim that forgiving is our only way forward once we have endured trauma. The problem I have with this is that I believe you can forgive alright. But forget? Never. If you dare for one minute to let your guard down around certain people who were harmful to you in your past, you leave yourself vulnerable for more hurting. This is always a conflicting statement to me whenever I hear it because forgiving and forgetting aren’t even in the same category  in my world.

Forgiving means you have grown past the pain or abuses well enough to let go of them and stop the daily torment of “why why why” but I personally believe it is completely impossible to forget what happened to us. In forgiving I find nothing more than a sensation of not being angry any more. I no longer question “why why why” because I have realized I was not being dealt with by people who were mentally and emotionally intact human beings. If they were, they could never have dealt me the blows they exacted on my psyche and on my person.

A niece who knew I had worked with victims of domestic violence in the justice system phoned to say her common-law husband and father of their three children was bashing her head into the wall. Call the police I said, I am on my way.  Her mother (my sister) and I worked tirelessly for days to get their home in order because the police officer who took the children’s father away said he was calling the Ministry of Children and Families. The Ministry visited and the children were deemed safe in the care of their mother but he was not to move back in. Just two months later, my niece let the kid’s father move back in with his skull and crossbones posters and all. I cried when I heard this news.

In trauma counselling for PTSD myself, I was emotionally torn. Should I leave it or should I let the Ministry know of the potential danger the children and their mother were in? In the end, the trauma counselor helped me a great deal by asking me questions that gave me the answer and I used her phone to call the Ministry. I could not take the idea that three little pairs of eyes might haunt me if I didn’t do the right thing by them. If their mother wasn’t strong enough, somebody had to be for the sake of the children and that just happened to be me. He is now fully out of the picture so as far as I know, the children are safe. But again family members, including the niece who called me for help in the first place, blamed and ostracized me for doing this instead of seeing there really is no choice when it comes to the safety and protection of children. They still cannot see it, or rather, refuse to.  But I am no longer angry about that either so I guess that means I have also forgiven all their misplaced ire. And all that in the midst of having PTSD. So, as I have said many times and I will likely have to say it again: when you have PTSD you do not lose your intelligence, you just lose your “coping skills.” What you once bounced back from pretty fast just takes a lot longer when you have PTSD.

Not only did I survive a physical assault that could have killed me with one kick to my bladder, I was haunted online even as I struggled massively to cope with the loss of my mother, my job, my decades long marriage, my financial stability, a new relationship of a year that ended due to his cheating which was what ended his own decades long marriage before meeting me and yes, in a nod to a country song, I also lost my dog at the same time all of this was going on. Those nasty minded people had no compassion, no humanity and no regard for anything but their own selfish angers at the misguided conclusions they drew. They dogged me for about a year until I threatened legal intervention. I am sure, unless they did some radical self educating, they are still angry at somebody somewhere and spew their vitriol daily. I am so far removed from that now, I look back and ask myself, “Why wasn’t I able to see how truly broken all those abusers are, what took me so long to see it?”

Two things spring to mind: hope and PTSD. Just as I had held out hope in my marriage every time he promised to drop his multiple addictions and seek help, I held out hope that these cruel minded adults would realize the error of their ways and come to their senses. Add to this the fact that I was taken down by PTSD and it actually felt like my brain was “banging” on the inside of my head in what I now call a “repetitive brain stutter.” I just couldn’t get past the brain stuttering and get the clarity I needed to see that there is no fixing some people no matter the lies they tell themselves and others. Even though I have PTSD, I could finally see they are “broken” and may never come right again. Thanks to three years of trauma counselling and learning coping techniques, my brain does not “bang” inside my head anymore. It hasn’t for almost two years. Still, there are moments when I am still “triggered” and start trembling and stuttering my words. It’s not so much that we have to wrap ourselves in cotton swabs and avoid the world so much as it is to remember your coping techniques. And realize that some people are just not going to ever be good for us no matter what they say or promise.

This is where I will go back to “forgiveness” because I believe I have reached forgiveness. Against the eight family members who sided with my ex and the woman who kicked me, a former bestie of near 20 years, I no longer carry anger or even question why. This is how I know I have reached forgiveness. But I will not give any of them, my ex, the abusive relatives or the physical assaulter a second chance to hurt me. Unless and until a massive public apology occurs from all parties. We all know that can’t happen until they actually deal with the truth and facts of the situation and that is, clearly, not even likely for any of them or they would not have behaved so terribly in the first place. Thankful is my walk forward that I can now recognize abusers on a dime and steer totally clear of them. The last four years have been some of the most peaceful of my life and I am so looking forward to more of the same. This is due, in large part, both because of my own continued healing work and because I now surround myself with people who are “safe.” If you are not “safe,” you don’t “get in” is my new philosophy for living life as peacefully as possible.

I will leave you with my latest PTSD poster and as always, your comments and questions are welcome here. I know this can be tough reading for some and I apologize if you have a hard time reading. Actually going through it is much worse than reading about it as you know. Please know also I am able to write about it with a healthy distance because I am in a much better place now. Well, that’s it for me this week, love, peace and hope to all who read this.

ptsd-poster-3

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14 thoughts on “PTSD: Is it possible to Forgive and Forget?

  1. Reblogged this on mira prabhu and commented:
    Read Janni Styles poignant post about the difference between forgiving and forgetting…I agree with her…while forgiveness is essential to lightening our own spirit, it is unwise to give abusers a second chance to inflict damage. However, In the eastern view, or rather my view of the eastern teaching, the highest way to deal with abuse is to destroy the egoic mind itself from the very roots…Ramana Maharshi’s Direct Path (Atma-Vichara) is a powerful path to total freedom from suffering; for me all other tools pale in comparison.

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  2. As difficult as it may seem, PTSD is related to past memories which spur a conditioned reaction when triggered by the environment. This is something that is not easily released, for sure, but, it can be undone by forgiveness of self as well as others. It is true we do not want to put ourselves in a similar situation that triggered our PTSD in the first place. A toxic home-life; a war zone; or any other situation that is liable to trigger our PTSD should be consciously avoided as much as possible. Cultivating a mindful state will ultimately release us from potential trauma as we see the stress arising in the mind. This awareness can help us to eventually become the witness of our thoughts; forgive them in ourselves, and ultimately, let them go. Peace is our true nature, and we can find that place in ourselves by letting go of the past. Blessings.

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    • I hear you. We can’t let go until we have processed though and complex PTSD is exactly that: complex. No one size fits all answer exists. The healing journey is as individual as the treatment. Some are cured, others never are. It takes a long time to learn the coping techniques and even longer to remember them when triggered. I really don’t think people who have never had PTSD can fully speak to it unless they are practising psychological professionals who have studied it and their patients for years. Until I was struck by PTSD I had no clue about how it works. That said, a trauma specialist told me the brain is malleable and we can change the neural pathways. His was the most hopeful and helpful information to me. But, again, it takes a lot of concerted effort and work to change our responses. Most of us cannot foresee the triggers, we are already “reacting” and triggered before we can think of our learned coping skills. I just saw a documentary on PTSD where they showed two people who both have PTSD from an experience they were together in 17 years ago. One person’s brain (the one who was coping better) appeared very different from the other who is still not coping well at all. The brain “floods” itself and you are stuck, nothing for it, really, no pat answers. And so it goes. Thanks for visiting and commenting, I appreciate your thoughtful words.

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  3. Oh Janni, you have been through so very much and you know much I admire you. Well, I admire you even more now. (BTO we sing from the same hymn sheet re forgive but never forget. so don’t you justify anything that way . xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx)

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    • You are always so kind and supportive. How I appreciate your love and loyalty. I am in a much better place now. Who knows, maybe one day I will be able to venture across that big pond between us and spend time with you in person. Love all you share, your home is so pretty and your hikes look fabulous. Love and hugs to you Shehanne ❤️❤️❤️

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      • Janni…you have quite brought tears to my eyes. I mean that. And I am not that kind of person. I am so lgad you are in a better place, you seem such a nice lady and you battle with so much. I just boil to think of you being treated as you were. I would love to meet you one day. We have got another hill trip booked for end of March and I am hoping to have my new floor laid in my sitting room soon so will be sharing more !! x

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      • Aw, thanks kindly for the love and support, Shehanne. If I told the whole story including the police brutality which I finally got to tell the judge about in 2015 and is a large part of why she threw out everything they said and ruled 100% in my favor, your blood would boil right over lol Luckily I was in the right place at the right time for help and support through those few nightmarish years. And now I can write about it with some distance so hopefully my wee book on PTSD I am writing to help others as well will finally be finished this year. I am so looking forward to seeing your new photos! ❤ ❤ ❤

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  4. So kind of you to share your wisdom to help others. So glad you’re in a better place now.

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    • Thank you so much for dropping this here. I really am in a far better place, not fully free of PTSD and may never be but much better. If I can help just one person, my goal will be fulfilled. We all go through challenging times and we are all in this life together. That’s all I really know for sure 😊

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  5. So very true. It seems you’re helping a lot of people by the interaction on your blog comments, and you’re moving forward to try and overcome the challenges you face. It sounds to me that you are stepping forward. And you’re not alone. 😊

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    • Yes, moving forward inch by inch, lol. It’s a shame to me that people who are struck down by PTSD often find themselves “shame blamed” shut. People will say, he/she is crazy, they have PTSD. Family members do it, too, and it’s the most awful thing in the world for the PTSD sufferer. First you are struck down by something that you did not want and is NOT your fault. Then you are abused by people who should be loving, supportive and kind so you can heal instead of hurt more. I guess that’s part of what keeps me talking about this. Thanks so much for reading and for your comments ❤ ❤ ❤

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  6. Happy to hear that you’ve found a “healthy distance” from your past story to be able to share your journey and insights. Love the posters, Janni. ❤

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