We all have a story.
How compelling the plot.
40 years ago (Name omitted) was drafted to war in Vietnam. He was a protester of peace, an advocate for change, and he became a victim to horrifying trauma.
He was just out of high school. Sitting against the wall, his head in his hands. He had been drafted to fight in a war he didn’t believe in, a war that deviated from his values.
He is no longer a war protestor. He’s a war fighter — a Marine.
He finds himself at a forward operating base down range. Their platoon had just received new orders from command.
“Finish them off.” It was an order to go through and ensure that all enemy combatants from their recent attack were dead. He looks around at his comrades, who passively ignore him as a means to dodge the orders. As a leader, he decides to take the initiative to carry out the task himself. He dons his gear, grabs his rifle, and sets to carry out a task that kills him to do.
As he navigates through the objective he faintly hears groaning coming from the tree line. Like a trained Marine, he dives behind cover and points his rifle towards the sound. He inches his way closer to the noise, where, not to his surprise, is a wounded enemy combatant. To his surprise, the combatant is a teenager, 15 at best.
He looks down the barrel of his rifle, feeling the internal turmoil. The once esteemed protestor of war, was now staring down the barrel of his rifle at a teenager, who, like him, had no business in war and once had a life of hopes and dreams. He makes eye contact with the enemy, closes his eyes, and, like a Marine, thrusts his bayonet forward.
He, and thousands of others, experienced multiple instances of combat throughout the next year. And though his journey would finally complete, his journey through complex PTSD was just beginning.
And he would hide his story. For years.
He came home to closed arms from a country that despised war fighters. The only peace he could find from his war trauma was in the form of a needle. His relationship with Heroine would plague him for the next 40 years and his story of PTSD would be remained intentionally closed, until given the space to finally open his book.
Although he had few words to say about his trauma, he had a whole story stuck inside, which had shattered his worldview. Every time he heard a loud noise, his memories would flood back. Despite his best efforts to keep the book of traumas closed, his nightmares would force them open. He never learned to trust other people, because the threat of someone knowing his story, was impossible to bare.
What makes trauma so damaging aren’t the flashbacks, the nightmares, or the perpetual state of numbness, it’s the story we create for ourselves.
• “There is something wrong with me”
• “I am broken”
• “I can’t do anything right”
• “I cant be loved”
• “I can never love”
• “I feel nothing”
Trauma-related inner dialogue is the catalyst to the destructive habits we engage in. When pealing apart using the poor choices we make, its common that there’s a thread of self-defeating inner dialogue. The narrative is so strong, in fact, that it filters out the reality of the world they live in. To them, their thoughts are stronger than what’s actually occurring in the world.
The Marine earned three Purple Hearts (wounded three times in combat) during his time in Vietnam, rewarding him with every benefit made possible by the VA, but he vehemently denied them because his story of “being a monster.”
This is the impact of stigma
Every organ in the body get’s support when it is ill, except for the brain. That is stigma
Stigma is defined as a “Mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.” What a travesty that victims of combat, rape, abuse, etc., are associated with the word “disgrace”.
While the Marine’s story will never be okay, he never started to accept what happened until he shared his story. He opened the book and allowed himself to share it with another, and hear feedback from their impression.
His words healed him
There are countless evidenced-based studies that suggest that sharing your story in the presence of a trusted one can heal us physically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. It’s a practice that has occurred since the dawn of human language.
Through a process, we change our traumatic story to a story of growth.
Process the pain
When we experience trauma, our minds are unable to process the emotional flooding in the moment, shutting down various neurological processes. Processing the deep-seeded pain allows room for healing.
Find a voice
You discover a surprising sense of confidence when you break the silence that has bound you, as you openly share your experience.
Your experience shifts from a highly emotional experience, to framework that supported with logic and understanding.
You begin to understand that your story is part of your development, and has taught priceless lessons, some of which you feel compelled to share.
You have a newly formed energy about your story, and you move toward a life of meaning and purpose. You are no longer ashamed of your story. Because you know it will inspire others.
How powerful the impact of sharing stories. According to the famous ACE study, almost 1/2 of children experience trauma in their upbringing, many of whom have multiple bouts of trauma. Almost everyone who experiences trauma feel compelled to keep their books closed, and their stories hidden.
If roughly half of the population has experienced trauma, aren’t we more alike than different? We all know someone who has experienced trauma, but how often do we talk about it?
Stigma is killing people by the millions. Stigma has likely killed someone you know, perhaps someone very close to you. It has touched every single one of us, yet there is so much misunderstanding and fear associated with it. The lives Stigma has taken has robbed the world of limitless potential. The most valuable place in this world is a graveyard, where lies the important stories and ideas that could’ve shaped the world to be a better place.
Emma Goldman said the most violent element in society is ignorance, and that couldn’t be more true.
We have an imperative choice to make.
We fight stigma by sharing our stories. If Stigma is a pitch black room, sharing stories is the light.
Be a part of humanity. Be a part of saving lives. Take a stand against stigma, so that people may heal.
Every time someone shares their story, we take a shot against stigma. Every time we listen, we take a shot against stigma. When we understand, humanity wins and stigma loses.
You have a choice. You can either feed stigma, or you can support humanity.
Shots.Against.Stigma fights the impact of stigma everyday as a platform to share important stories. Every week, this platform shares a story of the impact of trauma, and the rewards of growing through it.
Take a stand with me and millions of others on our fight against stigma. Millions of lives depend on it.
Trauma is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma shames us all.