PTSD and Diplomats

Growing up, PTSD wasn’t a thing, I mean, there were always random passing conversations about my Grandfather’s post war condition, and that he suffered from shell shock, but he dealt with it the same way other veterans did, by going to the local pub and drinking with his fellow air force cronies once a week. There was no PTSD, it was not a thing. Other than veterans, I was told to believe that no one else could suffer trauma, and that culture shock wasn’t even a trauma. ALL LIES. But then again, we all tell lies to survive from our own guilt. The Diplomatic community is good at seeing one reality, and coming home and lying about another.

It wasn’t until one morning, I found my boss in the parking lot of our building, in his car, completely and utterly drunk, crying a very ugly and passionate cry. one hand gripped to the steering wheel, the other to a bottle of vodka. I wasn’t sure what to do, do you approach the car, or do you walk away pretending you never saw anything. I turned around, and walked myself to the cafeteria and bought a coffee, and promptly walked back to the parking garage. I knocked on the window, my boss looked back with blood shot eyes, with a deep look of someone who’s struggle went beyond anything normal. He gasped at me, as I held up the coffee. I slowly walked around to the passengers side, climbed in. Took the bottle from his hands, and handed him the coffee.

We didn’t talk. I just sat there as he drank his coffee. I knew where his last 2 postings were. I knew that there was a lot going on, like so many diplomats, you can witness so much, and your only defense is a diplomatic letter, or the spoken word.

Over the years, not only did I start recognizing that many diplomats suffered from PTSD, but that the person staring back at me in the mirror suffered from it too.

Traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD) is a mental condition that results in a series of emotional and physical reactions in individuals who have either witnessed or experienced a traumatic event. There is NO medication for PTSD, there is no pill that cures it, lets just get that out of the way. There are also different levels of PTSD. For many diplomats, or Diplomatic Kids like me, PTSD was something that came in waves. I would suffer from episodes, then it would disappear almost overnight and I was fine for a couple of years. Unlike many soldiers, whose PTSD is actually ongoing, and can severely debilitate day to day life.

Working in the diplomatic world normalized my own PTSD, I could live with it, it wasn’t really an issue, because everyone around me had it. I mean, if I wasn’t in my car with a bottle of vodka crying, I was doing pretty well.

My head on collision with my own PTSD wouldn’t come out until a few years ago, when I knew my mind was spiraling out of control. In short, I stopped sleeping, started getting paranoid, frightened, and angry. I had no idea where my anger was coming from, my mind raced from one thing to another, I became paralyzed with fear ALL THE TIME. One night, it all came rushing to the surface, and I woke up hyperventilating, rocking and crying. My husband took me in his arms, and rocked with me. I couldn’t tell him what was going on, because I simply didn’t know. I couldn’t articulate it, because it felt like I was trying to swim in jello.

The next day, I started meditating. I used the app Head Space. After a month, I began to sleep. Sleep turned into research. Research led to PTSD. For a year, I used Head Space, and slowly began to add exercise and routine back into my life.

What I found, was peace and clarity. I was able to slow my anxiety down, analyse what I needed, and gain control of my body again. My weight gain, my anxious eating, my inability to calmly parent all disappeared. I slowly started to unwind, and heal myself from the inside and find the person I had always wanted to be. The anxiety that drove me into a frenzy, no longer comes out, and for the first time, I recognize that the trauma I suffered while moving so much is slowly coming out into words on a page.

For years, I felt angry towards Foreign Affairs, for not recognizing that the very people that gives the department a heartbeat, is also the very department that is chipping away the very souls of that heartbeat and not striving to give any tools to its people. I no longer feel angry, instead I feel that it is my duty to start a conversation.

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