It has been quite awhile. And by that I mean more than just the frequency of this blog. I have been housed at American Lakes intensive PTSD program since mid-September. The program consists of lots of intense groups, individual sessions, and homework. One of the things that the staff here said early on has stuck with me, challenged me, and helped begin transformation in me: vulnerability = courage. What is courage? For many years I have struggled with my self-identity. I have believed that I must always project a certain controlled and competent demeanor, even when I felt far from it. I have practiced hiding what I feel so well that I have hidden them from myself as well. For years I have felt that vulnerability is something to fight against, to run from, and to gird up against. Well, we can all agree to where my assumptions have led… I write here now that I am beginning to understand my hurt and my pain and how the events of my life have shaped and molded me into who I am and who I can still become. By spending so many years denying vital aspects of myself, I was actually helping to cause the harm that I had been trying to run away from. I believed that crying was a demonstration of a lack of strength. That admitting my fear, my sadness, and my struggles would only lead to bad things. What this did was store up those necessary and vital emotions into a reservoir that I had no hope in controlling. I reached the point to where any emotion terrified me, whether it be mine or others. I had reached the point where I could not share empathy with anyone because I had none for myself. I had reached the point where vulnerability was such anathema that I ran from it by running from everything. I hid in my basement, never left my house, and finally even pushed my own family away. All because I could not stand being vulnerable. Funny that the more I tried to run from it, the more I actually succumbed to it. But again as I have stated before, I am hard-headed and stupid man. I was hurt in my military service – terrified and abandoned. I held the trauma and hurt of so many others that it overwhelmed me. I struggled with how to demonstrate courage when I felt none. I liked to project the image of competency and courage, but in reality I felt scared and outmatched. Vulnerability = Courage. I’ve had to trust people here – staff and veterans alike. I’ve had to share my pain and my shortcomings in places and circumstances that terrify me. I’ve had to look deep into my memories and into my presumptions. C.S. Lewis wrote that “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What? You too? Thought I was the only one.'” Being vulnerable to others and especially to yourself takes more courage than running from it. Feeling emotion, allowing empathy and compassion into my soul again, and (gulp) trusting others is the only way that I can be healed. And I have learned that is courageous. I have a long way to go, but I feel like I am reentering my own life. It will be scary, difficult, and treacherous. I may get hurt. But for the first time in a long time, I’m okay with that.