12 people killed in a bar shooting. I am at a bar with strangers which is where I always gravitate when these things happen. Despite my introversion, I find more comfort in being with strangers, keeping conversations light and funny or focused on the news we are all seeing on the bar tv. They don’t know I have PTSD. They don’t feel the need to offer opinions on anything other than how good my perfume smells.

At work today, we had an amazing speaker who was a Brigadier in the army up until a few years ago. Fascinating man. The focus of his conversation was about PTSD. I was gutted listening to him. Especially when he said that at one point his wife and kids drew the line, said he was an asshole and needed help. I knew exactly what they meant. My dad is the most honorable man I know. But he was a major asshole growing up. He’s way better now but asshole still slips through on occasion.

This guy showed a picture of his brain scan next to a normal brain. Holy shit (which his doctor also says when he saw it.). His brain is entirely backwards with a big dot denoting a traumatic brain injury. Minus the TBI, is that what my dad’s brain looks like? Is it what mine looks like? You can’t argue science, friends. You just can’t.

But I love his perspective that it’s not a disorder but a survival mechanism. His brain had to re-order itself to sense, look for and anticipate danger the average civilian would never consider. The only issue with it is that when you return to civilian life, it doesn’t go back to the way it was before. You always remain on edge seeing things other people don’t. It’s a good thing and bad thing.

I am pretty blessed to work for a company that cares about these things. It hasn’t always been that way. When the bombing originally happened, it was correctly assumed I was fucked up. But it was held against me, impacted my pay and career mobility. Now, it’s considered an asset because my level of empathy and deep people are top notch. So is my self awareness. I am a leader and I am fully aware of how to inspire just as much as I know the weaknesses I have which can sink everything. I also report dotted line to a service guy who nods his head at me differently from everyone else because he knows my brain, my morals, my integrity and my silent triggers. When we are all in a meeting in a conference room, I am pretty sure he knows why I sit where I do and that I silently slip in and out of flashbacks while everyone else is thinking about the project, their kids or happy hour. I feel pretty lucky and supported right now. No one is using it as a convenient excuse to hold me back without saying that’s why.

12 people died today. Many more will have their brains flip on them. Some won’t understand what’s happening to them… why they start drinking more, falling down and cracking their heads open on toilets or getting arrested for drunk driving and losing their licenses. Some won’t know to ask for help or even what help might look like.

For me, it’s a shit ton of therapy with the best doctor I have ever had, yoga, massage, OTF, writing and EL fudge…some alcohol. But that took some time to figure out. Still does.

Anyway,great conversation with strangers. God bless the families grieving today.