Tuesday, October 28, 2014


It's time to start thinking about the opposite of PTSD and what it looks like.

Yesterday it thundered and rained much of the day. Every time I found myself out in the rain and listening to the thunder I was transported, quite viscerally, back to my backpacking trip on North Manitou Island in August.

One morning on that trip I woke in the morning and heard some rumbling coming from over the lake. Storms can come from over the water and can often be heard approaching for hours before they "arrive".

I thought I should make a decision to either stay put, get rained on, let my gear dry out, and then proceed to pack up and go on to the place I wanted to be that night, a wonderful lake in the middle of the island (I had been camping on the west shore of the island for two nights), or skip breakfast, pack up right away, and risk getting rained on while I walked, so I could get to the lake early enough to dry up anything necessary before nightfall. I wanted to spend as much time at the lake as possible. It is one of my spirit spots, a truly brilliant place. I decided to get going. I packed up, walked across the field through high underbrush, where there used to be a lakeside village a hundred years before, to the entrance of the woods.

It was getting darker and darker as I walked. I wanted to at least get into the trees before the rain started. I thought I would get less wet. That was true for a while after the rain started. The old growth beech/maple forest was very dark and a little foreboding as the rain started. I felt a bit like Hansel or Gretel walking through the woods, although I was leaving no breadcrumb trail. After about an hour of walking with the rain barely reaching me through the trees, making incredible music through the leaves, the rumbling became louder and more insistent. The rains started in earnest. A fine symphonic roar. The thunder crashed and the lightning was rapids and startling in its urgency.

This went on for about another hour or more. Yes, I was wet, but I was also completely in awe. As it rained the darkness of the storm started to abate. It grew lighter by degrees, and soon there were shafts of filtered light breaking through the pillars and arches of the trees. The wind swelled the orchestration from the rain and the water left in the trees as it was blown off the leaves. I was soaked. My gear was dry for the most part because of a strategically employed garbage bag. I had not seen another person the entire walk and would not until hours later after I had arrived at the lake, taken a swim and had something to eat. By then the sky was almost clear and clean, bright and hot. I was elevated and completely happy. Maslow might call it self-actualized, but I'm not sure that description does the state of being justice. Connected. A Part of the Whole. Convinced of the Integrated Nature of Living. Unexplainable. To be felt. To be remembered.

This is the state I re-experienced every time I heard the thunder and rain yesterday. Reverse PTSD.

In PTSD flashbacks we are forced by the way in which our mind/body connection builds its defenses to replay vivid remembrances of how we've been hurt. So we can avoid being hurt again, or remember how we maneuvered through that hurt. The opposite of this would be an experience like the one I have described... the ability to relive, re-feel, the excellence and spiritual heights that our lives here offer us as often, at least, as it offers us reminders of what has caused pain.