I’m home for a conference on Spirituality and Trauma at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth this week. The primary speaker is Dr. Robert Grant, author of The Way of the Wound a Spirituality of Trauma and Transformation. I had the pleasure of meeting him last year when I coordinated his visit and speaking engagement when I was stationed at Portsmouth.
One of the ideas that Robert is willing to address is going beyond the symptoms of PTSD and what are the underlying causes of trauma including the understanding of evil and malevolence and the understanding of moral injury that stems from trauma. Last year when spoke I was really beginning to integrate my own moral and spiritual injuries that were part and parcel of my battle with PTSD and I found his presentation quite helpful.
Now 8 months after that I have come to understand more about what he talked about back then. For me it is that what I experienced changed me and that I had to deal with things that I saw and that I know that make me radioactive to many people, especially fellow ministers and many Christians. I found that when I came back to faith and began to write about it that I was asked to leave my former church. Evidently being an agnostic despairing of life was fine as long as I didn’t question non-creedal social issues and right wing politics. I now ask questions that make many people uncomfortable and I have become much more sensitive to seeing things that many people want to pass over. Recently this was the case when I suggested that legendary preacher David Wilkerson may have committed suicide by car. But such is life when you have passed into the abyss and come back different than when you began the journey. Thankfully I have come back. Now I hope to be there and walk through the valley of the shadow of death with those who are walking where I have walked.
I also found that there is a good reason that I am still taking medications to help me sleep. I inadvertently left my medications or “docile pills” as I call them in North Carolina and had to try to sleep last night without them. I was hyper-vigilant as hell and got almost no sleep. Today I got up, forgot my hearing aids and left the front door open on my way to work. I was absolutely exhausted and to stay awake I drank entirely too much coffee, Coke Zero and Diet Dr. Pepper. I was tired and wired. Thankfully one of my psychiatrist friends prescribed me enough of what I take to get me through the week. However, I was funny especially toward the end of the day when I got myself slapped by a friend when a question was asked about a book title. The book was Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming and as people searched their brain housing groups for the title I leaned over to my friend Duke and said “isn’t that that book Oedipus in America.” Duke paused for a second, realized that I was pulling his leg and slapped me, not that there is anything wrong with that.
While at the Medical Center I saw a good number of friends that I had worked with for two years. It was a genuine joy to see each of them again and to realize that the most important part of any assignment is the people that you have relationships with. I am blessed. I have a couple more days in the symposium and look forward to what I will learn as well and seeing people that mean a great deal to me.