PTSD is like carrying a bucket

A lot of homeless people have PTSD. How do I know this? Because so do I.

PTSD described by me:

It’s like carrying around a bucket all the time. A bucket that hangs off and goes to every place you go to. No matter if you’re on vacation, your child’s play, your anniversary dinner, camping with a bunch of people you love- it doesn’t care it’s gonna be there. It is heavy because that bucket is always about halfway full of triggers.

My triggers are related to smells the most. Or at least that is where I notice them the most. For example, cigarettes and liquor on the breath is a pretty lousy trigger for me. However, I work with the homeless. Quite a few have this similar smell. I go once per week to spend several hours with my homeless friends. While I am with them, my bucket is about 3/4 of the way full. It is dangerously close to being completely full. I do mean dangerously, because when it tips, well. It’s rough.

I believe that is why God drew me to my homeless friends. I see this so clearly now. I understand the bucket. The difference is, I know the things I need to do to keep the bucket from overflowing. I understand that all other stress that I can avoid has to be avoided.

That’s crazy talk, though, because I am not in this world alone. I am with people- and a lot of them. I spend time with hundreds of people every week. I am not complaining, though, because I love it the most. I love an adventure. I love that I get to use my skills for something good. This is a blessing in my life. Having people that I love is an enormous blessing. Taking a bad thing and helping others to learn from it. Also, learning and growing as a person. All amazing.

My homeless friends, not so lucky. I can’t imagine their buckets.

I go on vacation and cry about where I am going to sleep, or my children are going to sleep. If I am not feeling safe or comfortable, I know what is going to happen. That damn bucket is going to ruin my whole vacation.

Homeless people, with PTSD, live in a tent and sleep on a cold ground. I am repeating it, I can’t imagine their buckets. I feel like they may carry a lot more than one bucket. They’re dope sick, lonely, disgraced, ashamed… I can go on- but all those things that I just mentioned are not even part of the bucket. They are both completely separate amounts of weight to carry. It certainly doesn’t help the situation.

PTSD can take a seemingly normal person to a completely melting down and quivery mess in the drop of a hat. That’s because we can’t see the damn bucket. It’s invisible. We have to take a good guess. I know that guess better than anyone I am talking to, but the person I am talking to has no clue. Not unless they know me very well. And I mean really know me. They have seen me at my worst and still love me. That’s what it takes too. People that will always love you and learn to live with you lovingly.

Good luck with that.

When a PTSD sufferer is hurt by a person, that’s an automatic overflow of the bucket. It’s instantaneous. It’s a full alert the flood is coming- every man for himself; the damn is going to burst.

However, If I am with people, I fully trust, then my bucket feels weightless. So I let my guard down some. That’s a relief of astronomical proportions. Remember, I drag this damn bucket everywhere.

So when you see someone struggling, think about their buckets. Look at them as human beings that are carrying around buckets. Then, see if you can help them remove any of them. Because even if you have 4 buckets and the 3rd bucket has just a few drops, eliminating those drops has now eliminated an entire bucket. For my homeless friends, that trigger could have been hunger pains from going hungry as a child. Think of how much of that bucket you could relieve by giving them something to eat, let alone heat, clothing, shoes, or really any human necessity. Especially our Veterans. Many of them have PTSD from fighting wars. My father and many of my friend’s fathers have had no help from Vietnam. They took the flood home with them and drowned their families with overflows. And the vicious cycle has now brought our world to complete distress. Buckets are overflowing everywhere.

Always remember that anyone who doesn’t have control of the bucket will always drown and drown everyone around them. They were never taught to swim. That is why we must throw them a safety ring.

Challenge yourself to do this and pray about what God wants you to see from this kindness. I guarantee it won’t be something small. It will be life-changing.

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