If I Could Tell You How It Feels: My Life Journey With PTSD captures Alexis Rose’s journey toward healing from PTSD. The book consists of narratives interspersed with poetry, along with beautiful art by Janet Rosauer. The chapters are short, which I always appreciate since it makes it easier for readers with concentration problems, and they flow nicely. Alexis doesn’t go into details of her trauma, minimizing the chance of triggering her readers.
Over the years Alexis has experienced severe symptoms of PTSD. She has flashbacks which are easily triggered, and she describes the considerable effort she’s had to put in on an ongoing basis toward managing her triggers. As she worked with her therapist she learned tools to manage her ongoing symptoms. However, she has come to understand that for her there will be no cure and she will have long-lasting effects that will require ongoing work to manage.
Alexis describes the multitude of interpersonal challenges that go along with PTSD, from the doctor who asked why she couldn’t just get over it, having to navigate friendships, losing the people that backed out of her life and managing the walls that she put up for self-protection. Her family has been profoundly impacted by her illness, and she describes how roles within the family have had to shift over time, requiring adaptability from all of them.
Self-stigma has been an issue, and she writes “I wrestle with feeling like I’m lazy because I haven’t cured myself of this illness”; this is something that will probably sound familiar to many of us in the mental illness community. She describes self-doubt as an unwanted houseguest, but one that no one else can see. When things get really hard, she has to actively remind herself that she is in the process of healing.
Alexis shares some of the valuable lessons she has learned along her journey. She has come to understand that while PTSD impacts her it doesn’t define her, and while she was a victim she is definitely a survivor. This resonated strongly with me, as I grappled with the term victim with respect to my own experience of workplace bullying. Alexis talks about her struggle to establish an illness-free identity despite her ongoing symptoms; again, this is something I suspect will resonate strongly with many readers. She has learned to set boundaries, remove toxic people from her life, and reach out and ask for help when needed.
Alexis identifies a number of strategies that have been helpful on her non-linear road toward healing. Writing has been helpful for processing memories, and naming what had happened to her made it easier to see the bigger picture. Radical acceptance has allowed her to find greater peace, own her past, and acknowledge the hard work she has put in.
While this book talks about the challenges of PTSD, the focus is very much on healing and learning to live your best life even with ongoing symptoms of illness, and as such readers with various other mental illnesses are likely to feel a sense of connection. The title is very apt, and Alexis does an excellent job of capturing what her healing journey feels like and has felt like at various points along the way. This is an inspirational book that I would highly recommend.