JONESTOWN SURVIVOR Agrees with PTSD Vet on Jigsaw Pieces

Today, June 3, 2012, I was hosting an Authors’ Table at the Fiesta del Sol in Solana Beach, CA. I got into an interesting conversation with a veteran. Lately, more and more people who have faced tragedy and trauma have sought me out after my presentations. This has been true in libraries and universities in particular. The Vietnam Vet told me that his PTSD was not diagnosed until about ten years ago. So, he had been suffering from undiagnosed and untreated PTSD (70%) for nearly thirty years. He said that his most common feeling was that he was a piece of a jigsaw puzzle, and that he couldn’t find any other pieces to get with. He didn’t belong anywhere.

I can so understand that feeling. When I came back from Guyana, and had to face the world as a grief-stricken survivor, I felt that there was no spot for me to fit into. I was an alien. The huge loss that I had suffered and continued to re-live made me a different person, and no one could understand me. There was an emptiness and loneliness that couldn’t be remedied. The healing took many years.

We of Peoples Temple do talk – now – about our own PTSD – “Peoples Temple Stress Disorder.” But really, it is the same. We have felt the detachment, and the yearning to belong, to have our place. But, our sorrow has stood in the way. I think that is why recently holocaust survivors, veterans, victims of bullying, family members who have lost a loved one, and others, have sought me out after my speaking events. We can speak from the same point of reference. We understand and communicate in our own language about our feelings. We grow stronger just knowing that we’ve been understood. We’re finding other pieces of the jigsaw puzzle.

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