Women's Journal

Heal and Thrive: Peggy Onlock’s Take on PTSD

Heal and Thrive Peggy Onlock's Take on PTSD
Photo Courtesy: Peggy Onlock

By: Lisa Patrick

The profoundly personal and thought-provoking book ‘Survive, Then Thrive: Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress’ by Peggy Onlock is a deeply reflective exploration of living with PTSD. As the title suggests, it is not just about surviving but also about healing and ultimately flourishing. This powerful read recently hit the bestseller list, no doubt because Onlock fearlessly invites readers into her world, where resilience, vulnerability, and courage coexist on the path to healing.

Onlock’s story goes beyond a simple retelling of events; it provides a candid and unfiltered view of the human condition and the healing process. Her compassionate approach to the challenges posed by PTSD is extremely powerful and engaging, giving readers the chance to experience the strength of the human spirit.

Long after the last page, readers will continue to feel empowered and educated by Onlock’s story, which leaves a profound and lasting impact. Recently, Peggy Onlock took some time out of her busy schedule to talk with us about her journey, her book, and what lies ahead for this trailblazing author.

What inspired you to write ‘Survive, Then Thrive: Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress’?

I started writing this book more than 20 years ago.  I always liked writing so I decided to write my story.  I wrote several lines and put it away for a few years because I felt nobody would want to read it.  Several years later, I decided to write my story; if only for me.  I find writing relaxing and cathartic even when it’s difficult.  As I learned more about Post-Traumatic Stress symptoms, I recognized how contradictory, confusing and serious this injury can be.  I had to write it down to make more sense of it; both for myself and others.  I hadn’t seen a story similar to mine in print and felt it was important to share.  My inspiration was my family and friends, some of whom helped me through the pain.

Can you share a bit about your personal journey with post-traumatic stress and how it influenced your writing?

My personal journey with post-traumatic stress was full of confusion, misunderstanding and lack of knowledge.  I had only heard of PTSD in the context of war.  I had no idea until much later that other traumatic events can cause what is now known as PTSD.  This lack of knowledge initially influenced my writing because I thought my story was very limited and quite honestly, madness.   I felt I wasn’t important enough to tell my story.  My journey and my growing awareness of post-traumatic stress symptoms helped me realize that my story was important and should be shared.  Many people with PTSD feel it should be kept to themselves; partly because of the stigma, partly out of shame and guilt, and often because it was so difficult to understand.  I felt I could shed some light on the subject in a way that people from many walks of life would get a better understanding of how stress can impact our lives.

My personal journey also clarified some of my experiences in my younger years.  When I understood PTSD better, I think some of the pain I felt when I was younger might have been symptoms of what was to hit me hard in my forties.  I hope that came out in my writing so people recognize that the earlier you have treatment for the symptoms, the less difficult it will be to cope with the trauma later in life.

In your opinion, what are some common misconceptions people have about post-traumatic stress?

In my opinion, some common misconceptions are still that PTSD is often a result of war.  While that is one definite cause, there are many more.  I also think people measure their empathy for those suffering from PTSD, depending on the cause.  For example, I was once told that mine didn’t matter because I didn’t fight for my country in the military.  As a survivor of sexual violence, I was often considered partly responsible for what happened to me; therefore the resulting PTS symptoms were partly my own fault.  The injury is serious regardless of the cause and many treatments are similar.

Another misconception is that survivors of PTSD are mentally ill and weak.  Survivors of PTSD have a strength that has allowed them to cope with the difficult psychological traumas.

What research did you conduct while writing this book, and what were some of the most surprising or enlightening discoveries you made?

Much of my research was through reading and talking to professionals, including my own professional support system.  I don’t consider analyzing myself as research, but as self-analysis.  Several books were recommended by my psychologist and they helped me understand what I was and was not experiencing.

In my second career in public safety, I read everything I could about PTSD, available supports and treatments.   I had experienced some of these treatments myself.  I was able to write a paper with this information that I hope increased awareness in the organization where I worked.

I’ve attended conferences, seminars, and training sessions on mental health initiatives to increase my understanding.

Probably surprising to me, was that PTSD affected many people who had experienced psychological trauma and they were left unsupported.  They/We were afraid to reach out for help because we didn’t understand what we were experiencing; not to mention the stigma we would endure because of some of the misconceptions surrounding mental health challenges.

How do you hope your book will impact readers who are struggling with post-traumatic stress?

I hope my book will encourage people to seek professional help if they are experiencing PTS symptoms.  I want to provide encouragement and hope for a future without the devastating symptoms of PTSD or at least the ability to manage the symptoms.  I hope it will encourage women who have experienced sexual assault and abuse to speak more openly and recognize they are not at fault for the assault.  I hope it will raise awareness for the family and friends in their lives, both male and female, and provide increased understanding of the impact of sexual assault and abuse.

‘Survive, Then Thrive: Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress’ is available on Amazon.


Published by: Khy Talara

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