PTSD and the Camino de Santiago

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This page is about the Camino de Santiago which is located in northern Spain, is a trail that is completed with physical challenges that prompt one to want to quit early, but they carry on toward the goal set before them. Much like our lives with PTSD, we are faced with many challenges in life and want to give up, but we find the endurance to carry on. This page also highlights a personal story of one person who walked the Camino, and faced its challenges and met the finish line.


The Camino de Santiago (Latin: Peregrinatio Compostellana, "Pilgrimage of Compostela"; Galician: O Camiño de Santiago), known in English as the Way of Saint James among other names,is a network of pilgrims' ways or pilgrimages leading to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried. Many follow its routes as a form of spiritual path or retreat for their spiritual growth. It is also popular with hiking and cycling enthusiasts and organized tour groups. 

 

The Camino de Santiago is a network of pathways marked by a scallop, The scallop shell, often found on the shores in Galicia, has long been the symbol of the Camino de Santiago. Over the centuries the scallop shell has taken on a variety of meanings, metaphorical, practical, and mythical, even if its relevance may have actually derived from the desire of pilgrims to take home a souvenir.  


In Spain, France, and Portugal, pilgrim's hostels with beds in dormitories provide overnight accommodation for pilgrims who hold a credenci.   In Spain this type of accommodation is called a refugio or albergue, both of which are similar to youth hostels or hostelries  .

Most pilgrims purchase and carry a document called the credencial, which gives access to overnight accommodation along the route. Also known as the "pilgrim's passport", the credencial is stamped with the official St. James stamp of each town or refugio at which the pilgrim has stayed. It provides pilgrims with a record of where they ate or slept and serves as proof to the Pilgrim's Office in Santiago that the journey was accomplished according to an official route and thus that the pilgrim qualifies to receive a compostela (certificate of completion of the pilgrimage). The compostela is a certificate of accomplishment given to pilgrims on completing the Way. To earn the compostelaone needs to walk a minimum of 100 km or cycle at least 200 km. 


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This is a story about a woman of God who completed a journey along a portion of the Camino de Santiago, her first name Christina; and she walked 138 kilometers or 85.74 miles of the trail. She says that it's amazing how you can walk and be at peace along the trail. How it can calm you down and how beautiful the nature is. She also commented on the people. Her fears were losing her mother, but by doing the trail, she found the strength to be herself. 


The Camino de Santiago is kind of like the Appalachian Trail of the United States, except that that the Camino is rooted more in history and tradition of Europe and religion; with the similarities being that the physical challenges Christina faced on the Camino were the wrong kind of shoes and blisters. Emotionally she wanted to stop at first when her foot started to hurt, but she found the power to carry on, and make it from one "Alburque" to the next. An Alburque is basically a building with bunk beds which were spread out along the Camino at various lengths. 


After completing the trail, she felt happy seeing the cathedral of St. James in its rich history, built by St James from Israel 1200 years ago. At the cathedral, after completing her journey along the Camino de Santiago, she received her "compostela" ( certificate of completion of the pilgrimage ), which was a great accomplishment in life, and meaning that she can do anything she sticks to.


Her perspective and outlook changed, that there is hope when we give our lives in a higher power. 


How can this story translate to a testament of PTSD you might ask? Each stop at each Alburque was a building block to greater success. Christina had to go from one "building" block to the other for rest-before continuing on.  When we are faced with challenges of PTSD, we have to start out with small steps...from one block to the next. Victory blocks are important, no matter how small they may seem. If are faced with the overwhelming fear of public transportation for example, taking a "private car" might be the first building block toward the "Uber", toward the "taxi", toward the "bus". With PTSD, we may feel secluded from forms of environment we were once used to; but Christina commented on the people on the trail, however, that she wasn't alone. Seek out others who are in you're similar circumstances, who can walk alongside you, and strenghten you, to go with you into the community; on that trail. Christina felt happy seeing the cathedral in its rich history of 1200 years, such a expansive length of time; and we too who are dealing with PTSD can look to sources of inspiration, such as survivors of trauma and PTSD, who have formed history and become legends such as Whoopi Goldberg, Mick Jagger, and Darrell Hammond. Whoopi Goldberg saw two planes collide in mid-air; Mick Jagger suffered PTSD after his girlfriend committed suicide; and Darrell Hammond made it public that he was abused as a child. We are NOT ALONE in the fight of PTSD!  Christinas perspective and outlook changed that there is hope when we give our lives to a higher power; we have to give our lives to something greater than ourselves to help strengthen us, whatever that may be...we can't fight alone...


May the strength of a Higher Power grant you with the peace and endurance to withstand obstacles that stand in your way from the battle-fields of PTSD. May you find encouragement and empowerment to achieve what seems impossible or impassable, what pains the heart and body and mind, but should never deter the Spirit.....for the Higher Power is there to strengthen the Spirit...AMEN