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PTSD and BEES - Explaining the connection

I am haunted by the image of a little boy, and had I taken the time to dwell on the circumstances this child was in instead of pushing it to the back of my mind, perhaps I may have changed my outlook on life, and I would somehow be better today. But I didn’t; I was just too preoccupied with the job to even learn his name.

Anonymous – printed with permission.

PTSD, as discussed in my previous installment on PTSD and Bees, is a mental injury that can take weeks, months or even years to announce itself. Once it makes itself known, the road to recovery can be long and challenging, and more often than not, life changing.

One of the bigger challenges I faced when being treated for PTSD was combating that sense that I had failed, that I was not worthy of respect, and for me, (right or wrong) defined a 6 year search for acceptance and forgiveness. It was simply how my brain was working at the time. Detaching from society, family and friends was happening, losing my sense of direction, and questioning life in general were all daily debates in my head.

Even though my family and friends were surrounding me with their support, a significant issue that I believed I was facing was that I desperately needed to find reason for my existence, and in doing so, be able to accept that despite what I had seen or done in my career, that someone or something would be able to provide that extraordinary gift of compassion and benevolent acknowledgement of my being, of the person I was, and finally, make me realize that I was not being judged by the rest of society.

Six years into my therapy, and almost at the point where I was ready to live my new life, I discovered the amazing world of bees, purely by accident, but fortuitous as well. Since then, my bees, (if I may be so bold as to suggest ownership of such an amazing creature) have become the true barometer of my life, of my feelings and my spirituality.

A big statement I know but consider this:

Bee colonies are complex mini-societies of living things, complete with all the structure we would expect to see in our own societies. As a complex colony, they also have the ability to detect our feelings, our emotions, and our sense of self; they most definitely are able to communicate their take on your personality almost immediately. Most beekeeps will quickly tell you that if you are rushed, off your game, not paying attention or distracted by something in your life, working an open hive in this state will usually (and quickly) result in a sting (s).

And thus the connection – bees read emotions and respond accordingly. Bees will react to and mirror our emotions almost immediately, responding positively to positive emotions (read no stings) and conversely, responding negatively to negative emotions, (read getting stung). I believe that this is true and accurate based on personal experience, and while I try not to get stung, it happens every time I am feeling off or am troubled by life. Maybe this makes me crazy, but I really do believe that they are, as previously mentioned, an accurate barometer to my emotions and life in general.

Learning to work with the bees has given me the confidence I need to keep the PTSD darkness at bay, has raised my self efficacy, self awareness and given me new perspective on what is right with life. They don't judge me, they just accept me for who I am. (we humans could learn a lot from the bees when it comes to stigma and mental illness)

PTSD made me feel isolated from everyone, and kept that isolation on the top of the pile for a very long time. My bees have all but destroyed the isolation; they rely on me as much as I on them for survival. Finally, their complex social structure has made me realize that we have purpose in life, just like the bees. It may be hard to see at times, but it is there and it is a driving force. Just watch a bee on her flight path and you will discover what I mean.

(PS. The quote above is printed with my permission 2009)