One of the most damaging effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) I see in veterans is social withdrawal. It’s so hard to watch someone struggle with their memories and know that they don’t feel comfortable sharing that load with anyone else. And yet, so often sharing what happened with another person is what starts the healing process. It’s almost as if in speaking what happened out loud, we release the horror and emotions connected with those memories. Unfortunately, having PTSD means we often don’t trust others enough to make ourselves vulnerable, and that can keep those wounds festering.
Sharing the problem allows the veteran to validate his or her feelings and experiences. It provides an environment where those memories can be processed, understood, accepted and finally, released.
Fortunately, there are people out there who really care and are willing to provide an environment that is safe and non-judgmental. In many instances, the people willing to take on this role are other veterans.
This week I watched a veteran who has been attending the Support Group at Disability Network/Lakeshore go to a younger veteran, thank him for his service and then tell him he was available to listen…to anything. I was astounded at the amount of healing that happened right before me as the younger veteran stood up and began talking about some of the problems he’d been facing and how much he wanted to turn things around now and move forward. The most delightful thing is I saw healing in both veterans!
The courage demonstrated in that room was astounding! Funny, isn’t it, that in helping others we often end up helping ourselves too! I felt privileged to be there, and honored to be allowed to witness such an act of courage.