From the Ranch

From the Ranch

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Lonely Soldier

As Randy and I have worked with Warriors and their families, we have found that when Warriors experience dark things in combat which haunt them to a degree that it is life interrupting, they often find themselves reluctant to tell anyone what they are going through.  Especially in the case of Military Sexual Trauma, the tendency is to hide from everyone what has happened.  There are varied reasons why Soldiers do this, all the way from feeling as though they are failing their unit,  or from fear of reprisal, or from fear of ridicule, to efforts to protect their loved ones from knowing how deeply they are suffering.  There are many more reasons as well.

Human beings are a herd or flock species.  We have built into us the need for relationships with others of our kind, and of communicating to them both our triumphs and our tragedies.  In the midst of the very physical bondage of PTSD, (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,) I would say a person is more in need of that human communication than at any other point or stress in life.  Isolation seems to be a part of the sufferings of Soldier's Heart, which is what PTSD was known as during the American Revolution and the Civil War.

This condition was around even for one of the mightiest warriors of them all.  King David wrote many of his psalms from a place of deep pain and suffering, obviously finding himself affected by depression.  It can follow any Soldier home from the battle field.

When as human beings, we sometimes lock down our fears and try to hide them even from ourselves, when we put on our false faces, and put every effort into keeping secrets that are ripping us apart inside, it will be to our detriment.  That is when a feeling of profound isolation can begin to steal into our beings.  In a crowd we can experience feeling totally alone and abandoned.  Even when, if they only knew, our families and friends would rush to our aid, due to some circumstance that seems to the individual insurmountable, Warriors will hide their pain, their fear, and their suffering.  The feelings of total isolation that result eat at what mental health they have, causing even more problems. 

If you know a Warrior, or a family member of a Warrior whom you suspect to be suffering from PTSD, please, resist the urge to ignore it in hopes that it will resolve on its' own, most likely it will not.  There are many military programs in place to help those struggling, however I have observed that sometimes there exists no experience of a real human connection in these programs, rather the Warrior feels the treatment provider doesn't understand, or care either.  Their "services" appear to them to be just how these individuals make their living, and the very people endeavoring to provide help leave them feeling even more alone and misunderstood.  Sometimes a service person's negative feelings are grounded in accurately assessing the provider, some do only reach out in order only to get a paycheck.  The needed genuine human compassion is just not there to be had.  That tends to outweigh any benefits the particular treatment might actually yield, in spite of the worth of the treatment itself. 

The huge government bureaucracy that we know as the Bureau of Veterans Affairs, fails some Warrior somewhere every day, actually probably it fails many each day.  I can tell you from personal experience, it can be overwhelming, confusing, frustrating, and that many just give up without ever receiving the benefits owed them.  All of these factors can contribute to feelings of isolation.  The feeling that no one understands or cares grows, and the results of those feelings can be catastrophic.  

So again I urge all of you who love a Soldier, do not hesitate to tactfully reach out, you will never regret your efforts made in compassion and gratitude for service given by these men and women.  While on the other hand, there exists the possibility that in failing to act you will carry a burden the rest of your life, that might have been prevented.

In the poem which follows, I have tried to express feelings which sometimes occur, that have been described to me by those affected by PTSD.  Hopelessness, and helplessness are words that are often used to describe these feelings of being disconnected from family, friends, and the world in general.  So read my dark words, and perhaps get a glimpse of the place some of our 'Soldiers find themselves when they come home.  They experience a loneliness we cannot understand.

            The following are links that can be a start when searching for help.