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It’s not always heavy metal or even hard rock, but it is usually very loud, with a driving beat. Why? What is it about that thumping bass that veterans, at least in our circle of friends, seem to love blasting at top volume? Is it their battle cry?
I think what’s crucial to understand is that we are not our emotions. I read somewhere that if you visualize yourself standing behind a waterfall, you can watch your emotions, one by one, fall with the water. They come, they go, they wash over you, but they are not you.
I have been speaking with veterans and military family members for BrainLine’s Veteran Voices series. They tell us their stories in an attempt to help anyone who might be experiencing issues with PTSD/TBI. Working with BrainLine has also made me realize just how much trauma occurs both during military service and before.
While in the throes of dealing with symptoms from PTSD, my counselor suggested mindfulness and meditation, which I initially thought was a bunch of snake oil … something for hippies, monks, and weirdos. But then I started to learn about the science — and even a little history — and everything began to change; I literally started to breathe again.
Three of my four sons abruptly walked out of my life with no explanation and no communication. I was being ghosted long before that term even existed. It was, by far, the most painful part of my journey.
I enjoy watching my husband cry. That sounds so much worse than what I really mean. He’s been on various medications for his PTSD some of which cause emotional blunting — not being able to laugh or cry when appropriate.
To be human is to grieve, and everyone grieves differently and in their own time. But there is a type of grief that many people experience that is less common, less talked about, but none the less real and painful. It’s called ambiguous grief or ambiguous loss.
If you are anything like me, when you or your loved one are first given a diagnosis, you research. There is so much information available online, it can be overwhelming or frustrating to know which is accurate, but I find research helpful in being able to report or advocate to doctors for both myself and my loved ones.
One lesson I have learned since I started meditating is the connection between courage and vulnerability. Yes, vulnerability. I know, it sounds like the antithesis of everything related to being a SEAL, but I have come to understand that while vulnerability and courage aren’t necessarily the same thing, it takes courage to show vulnerability and, in turn, as you show more vulnerability, you actually become more courageous.
Amazingly, this is my 100th article for Brainline, and I want to share some of the things I’ve learned along the way — things I wish someone had told me early on. Some are painful truths that took me time to accept, others unexpected joys and blessings that have come with the journey.
I believed in heroes growing up, even though I saw very few, if any, up close. Heroes existed in comic books and television shows, or in the real lives of others. Not in my life. I saw the world as one big jungle where survival meant hoping the lion would spare me and those I loved, rather than having the strength to resist being eaten. The only way to stop any abuse I saw as a kid was to run from it. Cry about it. Then try to forget it. No heroes. Just a desire to be one every time I left my home, even as I often felt powerless to make life safer for my mom and younger siblings.
When you’re a man in society — not to mention a Navy SEAL in special operations — you are taught that the best (only) option is to be the strong, silent type. You can’t let your emotions control you. You can’t be sad, or too happy. Really, the only acceptable emotions for the masculine persona are stoicism and anger.
I will admit when I first watched Encanto I was not terribly impressed, though the songs in Miranda’s signature style are quite catchy. I have two little girls, 3 and 5, and for those of you with children or grandchildren, you know that they must watch something like Encanto again and again and again. So, suffice it to say, I had the opportunity to really listen and pay attention to the story more than once.
It’s not a stretch to say that without my sife, Sarah, I never would have made it. While I can be overly dramatic — as she can attest — I need to get serious for a moment. No kidding around: the early years after my brain injury sucked. In fact, they were the worst years of my life.
In the past, Russ and I would celebrate across oceans and time zones, sometimes a half hour off. Yes, really. Afghanistan is nine-and-a-half hours ahead of the east coast, 10-and-a-half from Texas. It was wild trying to sync up schedules but I would never turn down a 3AM-my-time video chat. I am grateful we don’t have to contend with that any longer. But Russ being home hasn’t made the transition from 2021 to 2022 any easier.
Capt. Dawn D. Sellers knows she can’t save the world, but prays she can at least reach a couple of Soldiers during her time here. The psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner has been deployed here since May working at the 3rd Medical Command’s Gaining Resilience in Theater, or GRIT, Clinic here practicing battlefield acupuncture and providing supportive therapy and psychoeducation—therapeutic intervention that provides Soldiers with tools to help them heal.
Relationships after a life-altering injury or diagnosis is, well, weird. Some people will stand by you no matter what. Hold on to them and let them know, often, how grateful you are that they are in your life. Others, even family—no, especially family—are not so loyal.
The pain, guilt, and shame manifested as stress, anxiety, and depression... eventually leading to thoughts of, “I don’t deserve to be here” and “this world would be better without me in it” and “I’m a coward.”
My early year look-backs were filled with profound sadness, and a sense of loss so overwhelming that I felt smothered by it. Thankfully, that is no longer the case. It’s been long enough that I’ve all but forgotten who I was before my brain injury; that person no longer exists. The very fact that I’m no longer bothered by this is a sure sign that my soul is growing.