Here is a short but powerful letter, written by a previous military client with whom I worked to help heal from Complex PTSD. We worked together for some time using a combination of my therapy skills in CBT and EMDR, integrating the therapy approaches and adapting the treatment for his needs to best help him. What he has to say is an emotionally raw, but honest account of his journey, he talks of the barriers and stigma that he overcame to seek mental healthcare. This individual remains anonymous but I shall always remember his courage in the therapy room, and on the battlefield.
A few years ago I returned from Afghanistan having dealt with the unspeakable, I was a 20+ years military service experienced person, handpicked for the role I undertook, I did the job that needed to be done.
Why am I writing about this now? Well I found that there was still some stigma about seeking help when there is actually nothing physically wrong, when the problem is very much present but invisible to the naked eye. Here is my story...
Around 6 months after returning home I noticed I was acting like I didn't care for people, I struggled to grasp the requirements of having a normal life. I was uncompassionate and felt emotionally cut off from those around me. My wife was getting close to leaving me and my kids didn't like me much either. I would say things I shouldn't at home and at work, the worst thing was the anger that burned inside of me. I got angry at the slightest little thing, from an off the cuff comment from a colleague to a news article. it got to a stage when I was close to physically acting on this anger which would in no doubt leave me in a very bad place. Something needed to happen, I needed to either get help or watch my life fall apart.
I am far from the type to ask for help, in fact it is bred into me not to do this. But if I didn't then everything I had worked and lived for was a going to vanish and for what....because I couldn't bring myself to talk to someone. So I took myself to the doctors, a short but painless experience actually, and they fully appreciated the guts it took for me to ask for help.
Shortly after this I was seen by the 'shrinks' and diagnosed with Complex PTSD, I did not want to hear this, I did not like it but deep down I knew this was the cause but was embarrassed to admit it. This is when therapy began....
In a short letter like this I couldn't begin to say what treatment has done for me, but needless to say I am still married, my kids talk to me, my friends still have a beer with me and I haven't been jailed for anything!....Enough said!
For anyone out there with trauma, your experiences are not going to go away, but how you deal with it can change. But not without the right help, you need to make the choice to seek this out.
If you do get the help and therapy then you will find your life becomes more liveable, and those around you will like you better too. Also you will undoubtedly start to notice that you are not alone, you are not the only one struggling.
Lastly take this from someone who knows...you only get one chance at life, don't spend it alone because you were to afraid to get help.