Almost another full month has slipped past since my last blog. I apologize for the delay, but I trust you will find that it was worth the wait once you hear how things have been progressing with the group of veterans I have been working with. So, without further ado, let’s jump right in!
Going back to last month’s blog, you may recall me saying that if something is subconscious, then by definition you are not conscious of it. That is precisely why it is so important for people who suffer from PTSD and depression to seek out therapy. The root cause for both PTSD and depression is usually rooted in the subconscious, and as a result it cannot be identified or treated without assistance.
I always say that the first step towards the end of depression is communication. The same can be said of PTSD. The problem, however, is that the stigma attached to mental illness often keeps us from talking about our internal battles. This is especially true of those who serve or have served in the military, because we come from a culture that prizes toughness and capability that never falters. The perceived weakness that comes with being labeled as depressed or traumatized is powerful enough to keep people all around the world suffering in silence.
What I have learned through both research and personal experience is that keeping trauma, guilt, fear or any other kind of toxic thought buried in your subconscious is no different than keeping nuclear waste buried in your backyard. Over time that negative aspect secreted away inside of you will leak out radiation that will poison every other aspect of your life. And again, because the poison is coming from the subconscious, there’s no way to find it and root it out without help. Traditionally, that is where therapy comes into play. However, what I have discovered over the course of the past two months of working with veterans who suffer from PTSD is that therapy is not the only way to turn the tide against mental illness.
Talking with a therapist is most definitely one of the most powerful tools at your disposal if you are going to take the fight to depression or PTSD, but from what I’ve been observing it appears to be the talking part of the equation that carries the weight at the beginning of the fight, not the therapist. To be specific, I’ve been attending PTSD clinics long enough now to see that simply giving veterans a forum to talk openly about their struggles goes a long way towards helping them feel better. So you see, it’s not therapy that begins to unearth the toxic junk buried in the subconscious of those who suffer- it’s talking. The talking is therapeutic.
The importance of opening the lines of communication is the first lesson these veterans have taught me. I have learned something else of great importance right on the heels of that. For whatever reason, veterans seem to have a difficult time talking frankly with their spouses, friends or other family members. However, put them in a room full of other people who have served, and the floodgates tend to open. And again, from what I have observed, that is where the healing begins. The lesson there is that empathy can also be a powerful ally to enlist in the fight against depression and PTSD. Having an environment where you can talk to someone who has felt what you have felt, where there is no concern of judgment and no fear of repercussion is often all it takes to unstop what has been held back under other circumstances.
Now, let’s be candid. Do the men and women who come to these PTSD clinics and attend them on a regular basis feel better. Definitely yes. Do they eventually come away cured? Certainly not, if attending meetings is the only effort they make to win the fight. The veterans who make real progress in the battle against depression and PTSD are those who use the clinics as a springboard to begin working one on one with a therapist. And no, the work doesn’t even stop there. Like I said, communication is the first step towards the end of depression, but it is not the be-all and end-all. However, if you are a veteran who is suffering from PTSD, or if you are a civilian struggling under the weight of depression, I’d encourage you to find a support group in your local area and go to a meeting right away. I have seen firsthand that it can be a huge leap forward in the right direction, and often times a little momentum is all you need!