Recovery For Veterans

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The transition out of military service to civilian life can be an incredibly challenging experience for many service members. One such challenge is unmet mental health needs, particularly posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Veterans are people who have made immense emotional, psychological, and physical sacrifices in service of their country, but they often rarely see it that way. In the aftermath of those sacrifices, the reality for many is a permanent sense of unsafety, hypervigilance and a painful internal reality that feels inescapable. The suicide rates amongst veterans speak very clearly to this reality and their experience that every day is a battle.

“Traumatised people become stuck, stopped in their growth, because they can’t integrate new experiences into their lives.” – Bessel Van Der Kolk

For many, service promises an opportunity for community, understanding and belonging however, those with PTSD struggle significantly with this transition from a life filled with pride and purpose, to one where they feel of little service to anyone. Having drawn an entire sense of self from their service some may find themselves in a place where not only is their work untenable, they are also faced with the uncomfortable reality of needing to ask others for help. For people whose driving force has been to serve and protect others, becoming dependent on the help of others is often unthinkable, and the sense of emptiness and lack of purpose can feel too difficult to face.

So what does recovery look like?

A vital aspect of recovery for veterans lies in finding meaning and purpose elsewhere, and in learning how to experience a sense of value beyond being helpful to others. But first, the dial on the person’s threat system has to be turned down, the traumatic memories processed and integrated enough so that engaging with life and being connected to others becomes viable again. Most people withdraw from the world of human relationships and shrink into isolation and numbness in an effort to protect both themselves and others from their PTSD.

Veterans need above all to feel safe within their own minds and bodies so that they can bear to be inside their own skin and risk feeling again. Whilst numbness has offered a false sense of safety, the cost is connection, relationship, and community, the very things that sustain life and promote recovery. For people who have dedicated their life to serve others, a significant gear shift is required that involves including themselves in the recovery process. Seeking help is not only important for the veteran, but critical for the families in which they belong.

“Recovering from trauma doesn’t mean forgetting your experience or not feeling any emotional pain when reminded of the event. Recovery means becoming less distressed and having more confidence in your ability to cope as time goes on”.
Phoenix Australia

Finding the right type of support and people to trust is a necessary part of the process. While a great place to start is finding a counsellor or psychologist who understands the specific needs of the veteran community, there are more intensive supports such as inpatient care that can provide all aspects of care in a safe and therapeutic space.

Byron Private offers an effective pathway to recovery for veterans living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other common challenges such as addictions and mental health. If you or someone you love is struggling with PTSD, addiction, or mental health reach out to our clinical team for a confidential discussion on 02 6684 4145.