Well, how do you think I feel? Part 2
One of the places that I feel most safe and secure is on base. Every time I go back to visit family in the south, I am compelled to return to Parris Island. Every time I am in the North Carolina area I must go back to New River Air Station in Jacksonville. And I visit as many bases as I can get to. These bases have long acted as a kind of magnetic draw and I’m virtually helpless to resist. And that’s a good thing.
There is a certain peace I experience while on base; a peace that’s rooted in the knowledge that in the moment in time in my life when I was exposed to the worst experience ever, I was surrounded by thousands of dedicated Service members and we got the job done.
Here we are many decades later and this draw remains compelling in my life. One of the first things I realized wench I first walked into a Veterans Administration facility was the many thoughts I was reminded of from when I was on active duty. The atmosphere felt alive with movement. Speaking to so many other Veterans in a language we could all relate to was soothing. To see so many professionals (those who served and those who did not) increased my sense of appreciation for the care and concern so many showed.
Simply put, it felt good knowing I had found a tribe of like-minded individuals who share similar challenges, and who have embraced the idea of doing what we must to get past the haunts of PTSD or some other trauma.
It’s hard to relay how important these connections are but I can say one of the most gratifying experiences one can have is to sit next to another service member who is grappling with the same kind of challenge they might be facing, and to find a way to laugh. Just like when we served… just like the many hours we “hurried up to wait” and spent time talking or joking around.
The lifestyle and nuances of life in the military continue to have a profound impact in my life and it continues to inform how I view the world. The warrior mentality we embraced is also part of who we are and how we regard the world we live in. We come to understand we can use what we’ve learned while in service to our Country to now serve us.
The journey to self-awareness and self-directed living can seem an immense mountain to overcome. It can be overwhelming and something we fear. But these are only fear-based thoughts we’ve allowed to “protect” us. They are part of the ongoing series of mental “whispers” that attack us daily – even minute-by-minute.
When we are not able to look at how our past informs our present we yield our ability to determine our own fate because we are then guided by fear and machinations.
When I first realized how all this worked I resisted. I thought: “That was them, this is me.” Boy, was I wrong.
In the end, how we end up feeling in and about life, despite the vestiges and yearnings of the PTSD we carry, is based on the decisions we choose to make. We can look into the mirror and see and say our truth, thereby giving us the power to manage ourselves, or we can point to any and every external source and blame that – and we continue to suffer.
It’s our call.