24 December 2013

Finding Hope in the Face of PTSD | RallyPoint.com

By Stephanie Weichert

He was one hour north of Iskandariya, Iraq, in the middle of the desert on the way to find an insurgent. It happened all at once. His crew drove straight into a minefield. Explosions lit up the warm night sky.

One Bradley went down, and then another, and another. One soldier dead. Another with both of his feet blown off. The Bradley in front of him melted down to the ground. He sat motionless, practically holding his breath, and wondered if he would make it home in or out of a box.

He did come home alive, but somewhere on the battlefield or the battlefield in his mind, hope was left behind.

Went from service to service job

As a Bradley gunner, this soldier returned with a  skill that didn’t exactly translate to an office job. The movies that constantly played in his head didn’t give him cordial people skills either.

His first job at home was at a car rental company. For a deflated soldier without any direction, the arrogant and entitled attitudes he encountered served as a reminder of the chasm between those who serve and those who lived to be served. It was as though his hope account had a negative balance.

Car rental-company to retail shop, this former Bradley gunner went from bad to worse. He needed to feel something besides emptiness again. He needed hope that there was more for him in the future than behind him in his past.

Reaching a place where even mental fortitude couldn’t push past the hopelessness inside, this soldier called his only sibling, who lived across the country. He put in for a transfer with work, sold the majority of his belongings and then drove 2,200 miles with his golden retriever, a few personal items and his clothes stuffed inside a rental car.

Followed a flicker of hope

He had one flicker of hope that began to burn brighter with every mile that he drove closer to his new life. His elation stayed high for a short time  but eventually grew dim again when he realized that his new job and the new people were really just the same. Faced with a familiar dread, he decided to cash in the remaining dollars of his Army College Fund for one last chance at school. This time, a trade school.

Within six months, that soldier fell in love, got married, graduated and started his new career. He now says that on a joy scale of 1-10 (10 being the best), he’s a nine. He credits his turnaround to this: “I had a deeply held belief that I could weather any storm.”

He’s made a complete 180-degree turnabout from his life a year ago by acting on that small flicker of hope he had for his future. Although he’s still dealing with issues, he takes one small victory at a time.

Well done, soldier, well done.

Follow your own joy

When you are down to your last flicker, it might be time for a change. Do something different than you did yesterday. Plan for a better tomorrow. Your situation will resolve if you can keep moving forward. Above all, don’t quit! If you take that first step, you’ll notice your hope flame will grow even brighter.

I’m not sure what it is for you. Perhaps you need direction. Maybe you need hope that your tomorrow will be better than your today. Take that first or next step. Keep moving.

May the winds of change blow on your flame of hope until you are burning with joy. Happy holidays to you!

About the author

Stephanie Weichert is a certified Life and Executive Coach, Strategic Interventionist, published author, speaker, and strategic director for START Fitness®, the longest-running Boot Camp fitness program in the United States. She has performed life coaching workshops for the Tennessee Army National Guard Warrior Fit Camp program, the Kentucky Army National Guard Operation Immersion course, Tennessee Army National Guard′s Children Attitude Motivation Program (CAMP), and Empower Fitness Conferences. In addition to being a life coach, Stephanie is certified as a personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and has a B.A. from San Francisco State University. She is a current columnist for Military1.com and has written numerous health and fitness magazine articles for Foundations, Hooah, Military Spouse and GX®: The National Guard Experience.

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