Veterans New Year
today at 4:18 pm
Another New Year but nothing is new and what is there to look forward to? What in this new year is going to make the past any better? What will tomorrow do to change yesterday? Don’t tell me to look at tomorrow with hope or optimism or tell me to just keep going because it will get easier. I’ve been doing that for too long already. The things that have happened cannot be changed. Things that were lost, people, relationships, time, cannot be recaptured. Time is linear and even if some things change in this new year those won’t, can’t change the past.
What is the point? There are people I lost, dead, buried and gone forever. Those hurt but not as much as the people I lost who are still living. Everyone says time heals but that’s not true. The more time it goes on, the worse it gets. It is like walking with a pebble in your shoe. Time makes the body form a callous that even after the pebble is gone makes every step painful. So, you go to the foot doctor and get the callous cut out. But how do you cut out the callous in your heart that causes pain with every beat?
Life is change, no question about it. We cannot avoid change but some changes are damned hard to bear. And they never get easier, particularly when they are changes we didn’t want. How do we correct, compensate for, make better changes we didn’t want, maybe didn’t even see coming? How do we go on living a life we didn’t and wouldn’t choose? How do we get back to who we were, where we were, what we were? Going forward on the path you’re on is too bleak to contemplate but the past is gone and all around is darkness, so what choice is left? That light at the end of the tunnel is illusion. Or a freight train laden with more pain barreling at you.
That is some pretty dark and scary stuff and are the thoughts of too many. I’ve written them out here because just about every person who has ever had these thoughts believes themselves to be the only one. Yeah, sure, others are or have been in a dark place too, but their darkness is different from mine is something we all think. It must be because others appear to be functioning better than me.
You’re right. There are differences, always, both in general and in the details. But, if there is any part of this that resonates with you, any part that feels like it was plucked from your own head, if these thoughts live in you more often than not, reach out. Most of us have these thoughts on occasion at least. I know I do. And it sucks. Sucks so wide and hard it feels like I’m a turd being flushed in a giant high-flow toilet. It can be so hard to resist the pull of those swirling thoughts, particularly when you can’t see a reason to bother.
I’m not here to give some brilliant, pithy answer that will make everything okay. Such a thing is not possible, at least in my book. But my book does say there are answers. The proof is I can look back and remember when thoughts like this circled, swirled and kept floating back up in the toilet bowl of my head.
How did I get myself over the rim I couldn’t even see much less have a hope of reaching in those moments? Sorry, buy my how and your how are going to look very different. But there is something I can tell you that does make a difference, does matter and most importantly, does work. There is a way.
You don’t have to see it, understand it, believe yourself worth the effort or even believe it is possible. Just accept it. There is a way and you are capable, worthy and deserving of finding it. It probably won’t look like what you envisioned as your future way back in your past before these thoughts stained the bowl but I can promise, I can guarantee that it is real, exists and is worthwhile. How? Because I’m living it. Because I’ve watched others, more than I can count, live it.
Here’s one other proof that a worthwhile future not only exists but you can achieve it…
You are a warrior. You showed a mental, physical and emotional toughness most of the population can’t even fathom, and that was while you were in basic training and didn’t know a fraction of your capabilities.
A warrior fights. A warrior never gives up. A warrior fights until he can fight no more. Then, a warrior allows his brothers and sisters to fight for him, to protect him, to care for him, to stand in the gap for him just as he swore to do for them.
You are a warrior. You took two Oaths, one public and one private. You swore publicly to protect and defend the Constitution. And you swore that private oath to care for your brothers and sisters. They took the same Oaths as you. Let them fulfill that profoundly sacred, private Oath.
Reach out. Talk. Talking about the things you don’t want to remember doesn’t ‘bring them to mind’. Talking about them with someone who knows what they’re doing literally rewires your brain, allowing those memories to move into the backseat where they no longer have access to the gas pedal, brake or steering wheel. Yes, the memories will always be there but like an annoying passenger in the backseat of a cab, you can raise the partition to block out their noise; you’ll still see them but maybe, in time, even become amused at the thought the reactions they try to provoke in you are a faint shadow of what they once were.
Talk. If you are talking to someone and it’s not working, tell them that. Straight out. Tell them they are not helping you. Any clinician worth their salt will welcome that information.
If you stopped going because you believe talking doesn’t work because you tried one, or even several times, Good news! There are more than seventy, 70!, validated, empirically supported methodologies for working with trauma. Try another. Or are you one of those people who would try on a pair of pants and because they didn’t fit, decide pants are stupid and a waste of time?
The real truth about talking is it’s not about the methodology anyway. It is about the relationship, the bond, the trust you develop with a clinician. Professionals that don’t admit this are the ones to avoid, because it is proven that your comfort and confidence in them is the single most important factor by a measure of more than two-to-one. So, make the effort, find someone you think you may be able to trust. If that one doesn’t work out, find another. Yeah, that’s a lot of effort to expend when you don’t feel like you have any effort to expend. It may take time. But, those stains on the toilet bowl that is your brain pan didn’t form overnight either.
Maybe I do have a pithy answer after all. Talk.