We have heard a lot about soldiers returning from deployment with PTSD, TBI or depression.
At the same time, studies show that many Veterans prefer not to use the VA to deal with their trauma, feel that their spouses, buddies or spiritual counseling can help them better than mental health treatment, and many prefer not to consider themselves as traumatized at all.
But the truth is, that deployment to a war zone changes people. This is not a sign of weakness, but a normal consequence of having been exposed to war.
Not all changes are bad: many soldiers report great satisfaction that they were finally able to use what they have trained for for so long, and they are proud of their mission and their service.
But this is only a part of the picture. I think we have to get over the assumption that “inner toughness” prevents traumatization, and honestly recognize that being able to deal with trauma does not mean that it doesn’t exist in some form.
How could finishing business at home, preparing a will “just in case”, attending predeployment events that explain to the family how the death of their loved one will be communicated, not be traumatic?
How could leaving wife and children behind, not knowing if he or she will ever see them again and what that will be like, not break a soldier’s heart, even though he or she is prepared and ready to deploy?
How could seeing buddies suffer from injuries and different kinds of trauma not hit even the toughest person hard?
The majority of troops report having seen dead bodies during deployment. The constant threat, the mindset of war, the fear and exposure of attacks and combat are traumatic. Toughness helps through this, but there is an end to how much someone can heal alone. And why should they have to?
They are trained to “suck it up” and “toughen it out” to the point that, as some of my Vietnam Veterans told me, they stepped over dead bodies saying “there ain’t nothing to it”. But where does this trauma go?
How could separation and tough and difficult circumstances not wear somebody down? Should Veterans really have to wait until PTSD, depression or TBI is diagnosed, in order to get help? Why is it so hard to admit that most troops can’t just “return back to normal” and deserve respectful support to deal with this?
I believe that we need to change the way we think about war exposure, and acknowledge that nobody comes back unchanged.
If EFT was routinely offered to all troops after a mission, simply as a destressing tool, could it be that the long term effects of war exposure lessen, especially if it was accepted and offered by loved ones, buddies and spiritual coaches?
I feel that everybody deserves to get some EFT coaching after returning from deployment.
Nobody comes back unchanged, nobody should have to deal with this alone.”