Healing from Trauma as a Veteran or First Responder
Healing from trauma as a veteran or first responder comes with unique obstacles, particular to the line of work they have been in. Time in the military or emergency services is wholly unique to each person that experiences time in those fields, but some broad, major trends can be seen.
Active duty military and emergency services offer little room for failure, making those lines of work immensely stressful, the stakes are always so high.
The very lives of their fellow servicemen and civilians rely on them doing every part of their job right, every single time, which simply isn’t possible. Natural human flaw becomes something to be feared, equated to failure, and failure so often equates to danger that perceived flaws become entangled with the concept of failure.
This can make it very difficult for a veteran or retired first responder to admit that they need help, that they are struggling, or that anything is wrong to begin with. This is not because they don’t know they’re struggling, but because there has been an unconscious internalization that struggling or having flawed thoughts or behaviors is equivalent to failure, which in turn is dangerous to others.
This is important to unlearn, but that journey won’t be simple.
What Healing Looks Like for Veterans and First Responders
A sense of community is so important for veterans and first responders, group activities and group therapy are very much encouraged. Knowing you are not alone in your struggles is paramount, and seeing others overcome similar struggles can help you to disentangle the feelings of fear and failure from mental health struggles.
It’s also important to see evidence of the fact that one can struggle with mental health, and that does not mean that they are a failure, or that they are in any way dangerous to themselves or others.
Individual therapy is also immensely helpful for folks having trouble re-acclimating to civilian life this way. Individual therapy can be so rewarding, and is particularly helpful in unlearning unhelpful ways of thinking that can leave you feeling trapped or scared.
For veterans and first responders, healing may look uncomfortable, and that’s because it is!
Relearning how to live isn’t an easy process, and sometimes accessing feelings and processing trauma can feel hokey, or silly, or just too vulnerable. Healing will take time, and more importantly, it takes practice.
Accessing Happiness and Fulfillment Again
Feeling happy and fulfilled in work, retirement, at home, in interpersonal relationships – it all has to do with readjusting your personal expectations, and managing your emotions.
The expectations from the military and from emergency work are no longer part of your everyday, and it’s now time to learn new expectations, new standards of behavior, to make new goals and plans on how to reach them.
Military and emergency service work offer rigid routines, and set-in-stone rules on how to achieve certain goals. Expectations are simple to manage, even as the work can be severe and unforgiving.
Civilian life is much softer and much more fluid. There are no rigid routines anyone can force upon you, and nothing is necessarily set-in-stone. There are a million avenues to get to wherever you want to go, and while that can feel freeing and exhilarating, it can also be overwhelming and aggravating after operating for so many years in another mode of thinking and behaving.
Patience is key, healing and happiness will come in time, and getting practice at being uncomfortable in new ways will help you to evolve and settle into your new life.
The journey to wellness, happiness and fulfillment, and healing from service-related trauma is so specific to an individual. If you’re ready to start therapy, to unlearn what no longer serves you, and learn new ways of being you, contact us today. We can start this journey of healing together.