“Unfortunate Hero: A Soldiers Path From Trauma and Addiction” by Katie Evans, PhD, CADCIII, NCACII
was released in the fall 2010.
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The Fourth of July presented a perfect time to share how honored I was to attend Dr. Katie Evan’s presentation on the unique struggles soldiers are faced with today. It has been a while since I attended her presentation but I will do my best to recall the highlights.
The training began with an image of a soldier holding a rifle in one hand and a cell phone in the other. Dr. Evans emphasized how the availability of technology has made recent wars different from previous wars. Stories about how soldiers would be on the phone speaking with their loved ones. As they listened attentively to loved ones desire to have them return or disagreements about dinner menus for special events. All the while soldiers’ response is their own wish to return home with their loved ones and/or their palpable fear that that they might die in battle. Today’s soldiers are never fully present in either world thus making them more likely to be distracted and fall in harm’s way.
When a soldier is sent off to war she or he is provided with extensive training to prepare them for what they may be faced with. When they return the time invested in helping soldiers readjust into society is minimal thus making their transition more difficult. Stop Loss was a film about how soldiers were being asked to return repeatedly which magnified trauma. Dr. Evans also shared an heart wrenching video of an interview with a soldier where post traumatic stress was evident in every word and gesture.
As I shared some of my learnings with a young female client she nodded in agreement and added an example; when she is driving here and someone cuts her off she needs to remind herself constantly that she is here and not there. There when someone cut you off it meant that they could be attacked or on a suicide mission ready to take her out with them. Here it is more likely someone in a hurry, distracted or just plain rude.
Dr. Evans gave us tools we could use. When a Veteran is saying something like “I was so mad I wanted to kill …” Thank them for sharing openly and for thinking it and not acting on it. When a Veteran is experiencing and exhibiting an episode (PTSD or Anxiety) a good thing to do is ask them to please describe the room they are currently in. What does the chair under your bottom feel like? What sounds do you hear in the room? What colors do you see in the room you are currently in? What textures do you feel with your hands?
Rob Marshall, in a recent training on Dialectical Behavioral Therapy described a great exercise to help someone presence themselves. On your inhale you look at one object in the room. On the exhale you look at another object in the room. You keep doing this until your breathing becomes regular and you feel more relaxed- more present. You would be surprised how many things you will notice that you’ve overlooked many times before! Plus this can be done anywhere!
I will never forget while at the hospital I asked one of the doctors if he had ever been to war. His response was yes – the Viet Nam war. I asked him if he was comfortable talking about it. His response was no and he thanked me for asking his permission. I took a deep breath thinking gosh he is such a great doctor – I was hoping to ask him how he managed to return so unscathed. He was one of my favorite doctors to work with while at the hospital! I would have never guessed he went to Viet Nam. His demeanor is so calm and soothing. So I politely said “Thank you!” He asked for what? For going I responded. He got really quiet. I asked if he was ok. His response floored me and my heart broke open for him and anyone else who has experienced the same. His response was that no one had ever thanked him before. My eyes were filled with tears and a deep yearning to add him to my list of vulnerable populations that I need to be more loving toward! I get it. No one comes back unscathed.
Thank you Dr. …. For your sacrifice!
Grace On You, LLC would like to take this time to thank you Veterans and your families for your sacrifice! We may not all be in agreement about war but I’m confident we all wish blessings of love upon our Veterans and our Veterans’ Families.
Guadalupe Aragón, BA, CADC1