Sometimes things happen in life that you just know will turn out for the better. Last week I was invited to travel to Ottawa as a guest of the Chief Of Defense Staff (CDS); he wanted me to speak at his Go/Fo or “Going Forward” conference. This is a gathering of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) top advisors and is intended to inform them of the most important priorities for the coming months and years. The CDS invited me to speak of my experience with PTSD over the past twenty years. I have written a book called Warrior Rising- A Soldier’s Journey to PTSD and Back which has been on the market since July and is available through Friesen Press Publishing.
The CDS read my book and thought I might just be the right guy to speak to his team on this subject. I was thrilled at the opportunity as it is this very group that will shape the future and most important issues the CAF will manage. I would suspect if the subject doesn’t get into this conference; it might never be discussed at all.
Not only was I able to speak of my topic to this distinguished audience, the Surgeon General and senior staff for mental health preceded my presentation with a “down and dirty” briefing on the statistics and way ahead for the Health Services regarding mental health in the CAF. I was the “clean up hitter” bringing the human side of this issue to the table.
I could not help but note just how incredibly engaged the audience was as I spoke candidly and honestly of my personal struggle with PTSD over the past twenty years. It really seemed to strike a chord with this group. My story is tragic at times but is also full of triumph as my health improved through the therapy I attended in Victoria. I healed slowly and was once again able to fully engage with life and family. I not only spoke of how difficult this journey was for me; I also chronicled the incredible impact it had upon my family. My health improved while I attended therapy over the year and a half post Afghanistan but the real healing started once I recognized the pain and suffering my wife and children sustained over the time period as well. Having their voice heard and recognized and validated opened the door to healing for us all! It was as though my community finally heard me and I in turn heard them. This seemingly tiny detail in my story literally turned the table and potentiated my healing. It allowed the re-building of my relationships and brought me to a new and not previously enjoyed level of happiness.
I am only encouraged by the actions of General Lawson to make the mental health of members of the CAF of the highest priority. His actions will in my opinion assist in the de-stigmatization of PTSD both in and outside the CAF and will lead to more veterans and their families to step forward and ask for the help they need and deserve; BRAVO CDS!
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