I suppose I will start by introducing myself. My name is Tim and I am a Veteran of Afghanistan. I have been loaned to the BC/Yukon Legion Command office from my regular job as Operations Coordinator – Western Canada at the Veterans Transition Network, to get a feel and a deeper understanding for the VTN’s biggest and longest standing supporter here in British Columbia. Part of my role is to bring attention to the complex recovery and transition needs of the modern soldier.
This time of year is never easy for me, it is a time where the spotlight turns onto Veterans. I personally have never quite liked the glare and the ensuing blindness this bright light offers. For the next 11 days the entire country will focus on the Sacrifices made by those who paid the ultimate price and the price that is still being paid by those of us who have come home. It can be a bitter sweet experience for me. When November 12th rolls around it seems as though most people just go straight back on with their lives with little to no understanding that I don’t go through a day that I don’t think about those who have fallen and those who are still suffering; that I couldn’t forget if I tried. This issue has turned into a driving force in my life. The fact that so many still suffer and there are programs that can do so very much for those suffering in silence.
I feel that pain on a daily basis, my empathy and compassion for those suffering echoes with the pain I have carried with me for years; I know what it is to feel that blade slicing all the way down to my core. To feel exposed and scared, that no one could possibly understand what it is to feel this way. The isolation and fear consuming my life to such an extent that there is no room for much else except perhaps anger. I have lived my life in this manner for almost 7 years, wondering why I was left alive to suffer as such, what was the point of a life lived in such misery?
It has been a year since I have come to place in my life now where I do see the point and I do understand what it is I am alive for. I came to this realization through my experience participating in something called the Veterans Transition Program. In the program I found a place where I could reconnect with men who understood what I had been through. Where I was given the validation I needed to truly understand that what I had been through was terrible enough to cause anyone trauma; that I was having a normal reaction to abnormal events. It helped eliminate the stigma I had carried previously about Mental Health that it wasn’t because I was weak that I was suffering; it was because I was strong and I wanted to help so badly in a situation where I could do absolutely nothing but do my job. I was the one that had to get on the radio and tell my brothers in arms that no one was coming as they bled and died.
It is a duty I do not take lightly, to help my brothers in arms. I have suffered with PTSD for over 7 years, it has changed every single facet of my everyday life. From how I sleep, eat and feel, to where I go, how often and who I will see. I have decided to contribute here not for your pity, grief or condolences but to help you understand one man, his new lease on life and his path to finding it.
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