by Warriors Heart
Throughout the year, those who have been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, or Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) tend to feel elevated levels of anxiousness due to varying levels of pressures or stress; loud parties, fireworks, the over-indulgent family member, relationships, jobs, even a shopping trip can trigger someone.
Whether out and about, gathering with family and friends, or at your child’s sporting event, the loud, active, and overstimulating moments can be an “absolute nightmare,” for anyone with PTS.
There’re also so many hidden things that survivors battle, that many may not even realize – even to survivors with different histories from each other. “There’s such a misconception with PTS to begin with,” stated Jon Rodriguez*, a retired member of the SOF community. “Add in the fact that people just assume all members of the Military battle PTS due to a TBI, or ‘getting blown up.’ There’s SO much more to it than that – but it’s exhausting to try to explain that to people.”
Many servicemembers come to face with unsupportive or toxic family and friends who don’t value mental health or personal well-being, and for many survivors, the actual anniversaries of past trauma or violence are the moments when the support is needed most.
PTS can also prove to be an unforgiving battleground to the many who struggle with food, disordered eating, and/or addictions. To add insult to injury, an upsetting number of trauma survivors are grappling with chronic physical health issues, too – most of which are due to their trauma, whether they realize that relationship or not.
“These survivors are in pain, sick, or exhausted – wanting to engage in so many parts of life (like the daily activities of their children), but are unable,” stated Tom Spooner, co-founder of Warriors Heart. “The list goes on, and we know just how hard many of these Warriors are fighting to stay above water. We want to help however we can.”
The team at Warriors Heart recognizes and understands the unique demands of our warriors and their families – and works to successfully navigate healing and recovery while in the company of people who personally understand individual experiences. Warriors Heart is a place where that mentality, warriors helping warriors, resides in the hearts of every member of the team. Other warriors and team members personally connect with those who have reached a point in their life where they think they have nothing to live for; showing them that strength is found in this unique facility, that simply and truly believes in the power of the warrior community, the power of each client that walks through the door of Warriors Heart and the power of each graduate who proudly emerges through the gates after graduation.
One of the main concerns of dealing with those suffering from PTS is that it’s not visible. “You don’t see a missing limb, scars, or burns,” stated Spooner. “To the outside world, you don’t appear any different from the person standing beside you. You’re not special, you have no issue, no disability to really claim. For many, they don’t feel as though their issue, isn’t severe enough.”
The battlefield at home has proven to be a far greater a foe than any frontline – domestic or overseas. Veterans, active members of the military, first responders, and firefighters are often faced with traumatic events during their service. The experiences they live each day slowly cause a feeling of dread that can lead to PTS and unravel into a dependency on alcohol and substance abuse as they seek comfort from nightmares, flashbacks, and more; further heightening the damage caused by the memories of those events.
Many of our nation’s heroes are faced with fighting this personal war, every day. They’ve used alcohol, prescription medication, or self-medication to reduce the impact of these memories. However, life hasn’t become easier. In fact, these surface-level managements only seem to drive deeper into that darkness.
Warriors Heart – a private treatment facility, exclusively for Warriors, providing care for addiction, chemical dependency & PTS for active military, veterans, law enforcement, and first responders – understands the unique demands of our warriors and works to successfully navigate healing and recovery while in the company of people who personally understand each experience.
There is no one-size-fits-all guide to get through living with PTS. Helping a loved one is difficult when it comes to addiction and mental health issues; specifically for Veterans who return from combat zones or active duty and can find everything challenging from waking up in the morning to sleeping soundly at night, going to work, shopping, or even being around family without disruption. Their moods, behavior, and thoughts may confuse family, especially when they’re used to who that person “used to be.”
“Having one, two, or even three trusted friends that if I started to feel anxious in a group setting I could use a code phrase and they would understand, was crucial when I first reintegrating into a normal life,” stated Rodriguez. “It encouraged me to be honest with my anxiety and it gave my family and non-military friends a sense of feeling supportive by knowing they were helping me when I was most vulnerable.”
For many living with PTS, the most empowering moments are simply being honest about what they are feeling. “It was liberating and gave me a sense of control over myself, that I thought I had lost all grip on,” recalls Rodriguez.
“Setting expectations upfront is key when supporting a loved one living with PTS,” said Layla Rodriguez, Jon’s wife of 13 years. “Jon came home a different man, and I walked on eggshells afraid of how he would react to the most common day things. I didn’t realize the nightmare he was living in his head every day until he opened up about it to me.”
There is something known as ‘moral injury,’ which is common among members of the Military and First Responder community. It comes from harming another person and is not unusual for people in combat zones who take another’s life (either inadvertently or on purpose) as part of their mission. Those who live with moral injury can feel as though a heavy judgment of character is being cast on them. While others are celebrating their return home and their safety, they see the worst in themselves, and their past.
Combat veterans often experience triggers with anniversaries and holidays because they are reminded of what they lost and what others have lost because of their actions.
Warriors in every walk of life are treated at Warriors Heart, offering a variety of treatments for those undergoing the damaging effects of PTSD and MTBI, as well as chemical dependency. For those who have fought battles to defend our country and our citizens, fighting the battle against addiction, depression, and reintegration doesn’t need to be done alone.
Military (both active duty and veteran), first responders and law enforcement have very different life experiences from the rest of the population; facing unique physical, emotional, and mental health demands. These exceptional circumstances oftentimes lead to issues with Substance Abuse Disorders and chemical dependencies, as they provide temporary feelings of relief or self-medication for stress, trauma, and PTS symptoms.
There is a well-known saying among veterans and first responders, “The only one that knows what a soldier is going through is another soldier.”
If you or a warrior need help with addiction, PTS, or co-occurring issues, please contact Warriors Heart’s 24-hour hotline (844-448-2567) answered by warriors, and/or visit https://warriorsheart.com.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.