Healing Through the Power of Therapy and Art
October 15, 2019 | 3-minute read
“Difficult, at best.”
That’s how Phyllis reflects on her experience as a woman serving in the U.S. Navy after the Vietnam War. Resentment, as well as verbal and physical threats, were commonplace. “[I felt like] I had to defend myself, on and off base,” she says.
As challenging as her military experience was, it wasn’t until she left the service and transitioned back to civilian life that she started noticing mental health issues.
“Certain signals that I didn’t know existed triggered flashbacks,” she says. “The first time I ever reached out for help was to a VA facility, and I was really surprised to discover that I was going through PTSD.”
With the support of VA mental health professionals, Phyllis was able to identify not only what was wrong, but also ways to address it. “They talked with me, not at me,” she says. “The treatment in the past, it was slowly improving my mental perspective. Certain things were less stressful if I follow a procedure that was recommended by our health care professionals.”
[They gave me] extra assurances that I'm not alone.Phyllis, U.S. Navy Veteran
After two years of treatment, Phyllis came away with a plan of self-management. In addition to relying on the tools she’s learned to use through therapy, Phyllis has leaned on her passion for art. “I’ve found that art touches everyone,” she says. “It speaks in volume beyond words.”
Expressing herself through painting has not only helped Phyllis cope with her PTSD, but also made a difference for other Veterans. “I’ve had Veterans who come up to my art where they'll say, ‘This makes me want to talk.’”
Through therapy and her art, Phyllis is able to focus on her recovery. “Situations would flare up, as far as nightmares,” she says. “Even though I have my art to keep me calm, stabilized, and balanced in a therapeutic fashion, I still reach out to my favorite therapist [or] primary care person at the VA, where they’re always a phone call away.
“[They give me] extra assurances that I’m not alone.”