Four Stories That Will Inspire You This Mental Health Awareness Month
April 24, 2017 | 6-minute read
Veterans can inspire us in many ways, whether through selfless sacrifice, heroic acts on the front lines, or countless other admirable traits. Sometimes this inspiration comes from how they overcome challenges after returning home, showing the same strength and determination that helped them thrive in their military service.
Each one of these personal stories showcases the resilience of our Nation’s Veterans. Over the past six years, the Make the Connection campaign has traveled across the country to record and collect videos of more than 400 stories like these.
Looking for inspiration? Check out the four stories featured below.
Marco beat his drug problem to get his life back.
Marco served as a radio operator in the U.S. Air Force for more than 20 years. During his transition from the service, like many Veterans, he had difficulty translating his military skills and experience to civilian employment.
“It can be a frustrating experience for someone when you’re in the military and making a good living, and then you get out of the military and you’re working for $7 an hour,” Marco says. “I went through bouts of depression and drug use.” He turned to cocaine and marijuana to temporarily mask his challenges, but he knew that abusing drugs was not a permanent solution.
Marco’s problem with drugs put a strain on his family until his sister, a fellow Veteran, encouraged him to reach out to counselors at his local VA. “They were very helpful in helping me get my life back on track,” he says.
Engaging in therapy led to newfound confidence, and that confidence led to securing a fulfilling job. Now, Marco is living a sober, happy life.
Listen to his full story here.
An IED blast couldn’t keep this Marine down.
Adjusting to life after a physical injury can be challenging. You may have to adapt to chronic pain or changes in your appearance. You may have to give up hobbies or sports, or learn to do them in different ways. These challenges can affect you emotionally, too.
Chad was serving in the Marines overseas when he was injured by an IED. The blast, “equivalent to about a 500-pound bomb,” ripped through his unit’s tank. “I was knocked unconscious for what seemed like a second,” he says, “but I was told it was a few minutes.”
Chad eventually needed a double amputation to address the injuries he suffered. On top of the physical toll, he felt a sense of guilt for having to leave his fellow Marines behind.
“They set me up with a psychologist who I pretty much right away got along with,” says Chad. “He was no-holds-barred, he didn’t take any crap, and he didn’t let me have a pity party. We started with exposure therapy.”
What’s exposure therapy? It exposes Veterans to situations and sensations that remind them of traumatic events. After learning effective coping skills, Veterans discover ways to positively deal with their reactions. For Chad, the experience helped him persevere.
“I can’t believe how much it helped me,” says Chad.
Now, this Marine doesn’t let his physical limitations affect his outlook on life — or his ability to do the things he enjoys. He lives life to the fullest, and even spends his free time snowboarding and riding motorcycles. As Chad puts it: “The only person that can stop you is you.”
Click here for his full story.
Military sexual trauma doesn’t define Misty anymore.
For many of those who live with the effects of trauma they experienced while serving in our Nation’s military, connecting with fellow Veterans can make all the difference. For Misty, joining a women’s group was her first step to overcoming military sexual trauma (MST) — and regaining control of her life.
Treatment is about finding what works for you; there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Misty realized that big hospitals brought flashbacks of her traumatic experience, so she decided to reach out to a women’s group at her local Vet Center. There, she found support in an environment where she felt comfortable.
“They have support groups specific for PTSD and MST that help women together — [to] be stronger together,” says Misty. She learned effective ways to cope with her difficult memories: keeping a journal, writing a letter to the perpetrator of her assault, and maintaining a positive outlook on life.
“I stopped using absolute words,” she says, “and started using affirmations.”
Misty knows that MST is something that happened to her, but it doesn’t define her.
“Don’t give up,” says Misty. “PTSD and MST is something I’m diagnosed with, and it’s hard to deal with. But I know each female out there that has it is a warrior. I know that they can battle it and can beat it.”
Hear Misty’s full story in her own words here.
Ben learned to manage his PTSD triggers.
“I came out in one piece, but my mind didn’t come out in one piece.” That’s how Ben felt after serving in the U.S. Army during the Gulf War. He wasn’t prepared for the horrific scenes of battle that he witnessed. “That’s when it all felt real,” he says.
The sights, sounds, and memories of war stuck with Ben as he transitioned to civilian life. The painful images from his past made it difficult to adjust to society.
“Any noise — I felt jumpy,” he says. “Anytime I went out I was always looking around. I was really nervous. I was scared.”
Ben’s family noticed the change and encouraged him to reach out for support. He found camaraderie in group therapy — hearing from other Veterans who experience PTSD helped Ben realize that he wasn’t alone. “We all tell each other our stories, we all get along, and we all understand each other,” says Ben.
Ben also started seeing a counselor every few weeks, which, in addition to his group, helped him learn to manage the everyday triggers for his PTSD.
“It took me a while, and I got a lot of help,” says Ben. “I’m getting better and better every day. It worked for me — and it probably could work for you.”
To hear Ben’s complete story, click here.