The Dual Life of Military Veterans
United States Military veterans live dual lives. They live, witness, and experience the military life abroad when they are deployed, and they live their domestic lives back home, in the States.
Thousands of soldiers return from their tours having experienced traumatic and shocking experiences. These lived experiences affect the physical and mental health of soldiers and often result in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.)
As a concept, the general public is familiar with PTSD. As a lived experience, millions of people live and struggle with PTSD. However, as a disorder, it takes on an invisible form. The symptoms are mostly internal and emotional, rendering itself invisible to another person. Because of PTSD’s invisible nature, and its strong connection to depression and addiction, there is an unfortunate stigma surrounding this disorder.
Shifting the Focus
In the media, we hear so much of the negative repercussions of such afflictions (like with Chris Kyle), but rarely do we focus on the tools and treatments to help! So let’s take this opportunity to hear a successful story of a military veteran who was able to begin to heal using the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).
Upon his release from the military, Sergeant George (whose name has been changed for privacy) was unable to move past his experiences and trauma and struggled with PTSD. It was only once he began EFT treatment that he was able to feel some relief from his traumas.
Main Symptoms of PTSD
The adjustment period of returning from tour or after having just been released from the military is normal. PTSD is when symptoms of trauma last longer than a few months and start to affect your daily life. The U.S. Department of Veteran’s affair breaks up PTSD as 4 main symptoms:
- Reliving the event: re-experiencing the emotions or visual memories of any traumatic event.
- Triggering feelings
- Avoiding situations that remind you of the event:
- Avoiding to think or talk about experiences
- Avoiding large crowds or driving
- Keeping busy to distract from problems & thoughts
- Negative changes in beliefs and feelings: Your perspective or opinion of others and even yourself is influenced negatively by the trauma
- You avoid relationships with people you love
- Your feelings of love and affection shift
- Believing that you can’t anyone or that the whole world is too dangerous
- Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal):
- Easily angered or irritated
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Easily started by loud noises or anything surprising
- Always assuming a safe, defensive position, ready to respond to danger
The Other Symptoms
The above are symptoms related directly to PTSD. However, those who suffer from the disorder, and especially in the military or military veterans, are likely to also suffer from other mental health issues or addiction, like depression or alcohol and drug dependency.
These additional struggles conflate the severity of PTSD and the stigma around the disorder as well, making it that much harder for the affected to seek supportive and successful treatment.
Tapping Towards Healing
EFT is a technique that utilizes the physical tapping of various meridian points on the body. It melds western healing practices with century-old eastern healing practices. Best known through the healing work of one of the primary founders, Gary Craig, EFT has been learned and taught by many.
One healer, Pat Farrell, had the privilege to work with Sergeant George. In their session, Farrell uses EFT to work through a series of the Sergeants thoughts or emotions that often trigger PTSD symptoms.
Farrell focused in on one moment the Sergeant identified as particularly traumatic: a road that was often targeted and in his tour, he experienced an attack on his convoy. Since many of you reading this article may share these traumatic experiences, we will omit the details. However, any time the Sergeant admitted to a specific thought such as a feeling of guilt, Farrell lead him through an EFT tapping exercise, repeating this thought more positive and accepting phrasing.
By the end of their session, the Sergeant worked his way down from a level 10 feeling of anxiety or stress to self-rated levels of 2 or lower. When Farrell checked back in with him the next day, the Sergeant had been so relieved to finally sleep well at night.
This is only one small example of the positive effects EFT can have on PTSD. EFT is an approachable and accessible treatment for PTSD. Veterans are far too often ignored or overlooked upon return — their emotional and physical needs left unaddressed. EFT practitioners are recognizing this and people like Pat Farrell, Dawson Church, and Robert Smith are bringing military PTSD into the limelight.