Tuesday, August 31, 2010
CRACKS IN THE ARMOR
Cracks in the armor! We all have them. We all fight against them. And sometimes the fight seems endless and all consuming, and, yes, sometimes hopeless.
The written words of a soldier with multiple physical problems resulting from war, as well as acute PTSD, constantly ring in my head. "I'm going out of my mind. Nothing seems to be making any sense. I'm all alone and no one to lean on. I want out! I want out! Do you hear me screaming? This mess I can't deal with anymore and it echos deep within my soul. Tomorrow, I won't remember a thing and my mind is trying, but nothing is coming....."
This is the sound of PTSD. It is here you see the rough edges of life after war.
We're all pretty much scared all the time. There is no shame in that. But when we're laughing on the outside and dying on the inside we need to be rescued. Sometimes our rescuer is a dog. A dog that will give us the confidence and courage and ability to face the future. A dog that somehow just slipped in and made us open our hearts when no one else could.
Wounded warriors with PTSD often find comfort in isolation. A PTSD Support Dog in essence becomes a band aid for loneliness. The dog, whose mission it is to help, has to be fed, walked, and attended to. More importantly this dog needs love and gives love. With a dog, the warrior with PTSD finds a secret comfort and a private peace. Sometimes a dog's head on a warrior's knee can heal many human hurts.
One soldier said, "The fight doesn't stop when you get home. It just begins." One statistic is that one third of the wounded are coming back with PTSD/TBI. Some are getting by with a little help from their friends. Some are literally being saved by them. The fear and anxiety producing results of war keep our warriors denying their emotions and ultimately denying reality. Their journey toward recovery is one step at a time. These small steps are easier with a nonjudgmental friend by their sides.
Gracie and 'her' favorite soldier, Michael, fell in love at first sight. Their bond is deep. So much so that one of Michael's goals is to get a dog of his own and train it to be a therapy dog to help other soldiers, as Gracie has helped him.
Sometimes the pain of this reaction to a traumatic experience has no name. But a dog doesn't know what PTSD is and doesn't care. They love unconditionally. "It's no trick loving somebody at their best. Love is loving them at their worst." PTSD Support Dogs love our wounded warriors at their worst. Tom Stoddard hit the nail on the head when he said this. "We are all survivors of one sort of another and the reason we are on this earth is to help ease the pain of others. And in so doing we help ourselves."
The dogs are the catalysts to helping heal the cracks in the armor of our wounded warriors and placing flashlights in places where they can find them, as they enter a new world that once was called home. But they don't have to be its prisoners.
These are not just a war stories, but lessons in character, patriotism and devoted love to their country and to a relationship with a dog - a relationship that is defined by trust and sustained through grief, loss and change.
"Pain is inevitable - but suffering optional."
M. Scott Pick - The Road Less Traveled
With luck and alot of work, the wounded warrior comes to realize that perhaps strtength doesn't reside in having never been broken, but in the courage required to grow strong in the broken places.
"Thinking is not the enemy - overthinking is." Julia Cameron