During this time, my regiment was tasked to Afghanistan and as I watched from the comfort of my living room, the dance with a lack of self worth and feelings of guilt I carried weighed heavily on me.
It was during these years when I wrestled with excessive alcohol and drug use to drown the feelings of anger and denial I had towards my recent diagnosis of epilepsy. Add to this the very strong feeling I had that I let my brothers down and I had all the ingredients for depression and loneliness.
I’ve shared bits and pieces of this story before, and the sharing through writing, or speaking has been a critical part of my healing process.
Soldiers come from a wide range of backgrounds and when most of us join, we are very young. In the infantry especially, we are trained at a very young age to be aggressive, to seek out and destroy the enemy, to kill with weapons and even our hands where necessary.
This was the first time out of the nest for the majority of us and we lived very structured lives until it was time to go out for the weekends. This was our time to let go of the stress we piled up from training and we were good at finding trouble. This trouble was usually dressed in a bottle and was paired with late nights.
Over time this was the norm, work hard-play hard was the expression and we were cultured to suck it up and soldier on when hurt, both physically and mentally. I understand the necessity of this because in combat, the world isn’t going to be fair, so those who can handle the tough times in training, are likely those who can handle it in the real world so to speak.
After years of living in this hardened world, many who wear the uniform can find it difficult to communicate how they are feeling. In fact, while in the army it was discouraged to communicate any indication that you are broken emotionally. All that is important is whether or not you can do your job, and if there’s any indication you can’t, chances are you are on the way out and that’s scary for many soldiers because they don’t know what’s on the other side of the fence.
In our country, we have a large number of veterans who now suffer from the aftermath of a life they proudly signed up for. To serve our country in various capacities including natural disasters such as fires, storms and floods, peacekeeping tours and combat assignments has been an honour for our men and women in uniform.
The Canadian soldier is proud, very well trained and comes from a history of well respected men and women who have sacrificed plenty for many years.
When it’s time to transition into the civilian world, many veterans have a difficult time adjusting and this can cause turbulence in relationships as well as career opportunities.
The Veterans Transition Network is an organization which serves veterans in their transition regardless of how long they served or how long they have been out of uniform. It’s based on research from the University of British Columbia and has years of experience working with veterans to help make the transition more fluid.
The organization is run by donations and covers the expenses for the veterans who take part in the program. Veterans can also take part as a peer councillor once they graduate which is a big factor in the success of the program.
Please consider taking some time to view their website, especially the stories which will help you understand how important this work is for the soldiers, their families and our communities.
Also, as mentioned, the program is funded through donation so your help could make a difference in someone’s life some day.