Veteran denial is a very sensitive subject particularly to a decorated combat Veteran. I know this because I am one. Veterans have an immeasurable amount of things in common but the most important of all is trust. It took another combat Veteran to show me how much I was in denial of my true self.
When I returned to the great U of A, everything was different and I expected it to be the same. After all, I was the same (or was I?). This is the real underlying question. I never saw the change in me! I spent the next 40 plus years being someone I am not. I call it “my path of destruction”. I alienated my family, children, and the people I somewhat cared about. Multiple relationships, jobs, careers, living places and all at the speed of light. You see the more things I tried to do and the faster I tried to do them, the easier it was to avoid slowing down enough to live, feel, love, care, appreciate and experience life as who I really am. All of the things I had been avoiding; love, feeling, caring, appreciating and LIVING are all the very things I am.
To help make some sense of this to a Veteran, our training requires us to operate and function within yourself, so any association with feelings is not permitted. It will get you and fellow brothers killed. I eat fast, never really tasting much. Every project is an obsession to complete as quickly as possible. I drive with severe focus and intent. I erupt when something is not as it should be. I hate crowds. I sit with my back to a wall everywhere I go. I know all the exits and who can handle themselves within 1 minute of entering a restaurant. I can spot a Vet in seconds. I have no fear. I demand respect. I see the world correctly and the world is wrong. I do the same things over and over expecting different results. I know where my knives and guns are and can get to them quickly. I am comfortable being by myself. I do not trust civilians. Any of this sound familiar?
My life is one big mission. Wow, what happens when the mission is over? As the pain and suffering around me continued, the names and faces changed but one thing remained consistent. It was my face in the mirror looking back at me. I DID NOT LIKE WHAT I SAW. It was at that moment I knew it was me, not everyone else. I desperately needed help.
It became very clear to me that PTSD was the reason why I see the world this way but not an excuse to continue. My long term counselor and advisor recommended the Warrior Connection retreat which I experienced about 2 years ago. It changed my life forever. The retreat brought me home. I feel everything now and I am usually good with that. Even the unwelcome feelings are ok with me now. I have been given the tools and the choice to live my life as me. It is something I never had access to until the retreat.
I am not saying the PTSD is gone. I am conscious when it rules my demeanor and attempts to dictate my actions. There are frequent times the PTSD is triggered but being aware of its presence allows me to make better choices. I now find enjoyment in the journey of living, no longer trying to tolerate and get through the mission. Life for me now seems slower and peaceful most of the time.
I personally have dedicated the rest of my life to helping people with their physical and mental health through balanced nutrition and TWC. If one single Veteran avoids doing something to hurt themselves, their loved ones, attends a retreat or calls me to talk, then my commitment is not wasted.
Bob Brusa, TWC Graduate, Board Chairperson. Bob served with Signal Company 7th SFG and in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne and 5th SFG.