We suffer in silence – let’s talk!

 

Twenty-two veterans a day are taking their own lives. We are suffering in silence – and we are dying because of that silence.

We went to war, served our countries, yet return home changed. We go through life trying to fit in and be “normal.” We didn’t lose our life. Some of us came home without physical injuries. We were the “fortunate” ones. We spend years, decades – lifetimes – living this charade. Swallowing the way we are feeling. We don’t seek out help because we are afraid it will make us look weak. We don’t want to talk about it – especially not with those that could help us the most – our families or the brothers and sisters we served with.

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We are lying to ourselves – trying to convince ourselves we are “dealing with it.” My friends, we are not dealing with it. Our families ARE. They make excuses for us not being at family functions or for why we had the sudden outburst of anger. They are the ones walking on eggshells trying not to break this ridiculous set of rules we have established to help us “deal with” this. Unwritten rules like keeping the house quiet, where we will or will not go, or trying not to do anything that could cause an outburst of anger.

The phrase “suffering in silence” is the key to recovery. We SUFFER in SILENCE. So the only way to end the suffering is with our VOICE.

It took me a long time to realize this. I wasted many years being trapped in all that misery. Living with all the anger, hoping I could control the rage. Seeing everybody and everything as a potential threat, only feeling safe if I was at home and wanting to isolate from the rest of the world. I became very good at isolating I could even do it when I was in a crowd. The more I did it the worse things got.

With no social interaction, I found myself trapped and alone with just the thoughts in my head – not a good place to be. I spent almost every waking moment re-living the events that caused the PTSD. Always trying to change the past so I could have a better outcome. I didn’t get a break at night either, that’s when the nightmares would come. I knew they where waiting on me. I tried to avoid them but would eventually fall asleep. The deeper I fell into this hole the more the depression set in. This eventually lead to thoughts of suicide, thoughts I couldn’t escape no matter how hard I tried.

I was one of the lucky ones. I found away out. I got the courage to ask for help.

The silence comes from us being convinced that nobody would understand or be able to relate to the experiences that caused our PTSD. The silence comes from our families and friends who just keep quiet and believe that “he/she will talk to me when they are ready.” Or worse yet, “everytime I try to talk to them they get mad.” This silence leads the one with PTSD to believe that their family doesn’t care, or confirms their belief that they don’t understand. It’s the same lack of communication that causes other problems in relationships.

brownThe only way to end alcoholism is to stop drinking. The only way to fix a broken bone is to go to the doctor. The only way to quit suffering in silence is to speak out and use your voice to ask for help.  You have to want a better life enough to reach for it. The choice is ours to ask for help and have a chance at a better life for us and our family, or continue to suffer and hope you don’t become just another number.I was convinced I would get negative reactions if I ever talked to someone about my trauma – but we have to talk. And we have to admit we need help. It doesn’t matter who the first person is that we admit we need help to. It matters that we start the dialog. I first talked to a Vietnam veteran. That conversation gave me the courage to admit to my wife I couldn’t fix this. Talking to my wife gave me the courage to pick up the phone and call the VA to ask for help. Every time I talked to someone – the veteran, my wife, the VA – it took a little weight off my shoulders and made it easier to breathe. It gave me hope for the first time in years.

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Everyday 22 veterans are committing suicide. We need to change that. We can change that. But the change needs to come from us. We need to start talking. We need to reach for our loved ones and let them in. We need to speak to our therapists. We need to start with us.
7 Comments
  • So proud of you Dan! You are such an inspiration to the many out there “suffering in silence” no matter what the cause. Thank you for all you have done, from serving our country to bravely breaking your silence! We want you to know that you have support from many to keep going! We love you & Brooks!! Stay strong!

  • I am very proud of you! The changes in you since you started this journey have been amazing. I had the opportunity to thank the Vietnam vet..for listening and not brushing you off. I am very glad you started talking, and I hope this helps others to do the same. We love you & Beth, and of course Brooks!

  • Well said Dan. Welcome back Brother! The book “Tears of a Warrior” is also highly recommended.

  • Hi Dan read your post on We suffer in silence-let’s talk, my Father was a merchant Sea man in the war and yes he came back a changed man, he would drink 6 nights a week,and 6 nights a week he’d relive the war,out burst of anger and verbal aggression,but your post was great in the way that you had acknowledge that they are not the only victims of war, I remember tippy toeing on the egg shells,IAM from a family of 7,we all live quiet close,but are not close as a family, it saddens me that one event changed one mans life ,who change the lives of seven I guess we where all victims of that same war where it ended for some it only began for another – cheers Dan

    • Thanks. I think there are times when war is the only option but our country seems to quick sometimes to go to war. I wish Americans truly understood the cost of war then maybe they would make sure it is the only option before sending our military. They see the flag draped coffins but they never see the untold stories of the effects of war. They don’t see the way it destroys families and permanently affects the lives of the soldiers that “survived” war and their family. They don’t see the wars that are constantly battled at home. The wars that are constantly fought inside the soldiers head. The wars that are fought in the soldiers home with their families. They don’t see the wars that are fought trying to seek help, the family trying to get the soldier to get help or the soldier trying to get help but nothing is working. Most Americans have seen a flag draped coffin on tv but how many have been at the funeral and seen the mother receive the folded flag from the coffin ” on behalf of a grateful nation”. I’ve seen that many times, there is nothing sadder. They don’t see the life long battle with disease that our government denies because the financial cost of treatment is to high. I could go on for another hour but I’ll just say 2 more things. When I talk about war I also include all the other causes of PTSD i.e. sexual trauma and many other causes. I talk alot about the soldier suffering in silence but the more I learn and the more I talk to people the more I realize it’s the families that truly suffer in silence. It’s not to late for your family. There is still hope, you don’t have to accept that life has to be the way it’s been. Start with trying to change your live then maybe the rest of your family will follow

  • Bobby Richard |

    I totally understand how you feel…I too “suffered in silence” for many years, until now…I just sent my wife this link and I hope she can fully understand what I have been carrying inside for years….I will no longer “suffer in silence,” and I will make an appointment with the VA as soon as they open!!!

    Thanks for sharing your story. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America!

    Bobby Richard, USN Veteran

    • I’ve been sitting here for 20 min. just not knowing what to say. When I started writing this blog and the other things that I do I always hoped it would help someone in some way but to see that it is helping someone by you using it to open the communication with your wife really means a lot to me. I am very proud of you for getting help. The journey you are starting on will be a hard one with many ups and downs you will have to fight the temptation to give up many times but I promise you it will be worth it if you stick with it. These blogs I write and the speeches I give can be very hard for me sometimes because they take me back to those dark places. I continue to try to fight through them because I know that every time I speak or write about PTSD it helps me to recover a little more. When you talk about things to your wife and to the VA you will go through similar things. Stick with it and ride out the roller coaster it will be worth it. Now that you are talking with your wife keep an open and honest communication open and make sure it is both ways your wife has been affected by your PTSD also and she has plenty of things to talk to you about from her perspective. If there is anyway I can help you directly send an email to servicedog@thisableveteran.org with your contact info I’d be happy to talk to you. That brotherhood people in the military have doesn’t end when we no longer wear the uniform. I wouldn’t leave anyone behind then and I still won’t now.

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