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To the Veterans Who Feel Alone in Their PTSD

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To the veterans who think they can’t talk about their struggle with PTSD,

We’re not as different as you may think. You have PTSD from the wars you’ve fought, the things you’ve seen and maybe even the things you had to do. I can’t say I’ve been there. I can’t say I’ve shot at anyone, seen someone die, have been horrifically injured or God knows what else happens when you’re a combat veteran.

• What is PTSD?

I don’t know what it feels like to wear boots, carry M-16s or eat MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). I don’t know what it feels like to take fire, take orders or take lives. But, I can say this: I know what it feels like to have memories rage inside of you at the things that have happened, and things you have done. I know what it feels like to be ashamed that you can’t fix yourself on your own. I know what it feels like to wake up in the night sweating and swearing and crying at memories you cannot control. I know what it feels like to have triggers that set off a plethora of violent and horrible emotions inside of you — emotions you can’t stop no matter how hard you try. I know what it feels like to be scared to love someone, because you know how much your past could hurt them. I know what it feels like to take all of your rage out on the people you love, because they are the safest place to let it out.

Our PTSD may not have the same origins, but it has many of the same effects. I know what they feel like. And so, I must tell you, you are not alone in your struggle.

My PTSD spawns from rape. Yours spawns from war. But we probably both feel the same thing: that we are weak for not being able to beat the memories on our own.

But, you see, that just isn’t true.

You are not weak. You are not unfixable. You are not crazy.

You are wounded, just like me. And wounds can heal.

So, to the combat veterans who struggle in silence with their PTSD, I encourage you to reach out. Just because someone hasn’t physically been to where you’ve been, doesn’t mean they can’t feel what you feel. You aren’t as isolated as you think.

There are people out there who want to help. There are people who value you and all that you’ve done for this country. And there are people who understand how it feels to have your struggle, even if they haven’t been exactly where you have. There are people who care.

The more you keep those memories bottled up, the more they will eat at you. They won’t just go away the harder you try to hold them back. They need to come out.

Your story is important and your emotions are valid. Don’t be afraid to reach out. There are helping hands all around you. Talk to someone. Talk to me. Talk to anyone.

The path to healing is right in front of you.

Simply the fact that you are a veteran says you have courage. You are not weak for being unable to control your past. In fact, your ability to voice your struggles only shows how much inner strength you have. It takes courage to heal. It takes courage to share your story. It takes courage to battle PTSD. So, for those veterans struggling with PTSD, I encourage you to get help. Talk. Connect. You are not alone.

I want you to heal.

I want you to live.

I want you to love.

And, so, I dare you to speak.

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: November 10, 2016
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