to be transparent...is the first step in reconnecting with the strength that is already within."
For as far back as I can remember, I have always had the desire to give back, living a life of service within the community. That was a factor in my decision to join the military and serve my country. What better way to give back is there than that? Serving my country allowed me the opportunity to be a part of something greater than myself. Each time a mission was completed I felt that I played a contributing role in making the world a better place.
After completing 13 years of military service I came home ready to continue serving in the community. However, it wasn’t as easy as I imagined it would be. Ten years out, and I was still searching. I was still seeking to find a place I felt I belonged. I was still suppressing the things that transpired before and during my military service by only focusing on the positive and blocking out the negative. I was filled with anxiety around large groups of people and in public places. My relationships were strained. I was in a constant state of fight or flight, and I didn’t understand why. I put on a front of strength, courage and resiliency. However, inside I was in constant turmoil. I realized that I’d allowed some of the obstacles I’d encountered to slowly, stealthily, take away my inner joy. It wasn’t something that happened all at once. I don’t know exactly when it was that I started wearing a mask to hide from the world and those closest to me the shell of a person I’d become. I lost my spontaneity, my passion for life, my joy, my peace, my belief in the ability to achieve my dreams and my inner conviction that I am worthy. There came a point where I no longer recognized myself. I saw others coming out of the service and excelling. I wondered what was wrong with me. In the various positions I held, I felt confined, as if I was suffocating. I realized I had a serious problem. I tried counseling. I dreaded going to that area of the hospital labeled mental health for my appointments. I felt that I was branded by that word that not many want to talk about – mental illness. “Was I mentally ill?,” I asked myself. So, I isolated myself. I shut down as I started thinking about life prior to my abuse. Where was that vibrant, happy, loving, giving person? How do I find her? How do I restore what was lost? I knew that I could no longer continue to function as I was. I began searching for other alternatives to try in addition to counseling and medication, on my journey to healing.
My experience with Soldiers to Summits and the ‘No Barriers’ mindset, along with my fellow team members helped me on my journey to restoring what I’d lost. Being able to be transparent about where you are emotionally, mentally, physically, and/or spiritually is the first step in reconnecting with the strength that is already within. Being in an environment that is conducive to that, along with others who are experiencing similar struggles is therapeutic; Soldiers to Summit’s provides that environment. The second step is establishing and executing a plan to help you get back on track. Having others you can be accountable to by sharing your plan and having periodic check-in’s to track your progress is essential. The third step is reaching out to help others once you’ve gotten back on track.
How do you know when you are successful in reconnecting with your inner resiliency? When you begin pursuing your passion and purpose in life without reservation or apologies. When you wake up each morning happy knowing that what you are doing is making a difference in the lives of others. Part of tapping into that inner resiliency is realizing that your own strength is tied to the strength you pour into and receive from others – knowing that you aren’t alone.
Quoted by a favorite poet of mine, Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.” No Barriers USA and Soldiers to Summits helps you to realize that there is a better tomorrow for yourself and others. Being a part of and supporting this program can be an important step in finding your way back to living and reconnecting with the resiliency that is already within.