Just because a soldier is home from the war, it doesn’t mean he’s out of it. More often than not, they take home parts of it, cloying reminders of humanity’s darker side.
In varying degrees, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects many veterans, especially those who were deployed overseas and those who had witnessed or experienced combat. There’s a wide range of PTSD symptoms. However, doctors have narrowed them down into three groups.
The first group of symptoms consists of flashbacks, nightmares, and terrifying thoughts that forces veterans — or any person suffering from PTSD — to relive the dreadful memories, constantly reminding them of the past and preventing them from moving forward with their present lives.
The second are intense feelings of guilt, shame, fear, and anxiety, paralysing emotions that can lead to depression, emotional withdrawal, and panic attacks.
The third and last is constant nervousness or being jittery. People with PTSD react strongly to otherwise nothing out of the ordinary stimulus such as harmless but sudden and loud noises.
People with PTSD are clearly under stress. The past hinders them from moving on with their lives. In some cases, people turn to substance abuse or alcoholism to deal with the situation.
Psychotherapy and medication are the primary treatments but the bottom line is to help them put the traumatic event behind, make peace with it, and start living in the present.
The Camarillo Health Care District, a public agency providing community-based healthcare services since 1969, has recently begun offering exclusive meditation classes to veterans and other military members. Naming it Mindfulness, CHCD, with the help of Brock Travis, a seasoned meditation training instructor, is giving mindfulness training to help military men and women with PTSD find peace, make wiser decisions, and handle difficult emotions.
Using Mr. Travis’s words, mindfulness is “attention to the breath, body, heart, mind, others and world” and according to him, “Mindfulness trains us to be fully present. This helps us to be at peace with ourselves.”
And isn’t that exactly what our gallant servicemen need?
Meditation, although not considered as a clinical practice, is spiritual in nature. It calms and soothes, training the mind to be more positive and less susceptible to stress in a safe, non-invasive, and definitely friendlier manner.
Moreover, mindfulness isn’t the only meditation technique that alleviates PTSD symptoms. Transcendental meditation is also a popular method. In fact, it’s the method used in a study — conducted in 2011 and published in Military Science — to help reduce these symptoms in five veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The results? Astounding! After practising TM for eight weeks, symptoms dropped 50%.
It’s simply a testament to meditation’s effectiveness, and it would be wise for other healthcare agencies and treatment facilities to follow suit, acknowledge the psychological benefits, and definitely give it a go.