In honor of Military Appreciation Month, this article will address the challenges that veterans face in their journey towards reclaiming their health (mind and body), and the ways that they are addressing and managing those challenges.
For many veterans who come back from overseas, there’s a new fight. It’s within.
USN veteran, Michael F., shares his experience of returning home:
Once I got back from war, it was extremely hard for me to trust anyone, even my own family who I’ve always been close with. It took me a while before I decided to open up. It wasn’t until my family came to visit and begged for me to get help after they saw how I acted after a drunken night out.
Despite it all, veterans, and those in active-duty, continue to bravely take steps towards reclaiming themselves from what veteran, Antonio Rodriguez, SO-1, calls “the darkness.” He defines bravery as “doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done.“ That applies to health and more. This article will focus on some solutions that help manage those challenges from the inside out.
In the name of transparency, it’s important to disclose that this author is not a veteran. I oversee Customer Relations for Rugiet Health, a digital clinic for men with a focus on customized E.D. treatment. The job is to listen to people who want to be heard, and make things happen for them. Every day, I talk to hundreds of people.
It’s safe to say that a significant portion of those voices are veteran voices. Studies show that over 80% of combat veterans with PTSD experience clinically relevant sexual difficulties with E.D. being among the most frequently reported. That’s because, when under stress, the brain will send a signal to stop arousal.
Serving veterans involves having one-on-one conversations, as well as engaging in public conversations in the comment sections of our social media posts. Those conversations are about everything from thoughts on the VA, to powerful accounts of journeys to reclaim sexual health.
No one will ever truly know what it’s like to serve unless they’ve lived it, but learning from veterans has been an invaluable experience.
It’s been inspiring to see how brotherly veterans are to one-another when it comes to matters of health and support. Also the fierce defending of one-another from trolls in the comments who just can’t possibly understand. “Boys looking out for boys,” explains Rodriguez. The fraternity is strong.
Historically, it’s difficult for men to open up about their tough experiences, especially when it comes to sexual health. Now, it seems veterans are leading the way in a greater conversation about sexual health online. This includes informed discussions on the effects of PTSD, anxiety, depression, antidepressants, and societal pressure to adhere to the romanticized image of an American soldier.
Soldiers really are brave.
Why does this matter? Because open dialogue helps bring people together to solve problems. Veterans not only help each other face their own struggles, but help engage civilians whose own challenges can manifest similarly.
Even though E.D. can be a manifestation of those battles, and an obstacle in and of itself, there are ways to address the underlying issue (e.g., anxiety, depression, etc.) that don’t necessarily have to center around sexual function.
“There’s an aspect of personal responsibility… you need to face your ego and identify your higher self, then make the plan to get there,” says Rodriguez, “but it’s common that [we] rely on one another for [this kind of] support that we can’t find anywhere else.”
Michael F. shares how he’s been finding success in his unique struggle:
The biggest thing that helped me overcome what I experienced in Afghanistan was seeking help from an experienced psychologist and psychiatrist that dealt with military members from war, as well as the support of my family and friends, and attending music festivals. This helped especially because it allowed me to escape my own mind for hours on end. Slowly, I was able to cope and understand what I went through and was given tools to help combat the daily struggles from coming back from that environment.
Here are some amazing resources, by vets for vets and active-duty military, that promote healing from the inside out through utilizing the power of community and fresh air:
- Equine therapy — It’s been shown that horseback riding can help alleviate symptoms of PTSD in military veterans. Connecting with an animal of prey that’s 1000 pounds is a monumentally effective way to get people struggling with their past to be present in the moment and calm. The organization, Knights of the Grail, is a central Texas non-profit that caters to veterans, active-duty, and first-responders with PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Their slogan is “calm of spirit, iron of will.”
- BBQ meetups — A traditional and powerful form of bonding and relaxing for humankind is cooking meat over an open flame. Of course, we know BBQ is especially valued amongst American veterans, but who doesn’t love a good 4th of July BBQ? One Texas organization, Meat Therapy, invites veterans to join around the grill and talk about the things that only brisket and brotherhood can inspire.
- Fishing groups —There’s nothing like the great outdoors to make you feel grounded and at peace. Studies show improved mental health in veterans who partake in group recreational activities in nature. Fishing is another ancient practice of mankind that has soothing effects on mental health and overall health. It’s a low stress sport that can have tremendous value for participants. Project Healing Waters is a great organization that caters to veterans with disabilities.
- Motorcycle chapters — If you love motorcycles, you love motorcycles. Riding with a group is always safer than solo excursions, but riding with fellow veterans in your local chapter can also be a great way to bond and get out in the open air. If you’re not much one for talking, no stress. You’ll be able to enjoy the comfortable silence with your peers as you ride down scenic routes. You can connect with fellow veteran motorists through Harley Davidson online forums that are specifically for veterans.
If you’re not a veteran, it’s with great hope that this article sheds light on the true grit that veterans have. If you’re a veteran reading this, you’re amongst some darn good company, but you probably already know that. The wisdom and bravery required to face yourself and take those steps forward are herculean, but achievable. “You can do this. You’re not alone,” says Rodriguez.
*Reviewed for scientific accuracy by Dr. Vipul Khanpara, MD.