Natural Remedies 3 of Our Military Veterans Used to Combat PTSD

It is a battle only the individual understands. A personal fight of post-traumatic stress is combatted and fulfilled differently in each case.

Medication may be prescribed and successfully suppress multiple symptoms, yet there is still a yearning of something more; something natural and fulfilling.

The adrenaline rush of working out; community involvement; the peace of nature; the presence of God; and the companionship with animals have proven to be therapeutic.

Our own Veterans and their family members tell their own stories of the natural ways in which they fought PTSD:

FITNESS/CROSSFIT

Thomas Whiteway, United States Marine Corps Veteran

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“At 21 my dream of having a career in the Marine Corps was over. I was left with a brain injury, PTSD, and no direction for my life. I decided to try CrossFit and instantly found my drive. For the past 7 years I have set goals, worked hard and stayed dedicated to bettering myself through fitness. It has changed my life and helped me immensely with my PTSD. It gives me a place to let out frustrations, to find that adrenaline I crave, a place to relate to others and connect with people in my community. Most of all it gives me ambition to live life, to deal with my issues head on but not let them debilitate me and hinder me from enjoying everything life has to give.”


OUTDOORS/FAITH

Sergeant First Class Bradley Lee, United States Army

“After Afghanistan, I really struggled with learning how to balance the professional life with my family life. My head always hurt and as a result, I found myself constantly angry for no reason, stressed out, or just plain lost. I grew up hunting and fishing and loved being in the outdoors. So as my “therapy”, I went to the wilderness as much as I could. I learned to talk to God while sitting on a hill top, just staring into the wild. I found that the solitude of nature was good for my soul; it calmed me and gave me balance. The more I did it, the better I was able to manage myself when I returned to home and work. A few years later, I got my first horse. I didn’t even know how to ride. I quickly learned that he was more in tune to me, than I him. Many days, when those demons would start creeping up, I would just stand in pasture and let him rest his head on my shoulder. Those moments really crushed the demons. Still to this day, a trip to the woods or some time with a horse do more for my well-being than any medication the doctors ever tried on me. During my trials, I became a believer, and now I place all problems in God’s hands. Nothing is more holistic than a few prayers, a trip to the woods, a pond, or a horse ride.”


HORSES/ANIMALS

United States Army Veteran Spouse

 

“He returned home with a lack of emotion; a sense of avoidance. Every day seemed like a fight of restlessness and anxiety that stemmed from an unknown source. He constantly stressed about where his life was going, what he wanted to do. He was an avid fitness junkie but that just never did it. He was never a man of routine; he needed spontaneity, a challenge. The moment he got on a horse, it just clicked. There was a spiritual connection that was lit that day, and has burned like mad ever since. When he is on that horse, he is alive. His horse allows him to be emotionally vulnerable. His horse gives him the rush he craves, yet calms him at the same time. They are an unbreakable team of mutual hard work and respect. My husband’s experience with horses has given him a purpose. It has brought out the life in him.”


WHAT INSPIRES AND FULFILLS EACH OF US IS DIFFERENT.

REGARDLESS- THERE IS SOMETHING TO BE SAID OF THE HEALING ASPECTS OF THE NATURAL LIFE AROUND US.

FITNESS, NATURE, FAITH, ANIMALS, COMMUNITY- ARE ALL POWERFUL.


The Benefits of Yoga and Meditation for Veterans Struggling with PTSD

Photo from YogaJournal

Photo from YogaJournal

I sat on my mat, looking at the blank faces of pain, of instability, of anxiety, of fear. The intimidation I felt sitting as a civilian instructor, attempting to relate and calm the physically and mentally broken veterans and soldiers of the Army, was immeasurable.

How could I relate?

I introduced myself, instructed them into Child’s Pose, and the class began. As I guided the class, I watched one man, then two, sit down in exhaustion and frustration. I felt an overwhelming sense of failure. But- I continued instructing. The men and women alternated taking breaks, wiping tears, and rocking back and forth.  

I cut the practice short, closed my eyes, and began guiding the soldiers into meditation. Just minutes in, I was interrupted - snoring. I was in disbelief. One of the men suffering an ongoing struggle with insomnia had fallen asleep. I guided this man into a deep sleep, each class, for the next year.

I moved to Vicenza, Italy in 2013 to reunite with my husband who was stationed at Caserma Ederle Army base. I had no previous experience working with the military upon arrival. Soon after working at the Army Wellness Center, I was selected to take over the Medical Yoga and Meditation program. The participants included soldiers and civilians referred by Behavioral Health and the Medical Command in hopes of gaining mental and physical strength and relief. Prior to teaching, I was informed by Behavioral Health the class would be difficult to instruct. My participants suffered from PTSD, insomnia, anxiety disorders, and physical injuries. Many had very limited movement, some extremely unsociable.

According to the National Center for PTSD, “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault” (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2016). Symptoms may include: flashbacks; avoiding reminders of events; trouble sleeping; anxiety; feelings of hopelessness, shame or despair; depression; drinking or drug problems; etc.

 

PTSD AFFECTS 2.2% OF THE POPULATION AND 20% OF VETERANSAT LEAST 22 AMERICAN VETERANS TAKE THEIR LIVES EVERY DAY (PTSD FOUNDATION OF AMERICA).

 

Although there are multiple recommended medications and means of treating PTSD- the root of the problem is a loss of mindfulness; a loss of the ability to self-regulate and control the mind- a specific struggle the practice of yoga is meant to teach.

Yoga is an ancient meditation and religious practice dating back to the third century BCE. In Western society today, yoga has adapted into a popular practice for health enthusiasts and has become one of the top ten complimentary alternative medicine programs in the United States (The Trauma Center, 2007). Each yoga practice is based on the philosophy that mind, body, and spirit are each connected.

I witnessed, first-hand, the power yoga has on the traumatically affected military men and women. Yoga and meditation allowed them a private, safe, space to practice regulating their breath; slowing their thoughts down. Meditation allowed them to block out distractions, flashbacks, and focus on finding calmness. These men and women developed a space on their mat in which they focused on finding their inner peace; their true self.

 

OF THE 20% OF VETERANS SUFFERING FROM PTSD- LESS THAN 40% REACH SEEK HELP (PTSD FOUNDATION OF AMERICA).

 

If you know of anyone, specifically veterans and/or soldiers, suffering from PTSD- reach out and inform. Self-regulation is an ongoing practice and devotion- help those who served us.