By Amanda Huffman
Contributing Writer

June is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month. An anxiety disorder that many people develop after seeing or living through an event that caused or threatened serious harm or death, many Veterans struggle with PTSD to varying degrees after coming home from a war zone. Researchers do not know why some people struggle with PTSD and others don’t, but it’s important to understand that there is no shame in having mental health challenges. Also, those dealing with mental health issues should know that  there is hope for healing, although it may require a lot of hard work to achieve peace of mind.

PTSD may result in sleep problems, irritability, anger, recurrent dreams about the trauma, intense reactions to reminders of the trauma, disturbances in relationships, and isolation. For some, PTSD starts right after the traumatic event, and for others, it manifests long after. Some people recover after a few months, but others struggle for years. No matter when or how you experience PTSD, it can be treated.

I deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 and shortly after coming home I noticed my emotions and reaction to things were off. I went to get help, and the person I talked to told me what I was experiencing was normal and that, in time, I would be fine. But, although on the outside things looked fine, on the inside I continued to struggle. My mental health continued to erode the longer I tried to ignore what I was feeling. In 2016, I finally went to get help again. Overcoming the lie that I was fine wasn’t easy, but when I started group therapy and began to share my struggles, I began to find healing and hope. My healing journey continued through one-on-one therapy, and today I have the right tools to help me when I experience triggering situations. 

It took a lot of hard work to deal with my mental health challenges. It feels scary to reach out for help, but once I had someone to help me, I was able to move forward instead of feeling stuck and falling deeper into the bad behaviors I had used to cope. It can feel scary to reach out for help. For some people, getting mental health support feels like defeat because you are admitting you need help. For others, there is a stigma about mental health and it feels challenging to focus on something that you can’t physically see. 

My only regret when it comes to my mental health struggle is not getting help sooner. While it was nice in 2010 to hear I was normal and things would be fine, I wish I had asked for a second opinion or followed up again in six months when I still didn’t feel back to normal. If you are looking for the first step in your mental health journey, these are a few places you can go to get help: 

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) 

Even if you are not registered with the VA for healthcare, you can access the free group therapy sessions at VA hospitals across the country that are open to all Veterans. You can also call 988 and press 1 to talk to someone 24/7. Also, if you are struggling with PTSD, you can receive compensation through a disability claim. Learn more about mental health resources through the VA here.

Groups Where You Can Talk

I began my mental health journey by attending a weekly group meeting from the Celebrate Recovery program. It was offered at my church and it felt like a safe space to get started. Celebrate Recovery is only one of many groups across the nation. Two of the largest groups you will likely be able to find near you are Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Al-Anon. Both groups offer support based on the struggles you are facing and can help you. If you are religious, check to see what support groups are offered in your area based on your faith. 

Therapy

One of the best things I did for my mental health was to get connected to a therapist. I was able to get free counseling through Cohen Veterans Network. They offer therapy for Veterans and families. Depending on your insurance and situation, you will be charged a nominal fee or even obtain help for free. In one-on-one therapy, not only do you have a safe place to talk, but your therapist can help you find the tools to  help with your specific situation. Through therapy, I found the gift of meditation, which is something I still use regularly today. 


These are just a few of the mental health resources available to Veterans and their families. Another resource you can access is Veteran retreats focused on your specific demographic or need. 

Remember, mental health is important and, just like physical health, it should never  be ignored. 


See also: Can I Get Life Insurance If I Have PTSD?


Amanda is a military veteran who served in the Air Force for six years as a Civil Engineer who served on a combat deployment with the Army in Afghanistan. She traded in her combat boots for a diaper bag to stay home with her two boys and follow her husband’s military career in the Space Force. Amanda is the host of the Women of the Military podcast. There she shares the stories of women who have served or are serving in the military. The podcast has over 200 episodes and over 100K downloads. Amanda is also an author and has published two books. Her first book, Women of the Military tells the stories of 28 military women who served in the military. Her second book, A Girl’s Guide to Military Serviceis the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Gold Winner for Teen Non Fiction. It is a guide for high school girls considering military service to help them build a strong foundation for their future career. She also works as a freelance writer and has been featured in a number of military publications including The War HorseMilitary.com, Military Families Magazine, Clearance Jobs, Military Spouse Magazine, and more. 


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