O N E
By Robert Simpson
Ex 8CH 3rd SSF Cyprus Oct 1978 – April 1979
It can be such a lonely number when it is one person alone. This is how we feel with our operational stress injury (OSI), more commonly referred to as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD.) When we suffer from this wound, we feel so totally alone. In our mind, no one can feel this way. Because we’re weak, the others are brave and true soldiers. So, we cannot let them know, or they will think we are not worthy. In our mind, we think, “But the dreams keep coming. I’m scared and I shouldn’t be. I’m a Soldier. I’m weak. I’m letting the rest down.”
I’m ONE ALONE. Sound familiar?
Most Soldiers and Veterans don’t like fireworks or balloons popping. Why? It’s too close to shell fire and rifles shooting. When you suffer this wound–and it is a wound–it happens to the best of us: Men and women who did what no one else could do in battle suffer; we all suffer.
But, we believe we are ONE ALONE. And we believe others will think less of us.
In the old days, you would be told to suck it up and be a man. If you’re having trouble, drink more beer! You older Soldiers or Veterans can back me up on this one. That’s how they treated our OSIs. Why because they knew how to treat a drunk, but they didn’t know how to treat us. So, this brings us back to one. It is a lonely number.
Your wife or husband can hold you to try to comfort you, but unless they’ve served on a tour, they can never understand. So, we are back at to ONE ALONE, and most likely, afraid to speak. Am I weak? Will the others find out and think I’ve failed. Why me?
But it does not have to be ONE ALONE. Why? Well, first off, there are tens of thousands in the same boat. They are all around you in your unit, the other units. Yes, they don’t show it, just like you don’t show it. But it’s there eating us all up in side.
So, there is no being ONE ALONE, you see. In fact, there are groups setting up all over in which the Soldier, Veteran and most importantly the families are coming together to talk about our experiences during our overseas tours. We are working together to find a way home from the hell in our minds.
I want to say also that we see horrific things here in Canada too. I’ve carried bodies of lost people found in the woods. Usually they have been dead for a while. It’s ugly and you never forget the sight or the smell. But, you still have that feeling of being alone.
On overseas tours you see it all, and at times, you have to take lives so you can survive and protect those around you. You see poverty, people torn apart by explosives. Old and young ravaged by war, with no food, shelter or hope. It overwhelms you no matter if you experience it once or many times. So, you are not ONE ALONE. In fact, you are ONE OF MANY.
So, how do you get help? There is help out there and serving Soldiers have that help readily available to them. Veterans have that help too.
So, now ONE becomes STEP ONE.
That first step is hard. I know. I took it, and many others have taken that first step. You have to reach out for help by telling someone. For a serving Soldier, talk to your sergeant, lientenant, the Padre, even someone in your squad. Today, the Military has people trained in every unit to help guide you to help. To a Veteran, it means calling Veterans Affairs Canada at 1-866-522-2122 and speaking to someone about help. They will start the ball rolling for you, and you’ll be sent to the nearest Operational Stress Injury Clinic. I made that first step seven years ago, and I am glad I did. The doctors and councilors there saved my life. What we don’t realize is that they (the doctors and councilors) are learning all the time on how to help and guide us as we try to get a handle on what is happening inside our minds.
Now I will say this: if you are feeling so depressed that suicidal thoughts run through your mind, please go to the local ER or call 911. Please family members: if your loved one is acting like he or she wants to end it all, step in and get them help. No matter how bad it was or is, we can ALL be saved. But you have to take that first, one step towards safety.
As I go on with these writings, I am going to talk about how things were, the steps travelled, how things have improved and how my life got better. I hope that this will help you take the step of going from ONE ALONE to ONE STEP towards living again.
LEST WE FORGET!