A PEEK INSIDE
Let me just start by saying; Just because someone smiles, or makes jokes, or seems alright or happy to you and maybe to everyone else, doesn’t mean they’re not struggling, hurting, depressed, screaming, and fighting for their life on the inside. Everyone deals with their visible and invisible troubles in their own way.
Everybody is different, but a lot of the same thoughts, worries, hurt, and fears might be weighing heavily on your Veteran's mind while fighting these inner demons that constantly trouble and confuse them. Nobody wants to be constantly irritated, or always depressed. From a Veterans standpoint, it frustrates us even more because it’s something we can’t see and fight in a physical way. Yes, it can be fought mentally, but for most, we constantly try analyzing, and fighting it alone, or we tell ourselves, “I got this”. Along with, “I'm fine, it will pass” and we usually just keep pushing it down further and further until it gets to a point that is overbearing. Unfortunately, most turn to self-medicating through substance abuse, and no, it won’t pass, not without help and support from our loved ones.
Think of life as the sky, now imagine the clouds are depression, anxiety, PTSD, and suicidal ideations. The clouds come in and ruin a beautiful day, but they don’t last, they are forever moving in and out. Keep in mind, even though the clouds may have moved on, they are still trapped in the atmosphere. For most, like myself, that’s kind of how it goes. Depression, anxiety and yes, the horrible thoughts of suicide may come and go, but they’re still trapped in the mind, free to come and go as they please without the ability to stop them.
I hear a lot of people say things like, “why don’t you just get over it”, and “I don’t see what the big deal is”, or, “suck it up”. If it were that easy, then yes, there wouldn’t be a problem. Like I said before, everybody is different. What may not seem like a big deal to some, might feel like the end of the world to the ones who struggle with these demons. Remember, it’s all in perception. It’s what that person perceives as too much. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m probably pretty close when I say, most that struggle with the demons usually keep it well hidden. When you see them they may smile, but that’s only to hide the hurt and pain they feel inside. They may be in a crowded room, but feel completely alone. They may be quiet, but are screaming at the top of their lungs on the inside. They may be the first to comfort and help someone in need, but are the last to ask for help. This has to do with a mixture of pride, thinking it will pass, and not wanting to be a burden to anyone. They want to love, and to be loved, but seem to be incapable of both. It seems easier to push people away than to let them in. I don’t know about everyone fighting this, but in my personal experience, it’s an empty feeling, like you’re numb, and almost incapable of love, along with feeling that I would be a complete burden to anyone who wants to be close to me.
Then, there’s the anger, and anxiety to go along with everything. Angry outbursts aren’t uncommon at all. Again, I can’t speak for all, but, I’m probably pretty close. Your Veteran may get very easily agitated over the smallest things. Most times, taking it out on loved ones, not physically, although unfortunately, in some extreme cases this may be. I’m talking about mentally, causing such outbursts that no one wants to be around them. They might find little things to lash out at their kids or wife about so they will leave them alone. It sounds strange, but this is where they really think they want to be, alone, at least it is for me. Then they end up feeling horrible, which sinks them even deeper into their depression. After years of trying to “fix it”, tearing and pushing loved ones away, sinking deeper and deeper into depression and falling farther into substance abuse, leaves them feeling like there’s no way out, like they’ve ruined everything and destroyed their relationship with their family.