You were never there. You never existed. Your war will never be acknowledged or validated. How can you hope to find healing?

You live with the reality of your experiences. Your losses. Only those there know. Only those who were there will ever know. Only you will know their names. You can’t walk into a counselor’s office and divulge what you did, who you were with, or what you had to do. You can’t tell anyone what happened to you. Not your spouse, your parents, your friends. Even if you wanted to. Silence and invisibility. That’s the code.

How do you find help when getting help feels like a betrayal?

If you’re reading this and this is you, know that I see you. You’re here. You matter.

Your experience was real. What you feel now is real, too.

Because you can’t step forward and speak, just settle here and let me speak.

To you.

If we were sitting together and talking quietly, here is what I would say to your heart.

Your pain is valid and it is sacred.

What you experienced belongs to you.

A loving Sacred Spirit sees you, hears you, holds your heart.

You are not unseen.

Being witnessed and acknowledged do not define or determine personal realities.

The Divine is intimately concerned with your pain and your healing.

The people you lost are gone. The love you hold in your heart for them reaches them still.

Express your pain. The best way I know for you to do this is through creative expression. Write it into a fictional novel. Paint it onto a canvas. Sculpt. Take photos that express what you feel.

What you feel is sacred and you can reveal what you feel without betraying anyone.

The best way to find meaning right now in your life is to help someone else. Doesn’t matter how, it just matters that you provide help to someone who needs it. Be the angel, even as you feel broken. Give and keep giving to those who cannot give you anything in return, this is how you heal your own heart.

Become your own healer. The Universe will meet you time and again with books, articles, podcasts, films — handpicked to help your heart heal.

Those of us out here can’t receive your story, but we can receive you. We can hold your feelings. We can read between the lines of silence. We can hold what you cannot say within our own hearts and we can stand with you. We don’t have to know your why.

Don’t mistake what you cannot say from what you cannot feel. Do not question your sanity or memory. Trust the reality you lived through.

Don’t believe the belief that you cannot be forgiven. Much of what you experienced involves actions and decisions that crossed moral boundaries, it weighs heavily upon you. Often, it’s survival guilt and the loss of brothers and sisters that weigh heaviest.

Redemption comes through giving life instead of destruction. Redemption comes from living a full life in honor of the loved ones you lost, and from what you choose to do now.

You cannot change the past, you can decide who you will be on this earth now.

That’s where your power lies.

If you’re out, you’re going to miss it. Nothing else will equal your time in service, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find NEW meaning and purpose in your life. Leave room in your mind for what you haven’t experienced yet. Open to newness. And remember, that meaning and purpose come from making a positive difference in other people’s lives. You have the power to do that. Right now. No matter how fucked up you feel you are. No matter how angry you are. No matter how useless you feel now. Find something you can do that’s generous and kind and go do it. This is how you rebuild yourself from the inside out.

There is so much more I have to say to you. Read the articles on this site. Even if you cannot reach out, I hope you feel connection here. You are not invisible to me.

And every warrior here stands with you.

4 thoughts on “Special Forces: How Do You Heal When You Don’t “Exist”?

  1. Thank you, Tony, for sharing this with us here. And for never giving up hope.

  2. For years I buried myself in booze, sex; really anything that would temporarily hide the pain and horror that had to remain hidden (even from myself?). There were incidents when some of what had happened blurted out in dreams overheard by my wife (how the hell do I explain that?), but thankfully when asked to ‘forget it’ or just trust me that you don’t want to know, she acquiesced. Greater love has any woman than she overlooks her man undergoing such trauma…

    An extended stint in prison (almost 24 years) during which she remained with me (yeah, she is my hero!) for murder and then through the intervening years during which I’ve been unable to get or keep meaningful work has brought me to the end of self and, at times, seeking to end my life. Finding help (NOT THROUGH THE VA!) through equine assisted psychotherapy and a gradual end to most of my nightmares and all of my suicidal ideations has given me a renewed hope and a real desire to help others.

    Thank you for your ongoing efforts to reach out to those still struggling; still at war though now at home.

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