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Back when I was in school, I had always been bullied for looking different. It had been very difficult for me to make friends growing up because of this, and my self-confidence was at its lowest. So, when I had the chance, I had decided to train to become an army reservist. It was a risk I was willing to take because, at the time, I had not much reason to live. It was a suicide mission for me, one that I never wanted to come back from.

This was until I had talked to the veterans of war. Different people with different stories to tell, but all came back to inspire the lives of so many people. I was blessed to have heard from these strong men who had risked their lives for our country. Stories that would only be a nightmare to many and a reality to few. This is why when our veterans and soldiers come home, none of them are ever the same. These men and women experience mental illness in such a way that it can be harmful to them.

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Among the mental health issues experienced by our veterans, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD is the most commonly experienced. PTSD is a mental disorder that can develop after exposure to traumatic events such as rape, warfare, child abuse, or collisions. The symptoms may include but are not limited to the following: disturbing thoughts, feelings, or dreams about the event, mental or physical distress to trauma-related cues, and an increase in fight or flight response.

So, what are the best ways to recover from such trauma? The first step is to get yourself moving. Exercise and other physical activities such as sports have been a good way for veterans with PTSD. Besides being good with burning calories and adrenaline, it allows the body to release endorphins and improve your mood. Being able to exercise and get active helps us focus on our movement, how our body feels during the exercise and you can feel your body slowly loosening up.

A rhythmic exercise, which moves both our arms and legs like running or swimming, works best as it gives you a chance to focus your thoughts on how your body feels rather than the event that is causing you trauma.

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Next is you have to self-regulate your nervous system. Our nervous system has two reflexive responses to traumatic or stress-inducing events: Mobilization or Immobilization. Mobilization is our fight or flight reflex when you feel like you need to protect yourself from danger by fighting or trying to escape the situation. Meanwhile, immobilization is when we feel as if we are “stuck” even if the danger has passed. So, when we feel “stuck,” the best thing to do is first to be mindful of your breathing and slowly focus on your inhale and exhale. This helps you calm your anxiety down, and it decreases your level of stress.

Two, sensory input. Different people will have different sensory triggers. A smell or a sound may trigger some veterans, so you have to identify what works best for you. Think back to a time or a moment that brings you great comfort. Once you find your comfort triggers, then it gets easier to calm yourself down.

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Most importantly, you have to connect with others. This step requires you to go out there and look for people who understand what you are going through. Therapy or counseling, maybe even a support group. All these things can help you vent your pent up emotions and thoughts. You can also try to volunteer. This helps you get back a sense of control in your life, but of course, you have to be careful of your triggers when doing this. (Therapy can change a person with PTSD’s life drastically. If you feel you have this condition, do not delay. See your doctor immediately and have yourself checked.)

With more and more of our veterans coming home experiencing more and more trauma, it is expected that when they get home, they become a little different than last time. As their friends and family, we have to be extra patient with them. This is our chance to help them ease their minds—a chance to protect them after they have protected us in a very traumatic way.

After all this, we realize that the comfortable life we live far from the guns and explosions that our veterans have come from does not come without a heavy price. This peaceful life we live is because men and women have risked their lives for their country. They risk their peace of mind to ensure that the people at home do not experience what they do. So, take the time to appreciate our veterans and make sure that you treat them with the respect that they deserve in life.

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