Invisible Wounds

What stress does to the soul

Walking Off the War

A dozen vets are currently hiking the Appalachian Trail—a 1,285 mile trek from Georgia to Maine that takes from earliest spring to the chill days of fall. Away from other distractions, it's a time for them to process what they've been through in the company of others who've been there too. Warrior Hike offers an effective, natural therapy for combat vets. Read More

I'd have a few things to say about this but....

I'd have a few things to say about this, but it would be so politically incorrect I'd be concerned about too many pro-military veterans negatively responding to my post.

Carry on.

Therapy or Addiction

I understand how therapeutic this journey can be.
Each individual has their own war and benefits in his or her own way. For some individuals hikes like this are an addiction or a drug; I have a daughter in her mid thirties, attractive, vivacious , highly intelligent who suffers from clinical depression. She is an extreme reckless risk taker and has been all her life. I fear for her. Her story reminds me too much of the movie "Into the Wild". I believe the high she experiences while on these long hikes is the antidote for her depression. I can only think it is more positive than other addictions. These 6 month hikes are an escape for her from the realities and responsibilities of life. When ever there is something she cannot face or cope with she gives up her life ( university, PhD studies or job)to run away on one of these journeys. She travels by herself and I suspect does not take out travel health insurance. Her past travels / hiking includes Nepal, Ireland, Egypt, Spain, Yosemite Trail in California, France, New Zealand, Ecuador and now the Appalachian. It is a life journey.

Depression

I suspect we all have such daughters: extremely beautiful, intelligent, and hard-headed. Thinking them impervious to just about anything, we didn't recognize the depression or get them the help they needed. My heart goes out to both of you.

Family members notice improvement

I am the wife of that "61 yr old" veteran hiking "The Warrior Hike" right now. I know it's been said over and over that PTSD is nothing, but believe me it is SOMETHING, and unless you have a loved one who suffers from it, you have nothing to say. Since my husband's return from 2 tours of Iraq, which included his second tour at ABU GHRAIB, he has not been the same. That night in April,2005 when the insurgents attacked them killing several American troops and leaving so many others wounded is still in his head and heart. NO ONE can walk in his shoes, except those that were there with him.
Since returning, Joe has not been able to sleep an entire cycle, is aggravated at times beyond belief,is overcome in a room of people and has to leave on a dimes notice, can't attend functions, and I think the most visible thing is he can't make eye contact with others when talking to them. This all sounds silly, but for him it isn't and for the rest of us in the family it isn't normal.
Counseling has helped tremendously, he never went to the VA because he didn't want to be drugged up. But he found a way to deal with his demons by hiking. He's always been a hiker and an ice climber, so this hike is going to be very healing for him. After talking with him, I've already heard the change in his voice, for the better.
I'm hoping that when he is done with this "healing hike" he will be the man I married 42yrs ago. For those of you who have doubts about this hike, I don't think you realize that it is allowing them to think deep into their hearts while they have nothing nor anyone other than their fellow hikers with them. Hiking in the woods with oneself is so cathartic.
You are not in their boots nor in their footsteps as they hike to heal.
I know Joe is hoping to rid himself of the demons that haunt him, and find his soul that he left in Iraq. I can only hope he does, and I know he will, he's a strong man who has served his country for 42yrs, and is only asking for some understanding. I Know when the SGM is done with this hike, he will have found what he's been looking for since returning, and HE WILL be the man I married and even better.

Clearly you are superior to everyone else

Since we are being instructed by Andrea Heckman-Young that we all have nothing to say, I'll say nothing. I may not know much about PTSD but I know a heck of a lot about that trail. Don't be surprised if hubby returns from his thru-hike far more traumatized than when he started out.

Good luck with that.

Response to Anonymous

I had no intent on instructing any one on what to say or not. It was more a "figure" of speech, which I hope you understand. It does seem that YOU are the professional when it comes to knowledge of the AT. Each person re-acts to things differently, and I'm hoping that my husband has a better experience on the trail than you did. I'm also hoping that you can accept my feelings and thoughts just as I have yours.

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Eric Newhouse is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and the author of Alcohol: Cradle to Grave and Faces of Combat: PTSD and TBI.

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