Updated: Jan 12
When the dark doom of COVID-19 first settled on the minds of people across the earth I found myself strangely at ease. As if I were in a familiar place. Many other veterans had the same feeling. It's because we've been there before. When you go to war you get that same ominous sensation. As if death could happen at any minute. And you don't know how much of it to expect. But you know it is coming. Most people, especially in the United States and the Western world were not familiar with it. But we all seem to be now. That pervasive weight of doom is the first tell of traumatic stress. I think it's safe to say that the strain of the global pandemic caused severe post-traumatic stress, writ large. Depression, suicide, anger, and other signatures began to reveal themselves within months after the outbreak. The most insidious part of PTSD is that you don't know that it's happening to you. You don't know what it is. So, you don't know how to combat it. You just suddenly begin to struggle in ways that you have never struggled before. You start to slip. Very slowly and almost indiscernibly, but you are slipping nonetheless. It’s just too smooth to notice.
If you know what you are looking for, you can see it clear as day. The traumatic stress of the COVID pandemic has lead to post traumatic stress disorder of epidemic proportions. We need to get ahead of it. And to get ahead of it we must know that we are facing it. Strangely enough, the veteran community is the most adept at dealing with PTSD because we have been exposed to traumatic stress more acutely than any other culture in the Western world. It may be time to look to the veterans to help navigate this imminent global challenge.
This is a new kind of tribulation. It is a trial that we are not accustomed to dealing with, especially at this scale. The only way to win against it is to think your way through it. It is not the flu. It won’t go away. You cannot tough it out, and you cannot get around it. You must go through it. Take the word of us veterans for that. We have tried. We specialize in toughness. And we have, and still do suffer defeat against this enemy on a massive scale. Reports range from 17 to 22 veterans in the US who commit suicide every single day. We are beginning to realize that we are approaching it wrong. The temptation is to survive it. (The exact mindset we have adopted against COVID). This is a dangerous distraction from the solution. The solution is to begin to thrive again. To dream. Something our culture has largely given up on in adulthood. Only children yet dream. If you but survive, you still walk the grey line every day. The only way to live again is to live again. You cannot step over this. You can only grow over it. The only effective strategy against it is to thrive again. To kick some ass.
I wrote the book The Perfect Fucking Life as I was navigating through the darkness of it myself. There is no key, there is no vaccine, and there is no map, because each of us is different and each has a different experience. But there is a compass. And there is an azimuth. The greatest obstacles in your life cannot be overcome. Those you must transcend. Winning against PTSD is much less about what you are doing, and much more about who you are becoming. It is the only thing that has worked for us veterans. It may be time to teach others how to fight it as we are teaching it to each ourselves the other.