Kent Newland, Bellaire, Michigan May, 2012
I am a thirteen-year veteran of the U.S. Army and National Guard. As I write this I am on my fourth deployment, my second to Afghanistan, with two deployments to Iraq, one in 2005 and again from 2009-2010. I was on Active Duty for eight years, with the 82d Airborne, the 501st PIR in Ft. Richardson, AK, and finally the 3rd Infantry Division out of Georgia.
In 2006, I was diagnosed with PTSD, following my deployment to Iraq from 2005-2006. At first I thought I wasn’t affected, but as time grew on and the stress of living on my own got to me, I realized that I couldn’t function independently well enough to take care of myself. I would sleep with my pistol and shotgun locked and loaded by my bed, as well as double check the doors every night on my apartment to make sure I was secure.
When I moved back home with my parents, things improved, but not enough. I had regular mood swings, unreasonable anger outbursts, and uncontrollable rage. I still slept with my shotgun and pistol by my pillow, but things escalated. Now, whenever my family went away and I stayed behind to attend to school, I did not leave the house unarmed. I did not feel safe anywhere. I felt as if I might encounter an intruder at any point.
Nobody noticed anything was wrong at school, except for me. I had a very difficult time engaging with my fellow students, and I felt completely isolated and cut off from everyone, except one gentleman who introduced himself to me as a former Marine. I had few friends, and no social activity at school.
In 2009, I volunteered for another deployment, as I felt I was beginning to get over the worst of my PTSD and depression. In some ways, the deployment brought all the stresses back, but at least I was in a familiar environment. I relished the time that I got to shoot and actually go out and train. What I didn’t relish so much was the time by myself. I put this time to the best use that I could, but I had to take antidepressants in order to cope.
Winter is always the hardest for me, as I suspect it is for a lot of people. Winter of ‘09-10 was no different. I was down in the dumps, and in a deep funk. I was in northern Iraq, by the Syrian border, doing patrols that lasted several days, in which we might be lucky to get three hours of sleep a day. I didn’t have the energy to go to the gym more than once a week, so my physical fitness really took a nosedive, affecting me mentally as well.
I was talking with my sister, and she mentioned that she had been talking to my friend Lisa Maloney of Anchorage, Alaska, about her experiences with PTSD. Lisa had discovered a path to her own healing process. My sister suggested I get in contact with Lisa through Facebook, so I did so. I could already tell that something had changed, because the woman that I remembered would not have created a profile on Facebook. Through talking with Lisa, I was told about the White Raven Center. In further conversation, I could see that it had wrought some pretty significant changes in my friend’s personality, so I went and checked out the webpage.
To say that I was immediately triggered was an understatement. As I read through the webpage, the testimonials, including Lisa’s, I knew this was what I needed. I needed a way to go back and grieve for my buddies and comrades who were killed in 2005. I needed to find the pieces of my being that were taken from me, in order to regain my old happy go lucky self, without pretending.
I contacted Marianne and signed up for a workshop right away, although I felt terrified at the same time. Once a paratrooper, always a paratrooper, though, and we tend to jump into everything with both feet. Fools rush in and all that.
I showed up for my first private session two days before the workshop, again feeling terrified. Almost as scared as I was on my first jump. I did a session that lasted over two hours, although it felt like I was in the healing room lying down for only about 45 minutes. During that time, Floyd regressed me to some of the events of 2005, and I was able to re-experience them and grieve in a way that I never got to while on active duty, and I never could bring myself to do while alone.
Two days later was my first workshop, and to say that it was an amazing experience is misleading. There are no words to describe my experiences, with others, and with myself. I was able to sort out my truth, to see and take hold of who I really am, underneath all the emotional scarring. I learned to see that I have several important facets of my personality that I can take hold of. I made some very precious lifelong friends, both in Marianne and Floyd, and in the other attendees that were present.
I felt called and attended another workshop a couple months later. Some of the stresses were beginning to pile up, and I knew that I had work I needed to do on myself. Again, I met some great people, and accomplished transformational healing for myself.
Before my work at White Raven, I was cautious, unsure of myself, afraid, and alone, and most importantly, isolated. The only people who were really close to me were my immediate family, and my dog Max. If I could take a picture that would show all the pieces of my personality that have come out of hiding since starting my healing process, anyone looking at it would think they were looking at two completely different people. Today I never feel isolated, no matter where I go in my life. I have taken two dance classes at school, something I always wanted to do. My time at White Raven convinced me it was something I needed to do to help myself. I have become more outgoing, better able to be casually friendly with those around me. I am always greeted with smiles and hugs whenever I go to the college dance club. I have many people now that I look forward to seeing on a daily basis. I have confidence in myself back, and the knowledge that I am a good person, capable of being loving and kind at the same time as being able to do the job required of an infantryman.
I am not exactly a new person since starting my healing at White Raven, but I am more of who I was meant to be before the trauma of combat caught up to me. My perceptive abilities, my warmth and kindness, and my belief in myself have all come back to me. I have internalized the idea that happiness is a choice that I have to make. In addition, I am now in a loving relationship with a beautiful woman who recognizes all these qualities about me, something that I was sure would never happen before coming to White Raven.
I had insight and perceptive abilities before, but they got buried under trauma until all I could see was my own emotional state, and then only enough to know that something wasn’t right. The work I’ve done at the White Raven Center and on my own has helped me clear that emotional detritus away, so that I can use those abilities once again.
Those of us in the military subconsciously bury and repress our emotions, to try to appear tougher to our friends. There is a time and a place for this, and I will not say that it is not ever necessary to do so. After all, when a buddy has just been killed we have to complete the mission that day, and the next day, until we come home. However, if you are tired of holding all that in, holding onto your anger and hatred, then you may be able to heal yourself at White Raven the same way that I was able to heal myself. Constantly on guard and on patrol is no way to go through life for those of us who have given of ourselves so freely for the people and the country that we love. The people that we love, that love us in return want us to be able to get on with our lives. White Raven is one place where veterans can start to do just that.