Being a Writer and Combat Veteran

So today is Veteran’s Day, the one day a year where people remember to thank Veterans for their military service. Now I don’t pretend to speak for all Veterans, but I know for me personally, one day of gratitude hardly makes up for the sacrifices service members make.

I’m not saying this to be negative or be ungrateful for all the thanks, but more so to communicate that at the end of the day, Veterans still have to make peace with the sacrifices they have made to protect their countrymen and women.

Many Veterans suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress in one form or another, at different intensities, and at different times. We all have our “triggers” that we have to face and learn to cope with. This is true of anyone who has suffered a traumatic event. Why Veterans are so susceptible to PTSD is the fact that while we’re overseas, we do not have the luxury of finding a “safe” place after said traumatic event. We are stuck in a foreign country until we are allowed to return home, forcing us to continue to deal with the constant emotional, physical and psychological stress of a deployment.

This means that though we cannot afford to feel “physically” safe, we have to find relief through emotional and psychological means. Many of my fellow unit members turned to creative means of relief (e.g. writing poetry, short stories).

I was no exception. Writing – a long-standing stress reliever for me – was what I turned to.

However, when I returned to the States, writing became difficult. I barely had enough energy to perform at work, let alone write. My one source of stress relief became a burden because I felt I simply didn’t have the energy to devote to it. So any free time I had was spent sleeping, attempting to regain what energy I was losing in trying to hold myself together during the day. But enough with that.

Three years after returning from Iraq, I’ve found myself again. Writing – the one positive (internal) constant in my life – is a priority again, which lets me know how I’m doing in the sanity department. I wouldn’t have gotten back here if it weren’t for a support system of friends, family and other people who have invested in my mental health. Because of their help, I am now able to participate in writing challenges like National Novel Writing Month (on Day 11, I’m at 21k of the 50k word challenge), maintain this blog, and participate in writers’ critique groups.

I know this post has been more of a rant than informative, but this is my challenge to you:

For those of you who suffer with PTSD or any other mental health issue, reach out to someone who will help inspire you to get healthy and motivate you to achieve goals you’ve cast aside due to your mental health.

For those of you who know someone who is struggling, reach out to them, ask them about their goals and what they’re doing to achieve them. If they’re falling off course, help motivate them to move forward.

Don’t just thank a Veteran. Show your appreciation by supporting them.

The Cathartic Effect of Writing

Whether you’re writing fiction, journaling or [yes, I will include drawing] a webcomic/comic/manga, there’s something to be said for the cathartic effect of releasing what’s on your mind onto a piece of paper.

In this day and age, it’s hard to be apart of the creative persuasion. Our professions are usually lonely without little support because what we’re doing isn’t a “practical use of time” or “your chances of making a living with that are slim-to-none.”

We spend our days [and nights] obsessing over our projects. If you’re like me, you sit at your day job, wishing you were at home making revisions on your current WIP. Except for when you do finally make it home, you realize you’re too exhausted to complete the extensive to-do list you made throughout your workday.

We deal with a lot negativity, but I say kick it in the teeth.

Remember how you felt as a kid? When you were giddy because you could share something you created with world [if at least, your mom’s refrigerator]? That child-like excitement is why we continue to chase our dreams rather than give up. As creative’s, we’re lucky enough to have held on to our imaginations.

So why do we let all these insecurities and negativity determine our progress? So again, I say kick it in the teeth.

When you’re tired and frustrated, hurt or angry, sit down and work on your project. All that raw emotion you’re feeling, put it into your writing/drawing. It doesn’t matter how horrible the draft is because that’s what revision is for.

Treat that WIP like a great friend and pour your heart out. Trust me, you’ll feel better and [added bonus] you’ll be that much closer to completing your project.