I am often reluctant to share my troubles with others, perhaps partly because I have been trained throughout my military career to avoid at all costs even the hint of a suggestion that I am “whining.” In the military environment, you are practically brain-washed with this constant message that you can do almost anything without limitations and that you are ready in a moment’s notice to take on any challenge, no matter how difficult.  Any suggestion that you are reluctant, lack confidence, or are even afraid is looked upon as a major flaw in your character.  So, you learn not to ever voice any doubts or misgivings you have – unless you can find a way to couch it in sharply ironic wit, which shows that you are not cowed by the problem, but rather have the courage to laugh at it.  Of course, in a military environment, often leaders are expected to epitomize a courageous and upbeat personality so that his or her subordinates in the unit never lose courage or motivation for the overall mission.  It is certainly true that the leader sets the tone of the unit.

Of course, there is a fine line between appropriate, upbeat, courageous leadership, and maniacal, type-A, callous, insensitive leadership.  At a certain point, leaders must also have a heart and should be able to listen compassionately to their subordinates’ problems.  They should also develop wisdom to know when the subordinate does not have a real problem but has been approaching the problem wrong, needs advice on how to conquer the problem, or has not put in enough effort to conquer the problem.  But a good leader is able to discern those situations from valid concerns that really are beyond the scope, capability, or experience of the subordinate conquer without a little additional help or without the authority of the leader to remove someone or something that is an obstacle.  In any  case, I have learned throughout my adult years not to complain or to show any sign of anger, skepticism, or pessimism.  While this may be good for the unit, it is not always very healthy in the individual to never have an outlet for such problems.

Such is the state I found myself in for a period in my career, facing frustrating problems that seemed insurmountable and never seemed to let up.   I was working in high pressure jobs for demanding, micro-managing, constantly critical bosses that were obviously not good leaders.  They were not very inspiring, they only played half-heartedly at the role of being upbeat leaders, they clearly had no compassion for their subordinates, and they were not very talented men (they had somehow faked their way through various jobs and had now risen to their highest level of incompetence in accordance with the infamous “Peter Principle.”).  Of course, I’m not as pessimistic as the Peter Principle about the chances of people to develop into good leaders, but as I found out in the Army, many such bad leaders get to the level beyond their competence because they don’t grow in their wisdom or their skill sets.  Most of the ones who become stunted in their growth and turn into bad leaders have a very limited philosophy or a very small bag of tricks which they use long after they have lost effectiveness. They don’t change, they don’t adapt, and they don’t listen to others because they think they already know it all. 

In any case, working for such difficult, bad leaders while in a demanding, thankless job, I was increasingly stressed out and frustrated.  Unfortunately, I had very few outlets to keep the building powderkeg of emotions under control.  At the time, I was a long-distance runner.  That was one of my escapes.  I would take off down various trails in the German community where I lived and would run for an hour or two at lunchtime or at the end of the day and sometimes longer runs on the weekends of between two and three hours.  When I finished, I would be much calmer and would feel more at peace.  Plus, I often used the time running to commune with God in the solitude of the beautiful German forests where I felt much closer to Him.  This time with God also brought me some peace.

Over time, however, even these outlets did not seem to be enough.  As I have written about in the book I am working on, and pray to get published sometime soon, this period of two to three years before my deployment to Iraq were a continually building time of emotional turmoil without much release.  I kept packing away and packing away the stress and pain until my emotional and psychological cup was so full that I thought I was going to lose my mind or that I was headed for a mental-emotional break-down.  I was most definitely not emotionally sound when I deployed to Iraq, but I went anyway out of a sense of duty.  Given my state going into Iraq, it is really no surprise that I succumbed to the symptoms of PTSD within the first few months which developed into full-blown PTSD by the end of my tour.  The emotional turmoil of separation from my family in the middle of that emotional-psychological whirlwind almost broke me.  I think it is only by the grace of God and the power of His Spirit sustaining me during those days that I made it through and was able to fully function during the day without anyone knowing what a horrendous struggle I was going through to barely keep it all together. 

Many of the worst, most painful times of those difficult years occurred during this time of year.  This is why I usually go through some “anniversary trauma” at this time of year, dark, depressing feelings that sometimes come over me without warning that don’t seem to have anything to do with what is going on in my life.  I’ve talked to other veterans who have had the same experience at certain anniversaries of bad things that happened in combat, perhaps an attack of some kind that wounded them or took down some of their comrades, perhaps a day of seeing the gory results of such an attack, perhaps a day of learning about the death of a friend – it can be virtually any traumatic event associated with combat or the results of combat.  Moreover, I would not be surprised to find out that non-combat PTSD sufferers also have these feelings of "anniversary trauma" each year when the day or time of year rolls around in which they originally experienced their trauma. 

That’s why I would appreciate any and all prayers for me at this time.  And may God bless you with His perfect peace on His day of worship and rest.

 


Comments

02/02/2017 1:09pm

Very well written article by the author, i really impressed by the vision of writer and its worth reading..

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    Author

    I'm a retired soldier, having spent 23 years of my life serving our country, actually 30 years when you count the reserve and National Guard time as well.  I believe in servant leaders, following the example of our Lord, and I believe in giving back to the troops once one has attained a certain status or level of success in life.  But I also believe in fighting back against corruption and incompetence wherever you find it if it hurts people.  Our national values were worth dying for.  They are also worth living for.  A man or woman can actually live a life by these principles of humility, service, love, duty, and honor, and have a significant impact on the world around them...if you have the dedication to see it through. 

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