We all go through struggles in life. Sometimes we want to talk about them, and sometimes we don’t. And it’s usually the times when we don’t want to talk about our struggles when we need support the most. Articulating that need is sometimes difficult to say the least. Pride is a huge blockade that is difficult to overcome, get over, or even get around. And there’s a lot of pride behind being an Army officer; behind graduating from West Point, serving your country during multiple deployments, and leading men in wartime situations – pride that manifests into mental obstacles when you’re struggling with depression and not sure why.
In August of 2017, I finished my eighth deployment, a yearlong stint in Afghanistan, and I told myself that was it; I’ve done my share. Now I need help. But my pride stood in the way as it did since my first deployment in 2001 for the start of Operation Enduring Freedom when I knew then, this feeling inside me is just going to get worse. But I pushed those feelings down and continued the mission and found myself deployed again for the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Every subsequent deployment, I found myself putting those feelings into lock boxes and storing them in the basement of my mind. Eventually, I started putting those lock boxes into other locked boxes and burying them beneath the basement floor. I pushed them way down. Numb. Unaffected. Unmoved by the things in life that bother “normal” people. I convinced myself that I was just logical in my thinking while others around me were purely emotional. I told myself I was efficient when in fact I was actually destroying everything around me. And that cost me a lot – more than I care to admit.
So August 2017 and I’m ready to make a change; but change comes with time. You can’t go from calculated to emotional over night. You don’t go from suppression to expression in a week. It all takes time. Sometimes when you’re down you can talk about it with others and they’ll help you get back up. Your counselor is only a phone call away if you need them. Friends and family are always there to tell you you’re ok and help you to that obstacle’s finish line. However there are those times when talking just does not feel like an option. And those can be some pretty dark times. For me, I got help where I least expected it. My dog. My Lanikai. There were times when I felt that I could not talk to anyone. Not that there was no one there, there’s always someone there, but sometimes I want to talk and not say a word. People don’t understand that. “Normal” people don’t understand that. But I always felt as though Lanikai totally got that concept, she knew how to listen to my silence and act accordingly. Rather she did or didn’t understand that notion is quite irrelevant, because her actions told me that she understood me – and that’s all I wanted.
“A dog is a man’s best friend.” That’s how the saying goes; but it’s not my saying. For me, a dog is a man’s best silent counselor. My Lanikai has been there for me when no one else could be, with nonjudgmental eyes and an unconditional loving kiss on the cheek. She is family. She is way more than just a dog, and she’s more than just a PTSD dog; she’s my Pumpkin Pie Lanikai and I love her.
We all go through life’s struggles – some harder than others. Although I’ve said this many times before, I’ll say it again, we’re all going through life at our own pace and you have to find your pace. You have to find your shoulder to lean on and your ear to bend. And sometimes you desperately need to not talk to someone in order to get through a
struggle. Find that someone who can just look at you and know you need unconditional and nonjudgmental love. Someone who can hold your heart in silence and whose eyes say, “we got this.” If you feel like sharing your story or some tips that you may have on how to get through those troubling times when you just don’t want to talk to anyone about them, please feel free to drop a note for discussion, the RTL crew is here to support. We built this platform to support each other as we run through life. My parting thoughts, if you need help – get it, there’s only so many levels beneath your mental basement where you can hide those locked boxes. Don’t let life run you. Run life and keep some dog treats in your pocket for your best silent counselor. #mission22