Signs of Recovery

Someone asked me recently, “What do you look for as a sign that the veteran is making progress?”  Some answers I’ve found include: (1) When he or she begins to laugh again.  War shuts down emotions in so many ways, and it often takes a long time for any feeling to return.  If the vet can start to smile…and then laugh, it’s a marker on the path to healing.  (2) When the man or woman feels the need to create something…to write, to draw, to paint, to build, to express themselves in positive and constructive ways. (3) When they are able to begin integrating their war experience into the narrative of their lives.  Often the time served in a combat zone is a piece of horrible memory that doesn’t “fit in.”  When it can be woven into the fabric of a veteran’s life, it is “owned” and no longer denied or repressed. ((4) When he or she can begin to trust again and show affection for someone else, perhaps another group member. (5) When the warrior begins to have enough energy to work, even if it’s gardening or light woodworking.  Often, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder saps all the strength and the will out of a person, so when…through therapy, medication, and a support group (plus a good regimen of diet, exercise, and sleep), the veteran gets strong enough to get busy, it’s a promising sign. (5) When the pers0n begins to develop a mission, a life calling, a new direction and a new purpose.  This gives a young man or woman the “will to meaning” that Dr. Viktor Frankl wrote so much about when he founded the school of logotherapy after World War II.