In her book Mistral’s Kiss, Laurell K. Hamilton writes: “There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.”
For the thousands of Canadian soldiers who have returned from Afghanistan, this couldn’t be any truer. Even as most of them returned safe, years of fierce fighting, being away from home, and danger at every turn would no doubt scar them for life.
As the coalition slowly turns internal security duties over to the Afghan army, soldiers (whether retired or active), like Tim Garthside face a different battle. Garthside didn’t suffer injuries, but as a signals operator, he was close to the action. He recalled being the bearer of bad news eight years ago in Kandahar when Canadian troops were mauled by IEDs and small-arms fire. Britney Dennison of The Tyee writes:
On Aug. 3, 2006, four Canadian soldiers were killed and 10 wounded when one bomb blew up a convoy and a second targeted the first responders. After the explosions the troops began receiving enemy fire from a nearby compound. Tim was on the line. There was nothing he could do. He couldn’t help the injured and those who were dying while they were in the middle of a firefight.
The Brain Under Trauma
Trauma doesn’t need open wounds or injuries to manifest. The thought of death at every turn can still get to a person, even in peacetime. Research shows that the brain releases excess cortisol, the stress hormone, if trauma persists over a long period. The process is perpetual: the release of cortisol leads to the stimulation of the amygdala, where fear is stored, which in turn produces even more cortisol.
While fear is a natural defence mechanism, trauma can make a person fear just about anything. It can affect social interaction and daily activities as the victim becomes detached from whatever is perceived as a threat. This is exactly what happened to Garthside after his tour and retirement and before he sought treatment.
Trauma treatment that involves medication or talk therapy alone, will not accomplish much. For this reason, trauma counselling in Vancouver at a place like The Good Life Therapy Centre involves an integrated mind-body approach that actually resets the brain by releasing fear. A Registered Clinical Counsellor such as James Alexander, a soldier himself who has acquired a Masters Degree in trauma counselling, helps sufferers “make sense” of the ordeal while dissipating the accumulated stress within the body.
Trauma is by no means limited to war veterans as it can also be triggered by sexual assault, vehicular accidents, surgical procedures, and dysfunctional family relationships. Any problem that affects your mental wellbeing should be brought to the attention of a Vancouver counselling provider.
(Source: “Souvenirs of the War in Afghanistan: Many Troops Return With Physical and Mental Trauma,” Newsweek, October 28, 2014)