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What Is PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that occurs after a traumatic event beyond your control, such as a natural disaster, sexual assault, or events during combat. PTSD can cause intrusive thoughts and memories of the traumatic event, leading to extreme distress and difficulty functioning in day-to-day life. People with PTSD may experience flashbacks, nightmares, intense fear when exposed to reminders of the trauma, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, changes in their mood, and may benefit greatly from professional counseling and interaction with others with similar issues. If you think you or a loved one may be struggling with PTSD, then seeking help is the first step in getting the treatment and recovery that is needed.

Veterans Freedom Retreat (VFR) helps veterans identify and process their distressing thoughts and feelings related to the trauma they experienced. In addition, VFR addresses the veteran’s partner who has experienced secondary PTSD from living with the veteran, and provides support and resources to help them cope with these experiences.

Have you experienced a traumatic event and are having difficulty managing your emotions or behaviors afterwards? If so, it may be time to consider seeking help. Reaching out for help can often seem intimidating but remember that you don’t have to go through this alone. Understanding what is PTSD can help you to better cope with it. Veterans Freedom Retreat can provide a safe space for you to talk about your trauma with counselors and peers who understand what you are going thru. With the right support, you can live the life you want to live. 

Common PTSD Symptoms

PTSD symptoms may start shortly either after a traumatic event or build up gradually over time. Generally, PTSD indicators can include flashbacks, intrusive memories, nightmares, feelings of intense distress when exposed to the reminders of the trauma, and physical reactions like sweating or a racing heart.

The criteria for diagnosing PTSD are specific and includes experiencing or witnessing something involving actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violence, being exposed to prolonged fear, helplessness, or horror, having difficulty sleeping, experiencing irritability, feeling hopeless about the future, avoiding certain people and situations as a result of the trauma, and/or persistent negative thoughts about oneself.

In addition, military personnel who have served in combat zones often develop PTSD due to the prolonged exposure to stressful and dangerous environments. PTSD military symptoms may include nightmares, intrusive memories of traumatic events, difficulty concentrating, an exaggerated startle response to loud noises, irritability or anger when reminded of traumatic events, avoidance of people and places associated with the trauma, feeling detached from friends and family members, survivor’s guilt (feeling guilty for surviving while others did not), and feeling constantly on guard or hyper-alert. Partners of veterans also experience secondary PTSD from living with the veteran. Veterans and partners may also show signs of self-destructive behavior, such as substance abuse or recklessness.

How VFR Treats PTSD

VFR effectively uses a holistic approach to PTSD treatment, which addresses body, mind, heart, and soul. Participants spend time getting acquainted which lets them know that they are not alone in their struggles. Mornings are devoted to Experiential Education where veteran couples learn about PTSD and its impact on their lives, how to effectively communicate with each other, and receive tools that help them to reduce the grip of PTSD. Afternoons are spent in counseling with licensed professional counselors, meditative yoga, art therapy, talking with our Native American Elder, and stress reduction modalities such as massage and Reiki. Evenings are time to unwind with peer support groups and Native American stories.
All VFR staff are either former military or related to military personnel. We understand what it means to serve.

Finding the Best PTSD Treatment

Are you struggling to manage the symptoms of PTSD? If so, it’s important to know that VFR employs experienced counselors and facilitators who speak military and can help free you from the grip of PTSD. We understand where you are and can help you get to who you want to become whether you are a veteran or partner. It is equally important that the partner understand PTSD and its effects and undergoes education and counseling right beside the veteran. If the partner does not participate along with the veteran, then the veteran will return to a toxic environment without the understanding of the partner. Also, when PTSD raises its ugly head after the retreat, both the veteran and partner can use the tools they received to mutually work out a solution to the issue.

VFR provides over 60 tools during the 7-day retreat. Some tools are learned during Experiential Education, some during counseling and some during stress reduction activities. As an example, during Meditative Yoga – no, we don’t require extreme contortions or unusual poses – participants learn how to properly breathe among other things. One combat veteran said that after his first session, he went to sleep immediately that night, and slept through the night for the first time in years. He was also able to think more clearly during the next day.

Proper Management and Care For PTSD Veterans

PTSD is a mental health condition that is often triggered by traumatic experiences in the military. It can cause extreme symptoms, such as flashbacks, nightmares, difficulty sleeping, increased anxiety and depression, feelings of guilt or shame, anger issues, problems with concentration, and suicidal thoughts. For veteran couples who have PTSD, proper management and care is essential for their wellbeing.

During the VFR Retreat counseling sessions are tailored to address veteran couples’ mutual needs. PTSD veteran couples learn coping skills during Experiential Education and counseling sessions to help them manage their daily life more effectively, while also learning how to better process past traumas they may have encountered during their time in service. As a couple, they can help each other and employ the tools that they learned on the retreat for mutual support during stressful situations after the retreat.

Getting The Right PTSD Therapy

While most treatment for PTSD is accomplished through counseling of the veteran, VFR uses a holistic approach that includes the veteran’s partner. If the partner does not receive treatment alongside the veteran, the veteran will return to a toxic environment and the partner will not have the tools to help when stressful situations arise. VFR uses licensed professional counselors that are experienced in treating veteran couples with PTSD, and have a military affiliation such as being married to a veteran, or having a close family member that is a veteran. They know first-hand what an impact PTSD has.

But counseling is just part of our treatment program. During the retreat, the veteran couple will learn how to defeat the symptoms of PTSD through Experiential Education, Meditative Yoga, Native American Heritage, peer support groups, Equine Interaction, and stress reduction modalities such as massage, Reiki, acupuncture and talking to those who have been through the program. During the retreat, the veteran couple will be exposed to over 60 tools that will help them defeat the symptoms of PTSD.

Additionally, they form close bonds with other participants. These bonds will last long after the retreat and help each other in times of stress. Couples that attended a retreat in 2016 are still in contact.

How We're Changing Lives

I’m leaving with a sense of renewal and refreshment.
I haven’t been on the battlefield but I’ve experienced trauma, too.
They had to drag me here. Since my wife died I have been alone, but am not alone anymore.

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