This is an attempt to capture an idea and the morphing thought process as it has grown to this point. I understand that this is a rough and raw capture of the inside of my head. So work with it and let my thoughts evolve in your own mind and then capture them and send them back to me. Because what I want to do (my idea) and how to get there are still light years apart.
My original vision is/was that I want to build a place, a community, a workspace, a retreat that can be that central hub of the “tribe/team” and start rebuilding those bonds that we all feel we have lost in/because of our transition. I envision this space as a community blacksmith/forge shop thing that will allow veterans, their families and regular local people to come learn some smithing skills and reconnect with neighbors over a fire, an anvil, some sweat and just good old time cross fire talking!!
One of the things that I struggled with, continue to struggle with, (and I know if I do, then others must fight with it as well) is the sense of "loss" - not in the sense that I dropped my keys and I can find them kind of loss - but a deeper “more central to my core” loss! (And I don't feel that when I'm sitting across the fire from a friend or stranger, after having rucked 8 hrs. into the backcountry)
I think it is (at least for me) this loss of the “tribe/team”, that primal bond/connection that we had with our Ranger/battle buddy. It's more than just friendship, the word friendship is far too shallow (not saying that in a bad use of the word) to encompass the kind of connection that I think at some level we are long for. The best I can do in words is describe it as a primal blending of love, comradery, friendship, sense of purpose and belonging, etc!
I want to build a place that can be that central hub of the “tribe/team” and start rebuilding those bonds and the sense of belong to a “tribe/team” again. My vision of this place, is that it be a “sanctuary” where people – Vets, their families, locals, LEOs, almost anybody who longs for a place to come and just BE! Be accepted as is, be welcomed with no judgement, be held up, be appreciated, and be loved! Just Be!
I think that this sense of belonging, in some cases, is far more important than sitting in a sterile office with a therapist talking about our “issues/conflicts/voices of our fallen”. I refuse to think and let others think of these issues rolling/roaming/running around in our heads as “problems”. To me that is the mindset of a victim and I, for one, refuse to view myself and others as victims! These issues/pains/mental tears are there, no doubt; placed there by events that we’ve experienced through the course of our chosen profession and we’ve passed through them, leaving us with “growing pains”. However they are no different, in my view, than the pain you feel after you’ve had a hard work out, that lactic acid burn, the pain of the blisters, the torn muscles. There is no shame when an athlete says they can hardly move because of the pain their body is experiencing after a particularly brutal workout. So to, there should be, and is, no shame in us saying that the tearing/blistering/aching of the mind after it experiences things that stretched it out of its normal boundaries leave us needing help to get around. An athlete gets therapy by soaks in a hot tub or gets a massage, takes supplements to assist in the repair of those torn and stretched muscles; so to the veteran, who’s mind has been injured needs to get therapy by “soak in a hot tub” or getting “a massage” or take some “supplements” to help heal the torn tissues of the body/heart/mind/soul.
I believe that this kind of “therapy” should happen in a place/a community/a workspace/a retreat, where I can stand next to/across from a brother/sister I trust and work a piece of hot steel, sweat, engaging the mind by turning imagination into something unique and not say a damn thing; knowing in my heart that the other person gets it, the IT of just being together, and we both know that is exactly what I need to do, to work through some of the shit/conflict/voices in my head. Sometimes the need to just sweat, cuss, get dirty, get pissy and know at the end of that, the person across the fire or anvil or workbench needed the exact same thing to process and organize that shit!! Nothing more, nothing less; just somebody to stand there with me and be there as I beat through the “bush/jungle/unknown” of the stuff in my brain, which is stopping my forward motion/growth.
I don't think it's any different than doing a long ass landnav course and you are out there by yourself humping off the miles and for that brief moment you cross paths with another guy out there enduring the same pain/experience/challenge - you both know that you're not supposed to talk to each other or help each other, but you both do anyway. After you've both gone your separate ways, you've shared a moment, a connection with a brother, who is out there in the same suck you are. That brief connection, in that space and time, gets your head straight and you back in the game again. So to speak!
The most important part (core) of this idea that there needs to be a mechanism where there are also professionals on staff as part of the “tribe/team” that can offer more “professional help” if it’s needed. Offered in a way that is safe and secure for individuals with our type of background who says, “There’s no way in HELL I’m talking to a shrink!!!” There has to be the tie into the professionals, who can work with issues that the members “tribe/team” are not capable of dealing with. However these professionals can and need be part of that “tribe/team” and not an outsider, a “tribal witch doctors” so to speak, who is there to help when the rest of the tribe can't get the individual out of their "funk".
I am not naïve enough to think that the coming together; the brotherhood, the landnav or sitting around the campfire, is the complete answer to the issues/conflicts/”voices of the fallen” in our heads/hearts/souls; however I believe there needs to be a process to have ALL options available in a safe and non-threatening environment. I understand that there is very little way to completely eliminate the stigma of asking for/needing help. The “I’m not talking to a mental health professional because WHO KNOWS who is eventually going to get that record!” mentality is a HUGE “barrier to entry” for a lot of guys. I think there needs to be ways to get the help you need/want without having that “fear” of “Damocles’ Sword” hanging over your head. (Maybe if using an alias or something like a source number, no one needs to use real names…complete anonymity so no one needs to worry about records getting shared.) All we care about is HELPING…not documenting!!
My goal/dream is to have a place/a community/a workspace/a retreat - a dirty, hot, non-clinical space - that allows the individual, the tribe, a "shrink/witchdoctor" to have a “counseling session” over an anvil in a forge environment, surrounded by others who understand, respect and appreciate what is going on internally and support the healing with no judgement!!
My ideas for the space is that the location needs to have floor space to have 6-10 workstations. Each station needs an anvil, a gas forge, and necessary tools to work the metal. There needs to also be a space that allows for people to sit and “hang out”, a place that everyone can sit around a “campfire” and talk about what is going on in their lives, in their heads. It can be part of the whole space, no barriers between the workspace and the “campfire”. This important because I feel that it is the “separation” from the whole/the tribe/team to get “counseling” is part of the problem. I don’t believe that the challenge for most of us is admitting that we are having shit rolling around in our heads that we can’t deal with or don’t know how to process it. I think that it is the fact that if we go to get help in the traditional clinical environment, we are separated from our brothers, from the tribe and it is that separation that we are scared of.
If you would like to help, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and help me make this a reality.