Anzac Day for me, as for all Australians and New Zealanders, is a day for reflection, remembrance and gratitude.
Like many, I think about the millions that paid the ultimate sacrifice fighting for our freedom. Additionally, I also think of those who survived and came home, many with physical and often debilitating injuries, and without doubt, the emotional lives of all of our returned services personnel were and continue to be changed forever.
In addition to the physical scars, they carry the emotional and mental scars. After World War I and II they called it ‘shell shock’, more recently we’ve become to know this as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and more recently, the move to replacing the negative connotation and the word ‘disorder’ and calling it Pots Traumatic Stress Reaction (PTSR).
For me personally, each year I use the day to remember my family and friends that have proudly served, and continue to serve in the armed forces. Furthermore, I remember those friends and colleagues from my policing career in Cheshire Constabulary and Western Australian Police who have paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving on ‘the thin blue line’ proudly protecting lives, property and public safety.
At the same time I’m also grateful for all of the emergency services personal that go to battle everyday on our streets, often facing the worse that society can throw at them, for our safety and wellbeing.
I am extremely proud to have served in the Royal Navy, Cheshire Constabulary and Western Australian Police, honoured to have worn the uniform alongside my friends and colleagues; whom many of which I will hold dear for the rest of my life.
I read an article over this week in The West Australian written by my friend Tasha Broomhall - Director and Mental Health Strategist at Blooming Minds https://bloomingminds.com.au
In the article I wasn’t surprised to learn that suicide rates increase by 13% when personnel have left the armed services and that unemployment rates are 5 times higher for services personnel after leaving the services. Read the full article here: https://www.pressreader.com/australia/the-west-australian/20180425/281865824077519
This made me wonder how many of our veterans and emergency services workers past and present practice ‘Self-Forgiveness’?
I haven’t done any research into this, but I would take a guess based upon my own experience and my interaction with veterans and former emergency service workers that the number would be quite low. Additionally, when attending the PTS17 Conference last year in Brisbane, working on improvements for personnel 'transitioning' from the services is now at the forefront of the Australian Defence Force.
This year, I chose Anzac Day to commence the next chapter of my personal re-discovery as part of my mental fitness recovery, through the practice of ‘Self-Forgiveness’.
We hear a lot about the importance of forgiving those who have harmed or wronged us.
My personal belief currently is that certain things, which are beyond reason, such as the most despicable crimes, cannot be forgiven. You may feel different and that’s ok.
But what about forgiving ourselves? Isn’t that important as well? I believe that it is.
Shame and guilt make us feel bad about ourselves.
You see when we feel guilty we should take time to learn that it is ‘okay’ to make mistakes and when we feel shame we should time to learn that it is ‘okay’ to be whom we are.
‘Self-Forgiveness’ is essential if we want to practice mindfulness, or being present. The more ’Self-Forgiveness’ you practice, the more shame you heal, and the more you will be able to see yourself clearly. Your relationships with others and within yourself will improve.
So how can we practice 'Self-Forgiveness'?
For me I have learned that understanding the trauma I experienced created many of my symptomatic behaviours. Dealing with this through psychological therapy has gone a long way toward forgiving myself for the ways that I reacted and behaved. Behaviours such as self-medicating, with drugs and alcohol to cope with anxiety, pain and fear, and the subsequent flow-on effect that had on my loved ones.
Self-compassion helps us understand that as human beings we are all in fact vulnerable at times, that during times of difficulty and stress it is inevitable that we may make wrong choices and experience bad feelings.
Self-compassion can release you from the guilt and shame that prevents ‘Self-Forgiveness’ and free you to take positive action towards recovery with clarity.
Who we are, our thoughts and behaviours are intrinsically related to other people and events. When we feel shame it can close our minds and hearts to others and your sight becomes blurred and even blinded to your behaviours.
When we begin to understand we can be affected by an infinite number of factors, we can be less judgmental of others and ultimately ourselves. Sometimes we just need to stop, take a breath and reconcile with the fact, that often we’re really doing the best we can, given the hand life has dealt us at that particularly moment in time.
Although we must accept we can be fallible and vulnerable, we must not lose sight that we are also extremely strong and resilient; we human beings are the perfect imperfection. As such we must embrace the dignity of risk while striving to thrive but this must be done without disrespecting yourself or others.
Taking responsibility may also include admitting to others, such as other family members, by spend time explaining about the reasons (not excuses) behind your actions and behaviours.
When we are able to develop hope, self-determination and courage to work past the ‘force-field’ that our fears create, we can build a deep sense self-respect, which in turn fertilises our self-esteem, grows our self-confidence and we’re able to refocus on purpose and belonging as we bloom.
Over the last week since practicing ‘Self-Forgiveness’ through writing, affirmations, exercise and conscious thinking, my family and I have noticed that outwardly my mood has become more stable, my motivation to tackle things has improved, I have begun to sleep better.
Internally I’m not having as many conversations with myself about things I felt guilty and shameful about, in short I’m not beating myself up so much.
Do you practice ‘Self-Forgiveness’?
Please let me know?
Please fell free to contact me, to become a guest blogger or provide feedback via email at: The KiltedRogueRunner@outlook.com
https://www.beyondblue.org.auTel: 1300 22 46 36
https://www.lifeline.org.au/Tel: 133 11 14
https://www.suicidecallbackservice.org.auTel: 1300 65 94 67