Image of Colonel Pat Stogran, courtesy Art of War artist Gertrude Kearns.
Mind the Gap
In March of 2016 I attended a Canadian mental health event in Victoria, British Columbia. I had decided to meet some mental health care providers should a coaching client need care which I could not support. A sort of due diligence, so that when the situation arose I could replace "you should see a counsellor", with a recommendation of "I know a great counsellor".
The event planners created a volunteer panel of experts from amongst the audience of diverse mental health care providers. The first set of volunteers assembled on stage and attentively communicated the questions asked of them. The experts talked about bipolar disorder, addictions, as well as a host of other disorders, but no one talked about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or Occupational Stress Injuries. The next theme was introduced as 'Employers of those with mental health issues or illness'. I slowly got up and sat down on the panel, nervous and sweaty, and although completely unaware of what I was going to say I knew my voice mattered. As the panel was interviewed, my turn got closer and closer until finally I was up. It all spilled out, almost uncontrolledly - Croatia in 1993, the atrocities of genocide, of holding a friend's IV bag up in one hand while carrying a stretcher handle in the other, and watching him die right there. I spoke about how as a young reservist we were on a plane home just a few days after being witness to battle, civilian murders, bullets whizzing by, mines and tripwires on patrol, artillery bombardments that literally blocked the sun, not to mention the remaining horrors of the Medac Pocket. Recovering the corpses of soldiers and civilians, while wearing the same clothes for three weeks, the smell never going away. I spoke about how everyone was so messed up following our return home, about the calls I received from wives asking what the fuck we had done over there, asking why their partner screams out in the middle of the night. I was 21, what did I know? I talked about my deployment to Afghanistan in 2009, about the odds of becoming a casualty, and my responsibilities to the troops on the ground, and ones on my team. I could see the strain on the troops and sometimes not recognize the signs that things weren't going well. I talked about my good friend not ever making it home, and the ones who never really left.
When my time on the panel was over I sat back down in my seat, a burden lifted. Following the meeting, I began speaking to the professionals in the room and soon found I didn't have enough to answer all the questions. It turned out I was the elephant in the room. I had sparked a conversation which no one else was prepared to have. One particular individual brought to light something I had suspected, but didn't see clearly - the gap. Like most gaps, this one was so close to me that I couldn't see it right before my eyes. She explained to me that it was the role of the mental health professional to bring their patient, or client, up to a certain level. I now refer to this as the level of 'normal', that place where you are good enough to integrate into relationships, work and you are getting by. The gap identified that where the line ended was vulnerable to relapse, along a narrow fence, with surviving (darkness) on one side and thriving (light) on the other. What became crystal clear was that the higher the 'line of normal' became, the less likely it was to fall back into the darkness, and continued success more likely. I believe there is great strength in overcoming adversity. There is just something too close to see through our own eyes. A different lens is required.
There are a great many programs, and many great programs, set up for our veterans and serving members of the military, police, firefighters and emergency first responders, which serve their members to get better. But when you get 'better', where do you go from there? Or what if you have gone through some serious adversity, weren't considered to have PTSD or OSI, but you want more living for yourself? Transform your being from hard-assery to bad-assery; kick ass in this life and the next.
Open your heart, get the help you need, and when you're ready, find a great heart-based coach to guide you to the next level. I guess a reason why I'm so passionate about my work is that, by putting my old story to rest, I have found peace, freedom and a new lease on life which I never believed existed. I want to pass it on - pay it forward.
*To help close this gap I created a small-team coaching model, based on three-months of coaching, designed to ignite your heart, choose the life you desire, live and love on purpose. It is possible.
For more information, please click on Mind the Gap