Ok, Outward Bound Canada Veterans Program. Get me the f&*k out of here.
Those were my thoughts by the first night, and the second, and the third for that matter. What the H-E-double hockey sticks did I get myself into?!?
I’m uncomfortable, unprepared, unsure, angry, tired, moody, overwhelmed, and out of place.
This just might possibly be just the BEST medicine and biggest lesson I’ve taken in a long, looooong time.
Let’s step this back to explain.
I was stoked!
In their own words;
“Outward Bound Canada’s Veterans’ Program is designed to help Canadian military veterans face the challenges they often encounter post-deployment, through inspiring journeys of healing and self-discovery in the Canadian wilderness.”
It is an incredible program that gets military veterans out to connect with nature and themselves in a supportive peer to peer setting. There are no therapists and no judgement.
The staff are not only experienced guides but also mostly veterans themselves, providing the perfect mix of knowledge and acknowledgement for veterans facing their own inner obstacles.
So why was I raging inside?
Well, personally I know it is good therapy when I’ve been uncomfortable as all get out and either a) get angry/defensive or b) cry like a champ. Both of which happened in spades.
Yet I was absolutely privileged to witness eleven incredible people from all walks of life, with varied experiences, some with trauma and some without, come together in the most supportive, humbling, and caring fashion. It was mind blowing and awe inspiring.
Why were my emotions so all over the be-geezus map?!? It’s taken me a few weeks to digest and be real about this. On the outside you could say it was because it was raining the whole time, the experience was unknown, it was cold, eating different foods, menstrual cycle, blah blah blah.
In actuality though it’s because I’m a g-d sponge. Watching and hearing these amazing people open up about their traumas was hard as all get out to hear. The traumas/incidents themselves were easy to relate to since I’ve had similar experiences but the feelings…the hurt, sadness, anger, etc that was making these very real obstacles in life for them – was surprisingly not.
As much as I listened and cried…I still felt like the odd man out. I just couldn’t relate. I wasn’t connecting. Which felt weird. I knew I should be able to, but it simply wasn’t there. Which made me question myself. Is there something unresolved with my military experiences I’m not addressing? Am I simply in a different stage of life? Am I still suppose to be working through issues? Have I dealt with things adequately? Is it ok that I’m ok? Should I feel guilty for being ok?
It’s how I started to question myself that through me off kilter. I made all sorts of excuses for my feelings…mostly because I couldn’t actually step away from the experience and identify why I wasn’t having a great time.
It should be highlighted that the group chats at night are only a small portion of the day’s activities. It just happened to be the smallest portion with the biggest impact on myself. Throughout the week we hiked, laughed, stood in awe of the mountain views, took plenty of pictures, hiked some more, took turns cooking meals, went exploring, swam, cared for each other, and all in all (except our misfortune of daily rain) had a really good thing going.
This was the best medicine I’ve taken in a long, looooong time. I took my questioning feelings home, examined them, embraced them, came to peace with them, and learned a lot more about myself in the process. Self reflection is a such an important tool for growth! What I came to terms with is that it is ok to be ok. We each heal differently. Different experiences, different therapies, different rates. My only regret is that I didn’t come to peace with this during the course and hopefully next time I’ll be able to better support others in their healing.
Now that this little lesson is learned and life is back to normal, I can go back to making smoothies and working out happy with the knowledge that the week in the mountains was an important stepping stone in life. I’m not quite sure what I’ll do with this…reach out more to fellow veterans, or maybe a little less, or more likely just be more conscious in my interactions so that it best benefits them. Even though I’m studying nursing at university, I’ll don’t think I’ll ever be a psych nurse (I’m far too much of a sponge!) but perhaps I can grow into the person that can help out a little more in the community. That would be ideal.
If you’re in need or know a veteran that is there are several fantastic programs like Outward Bound Canada that are available. They are gold in their own right, helping soldiers and veterans work towards healthy futures.