As we geared up to celebrate the 10th anniversary of cutting the ribbon at our National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE), we received a Facebook comment from a military spouse describing how important NICoE had been to her family and her husband’s recovery. We reached out to learn more about their story. Below are first-hand accounts from Senior Chief Petty Officer Joseph Brewer, USN and his wife Elaine on how NICoE helped them address symptoms and move forward after Joseph sustained invisible wounds.
Joseph: NICoE is a very special place, and quite possibly, saved my life. Before attending the 4 week out-patient program, I often wondered why so many veterans committed suicide. I went to NICoE after being in the Navy EOD and special operations community for 17 years. My main reason for going was to document my physical injuries so that I would be able to adequately claim my disabilities upon retirement. I was very unaware of the mental injuries, hidden wounds, that were plaguing me. After about 3 weeks of treatment and classes, I started having emotions that I hadn’t had in many years and began to recognize the impacts my career and past experiences had had on my brain. The knowledge and resources of NICoE informed me that these were normal processes and reactions the brain undergoes to compensate, and essentially, survive certain situations and events.
By the time I was leaving NICoE, the answer to my question of veteran suicides was answered. Many service members have these invisible wounds that they don’t even know they have. And when things finally slow down in their lives, these changes that have occurred begin to be very recognizable, and they don’t understand what is going on or what is “wrong” with them. NICoE provided my family and I the knowledge and tools to understand what was happening and a way forward to live a more normal life.
I have continued my treatment and therapy. I continue to practice yoga and meditations. I even bought a guitar and enjoy playing it everyday! Understanding the “why” these therapies help and bring us back to a more balanced place was key for me. I avidly speak about my experiences and therapies with other service members to ensure they know that what they might be feeling (or not feeling) is completely normal, and they are not alone. I pass on the education I received from NICoE to them in hopes that they may better understand what is occurring so that they can treat it rather than resort to suicide or other negative coping strategies.
Elaine: I had seen a serious change in my husband’s personality and demeanor, especially after an unfathomable helicopter accident that happened in 2011, which brought a significant loss of life. After that I noticed that my husband was very detached and removed from his ability to experience emotions. He became very numb to life and was not able to find the joy in the everyday aspects of life such as watching our son score a goal at a soccer game. His emotions were just shut off. Along with that, I was actually dealing with just as much trauma as my husband. I had found very toxic ways of shutting out the weight and stress that I was carrying around. NICoE provided our family with the tools and the understanding to notice, recognize, and grasp the depths of our trauma. NICoE accommodated us with an amazing facility and staff members that guided us gently to a place where we could see hope and work through our traumatic injuries and experiences.
We had such a profound experience at NICoE that I became very passionate about relaying the healing aspects of the mind/body connection. I am now a trauma informed yoga and meditation instructor and have opened a nonprofit foundation, called Humble Warrior Wellness Center, that offers mental health maintenance and wellness services for veterans, first responders and emergency medical personnel.
We love to share the experiences of service members and their families who have been treated at our centers for invisible wounds: NICoE and the Intrepid Spirit Centers. If you or someone you know has been treated at one of our centers and is interested in helping to break down the stigmas of the invisible wounds of war by amplifying the stories of successful treatment experiences, send us a message!
If you’d like to support the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund as we continue to expand NICoE’s network of treatment to military bases around the country through the construction of Intrepid Spirit Centers, click here.
Posted on June 29 2020 in Blog