For scores of veterans returning home from the Middle East, the transition to civilian life will not be an easy one. Nearly half of the returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan will report at least some difficulty reintegrating to civilian life, including post-traumatic stress disorder.
Some veterans, like Lila Holley, are finding a different way to cope – by journaling.
Lila Holley said she would write when she was younger but drifted away from it. In 2012, when she retired Holley had some trouble readjusting to civilian life.
“There was a period in my life where it was just emotionally stressful, literally it could’ve took me out emotionally,” Holley said. “And that’s when I started back writing, started back journaling just to move through those emotions and feelings I was struggling with.”
Veterans who leave the military after years-long careers often experience trouble returning to civilian life, and some studies estimate that nearly half of the veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan will report problems reintegrating.
Holley suffered from depression, anger issues, and communication difficulties.
“I eventually moved through it with the help of my family, writing and getting some counseling,” Holley said. “And as a result of that writing, I penned my first book. It’s called “Battle Buddy: Maneuvering the Battlefield of Transitioning from the Military”, and in this book I really poured out my heart, the things I struggled with in my transition.”
Leila Levinson, a literature professor at St. Edwards University, is currently leading a month-long workshop at the Waco V-A that aims to teach veterans the benefits of writing their stories.
“I think we need stories to make sense out of our lives,” Levinson said. “Nobody knows why we’re here. Every person’s main task is to figure out the meaning of their lives and we do that through story.”
Levinson says, writing requires veterans to recount painful memories, to relive the trauma they’ve experienced.
“Regardless of how emotionally draining the process is in writing and journaling and getting your story out on paper, it’s still, the benefits outweigh that process piece of it, the toughness of the process.”
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