The Burden of Depression on Returning Vets

Since depression is often compared to a heavy burden, it might seem like a natural progression to compare it with a ruck march, one of those endless forced marches that prepare young soldiers for life in the military.

Like a ruck march, soldiers suffering with depression aren’t told when it will end. Like a ruck march, they are pressed down with a nearly unbearable weight. Like a ruck march, the terrain is rough and scattered with obstacles that impede progress.

However similar the two may be, depression will not be resolved using the same tactics that you used to muscle through those marches.

Stop marching

It’s not uncommon for soldiers to bear the weight of depression with the same tenacity that they apply to a ruck march or a mission. After all, you’ve been trained to endure against all odds, to keep marching until you’re told to stop.

Attempting to endure depression in the same way that you endure a mission, however, will fail. You cannot outpace depression. Instead, you must break with protocol and stop marching. Admit that you’re tired, that the burden is too heavy, and that you need help.

It’s okay. This is not a sign of weakness or of defeat. It is an indication that you recognize not all battles can be fought and won alone.

Share the burden

On a march, your rucksack is weighted with tools and supplies that will increase your chances of survival. You are trained to bear it without help or complaint no matter how tired you become.

Like an overloaded rucksack, depression feels heavier the longer you carry it. It leads to a state of overwhelming exhaustion, and exhaustion leads to unclear thinking and unnecessary risk-taking.

Often, we keep these thoughts and feelings to ourselves because we do not wish to burden the ones we love. However, the ones who love you will be burdened by a heavier weight if they are forced to watch you struggle alone. Reaching out to others for help makes the burden of depression lighter for both you and your loved ones.

Depression cannot be borne alone. It is too heavy. Whether you join a support group for veterans, reach out to a professional, or confide in family or friends, do not be afraid to share this burden.

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The Raven Drum Foundation began in 2001 to educate and empower individuals and communities in crisis through healing arts programs, drumming events and collaborative partnerships.

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