From the Daughter of a Veteran

My name is Jessica Wolfrey, I am a fourth-year student at Grant MacEwan University, in the Bachelor of Arts program, majoring in psychology. I have planned to work towards this career goal since I was still in my early high school years. As the daughter of a veteran, it has been an honour to grow up surrounded by so many people who have made such selfless sacrifices for our country. Hearing the stories that many of them carry, including my dad’s stories, and meeting the people that he views as brothers and sisters, is what has given me such a passion to find a way to give back to our veterans and frontline workers.

My first time participating in The Rolling Barrage was in Jasper in August 2021. That is an experience that I have carried with me ever since. Knowing that my dad was going through a very difficult time, and that he was struggling to communicate his feelings with his family, we reached out to a military friend. We had read about TRB and felt that it was something that might help my dad. Warren Cave, an exceptional man and longtime military friend of my dad, responded immediately. He also proposed a special surprise. As a result, my mom, my sister and I made a behind-the-scenes trip to Jasper. Much to his surprise, my dad was presented with a Military Quilt of Valor.

My dad had been going through a hard few years, suffering both physically and mentally. Seeing my dad struggling with his mental health was something that was very challenging for me. Knowing he was always in physical pain was hard, but I knew there were things I could do to help. I could do things for him when he was sore, or lift heavier things for him to prevent him from being too sore later. But, seeing him feel anxious before going to do things he used to love, getting angry at small things that he would have laughed at before, and just all around not enjoying his life anymore because of the mental battles he would have with himself, made me feel very helpless and stuck.

There are absolutely things that you can do to help someone struggling with mental illness; but without having the understanding of why someone is acting the way that they are, I can see how it may feel difficult, especially when it can often come across as offensive or draining. This is why I think it is very important for family members to also remember to take actions to help with their own struggles and gain a deeper understanding about what their loved one may be going through.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a heavily researched topic in psychology, as it has a lifetime prevalence rate of 5-10% for the general population. As people are aware, front-line workers face many harsh and traumatic circumstances doing their jobs that can really have long-term effects on their mental health and even their day-to-day quality of life due to PTSD. Symptoms can be very intense and I can’t imagine how it would feel having a career where you have to be trained to not display natural emotions to certain situations to being overwhelmed with anxieties and emotions when experiencing PTSD. This is something that I have taken with a heavy heart as I have been going through my studies towards my degree.

This past term in school, I was taking a course that introduced a large variety of mental disorders including schizophrenia and personality disorders, mood disorders and anxiety disorders. I had always looked forward to this course when I started university and I can confidently say I learned a lot from it. But one realization that I came to when we talked about PTSD was that although they have many effective ways of treating PTSD, they do not have a lot of research or studies done on the anxieties that people experience after treating their symptoms of PTSD. I was thinking about my dad and his situation, how after undergoing treatment for PTSD he did feel more like himself again, however his anxiety still prevented him from doing certain social things he used to enjoy. He was hesitant to reach out to friends to get together, to go to social events, or just go to more crowded places. I also noticed very similar qualities in myself after I was treated for PTSD. I think that something very valuable, that should be researched when studying PTSD, is potential options for post PTSD treatment group therapy to help reduce that stigma that PTSD is something that others will see you differently for.

In that same course my professor said something that really stood out to me, when explaining depression, he said that oftentimes people after being diagnosed have the mentality that “I am depression” rather than “I have depression”.

This made me think of PTSD and how perhaps after being trained to suppress one’s natural emotions, when they experience the symptoms of PTSD they are so overwhelmed with different emotions that they develop the mentality that “I am PTSD”. This is very saddening to me, especially for front-line workers because PTSD symptoms are often overwhelming with different emotions, and they have been trained their whole career to suppress those emotions. I’m sure this can be a very scary feeling. After eliminating the symptoms of PTSD, people are left with anxieties, thinking they are going to be viewed differently by their brothers and sisters because they experienced so many emotions, which can lead to withdrawal from social situations or isolating behaviours. I think that having group therapy available for once people are done with their individual therapy to treat PTSD could potentially be very beneficial to help people realize that they are not alone and that it is okay to reconnect with their emotions.

The Rolling Barrage for example, really seems to allow people to express themselves and their feelings they experienced during their struggles with mental health, which I think could be life changing for so many people. Hearing and seeing the release of peoples’ fears when expressing their gratitude after receiving a Quilt of Valour, or just feeling comfortable enough to share their truths with others, is just an absolutely amazing thing.

I am so grateful I get to experience this when I go show my support during the ride. These experiences are something that I keep in my mind each day I go to school, write an exam or a paper or simply just when I am having a hard day. School has always been a struggle for me and my success has never come easily to me. But whenever I think about giving up, I pull up pictures of my dad and the many amazing people that I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet on The Rolling Barrage,or even just some from my dads tour overseas, and that is more than a big enough reminder to myself that if all of these honourable people can make it through everything they’ve been through, on deployment or the physical and mental challenges that follow them than the least I can do is put in the work to get my degrees I’ve wanted so badly so that I can give back to those still struggling with PTSD, or any other hardships they might have after their willingness to sacrifice everything for our country.

I will continue to work my hardest to ensure I am one day able to become a therapist and give back to frontline workers who are struggling with their mental health.