Isolation has compounded effects of disparity for mentally vulnerable individuals and other members of low social strata. Removed from human connection, depression and fear can take a tangible hold and corrode their ability to manage stress. In a climate of turmoil from political to pandemic, the sense of overwhelm is a risk factor which PTSD Ambassador, Matt Bruce, and the Happiness Co aim to address.

The definition of happiness is different for everyone, though most of us typically equate the state devoid of fear and filled with a sense of peace or joy. However, when in-person support is not possible, where can people source the tools they need to attain happiness?

Matt Bruce shares his experience with PTSD, helping identify the triggers, symptoms, and avenues of virtual support for dealing with fear and rekindling joy.

I was a telecommunications engineer in the Australian Army for 10 years. I served in Afghanistan and was a support staff member with the Australian SAS for a number of years. On integrating back into civilian life, I was diagnosed with PTSD and major depression. Over many years and many healthy choices, I am now in a space to give back to my community.

It has been a large part of my life to give back as of late. To offer my support to the people all over Australia suffering from PTSD. The world really is in a large transition with COVID and peoples mental health is suffering across the globe. To heal our mental health in the current climate is not just a simple trip to the therapist once a week. Our ability to make real change must be a way of life no different to a diet. 

We speak of a new normal post COVID—the new normal in my eyes is smaller communities coming together to support one another. A way of life as such. We all still need support and connection, especially in these tough times. Yet what if your direct community does not meet your needs?

Across the globe, niche communities are popping up online to help fill this giant hole of personal connection. So I guess the real question is what community feels in alignment for you? I found that for PTSD suffers there was no online community that focused on growth and forward momentum! A place where we could connect with like-minded people with a purpose. A place were moving through our past was the new normal. Where people could truly be seen, heard and accepted for who they are right now. 

I am very proud to announce that Thriving with PTSD has teamed up with an awarding winning wellness provider called the Happiness Co to launch a digital community to support much of the Australians with PTSD to find their niche community.

Beyond Blue estimate that 12% of Australians will be diagnosed with PTSD at some point in their life. This is a national problem that goes well beyond return servicemen and women. You can find more information about our growth mindset community thrivingwithPTSD.com.au

Acknowledging your fear is the first step to moving through it with compassion. From my personal experience with fear, here are some questions which can help you recognize the emotion in yourself and others.

What is your greatest fear?

Men in particular, are taught to disconnect from their emotions at an early age. I have both witnessed and felt this myself; as we suppress one emotion in this life, we slowly disconnect from all of them. No Joy! No empathy! No compassion! No love! No fear! And in this, we are unaware that our journey has started, as we slowly march towards our greatest fear.

I was suffering on the inside, but no part of me was alive enough to express it. All I looked for were ways to disconnect from the pain. If you listened closely, you could hear it. You could hear my pain. It was chaos inside and out. Because when we disconnect from our internal emotion, they continue to fester and swirl without control. 

Are you disconnecting?

Fear, when suppressed, can be all-consuming. Like a volcano we are so terrified to tap into. The very emotion that we spend our life running from is the very thing we collect and place in our pocket to witness at a later date; to integrate in a present moment far from this one. It causes a level of pain and struggle, slowly and steadily affecting your external life. Like a mirror, it reflects it back at you. Anger and venom spitting and spurting from a person’s pain. So the next time you meet someone who opens their mouth and all you hear is anguish? Have mercy, have compassion, have tolerance. You are seeing a snapshot into that person’s inner turmoil of emotions. That turmoil is visible in their words, but it never comes from their mind. The mind is just the prison that houses the reflection of suppressed emotions that they can no longer integrate.  

Are your actions from a place of love or fear?

After my first deployment to Afghanistan, I had disconnected from my body and was slowly conditioning myself to live from a distant place in my mind. My intensive exercise routine kept me balanced; a coping mechanism for releasing my suppressed emotions in brief bursts, but nothing to ease the pain. To others, my exterior would look confident, that of a leader not afraid to back myself and not afraid to tackle any task and make it work. Yet, on the inside, I was a hollow shell of a man. I was attempting to fill a massive void deep inside. In conversations, relationships, work and more, I would look to the external world to ease my mind of my biggest fear.