The holiday season is a joyous time for many – full of family traditions, gatherings, and holiday cheer. However, for veterans who suffer from PTSD, the holiday season can be a traumatic reminder of who they were before they struggled with military-related PTSD. These veterans have the added pressure to be present during family gatherings and could be suppressing how they truly feel. During the holiday season, many veterans think of their fallen comrades who did not make it back home and tend to feel survivors' guilt. These heightened emotions often lead to isolation and depressive thoughts, and veterans can feel incredibly lonely and not understood while everyone surrounding them celebrates their holiday cheer.
Natalie is a Warrior that graduated in December 2019 with rescue-turned Service Dog, Hoosier. She recently reflected on her past experiences with the holiday season, and how she expects that this year that with Hoosier by her side, for the first time in a long time she can celebrate the upcoming holidays.
"Holidays are a difficult time because of the pressure to see family, which I struggle with because of my PTSD. I have a big extended family, so my PTSD allows me only to do the bare minimum. While paired with Hoosier, I’ve noticed my channels opening throughout the year, and I have seen my family more. I think this holiday season, I can be more open with my family and enjoy myself," Natalie said.
As Natalie & Hoosier's first anniversary of being paired approaches, Natalie spoke about the bond they have created within this roller coaster year and how this bond will aid her through the holidays.
"Before Hoosier, I never went outside, and now that I have him, I don't second-guess going out; I go out because I know he has my back. He constantly reassures me, and I always feel safe and comfortable with him. If symptoms come up, I know he will protect me, and it's just him and me no matter what.
Hoosier knows when I am struggling. He's on point when I am having symptoms like flashbacks, and he's there to put his nose right on my face to remind me of where I am. Because of him, flashbacks do not last as long because he lets me know, 'This is where you are, you're with me, you've got this!'
I think this holiday season will be the first one I can enjoy – all because of Hoosier!"
This holiday season, we would like to encourage you to consider helping veterans like Natalie. A great and easy way to help is by participating in GivingTuesday, a global generosity movement taking place on December 1, 2020. You can donate through our Facebook page or on our website.
With the support of Hoosier, Natalie now feels she can conquer the holiday season. With your support during GivingTuesday, K9s For Warriors can pair more veterans with Service Dogs to help them experience joy again during the holidays!