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Dave Rauls, First Sergeant, U.S Army (RET) – Combat Stress & Traumatic Grief

After 20 years of service, including the Gulf War, and suffering silently since 1991, I reached out to the military medical community for help. My personal well being was not well at all. I had been able to use hobbies and other forms of self-regulating therapies, but I was still a broken person. I had suicidal ideations, anger, hyper-vigilance, and a host of other psychological issues.

I began to fear that I would take my life and leave my sons without a father, and that is when I chose to end my military service and seek treatment in 2007.

The military treatment clinic was not prepared for the caseload & my counselor was not immune. She attempted to introduce me to Guided Imagery without a proper introduction. I was too tough for this touchy-feely approach, and if it came to being a sissy man, I would rather die.

I was able to end my career and get a job. All was well - yeah, right. For a host of reasons, my government civilian job really got under my skin. At this point, my marriage was under a big strain too, assisting in my downward spiral.

Then on 7 February 2010, my son Nicholas was even more tired of being alive than I was, and he took his life at almost fourteen years old. I knew then first hand that I had made the right decision to choose life.

Even though the loss of my precious son was so traumatic, I knew I had to not only make it through each day, but I had to make a difference. As I started socially engineering my personal support chain, I found others with even worse stories than mine. I became a community volunteer, helping other Soldiers and their families who were dealing with suicide and mental illness and family problems.

In the process, I became friends with Dr. George Patrin. At the time he was a U.S. Army Colonel working to set up Patient Centered Medical Homes within the Army system. He had lost a son as well. After several weeks of dialogue, he had the opportunity to come to my area for temporary duty.

Upon arrival at my home for dinner, he presented me with a compact disk as a gift. Trusting him as a true friend, I listened to it with him and my family, and guess what it was? That same doggone lady the counselor had tried on me years before!

Because George was a trusted friend, I gave it a chance. Even though it was a little "out there", I tried it again and again. After several sessions, I felt a sense of relief. This started my use of Guided Imagery as a practical self regulating therapy, not only for me, but my family as a whole.

Soon I was distributing them to troubled soldiers I knew, and their families. At George's suggestion, I even called up the doggone lady on the tape and told her she needed a different introduction for military personnel. Next thing I knew I was in a studio in Ohio, recording that introduction, which was written by me!

Well, here we are now, over seven years after my failed introduction to guided imagery, and five years after Nick's suicide. Do I still use Guided Imagery? You bet!

Not only do I continue to use guided imagery, I have instituted many other forms of meditation. I had always enjoyed studying different faiths, because when you think about suicide, you want to try and land in the right drop zone.

Guided Imagery has also helped me greatly in my faith journey. Now, instead of listening to those thoughts of hate, anger, resentment and you name it, I can reflect on that "still small voice" of reason.

I am still a big (well not physically) tough guy, but you know what? Due to my friend caring enough about the suffering of his buddy, he shared a great tool. My friends, that tool is guided imagery.

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