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Couples at Wounded Warriors retreat learn to reconnect

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Couples at Wounded Warriors retreat learn to reconnect

Post by Guest on Wed 19 Jul 2017, 05:48

'I can't even fix me': Couples at Wounded Warriors retreat learn to reconnect

Retreat called Tribute to Service provides respite for couples affected by mental health problems

By Gail Harding, CBC News Posted: Jul 18, 2017 6:50 PM AT Last Updated: Jul 18, 2017 7:06 PM AT

Jeannette and Aubrey McLeod are one of 20 couples taking part in the Tribute to Service retreat hosted by Wounded Warriors of Canada in Saint Andrews.

A retreat in Saint Andrews is helping members of the Canadian Armed Forces, retired veterans and their spouses learn to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression so they can connect with each other.

"The most important thing is to just stop and relax," said Aubrey McLeod.

McLeod is taking part in the four-day event with his wife, Jeannette, who was medically discharged from the Armed Forces in 2013 after being diagnosed with PTSD and severe depression while stationed in Winnipeg with 1 Canadian Air Division.

'I live in the house and in the yard and I don't go out much. I don't go many places, I don't like lots of people. I don't like new things.'
- Jeannette McLeod, veteran with PTSD

She was an intelligence analyst with the drone program, with 13 years in the regular forces.

"I was supposed to be in for life, and then life happened," said Jeannette, who served in Afghanistan in 2009.

The retreat, called Tribute to Service, is hosted by Wounded Warriors, an organization that helps veterans dealing with mental health issues.

Jeannette and Aubrey McLeod, who recently moved from Ontario back to their home province of New Brunswick, both said the retreat is helping them learn to communicate with each other.

"We've actually had a chance to sit and enjoy each other's company without 50,000 things going on around us, or me being triggered."

Jeannette described her day-to-day life as small.

"I live in the house and in the yard and I don't go out much. I don't go many places, I don't like lots of people. I don't like new things."

Even deciding to attend the conference was difficult, but Aubrey said the couple have learned how to make things work for them.

"We've learned to adapt and work our lifestyle around other things that go on that we have no control over," he said.

Positive effect

Being at the retreat seems to be having a positive effect on Jeannette, who said she slept more than seven hours straight without waking up, as she normally does at home.

"I feel so together today."

People attending the conference don't get a heavy schedule to follow, but a chance to connect with other couples coping daily with the fallout from PTSD.

"To actually just have dinner together, to have a drink or just to chat ... it was really nice," Jeannette said.

Jeannette McLeod describes her life with PTSD and severe depression as a living hell.

The couples may not talk about the experiences that led them to the retreat, Jeannette said, but the camaraderie is there, even with the spouses.

When asked what gives her relief from dealing with her mental health issues, Jeannette said, "Honestly, this is the first relief I've had in a while, so it's a gift."

She described her life with anxiety and PTSD as a living hell.

"You're on guard all the time. so to have relief from that is a good thing, but to find relief from it is a very difficult thing."

Husband always supportive

Her husband said he learned he couldn't fix Jeannette, but he has been there with support after hospitalizations, in-patient treatments and counselling..

"I can't even fix me," Jeannette replied.

Both said they have an understanding that they live each day with the knowledge things can change very quickly.

Phil Ralph, national program director at Wounded Warriors Canada, said the retreat may only be four days, but veterans and their spouses will leave more relaxed and with the tools they need to help them.


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