Aiyanna Spaulding was 17 when she enlisted in the Army. She spent her 18th birthday in basic training, preparing to serve in the Gulf War. Over twenty-years later she's still fighting, but this time it's a different kind of war.
"I learned how to maintain my calm even if it was at my own expense. So I've internalized a lot of stuff," Spaulding explained.
Stuff she's now trying to work through with the help of a very special peer support group. The group, facilitated by veteran and certified peer specialist Tim Bahr, is the only peer facilitated peer support recovery group for vets with Post Traumatic Stress in the nation. The group meets once a week at the VA Clinic in Rhinelander.
"I was seeing a civilian psychologist for 6 plus years. When, every time I got to that certain part, she just couldn't go any further or didn't want to. She meant well. In less than three months of being with fellow veterans I was able to talk about more than I did in 6 years of civilian counseling," Spaulding said.
"We need to learn from other veterans, especially younger veterans from older veterans. The older veterans who've gone through this and lived with it and pushed it down and it finally started to bubble up. How did they manage it," group facilitator Tim Bahr said, explaining why peer support groups are so important.
"It seems to have a ripple effect of good. Before I did not understand a lot about why I did the things I did or why I reacted the way I did or others and now I can see through, other people and myself, the clarity that wasn't there before," Spaulding said.
She wants other veterans to experience this clarity too. That's why she's encouraging them to join a support group in their area.
"It's only a matter of time before the loneliness comes to be so much. It starts to get suffocating and then that's where you have your issues," Spaulding warned.
As for civilians, Spaulding has one request.
"Don't judge a book by it's cover. Not everyone who has PTS is crazy," she said.