Art Helps Wounded Veteran Express Emotions and Combat PTSD Symptoms
Once, in seventh grade, Yolanda Jones won an award in art class for her drawing. She liked to paint and draw, the way most kids do, but then life took over.
Yolanda spent much of her adult life serving the country in the Army and in the Army and Air National Guard, including deployments to the Middle East. After being medically retired from the Air National Guard, she worked hard to provide for her sons, along with dealing with back, knee, and neck injuries, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Scroll though to check out some of Yolanda's artwork
Before she knew it, she was 100% medically disabled and the kids were grown. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the isolation and boredom set in. During this time, or because of it, Yolanda was able to find a new, better way to cope.
She decided to take advantage of some of the connection events offered by Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) and recalled her fondness for drawing. WWP’s virtual art classes and painting workshops seemed like a good option.
What initially began as a way to pass the time evolved into a passion, and Yolanda found other WWP programs that helped manage both her physical and mental well-being
She attended physical wellness events and financial wellness seminars. She benefitted from specialized mental health care through Warrior Care Network®, which partners with four world-renowned academic medical centers to treat PTSD and other mental health conditions.
When the pandemic hit, Yolanda was ready to use the coping skills she developed during her time at the medical centers. She just needed something to do, a way to express her emotions during this challenging time in a healthy manner.
Virtual painting classes gave her the chance to connect with like-minded warriors and keep her hands and mind busy.
“I was doing everything,” Yolanda said about engaging with WWP’s veteran programs and services. “I was doing the art stuff, doing the physical health and wellness, the finance, the book club, you name it, I was doing it. But the key point was for me, for the first time, I was OK with being home, and isolating without being stuck. And happy in that isolation.”
Almost immediately after joining her first virtual art class, Yolanda remembered how much she enjoyed creating art, but wasn’t initially aware of how good she was at it.
“I really enjoyed myself,” she said of her first class. “And then, I started signing up for more, and was enjoying them. Then I just started doing them on my own.”
She started sharing some of her artwork with her friends and even her therapist, all of whom, to her surprise, marveled at her talent.
“They would say, ‘Wow, that’s really good,” Yolanda said. “You want them to feel proud about what you've done, but they would say do you have a [web] page, or can I get one? I wasn't expecting all of that.”
Keeping her hands and mind busy certainly helped with her PTSD symptoms. It gave her a creative outlet for her anger and pain and gave her a wonderful way to release her emotions. With each stroke of the paint brush, Yolanda could turn her anger into a beautiful, colorful work of art.
“If you can get your feelings out on that piece of paper, no matter what that piece of paper looks like, whether it becomes an abstract, or it isn't exactly what you intended it to be, you've accomplished the mission,” Yolanda said of using art therapy for PTSD. “The mission is to allow those harsh feelings that you are holding inside of your body out in the paint brushstrokes. It’s so therapeutic.”
Between the Warrior Care Network assistance and the renewal of her passion for art, Yolanda discovered her feelings again – good, bad, and in-between – and realized it was OK to express them.
“You know that your feelings are irrelevant in the military,” she said. “They don't care about whether you cry, you got a hangnail, you broke a toe. It’s ‘suck it up and drive on’ when it comes to emotions. And you just start holding them in and you don't realize you've been holding them in for 20 years of your life. And then once you get connected with your emotions and feelings, it's scary.”
Once she got started expressing herself through art, there was no stopping. What began as acrylic on canvas blossomed into a full array or artistic endeavors. She started making T-shirts, candles, scented body scrubs. She journals, writes poetry and affirmations, and encourages others to find their passion and never give up.
“There's always stuff to do,” Yolanda said. “I've always loved doing stuff with my hands. And I like motivational speaking. That's one of my passions. I feel like I have something to say, and people can learn from the things that I've been through, the processes I took to get there and where I'm at now.”
The American Art Therapy Association found that art therapy can be an effective tool in helping veterans ease the symptoms of PTSD and other emotional conditions. Check out stories of other warriors who benefitted from art therapy.
Contact: — Paris Moulden, Public Relations, email@example.com, 904.570.7910
About Wounded Warrior Project
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.