As part of Military Appreciation month I thought I would post a little more about the Guitar program we do for the VA Medical Center. I asked JP for a quote and one of his students sent this letter. I thought it was worth publishing in it’s entirety to give you a scope of what our veteran’s experience and the benefits of this program.
We are grateful for our veteran’s and active military for their service and sacrifice, and so grateful for the opportunity to give back to them in some way and to bring the healing power of music to as many as we can!
Letter from one of the veterans currently in the VA Guitar program:
“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to express myself and my gratitude towards the “Guitar’s in Recovery” program at the Spokane VA Behavioral Health Center. I would also very much like to express my gratitude towards Mr. Shields, JP as we like to call him.
My involvement with JP came a few years after I had been going to the VA Behavioral Health Center. I am a veteran that sustained an injury while on active duty. The injury stayed with me after I was discharged, and subsequently I would have my career interrupted with surgery. Recovery usually took about 8 months and then I would have to start over looking for work. I repeated this 4 times. I felt like I was stuck in this cycle of pain in which I would eventually have to have another surgery and start my career over again. Between the 3rd and 4th surgery I started to come undone mentally. It is not easy to explain, and I am not sure if in general people are aware of these sorts of situations.
At the VA hospital I found out that my story is not that uncommon. Eventually, I lost my ability to work and provide for my family and I was in a lot of physical pain. In this process, I became severely depressed and suicidal and developed severe anxiety. I had lost my identity and I saw no future, and I blamed my situation on myself. A couple of times I asked for help and it did not come. I gave up and I almost killed myself. That is a stark reality for me. It humbled me at my core.
One day my wife brought me to the VA hospital and a social worker asked the right questions and I was admitted to the psychiatric ward on the 3rd floor. We call it the “3rd floor.” There is a group of us that have been through the 3rd floor and that is how we like to refer to it between ourselves. It is a place I never wanted to go to, but never wanted to leave once I had been there for a time. I was actually afraid to leave.
While inpatient, I entered group therapy in the Finding Solution Group (originally called the Suicide Prevention group, later to be called the Suicide Risk Management Group and finally being called the Finding Solutions Group.) In this group, we explored what it takes to get healthy and what getting healthy means. It was a chance to talk about anything that burdened us and to listen to others. It was a work in progress type situation. People would sometimes explore experiences outside the group and then report back their experiences. It was during one of these times that I learned about the guitar lessons provided by JP from Holy Names Music Center and organized by Pam Wick (VA recreational therapist). I knew that to care for myself I needed to get involved in something. I saw this as an opportunity. I had no expectations, and I can’t say I had much desire to play a guitar… I just knew that I needed to try to do something. I needed to find or make new parts to myself because I felt so much of my identity had been lost or stripped away.
My guitar lessons with JP (Guitar’s in Recovery) is part of the silver lining in my dark cloud. I went through a terrible storm and I found a new side of myself in learning to play a guitar and in the social interactions with others while learning to play. It has become a little part of a new identity and it has shown me how to heal. I realize the process of healing and discovery is slow, and sometimes taken in little steps. In this case, it has been little steps with a guitar and my instructor JP and my classmates. Learning to play the guitar has been difficult for me, but I was not there to necessarily learn to play the guitar. I was there for the acceptance and the process and the need for something positive.
I can now say, “I can play a guitar.” I’m not a great guitar player but, I am me, and I love my guitar, and I love the process of learning to play and the people that come to Guitar’s in Recovery. It is a great feeling to feel, and I feel so fortunate to be able to partake in the program.
Thank you so much!
May 9th 2018″
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Holy Names Music Center’s mission is “to provide high quality instruction and performance opportunities for all!”
Post by: Elisabeth Burrell