Searching for resilience24 January 2019
From Brisbane to Winton in the unrelenting Queensland sun to raise awareness for the challenges of returning from war.
On September 22, I completed the most physically and mentally demanding endeavour I have ever attempted – the Run for Resilience. The journey began on September 1 at ANZAC Square in Brisbane after only four weeks of planning and preparation.
Like many veterans, I experienced feelings of isolation and a loss of identity and purpose as I transitioned from service back into civilian life. I found it difficult to disengage from the structure of military culture – the pressure to be strong, the rigid, rational way of thinking and an inability to display emotions. This created difficulties for me, my partner and my family.
Wayne McMurtrie ran 1,500km as part of his journey home from war.
Running gave me hope, healing and purpose
Run for Resilience is the story of my own journey home from war and how I found hope, healing and purpose through the challenges and rewards of endurance running. Thanks to the sport, I rediscovered a connection, not only with myself, but with a community that understands the importance of camaraderie and loyalty forged through enduring long periods of shared adversity.
It was an honour to visit the regional Queensland communities and towns along our route, learn about their rich history and hear stories about veterans and their families.
During our journey, in the true spirit of collaboration, we were hosted by more than 24 RSL Sub Branches, ex-service organisations, cadet units and community organisations. We shared our story and mission with over 693 people along the route and reached thousands of people via social media.
The journey home demands resilience
This was achieved with a six-person support crew, one vehicle and no budget. I shared my journey in the hope others would benefit from my experience and find a path to resilience on their own journey home from war.
The American Psychological Association (2014) defines resilience as: “The process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress.” This definition implies a continued state of wellness and doesn’t allow for the consideration of physical or mental injuries sustained in the face of such significant events.
I believe resilience involves a reintegration of self that includes a conscious effort to move forward in an insightful and positive manner because of lessons learned from an adverse experience.
The idea of moving forward is an important component of understanding resilience, together with recognising that some of the most resilient people may struggle daily with severe post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These people choose to make an active decision not to succumb to its negative effects, because resilience – like sobriety – involves an active decision that must be frequently reconfirmed.
A focus on positive personal change
A concept gaining support when looking at the outcome of PTSD is post traumatic growth (PTG). This concept focuses on the positive personal changes resulting from coping with a traumatic event.
PTG is an enhancement to resilience and hardiness, and would serve as a method for protecting against adverse outcomes. Using the Army mantra ‘Improvise, adapt and overcome’, we can begin the reintegration of self, making a conscious effort to move forward using an insightful, integrated, positive manner because of lessons learned from an adverse experience.
Redefining our identity
I used endurance running as a tool to tell the story of the struggle my generation of young veterans face as they attempt to redefine their sense of self-worth and identity, while rediscovering their passion and purpose as they make their way back home in modern society.
My Run for Resilience highlighted not only the isolation many young veterans experience when their time in uniform ends, but the tyranny of distance that veterans living in regional Australia face in accessing services, support and employment, together with the difficulties of maintaining a connection with their military peers.
Wayne is organising additional events in 2019. Contact him for more information at email@example.com.