The making of That Which I Love Destroys Me was a passage and though it is long done filming, hindsight keeps changing what the journey was. Now I know that though the cameras have stopped rolling the making of continues because I continue to learn and evolve.
It’s funny how different situations are when you were in them versus once you are out and they are viewed in hindsight. Even from retrospection your feelings and perceptions about those situations will change over time and as far as I can see that never ends. Everything is temporary, and I feel differently now about TWILDM than from the day we started, the middle, end, and even now every new day our documentary seems like 100 different versions to me, but more specifically: I feel like 100 different people in it. I say the above because the more time goes by, the more I learn about the process of helping yourself and helping others.
I state these two things above because these are the main lessons I have come to learn in my expedition of mental health specifically as a Veteran. The first is that it’s hard to see a situation you are in the middle of for what it is and second: mental health as a Veteran doesn’t stop when your service stops or even when you think it does. Using a personal example from the doc, most people think a competition I’m in towards the end of the film is the end of my story. I went into it as the old me and it felt great at first but I quickly learned that I was no longer that person but a new one. The old me failed and that was new for me: failure. At the time it was a catastrophe and crushed me in a way I had never been before. I failed to make it to the objective for the first time in my life. What I had to accept was that failure and the reason for it: I was no longer who I once was but a new person; and that was ok. It was all ok: the failure was the lesson and I wouldn’t be the new me without being forced from that old shell. That was the new beginning of the new me and now I know that the “making of” continues forever, the journey never ends.
I have been asked often why I did the project and the answer is simple: a friend asked me if I wanted to do a project to help veterans specifically with PTS/D. Seems simple enough right? Looking back I realize this is the problem with helping Veterans in regards to mental health: the desire to help is simple, the “how” is very hard. Honestly it took me the entire filming of the doc to figure out my own “how”. I thought when we started making it that I knew how to help others but looking back I didn’t really figure that out until we started screening it and people starting asking me questions asking for help. Ironically and accidently this taught me the seeming contradiction of helping other Veterans in regards to mental health: you must start with yourself. You must put yourself out there. You must figure out your own “how” and then talk about your own journey, about the paths you tried and failed and then the ones that worked. Talk about failure, talk about shame, and talk about anger and pain. But also talk about trying another path, about continuing the fight, and then talk about ultimately achieving the objective.
TWILDM taught me that when you talk about your own weakness and struggle people will listen. When you talk about the same or similar issues in yourself to something someone is having there is no stigma.
Mental health in the Veteran community is a silent similarity. Everyone feels the same way but everyone thinks they are the only one because no one else talks about it. The Stigma is self-imposed by our own minds, from a system that conditioned us to never show weakness and “suck it up” for the duration of our time in. But now as Veterans we are out and what I learned is that the greatest weakness a person can have is never showing or admitting any. We are so much stronger and weaker than we think. To conquer anything you must accept that as truth and not judge yourself or others on the current situation you or they are in. As I said above: its temporary. Just keep pushing towards the objective until you reach it, no matter what gets in your way; never give up. That is something else we are conditioned for. Just accept as I have learned from making TWILDM, that though you may reach the current objective for your situation, like in war, there is always another one. The mission of your mental health, that journey and the one of being a Veteran never ends.
Tyler Grey is a former US Army Special Operations soldier. He has extensive special operations combat experience from multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Grey is currently working in the entertainment industry as a military and law enforcement technical adviser working on projects that range from video games to TV as well as film.