Recently, there has been a lot of media interest in the work of Warriors Live On, the non-profit organization founded by Eva Belanger to assist combat veterans who are suffering from the debilitating effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is our hope that these stories will help to build a broader base of support so that WLO can continue to offer its services free to more veterans that need them. Check out this interview with WLO Founder Eva Belanger in SD Voyager.
Today we’d like to introduce you to Eva Belanger.
I attended the United States Air Force Academy and graduated in 2003 with my commission to Second Lieutenant. I served overseas in Italy for three years and then deployed to Iraq in 2005-2006. After leaving the military as Captain in 2007, I returned to California and completed my graduate studies in Counseling Psychology. While working on getting licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist, I gained hours of experience while interning at San Diego Hospice, New Mindful Life Therapy Center and at the VA as a Readjustment Therapist. Eventually, I found a great job as a paid intern working at the VA.
Eva, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today?
The transition from military to civilian life offered plenty of obstacles and was a time of instability. Although rewarding, providing therapy to veterans like myself awakened some pains I had not yet managed. I realized that I had my own unresolved issues of trauma and trauma responses, so I decided to take time off to work on my PTS/PTSD symptoms.
It was then that I was invited to spend time with some yogi friends of mine to practice daily yoga, be in nature, and learn how to eat, sleep and rest again. I also learned about and engaged in regular Somatic Experiencing Therapy. It was through the combination of these integrative treatments that I started to turn the page on my own healing. My time off and these holistic therapies were instrumental in my healing process.
Believing that I had the ability to lead a business and get much-needed therapy to those in need, I vowed to help my brothers and sisters in the military to help them the best way I knew how. I co-founded and now serve as the executive director of a non-profit, “Warriors Live On” (WLO). We work to create relationships with our post 9/11 combat veterans and journey with them on their paths to healing from PTSD and also from military sexual trauma (MST). We deliver to each veteran a clinical plan that includes opportunities to get acupuncture and yoga, go on nature excursions, and provide opportunities for group therapy and training to teach them how trauma works in the body. Today I have the honor of continuing to serve the military by providing healing methodologies to veterans.
Has it been a smooth road?
The road has not been smooth by any means. In addition to battling the challenges of being a female in a male-dominated culture, I also served during the time of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy where, as a gay woman, I had to serve in silence. Being gay was not an option during the time of my service, and I had worked too hard moving up the ranks, to leave. There was much shame and guilt being something that I could not change. I was in combat, was mortared daily and had a few life-threatening experiences that changed my outlook on life, and in essence, eventually helped me realize my purpose. I first had to go through being sick with PTSD, anxiety, and depression, and then work to gain a level of stability in my heart, mind, body, and soul. I had to wrestle with my thoughts and emotions and learn from a deep spiritual place what a sense of peace actually feels like. It took a lot of work to get well enough to work on healing and guiding others.
Advice you ask? There will always be obstacles. You don’t know what you can accomplish until you fail. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something, or aren’t good enough. You go do what you believe you can do. If you do fail, it’s okay! You reached a limitation. You always have choices. Do you continue to battle the limitation or do you go another direction? Each decision is okay to make! These moments provide us direction and may be leading us to exactly where we need to be. Just make sure it’s your decision, and you feel good about it in your body, in your gut. There is a FIGHT in all of us. There is so much I have done and accomplished that people thought I could not. I only wish I could have reveled in my accomplishments a little more. Do not forget to celebrate yourself, feel it in your body, notice all the positive sensations and cherish these precious moments of accomplishment.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Warriors Live On – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
Warriors Live On provides integrative and holistic care for Post 9/11 Veterans who were in combat or who suffered any military sexual trauma.I am proud of the heart felt care we deliver to the Veterans that trust us with their physical and/or emotional needs. We serve them with heart, each individually, and with deep compassion and respect. I am proud of being able to provide therapeutic care to my fellow service men and women and the care we provide being the best care available for trauma. There are many ways to heal, but the modalities we use work to compliment and use the biology and physiology one walks into treatment with. Our bodies have an incredible ability to heal and know what to do.
I am a Somatic Experiencing Trauma Therapist that works to help bring people into the present, oriented to the given moment and using the human body to attain deactivation of the nervous system. I am specialized in trauma and approach trauma therapy with the understanding that I can help without throwing people into the center of their trauma, which often proves to be re-traumatizing. People often avoid therapy because they fear what can arise when they speak, feel and remember. Trauma can be beastly because it can feel like it’s happening again just at the mention of it. Somatic Experiencing and Organic Intelligence therapeutic models of treating trauma work with a person’s biology and have the capacity to stabilize and reorganize a person inside and out. Once stabilization occurs in the person’s body it gains resilience and empowerment; something we all want a little more of! We first need to help clients focus on what is right, and what is working, rather than what is wrong. This allows for movement to occur that can push the needle towards healing and health over time.
The difference? We need not expose our clients to trauma to heal them from trauma. It is fundamentally wrong to believe we have to suffer in order to feel better. That’s not right and does not work with how we function. There is a way to simply feel better when the better arises. Let’s get primed to see that, allow the system to settle and feel better before we start digging into what hurts; that’s the difference. My clients are finding their own strength again, finding new capacity to deal and strengthen in their systems. Veterans who have seen the world and have seen what horror people can do to others are getting better! It is incredible to see people heal and for them to recognize that it is their own bodies and minds that are doing the heavy lifting. It’s beautiful work.
Are there any apps, books, podcasts or other resources that you’ve benefited from using?
I love the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, and any of his books actually.
I am also a huge fan of YogaGlo. YogaGlo is a subscription website that offers thousands of yoga classes with various teachers, focuses, lengths and levels of difficulty.
But if you should take any recommendation I suggest, I suggest NATURE.
NATURE! Nature is, above all, my favorite thing; it’s my home and my peace. Any time spent in the natural environment is good medicine.
- Post 9/11 Veterans FREE service
- Military Sexual Trauma FREE service