Let’s just say no one’s listening to you. No one. You talk, but your words are met with blank stares, as if you said nothing. So the question comes up. If no one is listening, then why bother saying anything? Why talk? Why talk when no one’s listening? Why not stay silent?
“The most heartbreaking thing for me is to see people who haven’t felt heard,” said Warren Etheredge, founding faculty member at the Red Badge Project.
Who would know this fact about Air Force veteran Chris Rose, if he kept it all inside?
“I was ready. I was ready to end it,” Rose said. “I got to a point that I didn’t want to be alive anymore.”
Now he’s ready to live, ready to talk, ready to share what’s inside him. People are listening now. People who’ve walked in his shoes.
“We get each other,” said Roses.
He attends storytelling classes, thanks to the Red Badge Project. Founded by actor and writer Tom Skerritt, the hope is to help veterans write and help them heal from their post-traumatic stress.
“That you lived through this,” says Skerritt. “And that you have a perspective that nobody else has, which is yours alone, which is the place you write best from.”
Warren Etheredge adds, “We give them the tools to help them get those emotional moments and repressed memories out in some meaningful fashion.”
Freeing is the best word to describe that feeling for Rose, to be heard.
“I’d say this is life saving,” Rose said. “Storytelling can save your life if you let it. It’s taking everything that’s sort of locked inside you and putting it on paper.”
It’s the power of storytelling. It’s transformative.
“It’s like watching a birth,” said Etheredge. “It’s like there was this man here I met two months ago in the program, and now there’s a new person. And that’s amazing.”
The Red Badge Project is partnering with the VA’s Veterans Centers in the area to offer the storytelling classes.