Healing Invisible Wounds Through Poetry

By: Sandra Erickson and Steven Bates

In a world often focused on visible wounds, it is important to remember the impact of invisible scars. PTSD and depression affect countless individuals, emerging as a silent enemy, undermining their mental and emotional well-being as well as those who love and care for them. Words in the form of poetry can sometimes help navigate some of these thoughts and emotions in ways traditional therapy may not.

Steven Bates, a disabled Air Force veteran and poet, has been trying to help others by writing poetry for several years now. He wanted to write a book about his and his cohorts’ experiences in the military to share the difficulties and situations someone in the Security Police field might face. However, the book idea did not happen for several years until after his military career was over and he received the encouragement from his wife.

While in the process of getting his book published, an incident occurred that altered Steven’s reasons for publishing his poetry and his direction. Steven had a series of interactions that revealed the impact and help his poetry had on others. A friend who had been suffering in silence revealed the impact Steven’s poems made on him. These poems helped him consider alternatives to a previously destructive past. After conversations with other veterans hardened by their experiences, Steven composed poetry capturing the unsaid feelings without shame or getting too “touchy-feely,” especially for some veterans who had not been able to open up in other ways. Steven decided he wanted to try to use his poetry writing talent to help others with PTSD, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

Steven has not only written and published that first book, Reflections of a Beret, but has gone on to write several more: The ‘After’ Life, Beyond the ‘After’ Life, and More Life to Live. A fifth book, Stay Safe, Stay Strong, Stay Alive, was published for distribution free through his non-profit organization, PoemSpeak.org. Steven has published his sixth book, Mid-Life Lyrics and Lessons, which is filled with poems dealing with veterans’ and civilians’ issues, including PTSD, missing the camaraderie in military life, deployments and the challenges they bring to life and relationships, depression, adjusting to civilian life, and others.

All of Steven’s books are available on Amazon.com. If you are dealing with these invisible wounds and want to receive a book from Poemspeak.org, simply go to the website and locate the “Contact Us” tab, send your name and address, and the rest is automatic! If you are interested in helping further the poetry outreach providing these books to others, please consider donating to Poemspeak at the website as well.

By: Sandra Erickson and Steven Bates