When you were in high school, you probably read J.D. Salinger’s novel, The Catcher in the Rye, that classic tome of teenage angst. You may have even learned a little about Salinger’s strange reclusive life up in New Hampshire, how he stopped publishing in the mid-1960s, and you may love or hate his most famous character, Holden Caulfield.
But I bet that you don’t know that Salinger was a World War II veteran who landed on the beach at Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944, marking the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied northwestern Europe, and that over the next eleven months, Salinger miraculously survived some of the very worst battles recorded in the European theatre of WWII. Like so many veterans, past and present, “Salinger’s war experiences, extended service, sudden loneliness, and reluctance to express his pain converged upon him with disastrous effect. As the weeks wore on, his depression deepened and his feelings began to immobilize him” (Slawenski 135). Salinger was suffering from what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder, and he checked himself into a general hospital in Europe for treatment. After the war, Salinger also turned to meditation, yoga, nature, and gardening, possibly in a quest to quiet his troubled mind and soul (Slawenski 264).
Many veterans have been unable to find resources or understanding for their symptoms. However, “according to VA’s National Center for PTSD, about 8 million adults in the United States are dealing with PTSD during any given year” (Cramer). This mental health crisis cannot be ignored. Dr. Louanne Davis, a clinical research psychologist at the Indianapolis VA, explains: “When you have PTSD, traumatic memories and reminders constantly stimulate your nervous system, preparing you for fight or flight…This cycle can lead to recurring anxiety and stress. It’s exhausting, both mentally and physically. It also has a lot of negative impact on your immune system. And it can lead to other mental health problems, like depression” (Cramer).
The VA and other organizations are studying the effects of yoga on veterans with PTSD, combat stress, and other disorders. The results are promising! Yoga can:
- Reduce depression
- Reduce anxiety symptoms
- Increase mindfulness
- Increase sleep quality
- Reduce isolation by providing a community of practitioners
- Retrain breathing patterns
In recognition of the sacrifices of our brave veterans, BAREFOOT AND FREE has a special offer to thank you for your service:
See J.D. Salinger: A Life by Kenneth Slawenski (2010) for more information on Salinger.