Mental Notes with Hilary Valdez: Your inner life

Mental Notes with Hilary Valdez: Your inner life

by Hilary Valdez
Stripes Okinawa

Two sentiments in the world: Joy and pain. When we are happy, life is easy to manage. When we are in pain, life is tough. We become weak. But, sorrow passes, disappointments are lessened and replaced by joy. Hopefully, each adversity helps you to become more resilient to life’s challenges.

Strive to find appreciation in the smallest elements of life. Rejoice in the fact that you are alive. My mother used to say that pain should sharpen you, not make you dull. Then when I frowned at her, she would ask if I was “made from sugar?” That didn’t go over well with me.

A Boston University report in June estimated that 30,177 active-duty personnel and veterans of the post 9/11 wars have died by suicide, significantly more than the 7,057 service members killed in post-9/11 war operations. These high suicide rates are caused by multiple factors, some inherent to fighting in a war and others unique to America’s War on Terror framework. Partially, they are due to risks common to fighting any war: high exposure to trauma, stress, military culture, and training, continued access to guns, and the difficulty of reintegrating into civilian life.

What I learned from my own hardships is to endure every difficulty. Try and stay positive through it all; this painful moment will pass. Yet don’t deny your pain; your mind and spirit will move forward, and sorrow will diminish when the brain is tired of suffering. Life is filled with calamities; it takes courage to survive. Don’t self-isolate, this can lead to depression. Stay active: volunteer in the community. Exercise. Have a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Author David J. Danelo of “The Return” asks: “Can combat principles have a useful peacetime application? How do you go about mastering two opposite worlds? Mastery does not happen overnight. Returning soldiers must be able to see things as hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise. This is what returning requires. Accepting two contradictions as equally meritorious will bring either genius or cognitive dissonance: spiritual tranquility or suicidal despair.”

Although we may be in pain, there is something inside of us stronger than pain: The human spirit. Yet no two people will cope with pain or grief the same way. It’s personal. Some people function at a high level, some not at all, depends on your personality type. The number of losses you experience, cultural differences and more all play a factor in how we cope. Don’t judge yourself. Avoid negative self-talk as this blocks healthy grief and remorse.

Take inventory of the gifts you have to offer and what your inner guidance is asking of you. And, remain aware of what we attract through our feelings, thoughts and behaviors. Maintain a positive attitude. According to Helen Farrell. M.D., “Suicidal thoughts, even the fleeting ones, are a very serious symptom of illness. They are highly correlated with worsening health, serious self-injury, and death.” If you or a loved one are having thoughts of harming yourself have a brief counseling session. Develop a crisis response plan to manage and uncover self-destructive thoughts and intense emotions.

So, how do we bring our life back into alignment? How do we rid ourselves of stinking thinking? Hyrum W. Smith said the secret to inner peace “ lies in understanding our inner core values – those things in our lives that are most important to us-and then seeing that they are reflected in the daily events of our lives.” In other words, be yourself. What matters to you? What are you living for? You can’t erase what you experienced, but you can realign your attitude and perception as to what you experienced. What did you learn?

Nothing will help you if you don’t have the motivation to act. Make a small achieveable goal and break it into small steps. Don’t stay in bed or repeat, poor me, poor me, pour me a drink. Success is a matter of discipline. Ask your-self: “Do I want to be sick or healthy?” According to Harriet Lerner, Ph.D. “We are better able to deal with the hard stuff if we’ve already begun the process of coming to terms with the unpredictability and unfairness of life in our calmer moments.”

Hilary Valdez is a retiree living in Japan. He is an experienced Mental Health professional and Resiliency Trainer. Valdez is a former Marine and has worked with the military most of his career and most recently worked at Camp Zama as a Master Resiliency Trainer. Valdez now has a private practice and publishes books on social and psychological issues. His books are available on Amazon and for Kindle. Learn more about Valdez and contact him at or at

Subscribe to our Stripes Pacific newsletter and receive amazing travel stories, great event info, cultural information, interesting lifestyle articles and more directly in your inbox!

Follow us on social media!

Facebook: Stars and Stripes Pacific
Flipboard: Stars and Stripes Community Sites

Looking to travel while stationed abroad? Check out our other Pacific community sites!
Stripes Japan
Stripes Korea
Stripes Guam

Related Content

Recommended Content

Around the Web