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Kingston veteran overcomes PTSD through meditation

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WATCH: Matthew Tofflemire says iRest meditation has helped him heal from his roles in the military and fire fighting – Nov 6, 2019

Matthew Tofflemire says as he looks back at his life, he started dealing with trauma at a very young age — trauma he’s now trying to heal from by embracing the practice of Integrative Restoration Mediation, known more commonly as iRest Meditation.

He says his story starts with his father, who was a member of the military deployed to the Gulf War in the 90’s.

Wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps and with a desire to help people, Tofflemire joined a  volunteer search and rescue group in his hometown just outside of Halifax, N.S.

That same year, at just 16, he helped recover the 229 passengers and crew members who had perished in Swiss Air flight 111, when it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean southwest of the Halifax International Airport.

“When I look back, that’s a huge trauma” Tofflemire told Global News.

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READ MORE: Edmonton police officer’s PTSD journey featured in book on overcoming adversity

At 17, Tofflemire joined the Canadian Forces and shortly after Sept. 11, 2001 Tofflemire found himself deployed to the Persian Golf on two separate tours. He was sent on his third and final tour to Afghanistan several years later.

“I didn’t want to appear weak so I just held everything in” said the 37 year old Veteran.

“It wasn’t until seven months into my third tour — into Afghanistan — in 2008 that everything just broke down” Tofflemire says.

After Afghanistan, Tofflemire says his PTSD injury really took a hold of his life but he struggled to find help.

In 2012 he retired from the military and became a Ottawa fire fighter. Four years into that career, Tofflemire says he reached his limit.

“There was a fire in Ottawa where there was two young children trapped, our crews rescued them but it was … it filled my coffee cup” he says.

READ MORE: Report finds first responders experiencing PTSD rates similar to combat veterans

Tofflemire went off work and soon met Bill McLaughlin, a clinical psychotherapist and certified iRest instructor.

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McLaughlin has been working with meditation, helping veterans and first responders for the last five years.

“Yoga Nidra is a guided meditation” said McLaughlin.

“So you just follow the voice. For those of us who have PTSD or a lot of trauma It’s hard to concentrate. When we can let go of our own thoughts and can follow the voice it’s a much easier practice” he says.

McLaughlin says the meditation was developed to help heal individuals from trauma, physically, spiritually and psychologically.

“It goes through the 10 levels of consciousness but the main thing is getting into that meditative state by scanning and sensing the body” McLaughlin says.

“When we sense and feel our body we can’t think and that’s what helps us slide out of our overthinking mind and into a deep meditative state” he says.

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Tofflemire says the mediation along with his yoga practice has helped him on his journey of healing and has changed his life.

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“When I came back from Afghanistan in 2008, I was on six different types of pharmaceutical medications …

“And when a fire truck goes by with its lights and sirens, I don’t pull over on the side of the road and break down crying feeling the shame and guilt of not doing that work anymore” Tofflemire says.

READ MORE: Okanagan RCMP officer walks 239 kilometres for PTSD awareness

The Kingston veteran says iRest has taught him how to find an inner source of peace and happiness in times of anxiety and stress.

Tofflemire says he still has that desire to help others and is now training to become a certified iRest mediation instructor himself.

“It’s just my way of giving back and I’m not putting myself in harm’s way anymore but I think truly, I’ll be helping people a lot more” Tofflemire says.

The student will now become the teacher and will assist McLaughlin in a 6-week meditation series that starts next week, geared to military personal, veterans and first responders who may be dealing with PTSD.

READ MORE: Shediac’s Able Sail offers therapeutic sailing for people with PTSD

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McLaughlin says PTSD is a psychological injury.

“It’s not a mental illness” he said

McLaughlin says for more information on iRest mediation and the upcoming Kingston series you can visit the iRest Institute website.

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