An Army veteran details in a new book how walking away “from the chance of a lifetime can be the greatest decision of all.”
Jason Kander, a former Army intelligence officer, was a sought-after politician who some touted as the next Democratic presidential nominee. When he withdrew and publicly announced he was going to work on his post-traumatic stress, it was a shock to everyone. In a new memoir released this year, “Invisible Storm: A Soldier’s Memoir of Politics and PTSD” takes readers behind the scenes through his journey of healing.
Though this wasn’t Kander’s first book, he says “Outside the Wire” only gave a small peek.
“This was much harder to write because the first book was much lighter fare. The first book is almost whimsical, comparatively. With this book the material is much heavier,” he said. “I wanted to take the reader in and out of scenes along the way, because the book is not a political memoir — it’s meant to be a mental health memoir.”
To authenticate the experience for the reader, he brought himself back to his mindset before therapy. Just revisiting those thought processes and experiences was hard for him, he says.
“Emotionally the part that was harder to write was just the chapter in Afghanistan; just because for three weeks I was running inside that chapter,” Kander added.
“Invisible Storm,” a New York Times bestseller, shows the mind of a warrior battling PTSD and suicidal thoughts for more than 10 years. The vulnerability on the pages is raw, honest and valuable for the world to step into.
“The most surprising thing is how many people have read it and felt — even if they don’t have some particular trauma — they found it useful in just dealing with living in 2022,” he said. “A lot of people have told me that they find it useful just for digesting the news cycle and national trauma the country has gone through over the past few years. What has probably meant the most … has been the reactions of people who know somebody who’s experienced trauma or has experienced trauma themselves, and the book has helped them realize they’d be a good candidate for getting help.”
A survey revealed 75% of post-9/11 veterans have experienced PTSD, according to Pew Research Center. Kander says he hopes his words can provide a source of encouragement for those who identify with his story.
“The biggest reason I wanted to write this book is because I wanted people to know that post traumatic growth is an achievable thing. And that getting help is worth it,” Kander said. “When I was writing it, when I thought about my audience, I just thought about myself 14 years ago. If this book had existed when I first came home from Afghanistan, I would have read it and it would have prompted me to go get help then instead of waiting a decade.”
He was on track to become the mayor of Kansas City and contemplated a run for presidency when he backed out to seek help, with the support of Veterans Community Project. It was a shock to everyone because from the outside looking in, he had it all: married to his high school love, riding high on political favoritism and successful career.
But that’s the crux of it all, he says, PTSD is a silent and invisible battle fought internally.
“To me, it’s more about convincing people that getting help actually helps. Because when I think about the way PTS is portrayed, either in the news but especially in film, it is always what I call PTSD porn; it’s voyeurism. And it is almost never portrayals of people post treatment — even though that is actually really common,” Kander said. “The vast majority of people who go and get help and commit to the program, get to the point where PTS doesn’t disrupt their life. And they get better — but we don’t hear about that.”
It’s his mission to change the narrative around PTSD. For him, getting help and healing began to feel like a weight coming off his chest.
“I remember being really afraid of losing that progress and really being very sensitive to any indications that I was,” he added.
For Kander, he credits therapy and maintaining a healthy lifestyle through fitness and good eating habits with maintaining his mental wellness.
“My mental health is tied to my physical health and vice versa,” he explained.
He’s also made it a point to be present in the moment he’s living and if he can’t be, he looks inward to discover why he can’t. These days he doesn’t struggle with articulating what’s bothering him or processing through unsettling memories that resurface. Another go-to for him has been not making everything about work and finding a true outlet.
“I play competitive baseball and I coach my son’s little league team,” Kander said. “In the past it was all my professional life. Everything I was doing was my professional life. It was either my career or it was me reading about things related to my career. I didn’t have any of these pursuits. And so, this has really been helpful for me.”
All royalties from the sales of “Invisible Storm” go back into serving his brothers and sisters through Veterans Community Project. Kander joked if people are on the fence about buying the book, do it anyway because it’ll go to a good cause.
“I hope the book finally offers that portrayal of post traumatic growth,” he said. “I think that there are a lot of people who, it’s not the stigma that is stopping them from getting help. It’s the fear of it being a terminal diagnosis and it’s not.”