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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Denial is a reality where PTSD is concerned. The four traumatic stressors of DSMIII and IIIR were pretty well laid out: 1. serious threat to your life or physical integrity, 2. serious threat or harm to children, spouse, or other close relatives or friends (and no one is closer than battle buddies), 3. sudden loss or destruction of home or community (like being medevacked), 4. seeing another person who has been seriously injured or killed (including the enemy).
This series of relatively descriptive terms has been replaced in the newer DSM's with a numbing ritual (like "It don't mean nothin'" in Vietnam) which goes something like this: "The person has experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others."
Read that over a few times.
What does it MEAN?
How can some kid in a white coat, no matter how good his or her motives, with his or her brand new MD or PhD know about blood and shit and burning flesh, or the agony of gang rape, or the devastation of losing your best friend from that bit of repetitious sleep inducing drivel, I mean prose?
Being put to sleep helps with denial.
Another reality of PTSD is simply the reality of having it. No one knows it is normal to be affected by what you live through. The statistics conveniently make you feel like it is not common and you won't get it. If you get it you feel like you shouldn't, and like you should be over it. You feel like you are nuts but you are not telling anyone, so you get grumpy and spend a lot of energy and effort trying to appear normal. Your spouse complains and the war at home starts. Sometimes this leads to divorce and isolation. It is not easy. It is not fun. Nobody does it for the money.
There is also the reality for families. A veteran's numbness leads to the discounting of our everyday problems which makes us feel unimportant and worthless. If the vet blows up a lot we are afraid and we feel worthless, because if our nearest and dearest treat us like dirt, we must be dirt, right? If the vet can't concentrate and doesn't seem to listen to anything we say, more proof of our lack of value. It is a losing battle to feel good about yourself when your vet is saying if you just were thinner, or kept the house cleaner, he'd have no problems. (I am sure husbands of PTSD vets get parallel crap.) It can turn into a downward spiral. Bob and I were on it from 1967 to about 1980 when we found out what PTSD was and that we weren't the only nut jobs. It was such a relief.
Another reality is that there is help. It is not easy to get it because the VA is overwhelmed. There are Vet Centers. There are Veterans Service Officers to help with claims. Be sure to use one and keep appealing. There are other services for vets provided by all sorts of organizations. Use Google. Service dogs, yoga, meditation, all sorts of things can help you calm down and have a pause button.
The pause button is what we all need when dealing with PTSD so we can make our relationships a sanctuary instead of a battleground. If someone like me, who used to scream and sulk and rescue and rant, and I didn't even have PTSD, can change, so can you, whether you are a vet or spouse. It is not easy, but it is your job, to change yourself to be the kind of person you want to be. It is a choice: self-righteous or compassionate? Right or happy? Kind or cruel? Like I said, it is not easy. Change is not fast. Small changes are more effective in the long run than a giant leap forward. I wrote 42 plus articles on that which are available at
More tomorrow.

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