Topic RSS | Reply to topic
Author Post

Attack37


Member

Posted Fri Nov 28th, 2008 3:18am Post subject: PTSD... it's many facades
Stephen,

I have not read your literary works, and only recently became aware of your web videos.

I would like to comment that many of me and my fellow soldiers, all volunteers through the US National Guard, have found a rather serious side affect to our combat experiance that is affecting our relationships. We have found that our ability to 'feel' most any emotion other than anger or hatred is diminished. Telling our spouses and other loved ones "I love you" is about as emotional as saying "Would you get me a beer?".

I mention this because it is something that many soldiers, I suspect, are or will be affected by. I have found that the first step in curing yourself is to identify the problem and letting other know so that they can help you over come it.

I understand that you may not be able to reply to this... but I am also aware that soldiers of allmost any nation may experiance this and can give me some good advice. The added complication is that I am facing another deployement soon.

Thankyou for you time.

Back to top

michael


Member

Posted Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 3:50pm Post subject: PTSD... it's many facades
Attack 37,

i'm not mr fry (well that's obvious) but just wanted to say that you & all other soldiers, i've been so concerned for you all over the past few years.

thank you so much for talking about it.

just wanted to tell you i'm concerned for you all and really want to know what us civilians can do to help? i guess there may not be an easy answer, but want to do whatever i can to help.

"HELLO I'M TACTILE !" is an anagram of my name

Back to top

Nitro


Member

Posted Thu Dec 4th, 2008 1:34am Post subject: PTSD... it's many facades
I've had some pm comm with attack regarding this subject, because of my own experience. It's very difficult to effectively explain the subtle layers that are there, and the not so subtle, which are coined as 'PTSD".

I found reconnection with my life was difficult. For those returning from the theater of war...well, it's just a mind fuck really trying to reconnect to who you were versus who you now are.

Civilian reaction tended to swing wildly between ecstatic and positive support to hostility and questions that begged answers requiring a reliving of experiences that, for me, are better left a closed chapter in a book. And there's no way, absolutely no way, to enlighten civi's to what is sometimes a very surreal experience.

If I had any suggestions, it would be a request for sensitivity. I had people asking me questions that I either didn't want to answer or simply could not. And some questions struck me as morbid and voyeuristic, stemming I think from the influnce of fictional war movies. ( e.g. "It must've been like X, right?" ) and I had people asking me how many dead I saw and how many people I killed. Please do not ask those sorts of questions, no matter how curious you may be. Because they, as I mention above, require a reliving of an experience simply to satisfy a passing curiosity. And the answers really won't "put you there".

It's difficult to reconnect with family and friends. You feel different, you are different, and you won't ever be the same person again. It takes Time and it takes longer for some than others. There's no set 'rule' for how effective 'debriefing' will be. For me, initially, I felt like a foreigner around everyone. This is where words fail to convey some experiences, reactions, and perceptions. You come back extremely "hyper-alert" and that in itself took a long time to decrease in intensity.

I suppose the bottom line is just understand that the returning soliders, all those women and men, are also individuals who process the experiences differently. The change is permanent and the readjustment takes Time. The emotional landscape is complex and though you may see a smile, understand that underneath is that kind of sense of Numbness that attack mentions. It's noticeable to loved ones and often they don't know how to handle it. It's like they are understanding for just a little bit, then want you to act as you did before you went to war. How can you?

Sorry to be so verbose. My own experience ever lingers but with distance and time I am able to, little by little, retrospect without feeling incredibly awkward and uncomftorable. And my hope is that all returning brothers and sisters in arms will find their way wihtout being dragged down or spiral into self-destruction ( which is very, very common btw, when reorienting to a civilian life again comes in bits and slow drips...).. Anyway...I hope i wrote something even a little bit helpful.

Really? Wow.

Back to top

Attack37


Member

Posted Thu Dec 4th, 2008 4:34am Post subject: PTSD... it's many facades
I'm glad that there are people like Nitro who can express things in a way that I have a hard time understanding myself. Since the change happened to me and over a period of time, alot of it I don't realize. After all, it is how I adapted to staying alive. I guess that I have to realize that I will never be the same person. My whole look on life has been changed. I can only come with ways to cope and find a new way to live life.

I am coming to the conclusion that this change has ended my marriage. I don't look at her the same anymore and I feel devoid of emotion around her. It was explained to me that my PTSD makes me an excellent soldier, but a horrible husband and person in society. One thing that bugs the people that know me is that I have no emotion towards the lives I did take, and that I am fine with it. I see nothing wrong with what I did. I just wonder if I am one step away from being a "serial killer". Is the knowledge and threat of punishment enough to keep me from killing for the adrenaline rush that it gives... don't get me wrong, I don't like killing... but the rush of the fire fight, the knowledge that my choices are critical...each one of them. In a way I miss the thrill of a combat patrol, and the almost percievable smell of fear and excitement that I get from friend and foe alike,

Anyway... guess I just needed to vent some more.

Back to top

Nitro


Member

Posted Thu Dec 4th, 2008 3:00pm Post subject: PTSD... it's many facades
Attack, the military has spent millions and millions of dollars training people to kill. And I mean specifically and directly.

There is never, ever a guarantee for the military, even with years of training, that any individual soldier will absolutely and with 100% certainty pull the trigger when it's most necessary. Decades of R&D into human responses in stressful situations and with one focus, for instnace, being to get one over that brief pause when seeing a human at the other end of the cross hairs. That pause gets their own soldiers killed, not the enemy. So, long story short, the training is by and large very effective. There are occasions when solidiers 'choke' - and the military knows that that will happen but statistically they can be assured that the majority will reflexively use their training under stress.

Attack, you're no serial killer. You're a solider in downtime after living intensely for days into weeks and weeks into months. The adrenaline rush you miss is something the human brain becomes addicted to easily ( extreme sports junkies will attest to this ). It gets used to and misses the surge. And, btw, you did the job you were trained to do. Not doing so, as you know, can get yourself and your other folks killed. These are some of the bottom line issues you have to contend with and guilt has no place in the heat of the moment. Leave it for talking heads to prattle on about as they have the leisure to do so.

You are 'right headed', so to speak, enough that you're trying to be objective about what you're going through, which is a really good thing. It's not always achievable, but just that you're willing to think about any of it and be honest about the positive and negative and the grey zones as well, bodes well for you.

I'm sorry to hear about your marriage. My own relationship ended not very long after I came home. I was a mess really, but unfortunately didn't realize how much for a long time. I kind of figured things out as I went along and it wasn't always very pretty. The debriefing was so minimal and the military, at least during my stint, was not exactly gentle about what any of us may have been coming home with. There was a kind of internal 'denial' built into the whole machine. I mean, they'd pretend there was some channel for support but if you used it, it was generally understood your career would suffer

I don't know if you intend to retire from the military or what, but if you do not and know when you're DOS is, then it's not a bad idea to start taking your future into your own hands by planning the best you can what sort of things you feel like you'll need to do to better readjust to life out of uniform. Design yourself a soft place to land. And if your marriage is, even a little bit, worth saving to you then perhaps the two of you going to a counselor who specializes in PTSD will be helpful. Even if it doesn't save the marriage, it might make the dissolving of it easier for both of you to move on from. I know that sounds slightly cynical, but i'm disinclined to sugar coat what is best addressed directly and openly. Try, the best you can, not to make any unilateral decisions.

And, vent any time you feel like it brother. Sucking it up might work in the field, but at a certain point it becomes ineffective and that's when you're better off blowing the cork and getting it off your chest. Writing helps a lot..a journal or a blog or something like that...don't fear your darker thoughts, they'll pass and, they're just thoughts after all. The generally only become action through a choice. So, I'd pay more attnetion to choices actually made than thoughts that flutter through in any days hours...just an idea. It might not feel like it sometimes, but you're going to be OK. Most tunnels have openings at the other end or overhead. You'll find them

Really? Wow.

Back to top

ClareBear


Moderator

Posted Fri Dec 5th, 2008 12:33pm Post subject: PTSD... it's many facades
This is one of the things I love about this place.

Back to top

michael


Member

Posted Fri Dec 5th, 2008 5:39pm Post subject: PTSD... it's many facades
Thanks Nitro for helping me understand.

I've never wanted to ask a soldier about combat experiences, but in other ways I wish I could know what's going on inside. I am usually a very empathetic person, but i know i could never REALLY know what another person has gone through or is going through inside.

and that shows up most with returning soldiers or people who've had some trauma. there's no way i could know what it's like, and that makes me feel like i cannot help, and wish i was more useful to you.

i only say that, cause maybe that's why people ask you questions? maybe they are just curious, but maybe they also feel bad that they'll never really share in your feelings (or numbness) the way another soldier would?

A lot of the advice Nitro is giving Attack37 is similar to what a counselor told me when i had this crazy depression/restless time that involved hallucinations, etc...(it didn't feel like how some folks' depression feels, it felt like something was trying to kill me, and it came with some hypervigilance)

especially this:
and, vent any time you feel like it brother. Sucking it up might work in the field, but at a certain point it becomes ineffective and that's when you're better off blowing the cork and getting it off your chest. Writing helps a lot..a journal or a blog or something like that...don't fear your darker thoughts, they'll pass and, they're just thoughts after all. The generally only become action through a choice. So, I'd pay more attnetion to choices actually made than thoughts that flutter through in any days hours...just an idea. It might not feel like it sometimes, but you're going to be OK. Most tunnels have openings at the other end or overhead. You'll find them

so while i am not a soldier, i can tell you that those things are very true. it's a part of many of our lives that we have all sorts of thoughts that we wish we didn't have OR that don't match our environment and those around us...it's disorienting but it doesn't mean those thoughts are in control of who you are and what you do.

i'm real glad you came by here Attack37, and I hope to see you around on other threads. We joke around some on other threads, you probably noticed...

"HELLO I'M TACTILE !" is an anagram of my name

Back to top

Nitro


Member

Posted Fri Dec 5th, 2008 11:22pm Post subject: PTSD... it's many facades
Thanks Nitro for helping me understand.

I've never wanted to ask a soldier about combat experiences, but in other ways I wish I could know what's going on inside. I am usually a very empathetic person, but i know i could never REALLY know what another person has gone through or is going through inside.

and that shows up most with returning soldiers or people who've had some trauma. there's no way i could know what it's like, and that makes me feel like i cannot help, and wish i was more useful to you.

i only say that, cause maybe that's why people ask you questions? maybe they are just curious, but maybe they also feel bad that they'll never really share in your feelings (or numbness) the way another soldier would?


Michael, I agree that people ask questions because they are curious. I had hoped I'd mentioned that previously. I mean, that's behind any question isn't it? lol Well, one hopes anyway...

When I very first returned I met some folks and had begun establishing a friendship with them. The wife asked me a few very direct questions after her husband left the room. I ignored the questions but enthusiastically began recalling the 'rush' of war and blarted out, to my regret, that "War is beautiful." Looking back, of course I can understand how bizarre a statement that sounds. And she certainly reacted to that with all the negative emphasis a reasonable person might. But at the time, that surrealness was at the forefront of my mind and it was that aspect which inspired my conversation. I mention this only to give an example of the difference between first learning to re-adapt to civilian life versus military life. It's a long process and I guess that's the position that I'm speaking from.

I think in any case, if people are patient, they will realize that people will reveal themselves given the time. I think in the case of veterans there are so many various things influencing certain coping mechanisms. It's easy to swing between being very defensive when queried to feeling quite OK about answering. People will reveal themselves under the right conditions. Vets are no different except, perhaps, that they have very effective 'programming' aka 'training' working on them as well. We're trained to keep our mouths shut, to endure trials to our last bit of sweat, to protect, to be aware...you don't just lose that and learning to shut it off requires time and distance and the measurement of those isn't the same for every veteran of a war. Anyway, it's all very complex but you're right that general experiences of pain, sorrow, trauma etc can be experienced by just about anybody. That's why I tried to intimate that PTSD is a kind of 'blanket term' to cover a broad spectrum of people, however, the events and experiences that cause PTSD ( lord i'm starting to hate that acronym X-D ) are different for war vets as much as they are for someone who's suffered abuse, for instance.

In the case where you might come across a vet in real life that you sense is locked up inside, your empathy is great so long as it's not pushing to understand too quickly. Does that make sense? I retain some anonymity in this forum, but in my daily life I never mention that I"m a vet to new people I meet. Even to this day I know with a fair amount of accurate predictability that it is far easier on me not to mention it at all. Mentioning it complicates almost immediately any conversation or introduction. Even my family doesn't really have a clue. So A37's remarks about feeling dislocated from loved ones is not very unusual. And I that's not a minimization, it's a confirmation of the reality that it's not just being in and surviving the war itself that leaves you in certain states of mind, but also the readjustment of coming home. Which is a thing that the military does not train you for. It's just not that kind of 'culture'. They do just enough of it to say they did. In comparison to the expense and time of training people to destroy property and kill other people, the 'you're going home now' briefs are a burp.

This is all some convaluted way, I suppose, of trying to help you understand and answer your question about how you can help. I guess all you can really do is, if you're friends, be their friend. If they start talking just let them talk and if you ask a thing and the body language and all says,"Back off.." then do that too. And it sounds to me like you'd make a good one and the vets in your town would be well off to know you :

Really? Wow.

Back to top

michael


Member

Posted Sat Dec 6th, 2008 8:12pm Post subject: PTSD... it's many facades
thanks Nitro, that all makes a lot of sense. especially saying not to try to understand too fast. sometimes i need to remind myself that it's ok to not totally understand someone else or how they feel...(well, otherwise, where would be the journey in getting to know someone...but also, that's not really how a friendship starts and not really what every friendship needs.)

you did mention the curiousity thing, i just wasn't sure if you meant a sort of morbid curiousity or curious to know more about you. your story about your friend's wife kinda explained for me what you meant.

i hope you both find some good friends here. Nitro, i'd already felt like i was kinda getting to know you, cause you make me laugh and i'm thankful for it, and i remember most of your posts

"HELLO I'M TACTILE !" is an anagram of my name

Back to top

Nitro


Member

Posted Sat Dec 6th, 2008 9:47pm Post subject: PTSD... it's many facades
You're very kind Michael, thank you :-//

And now that I've more than gobbled up A37's thread, I'm going turn the mic back over to him, or anyone else who cares to comment.

Really? Wow.

Back to top

IdeaCollector


Member

Posted Sun Dec 7th, 2008 3:54am Post subject: PTSD... it's many facades
*big hugs to all* for helping explain things. I was diagnosed with PTSD (of the abusive relationship kind) over a year ago and I can totally vouch that the experiences are not the same at all.

My grandfather had what I will call "legit" PTSD from WW2 and up until his death in September he would still have combat nightmares.

I on the other hand in my PTSD feel feelings still but none of them are good and none of them have reason. Like I cannot attend a film by myself without being medicated for panic. It's all very different.

And my hats off to those who now deal with PTSD as a result of military service. It's a service I can't do and if I'm honest wouldn't do. So thanks for everything.

I used to be EternalStudent on these forums until the switch over. So don't get excited..I'm not someone new and exciting. I'm just me :P

Back to top

gadgetgirl


Member

Posted Sun Dec 7th, 2008 10:20am Post subject: PTSD... it's many facades
Thankyou for your insight Nitro/Attack. I must confess to a certain amount of curiousity myself in military matters. Killing someone else (esp a complete stranger) is thankfully not a natural instinct and I know soldiers training is partially about desensitising them to the idea. How can you then resensitise someone without hurting them? I really wish more help was given to deal with PTSD.

A few years back I was in the UAE where you can just walk into a gun range and hire a gun for an afternoon. I fired a hand gun and a shotgun and it terrified me, just the thought that I could take someones life in a flash, barely without a thought was enough to have me racing back to the clubhouse and vowing not to pick one up again.

That would be me.

Back to top

paigetheoracle


Member

Posted Sun Feb 8th, 2009 11:32am Post subject: PTSD... it's many facades
Mutual self-help is what you are getting here and need. How can the military rebuild your lives when its only purpose is to destroy? Of course tender feelings are beyond you - again the situation destroys them, rather than allows them out.

As for the experience - to use a banal analogy, you're never the same person whenever you go anywhere else - your experiences ensure this, hence people require time to get back into the swing of things after a holiday. When Vietnam veterans returned from war a lot went to live out in the wilds and were right to do so - not only because their quick reactions could have killed members of their families but because they needed to get away from all stimulation that would set them off like a live grenade, pin pulled, resting on a rock. As for it being bizarre - watch 'Oh what a Lovely War' or 'What did you do in the War Daddy' by Richard Lester and starring John Lennon.

There is a shamanic practice that follows on from what the Vietnam vets did spontaneously and that involves being virtually buried alive for a period of time (nothing to distract you from the outside world and only your own inner life to illuminate your life). There are also things like noise cancelling headphones and sleep masks as a poor substitute, if you're living in the middle of a city but peace and quiet is what you really need (Monasteries or retreat centres are good too but are not permanent solutions, unless you can get to live there - starting your own communities run by your charitable institutions, set up by you personally (ex-soldiers) would also help).

Back to top

Anonymous


Unregistered

Posted Mon Feb 16th, 2009 2:02am Post subject: PTSD... it's many facades
Attack37 and Nitro, your dialogue has vast dignity, if I may say.

I am sorry that you and your colleagues have had to bear these costs on my behalf as a UK national.

Chris

Back to top