12-12: In Their Own Words

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece which I actually read on Veterans Day. It appeared on the website Healthy Living. The article “What Veterans Want You to Know about PTSD” was written by Carolyn Gregoire.]

Although I ran across this piece at a political source I visit often, I have edited out political portions, choosing rather to stick mainly to PTSD itself … with one exception. I transcribed the first paragraph in its entirety because it contains Ms. Gregoire’s stated purpose for writing the piece.

Deconstructing Myths and Stereotypes

For many, this Veterans Day comes with a little extra heaviness. Just days ago, our country elected a new president who has insulted decorated war veterans and suggested that post-traumatic stress disorder is a sign of weakness.

Unfortunately, PTSD myths and stereotypes like this are all too common. An estimated 8 million Americans― and up to 31 percent of Vietnam War veterans and 20 percent of Iraq veterans―suffer from PTSD …

But still, the disorder is poorly understood, stigmatized and often misrepresented, and the negative connotations surrounding PTSD are a major part of what keeps many veterans from seeking help …

… (H)ere are five things vets wish others knew about PTSD.

Most people have no idea what veterans have been through.

Anyone who refers to veterans with PTSD as “weak” has no idea what those people have seen and experienced in a war zone, or the toll that these experiences can take on an individual―no matter how “strong” they are.

Said one combat veteran:

“…Until you kill other human beings for survival, what could you possibly say about it?” He continued, “It assaults all your senses, the smell of death and the machines that cause it…. It is incomprehensible.”

The blog PTSD: A Soldier’s Perspective aims to share stories from and inspiration for veterans struggling with after-effects of their service.

“There is disconnection between everything human and what has to be done in combat,” a vet named Scott Lee wrote on the platform …

PTSD isn’t always easy to recognize.

Symptoms of the disorder often go masked and unnoticed. War journalist Sebastian Junger, who spent months embedded with American troops in Afghanistan, wrote a Vanity Fair essay about the experience last June. In it, he highlighted his own struggle to recognize PTSD.

“I had no idea that what I’d just experienced had anything to do with combat; I just thought I was going crazy,” he wrote. “For the next several months I kept having panic attacks whenever I was in a small place with too many people — airplanes, ski gondolas, crowded bars. Gradually the incidents stopped, and I didn’t think about them again until I found myself talking to a woman at a picnic who worked as a psychotherapist. She asked whether I’d been affected by my war experiences, and I said no, I didn’t think so. But for some reason I described my puzzling panic attack in the subway. ‘That’s called post-traumatic stress disorder,’ she said.”

Much of the suffering of PTSD is silent. 

PTSD survivors often suffer in silence, trying to present a strong face to the world and not seeking help for fear of being seen as weak. A veteran who served in Baghdad … opened up about the struggle to admit to himself that he needed care.

“The few nights a week I’d get drunk and start crying inconsolably, although often silently, I tried to shake off as simple moments of weakness,” he wrote ... “I should be tough …”

“Some of the toughest guys I had ended up the worst off” he added….

PTSD doesn’t make you violent. 

A harmful stereotype about PTSD is that it leads to aggressive behavior. But research indicates that the prevalence of violence among individuals with PTSD is only slightly higher than the general population, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

… It pains me when I listen to the news and every time a veteran commits a crime (or commits suicide) it is automatically linked to and blamed on PTSD….

Recovery is possible.

One of the most damaging stereotypes about PTSD is the idea that people with the disorder are somehow broken or can’t heal.

Roy Webb, a Marine who served in Vietnam and suffered from PTSD and insomnia for four decades, told CBS News about his recovery through yoga and meditation.

“I did feel at total peace, like I hadn’t known in years. You don’t have all those thoughts flying through your mind at night,” he said.

Iraq veteran Gordon Ewell, who has overcome PTSD, sent a message of hope to his fellow veterans: Recovery is always possible, and you’re never alone.

“You may not be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel yet, but I promise it is there,” he said in an interview published in Denning’s book. “I promise you can get through anything. I also promise that there are people willing to walk with you every step of the way.”

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; three points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box, and 3) your name and address will never be shared.

 

 

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