Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - PTSD
An acknowledgement is required before we get started.
The majority of what is below is taken from a publication titled ‘Mental Health and Wellbeing After Military Service.’
It was written and prepared by the Australian Centre For Post Traumatic Mental Health for the Australian Department of Veterans Affairs.
It’s current and relevant, particularly to currently serving men and women and veterans of the most recent conflicts, and to their families.
It’s relevant for two main reasons:
1. The information applies to those who have, or will, choose to stay in the military. Even though you are staying in, the information you will find in this publication can be a “that’s me too,” and a “Parachute moment” mind opener for you.
If it is one of those moments for you, it’s really important that you know, recognise, and accept that you can go and seek help absolutely anonymously with no one else needing to know. It won't cost you anything, you can do this as a family, and it will make a massively positive difference in your life, enabling you to live a wonderful life while staying in the military, and doing what you love.
2. It provides excellent information to those who are preparing to leave, as well as those who have already left the military. It serves to make you aware that PTSD can attack many years from now if a significant circumstance changes and you and your family are confronted with a situation beyond your control.
In Australia, as a veteran, you and your family have access to help and support through the Department of Veterans Affairs, and VVCS, the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service.
All you have to do is ask, it will not cost you anything, and you can do this as a family.
There’s relevance too for everyone, no matter where in the world you live, because most of this is universal in nature. It will help guide you towards sources of information no matter where you live.
What is PTSD?
“PTSD is a psychological response to the experience of intense traumatic events, particularly those that threaten life. You may have experienced a threatening event that has caused you to respond with intense fear, helplessness, or horror. For military veterans, the trauma may relate to direct combat duties, being in a dangerous war zone, or taking part in peacekeeping missions under difficult and stressful conditions.”
“For civilians, the trauma can stem from either man made events such as physical assault, sexual assault, accidents, and witnessing the death or injury of others or natural disasters such earthquakes, floods and cyclones.”
“It is normal to experience distress when confronted with trauma, and most people recover over the first week or two, particularly with the help of caring family members and friends. However, for some people the symptoms do not seem to resolve quickly. “
“It is also common for symptoms to vary in intensity over time. Some people go for long periods without any significant problems, only to relapse when they have to deal with other major life stresses. In rare cases, the symptoms may not appear for months, or even years, after the trauma.”
From my research, it’s more prevalent than rare. I’d suggest that there’s more than meets the eye, and it’s more common than researchers think it is. Ask around amongst your colleagues. Of those closest to me from my two tours, 40% experienced the return in their fifties, and through a variety of factors.
“The reasons for this are not fully understood, but a common observation is of a veteran who, when busily immersed in a successful career and family life appears to cope quite well, only to begin to exhibit symptoms when they retire from work.”
What about me? What about you?
For me, it wasn’t retirement. it was the nearly three years of unemployment and the subsequent roller coaster ride it sent me on, until I made the decision to grab hold of life again, and found the way to turn my life around.
With all that’s happened, with all that I’ve been through, with all the bitter lessons I’ve had to learn, even in 2016, I still made a couple of really dumb decisions.
That’s why I do, and will always see myself as being “a work in progress.”
“PTSD is not an inevitable consequence of experiencing what, on the face of it, seems to be a traumatic event, such as death at close quarters in war. It is not fully understood yet as to why one person exposed to a similar, or even the same event, might go on to develop PTSD while another person does not.”
“Some risk factors have been identified as being exposed to trauma earlier in life, multiple exposure to traumatic events, an absence of social support after a trauma, and the presence of other major life stressors.”
To access the booklet, this is what you do:
Go to www.dva.gov.au
On the top toolbar go to Health and wellbeing
Scroll down to Mental Health
Click on At Ease mental health publications
You will see six buttons - Click on the 5th button Mental Health booklets
You will see ‘Mental Health and Wellbeing After Military Service’
Click on it and you will see there is a link to download it
Click on that link, and you will have the entire booklet
I’m taking a little bit more, because It’s relevant to put here before you read the booklet.
Signs and symptoms
If you have PTSD, you may often experience feelings of panic or extreme fear, resembling what was felt during the traumatic event. In PTSD there are three main types of difficulties:
Re-living the traumatic event – through unwanted and recurring memories and vivid nightmares. It can feel as though the events were happening again; this is referred to as ‘ flashbacks’, or ‘reliving’ the event.
There may be intense emotional or physical reactions, such as sweating, heart palpitations or panic, when reminded of the event.
Being overly alert or wound up – seeing danger everywhere and being ‘tuned in’ to threat. As a consequence, you may become jumpy, on edge, and feel constantly on guard. This can lead
to being overly alert or watchful and to having problems concentrating, sleeping difficulties, irritability, and becoming easily startled, particularly by noises that remind you of the traumatic event.
Avoiding reminders of the event and feeling emotionally numb – deliberately avoiding activities, places, people, thoughts or feelings associated with the traumatic event. You may also lose interest in day-to-day activities, feel cut off and detached from friends and family, or feel numb. This can lead to social isolation, a major risk factor for depression.
A health practitioner may diagnose PTSD when a number of symptoms in each of these three areas occur for a month or more, and when the symptoms lead to significant distress or impact on the ability to work and study, and on the quality of relationships and day-to-day life.
Intense anger is often associated with PTSD. (My bolding, and below too to make points on what extensive research has shown) Many veterans feel let down, abandoned, and judged by others. The power of their anger may be frightening for them and they may often feel considerable remorse afterwards. Such symptoms frequently cause major problems at work, as well as with family and friends.
My comment: Drinking heavily or over use of medication is also a major issue. Alcohol is a part of the military culture worldwide, that's just the way it is.
As I went through my nightly torture with nightmares and panic attacks, by 9.30 at night I was almost legless pissed so I could get some sleep before those bastards attacked me again.
The Zoloft I was on became a chemical crutch. Later I got caught up with what I called ‘uppers.’ Little white pills that kept me sane, and smoking 40 or more cigarettes a day to give me something to do with my hands.
There are now well recognised multiple alternative therapies for PTSD, such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensetization and Reprocessing), and Equine Therapy. We’ll explore Art As Therapy, Music as Therapy, and more.
These will be explored further, with world leading experts discussing them with us.
Stay tuned for ‘Parachute thinking” information.
The book will give you a complete roadmap to take back control of life by showing you how to conquer PTSD so it no longer controls your life, to then implement the 5 Step Life Plan with the 7 Pillars to Success.
When you do this, no matter what your current circumstance, you will be able to live the life you want for you and your loved ones. One of fulfillment, true happiness, success in the truest sense of the word, to live the life of your dreams and aspirations, whatever that might be for you.