The identification and reinforcement of values, social skills and anger management techniques along with realizing warning signs and stress management training strategies enables veterans to realize a better life. Without integrating these skill sets into the neurological pathways, the heavily imprinted traumatic axonal entrenchment supersedes conscious thinking processes and the mind seeks behavior reminiscent of the initial trauma. The hyper states of PTSD once engaged result in the continuation of the dominate neurological processes.
A deeper apprehension and awareness has to come forward for our veterans to get the help they need.
I have learned that I do not have to let PTSD define me, I now have a skill set and the tools with definite boundaries to interact with significant others and society. This did not come easy, first the battle within to admit to the need for help when I believed that I could handle anything due to my training and experiences.
I was in a drug and alcohol treatment center affiliated with the VA for 20 months from 2005-2007. During this time I had classes in behavioral and cognitive restructuring at the treatment center along with boundaries identification, anger management, group therapy, individual counseling, conflict resolution skills, and peer accountability in a structured environment. I was also am working a twelve step program of recovery and learned spiritual principles and a relationship with a higher power.
During this time I also found a resource to do private therapy outside of the VA system and worked on my childhood issues for 18 months. The therapist that I worked with was a great influence on my decision to become a therapist myself. I trusted the man and he was empathic and I found trust and communion with him.
In conjunction with all of the above I was receiving individual therapy at the VA with a PhD Psychologist for PTSD along with group therapy for 6 months, where I learned values identification and skill sets for reducing anxiety. Cognitive restructuring and anxiety reduction I did independently and separately with different organizations. I read numerous books on PTSD, depression, OCD, cognitive and behavioral psychology and Buddhism.
For the first year I was prescribed colonopin for at the treatment center. I was literally insane, was almost kicked out of the program three times, full of anger, hostility, and self pity.
It took 18 months and trying 9 different antidepressants medications before I found one that worked the best for me. I now take 200 mg of wellbutrin two times a day for dysthymia, omeprazole 20 mg twice a day for acid reflux, 100 mg of fluvoxamine once before bedtime for OCD and PTSD, 1600 mg of gabapentin for restless leg syndrome and somataform pain and finally 400 mg of modafinil in the morning for fatigue.
Oh yeah, and I also found patience along the way. I learned that meditation, praying and a spiritual connection was important to my recovery. I found through several resources the holistic healing approach was the key to my success.
Then comes then the conflicting bureaucracy bullshit. I tried to get help 7 times over 14 years, the VA's set up triggers the veteran who has yet to acquire the skill set to talk about combat issues. But to get a diagnosis they made me talk extensively in detail about my wartime activities. My experience was I had to acquire a diagnosis before I could receive the help that I needed.
I had told the VA about the abuse I received when I was a child and they used that to reduce my service connected compensation for PTSD. I would suggest to have clients separate their childhood issues for private therapy and use the VA for PTSD therapy.
The VA is just now beginning to set up a model for treating PTSD patients, the program I was in had started in 2004. There is not a complete treatment model yet for veterans and soldiers for PTSD. We are at the beginning and behind the curve in helping and seeing our veterans to a new and healthy life.
I am now in my junior year in the Kent School of Social Work at the University of Louisville and will complete my masters in 2011. My plan is to work at the VA and get experience in working with veterans and specialize in combat and trauma therapy. Eventually I would like to open my own longterm treatment program for veterans with PTSD.
I hope some of this helped and I understand the dilemma that you face.