April 19, 2016

Fear and Loathing in Iraq

Fear and Loathing in Iraq

...see if I can remember
hold on..

Act One:

We gotta address
the silence,
taking us out.

It’s an honor
to mediate
the psychology
of death.

To witness
an
atrocity
is a
life sentence
of
suicidal thinking.

To atone,
live,
die
or share.

Act Two:

Boom!

Driving under
the hump of night,
streaking red lights
across the sky.

Rocket plum-trails
flung,
strings of clouds
illuminated by flights
of fire.

Over the oval
periscope
night vision screen,
white interior
tan armored can.

Ordnance ringing
shock waves
and
reason escape
toward
my steel embrace.

Make a living
they said,
a button and bomb
war
you say.

Not by my witness.

On the
ragged edges
of thought deception.
With
canyons
of memories
gone.

Over 24,000 dead.
In a
three day
glory orgy
massacre.

An angry
long-range rocket
glare.
Depleted uranium rounds
beware.

Act Two, Scene Two:

Public relations
Downplayed
the ground war.
Oral history
Against
the
idiot box
repeaters.
Sling back
my pain;
hung, slung and sprung
for you.

With a twisted retort
they say,
“...you know,
smart bombs
bursting in air...”
On soldiers
without a chance,
eating bags
of rotten tomatoes
and not enough rice,
or ammo
for a fight.

100 hour ground war,
Infantry
pointing tanks
to kill.
A Saudi oil storm
and the
oligarchy
holds our hands.

Keep it in the ground,
or genocide the world.

Act Three, Take Two:

172 hours
straight,
to witness
a three-day
massacre.

We
were out of range,
They
were not.
On the edge
of insanity.

Little green men
running around
on fire
in my periscope.

Part Two, Scene Three:

Infantry
guiding our tanks
into place
to fire upon
tomato eaters.

Best path
for a contingent
of
Apache's and Warthogs
strafing,
pinning them down.

Apaches out front
raining hellfire
And a
50 cal machine gun
Hammering
little green stick men
into the ground.

Part..:

I cannot fucking remember
until waking dreams
and nightmares.
Scanning sectors
and
best kill boxes.

So many
lost
to the edge.
An alternative reality
next to you.

A Lost Scene;

Where I was
when you asked,
"...you okay?"

“Yeah...I'm okay.”

Another gurgling
conversation
I'm missing.
They don't want
To hear
why
cluster bombs
are bad.

Private Dumbass
and I were walking
through burned out
hulls.
Got my section covered
when he says,
"Hey, look over here!"

With his leg
cocked back
attacking my eye.
I grabbed him
slamming him
in my sector.

A
shiny can
with
Eight spider legs
sprawling out.

Cool!

I'd wanna kick it too,
if I were two.
He thanked me
after I said,
"You almost got us
both killed!"

Epilogue:

I am a container
of that which splintered
singularly,
forcing the aperture
through which
I find my reality.

We tell a soldier or veteran
of war
Welcome Home
Because
the battle
never leaves us,
as we return
from conflict
every day of our lives.

My shit
still tries
to kill me,
my war
1991.

Scott A. Lee © 2016

#veteransuicide  #22aDay  #MoreLike55aDay  #RaiseAREDflag

March 9, 2016

PASP on Letting Go of PTSD

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forward. ~ Søren Kierkegaard

If suggesting that letting go was actually the best and easiest option, then the world be a different place and I would of “fixed” myself long ago. Might as well hand the novice a boomerang in a shaming pose and quietly say, “Throw it.”

I have been angry for most of my life and all too often I take it out on people close to me. When my mother was alive, she carried the brunt of my rage. I did not know why but back then it felt like she was the source of it all. It probably kept me out of prison. On some level she may have known, and took my verbal abuse. Betty was an anger sink for me, keeping me safe when blaming and railing against her for my vulnerability.

With my mother, I wasn't jesting with the world against the stacked house of facades we call society. Done enough, you may find your face filleted. If you are lucky, I'm told. I was better able to fair storms when she lived. When veterans and families have a strong support network, living with the consequences of war is hard enough. For those with little to no support, or loose it they will more often spiral out of control.

I am not here to deny that most of it was my wreckage, nor get into a trolling fight with agents against change. Mind bending, while great for special effects on an unattached screen it is better coped understanding what to expect. I am here for people with PTSD and other brain injuries to navigate the vortex of inner experience in hopes they can better cope.

The house of facades becomes a disorientating sea of emotions, memories and nightmares lost in the waves hurt, delusion, pain and rage for vets with Complex PTSD and Moral Injury. Any one distortion to our self-image could trip a hallucination, attack with your delusions and I

Hurt can become a stoking force under bridges. ~ Scott Lee

Moral Injury, it tries to kill me most days. For us trusting comes too quick, or not fast enough. Hurt, can become a heat sink drowning out reason and clarity. It is rooted in my hate for me, I get that.

I see the struggle for people to take the amount of sorrow silently exuding from my pores. Imagine the internal state one must carry to radiate this energy. It is uncomfortable, I get it. Let's not forget the lion tongue cuts both ways, see my face.

One of the best medicines I have found, is the person willing to sit with you in your sorrow. Whether I am raging at unseen forces, or help me brave the deafening silence.

The crashing waves atop the sea looks scary, to you. I know the unrealized terror of the undercurrents, invisible to the reality above and carry the most power. Where we begin to see scary sea swimming on top, my third eye is constantly churning. Just because we don't talk about it or have a good day, does not mean we do not think about what we did and saw every day.

Not one vet deployed to combat and seen or participated in inflicting high casualty rates comes back unchanged. Apathetic, angry at everyone, betrayed by the media and government on all fronts. Why wouldn't we feel apathetic to your plight, when our problems kill us? We get high profile "veterans" organizations pulling in multi-millions, but those vets get rock star treatment while it's filmed for promotional purposes.

Stop telling veterans to let go. The only way to let go of PTSD is by death, and too many veterans succumb to the ravages of posttramatic stress. I dare say few of us give up, more like died while waiting on care. Someone care now?

February 7, 2016

Veteran on the Edge

This post is inspired by reading Patience Mason's PTSD Blog about her new book idea. She asks, "Reality is that most people who come back from war, or survive another trauma, are not fine, so if that might fit you, here are some questions to think about: How or why might you be fucked up?"

Dear Joe Public,

I would doubt you were in the military or a veteran if you could not recite two or more times a curious and insensitive clod trampled through your trauma to relive his boyhood romanticized thriller of the military life.

For the insensitive thinking that leads a stranger to ask intimate questions, and then discount my story because it does not match the official narrative. Even though most know the television and government lies about everything.

I am not fine. Why the fuck would you expect me to be? Because my war was a little war and does not matter? I hear this all too often, recently and even from veterans.

I am angry and full of rage when not numb or heavily medicated. Hear my witness, in three days my brigade killed over 24,000 Iraqi soldiers under the Desert Storm.

When I got home the idiot box repeaters called me a liar further altering people's perceptions of me as unstable. Caregivers know the safest people in the world are standing next to veterans with PTSD.

When I got home it took filing seven times with the Veterans Administration to get a 0% service connected rating for hearing loss.

In 2005 unchecked PTSD led me to get stabbed in the face and precipitated a crisis. Hospitalized for two weeks in psychic ward and then transferred to a two-year intensive treatment center for veterans.

It took the ninth case, to get a 30% rating for PTSD. Without the support from the treatment center I would not be alive or have a stable life.

Fast forward past the bouts of homelessness, and over 12 hospitalizations for suicidal ideation, in 2007 and the eleventh case, I was finally awarded an 80% service connection for PTSD, hearing loss and tinnitus. Which seriously exacerbates PTSD and infuses the flashbacks and hallucinations with sound, when I am doing deaf.

Do not ever forget. I participated and witnessed in a massacre. For I cannot. My mother shared stories of our great-great grandmother walking the Trail of Tears as a child. I now know her level of sorrow, a lost Cherokee of an unknown clan, branded with genocide where the past meets the present.

Today, if I make perfect financial decisions every month I can barely get by. But, I am not only human and prone to the same mistakes and stresses everyone faces. That is a base for a veteran with combat PTSD, MST and TBI, welcome to our good day. Now heap on hyperstress and crippling anxiety that literally makes your skin crawl. Welcome to our good day. For a great day, heap on cannabis. I don't make enough money to have that the whole month though.

Why the fuck would I shoot bullet eyes when you ask, "Are you okay?" No, I am on the edge. Are you ready to listen?

January 7, 2016

Cannabis and the Veterans Suicide Tsunami

By 2014, waves of soldiers surged in the tides of our modern wars, with 2.7 million veterans lost in the detritus of conflict, as compared to Vietnam's 2.6 million. Both populations amplifying the undercurrents of the veteran suicide tsunami, inundating our communities. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the third highest psychiatric diagnosis for returning veterans, erodes buoyancy and dulls surfing the edges of sanity. The veteran rates of PTSD are 9% when returning, with a sharp liquid curve up to 31% a year later.

Swimming in the undercurrents, therapists report higher rates where 50% seeking help, only half get minimum treatment, thus triggering a seaquake spraying untreated veterans across communities, prisons and institutions. Army vets wash up in 67% of PTSD cases, where 19% received a traumatic brain injury, and 7% have both. Preceded by the military suicide epidemic, add bias in reporting veterans accidental deaths, plus under-reported statistics and treatment, and no central data veterans ride the white-capped waves suffering in silence, through ineffective systems, pour in poor record keeping from institutions, sets a consummate storm.

In the deep-sea of misery, the re-experiencing of vivid and graphic memories take form, in and out of reality. Often no memories and sometimes we cannot forget, a deluge of fears, repeating disturbing intrusions, running from bombs and bullets the green ghosts skip across the periscope screen. Studies point to previous trauma with increased risk and severity deepens when the soldier killed, failed to save a comrade, handled the dead, and saw atrocities. Tumbling further for veterans incarcerated, victims of military sexual trauma (MST), multiple deployments, childhood traumatization and or have substance abuse issues, all increasing suicidal behavior and risk taking. Rising tides in women veterans issues, higher rates of childhood abuse, MST, domestic violence and assault combined with combat increases the stress response and plunges with amputees and prisoners of war, where 37% are more likely to succumb to suicide. To cope, many veterans self medicate, often leading to substance abuse and an exacerbated mental health.

Where 39% abuse alcohol and 3% harder drugs, an increasing number of veterans are turning to cannabis to quell the agitating flashbacks, regurgitating anxiety attacks, gushing nightmares and flooding dissociation. Veterans using cannabis to quell the storm, report higher coping and increased resilience, significant anxiety reduction and a better quality of sleep, plus a full range of emotions to include joy and happiness. The hypothalamus and amygdala mediate stress through the endocannabinoid and limbic systems, tripping or skipping over the flight or fight survival mechanism. Cannabinoids function in fear extinction, role switching, and regulating the neuroendocrine system governing behavioral responses, resetting the mind's ocean; with calm, deep and cool convections. To quell the veteran suicide tsunami claiming 112,000 lives in the last 14 years, make cannabis legal and available to veterans.

January 2, 2016

Mental Wound

By Anonymous - Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is a debilitating and life changing mental wound commonly associated with veterans experiencing trauma during wartime.  Studies by the VA revealed  PTSD is not limited to combat, it also includes military rape, childhood abuse and reckless behavior. (Christopher Bergland-The Neuroscience of PTSD) PTSD is considered a disorder to most professionals as well as the DOD (department of defense). PTSD is a natural response by the human brain to inoculate against further trauma. In this article I will compare and contrast studies completed by the VA on the efficacy of CAM (Complementary and Alternative medicine) and western medicine used to treat PTSD and why the “d” should be dropped.

When a soldier comes home they are given a mental examination, and if considered unfit for duty the military will tag you with a PTSD label, a polite way of saying you are no longer mission capable. If the soldier has been in a firefight the examination can happen in country. If a soldier admits that they are experiencing trauma from witnessing a friend step on a landmine, the examiner may deem the soldier unfit for duty and discharge them, and hold them from going home. Most soldiers will not admit it, and the possibility of losing careers plus the stigma, soldiers will alienate from most brothers in arms. To be deemed no longer mission capable creates animosity, hatred and mistrust. Ridiculed and removed from the brotherhood, the soldier almost always slips into depression, and can eventually lead to suicide, where a shocking 22 veterans commit suicide everyday (Department of Veteran Affairs). It sickens me to think that a soldier doing his job, will feel the need to commit suicide due to hazing from an egotistical and testosterone driven system. 

The VA uses Sertaline or Zoloft to treat PTS commonly. However, a double blind study done on wounded veterans showed that only 41% of veterans showed reduced symptoms, while 33% had reduced symptoms using the placebo (Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology). It can help by repressing the emotions, and aid the mind's ability to process trauma  and enables the confidence that it can be healed. VA  reports on efficacy of CAM can be life changing however, After 6 weeks of mantra repetition in 90 minute sessions can send PTS into a full remission. Progressive muscle relaxation, transcendental meditation, and acupuncture also help veterans according to the VA. The stigma placed on PTS makes our soldiers and veterans feel weak, and experiencing this impedes daily life activities, further deepening depression and increasing the risk of suicide. If we teach that PTS is a mental wound, and just as much a part of life as common as a fractured arm or a deep cut. If we revise the standards by dropping the “d” and call it PTS, then those recovering from trauma could have a more acceptable identity and more open to getting the proper care they so desperately need.

By renaming the mental wound to PTS, it would reduce the impacts on soldiers lives who have received a mental injury due to trauma.  The risks of losing your career could be reduced significantly as fewer soldiers would identify as insane, drastically reducing the personality changes and inner suffering.  If we reframe trauma as a natural process, a common reaction to traumatization, it could change many lives of our friends and families that might otherwise commit suicide.

To bring down the suicide rates in returning veterans and the internal suffering, we need to look at trauma differently. The stigma attached that “you are no longer good enough,” is archaic, the Spartans would exile those deemed unworthy. Soldiers are taught that PTS is a wound due to not being strong enough to deal with the trauma from combat. They are taught the condition is life threatening and PTS will cause them to appear weaker than peers. However, the fact that they are standing after combat is a testament to the true inner strength.  The “warriors only” mentality is detrimental, and out of place with advances today.  We  as a society, are evolving towards CAM and more worldly types of treatments. In one study elder vets from the Vietnam era accepted, and agreed that mindfulness and meditation techniques used for centuries in eastern medicine and in CAM, are beneficial to recovery from PTS (Mary Anne Liebert Inc).

PTS is a common part of life, and recovery is possible. When we correctly frame in the name and the way we perceive trauma, a direct challenge to western medicine’s assumption that PTSD as a life debilitating disorder. It is a natural response in the brain to prevent further damage, and when injured the individual is in need of treatment. A more useful way to prevent suicide and inner suffering is teaching that PTS is a natural reaction to overwhelming events. Then set an action plan rather than casting them aside, we need to understand that, the veteran is trained that he is no longer “good enough”, that way we can regulate, with verbiage some of the  inner issues they are having as well as our common treatment etiquette. They way we talk to a veteran with PTS should be in a way that dose not offend them, never ask a veteran if they have killed someone. Approach them with same regard in any sensitive topic, with respect to their circumstances and cultural sensitivities. Dropping the “d” would foster a new mission of unifying the mind, by imparting empathy in the naming of our condition for those who have lived through extraordinary situations affecting our communities. The next time you see a PTSD victim treat them normally, with respect, accept and love them, and drop the d.