July 29, 2008

Combat Veterans Consumed by Flashbacks May Not Know It or Remember

Vision of Unrest

A time has passed I do not regret my lost side of unrest and no progress. So full of anger, boiling and roiling, tearing and searing, seeking out that liberation. A fight, it didn't matter who, what, when or where, just give me that respite despite the spite. I kept plunging deeper dredging in demoralization stumbling into madness seeing only with my corrupted sight.

Pain, the festering fisticuffs a slugfest of survival, rendering, retching, wrestling and running. Forward fumbling, rumbling and tumbling, risking and revolting rushing from my deprivation, indubitably dragging it along.

July 28, 2008

Responsibilities, Relationships, Compulsions and Convictons

I am sitting here trying to think of something to write that would be relevant and contribute to an understanding of PTSD. Well, I just can not think of anything. So I will go back to core of what I want this blog to be about; my relationship with PTSD and how it effects my life.

I find that I do not want to go outside or engage in society. Responsibilities and relationships pull me out of my den of security and help me continue my journey. I had plastic on my windows to help with retaining heat in the winter. My girlfriend had suggested that I remove it so I could have some sunlight come in. That the rays of light would have some benefit to my overall wellbeing. I relented and asked my son to remove it, she was right of course.

My apartment has become my cave of comfort and insulator of the world outside. My newly adopted principles of accountability and dependability have me making and keeping appointments. I have one such meeting at the VA for an endoscopy to check my upper intestines, I have a history of duodenal ulcers and Barret's esophagus. So, I go forward because my balance depends on foiling the fall backwards. OK, OK stop it!

I am obsessing over the inclusion of words that start with the same letter or have some symbolism or similar spelling. See, I'm doing it again. I was just writing some prose and got on a roll and was inspired to write some here. My mind goes into these circles of creativity circulating the circumference of creation.

Again, I go off into divergent ideation. This type of thinking consumes me at times, even when others may be trying to relate or conversate. See, and I have to make up words at times to relegate or instigate my compulsion to do. Belly breathing, meditation, slowing the mind, letting go of concentration and finding the peace within.

What the hell does all this have to do with PTSD? Well, all of it. Byproducts of the corrugated mind, vacillating back and forth between obsession, compulsion, integrity and responsibility. It all relates to how my mind can go racing at times, in the past I would have feed into this mode of thinking. Like a manic episode of intense emotions turned into anxiety because I knew how to channel chaos, it feed my addiction. I can feel the endorphins racing through me settling down as I meditate on nothingness. My body wants to revel in the feeling that the hormones give, triggering synaptic responses releasing a flood of conviction.

Relations, relationships and boundaries abound in my thinking. Boundaries, up until three years ago I had never had a concept of boundaries. Oh, I felt when someone crossed mine, but experinced it as an assault of my person. It was there, just disconnected and without an association to me, a fractured personality. The inability to perceive a distinction between my emotions and self or any of my bounds led to a battlefield of destruction as trust broke down to sever the connections. It was a revelation to know and define the radius of my personal perceptual periphery. To know and understand that I can and do reside outside of and within myself, this field of comprehension helps me to relate with myself and others while retaining my relations.

July 21, 2008

PTSD Primed

Written on 3-21-2005,

Powers to be, shall they set us free?

Locking onto me so devastatingly and with such glee.

Hastily fright, set in to my night,

till I'm abound with my plight.

Body ills and chills, regurgitating

bile so vile.

Innocence splayed viscerally,

ducking, dodging, probing and prodding.

Lucky me, so I am told I should be.

July 20, 2008

My First E-mail Response

I received my first email and would like to share my response,I am honored with your acknowledgment and inspiration. I encourage you who is reading this to e-mail me, comment on my articles good or bad, digg it, stumble it, your criticism is welcome and especially your stories. By coming together and sharing our passions, narratives, compassion, empathy and humanity we begin to heal what has been broken.

My response to my first e-mail:
I sure do appreciate your email and your interest in our veterans, they need our love and support. The soldiers that are in denial will have to figure out for themselves that they need help. The sad thing is that it will probably take years for their mental illness to progress to the point of prison, unemployability, divorce, addiction, homicide, and finally suicide. Giving them information and support will help, but they will not get help until they are ready to.

The whole soldiering thing trains us to believe we are self sufficient in matters other than survival and combat. You know the ad on TV that says an Army of one. As much as they drill team work on a firing squad, movement, and never leave a buddy; they instill this facade of invincibility. Most of our soldiers are at the age of ego development, where a good dose of identifying emotions and empathy would negate the aggressive side that young men feel. It is an evolutionary instinctual part of a boy growing into a man. In primitive cultures their are rituals that incorporate the aggression and identify it for what it is and integrate this "warrior" archetype into the complete person. Usually along the way an elder mentors them and helps them identify the emotions and differing parts of the psyche while instilling an integration of the differing selfs, mother earth, community and spirituality.

In the military this ritual just concentrates on the drilling and killing so that it becomes automatic, a reflexive response to aggression and survival. My point is that the focus is on how to kill and do that, not how do I deal with it after they go home to their community and family. They are left without a ritual of connection to community, family, and wholeness. Their formative connection is back in the field of combat and killing, they leave part of themselves there with their buddies who are not coming home yet and take with them the guilt of leaving their buddies behind. They feel that egoistic "warrior archetype" connection with the military and the battle buddy who has his or her back in the combat zone. In this type of mind frame when the veteran goes home; they become lost in a world that no longer makes sense to them because they have been taught to not process the five senses and emotional attachment to interaction. The hard wiring of the combat veterans mind acts as if their life depends on it. How do I live in regular society if I am stuck in this malposition?

Well did I just rattle of some stuff or what. No I do not even know what EFT is, but I will certinally research the approach and look into its value and techniques. As far as volunteering you do not need a degree. Just research different groups and decide which one appeals to you and offer your help. If they do not have the area of service you would like to help with, then organize it yourself. I am looking into groups who mentor young veterans coming out of the military to help with the process of reintegrating back into society and help them access and identify their new roles and other aspects of their intrinsic values and principles.

I am 40 and in school, I have seen many people in my classes who are in their 50's and older. Go to school and chase your passions, by doing so work becomes something other than a task. It becomes a part of you that connects with people in a way we were meant to be, a community of people supporting one another.

I would like to talk more with you and keep in contact by email for now. Thank you for your response to my blog I am deeply appreciative of it. You are the first to email me about it, again thank you. If you would, write some comments on articles that interest or touch you the most. Also, if you would subscribe, digg it, stumble it, email it to all your friends and tell of my mission and the epidemic of mentally ill veterans we will be faced with in the coming years.

You brightened my day,

(e-mail edited for clarity and fluidity)

July 19, 2008

Combat Veteran and Son Make Amends

In this article I have included a letter to my sons. My behavior and inability to communicate effectively with their mother, along with my alcohol abuse, separated and alienated my sons and I

A, you have continued to be one of my best teachers in life, thank you for that. J, I hope that we can both mend as your older brother and I have.~~Dad

It was about 2006 (I was in a drug and alcohol treatment center during this time) when I was able to start to regain trust with my sons and started to build a relationship with them again. It was through the therapy, counseling, addiction education, and psychiatric treatment that I received over two years that enabled this reunion. I have two sons, ages 17 and 19.

My oldest son (19) and I have been working on reconnecting, he has yet to let me into that inner sanctum. His intelligence shines through as well as his dark humor an remorse sarcasm. He will be starting college soon in the medical field, still trying to decide on nursing, medical school or becoming a pharmacologist. He has found my arrogance and mistrust that I have lost. We have a greater wall to scale due to his abandonment issues. I value him as much as my youngest son, I just do not know him as well as I do the youngest.

My youngest son (17) and I have been reconnecting and communicating about life, my experiences, male bonding and Oh My God he is even asking for my advice. Something I never would have done with my father. He has been staying at my house quite a bit, which is the coolest thing. I have been noticing things in him that reflect on me, I see me in him so much that it is frightening and enlightening. He has showed interest in making changes and identifying characteristics and talking about boundaries at an age that gives me extreme hope and faith in him that I had to write this letter to him.

Since this letter was written, both my sons have changed roles with me. So, most of the relationship dynamics have flipped after two years. The picture was added today also, a symbol to what can be achieved when we work and live together in a supportive community then we can achieve our dreams.

Letter to my sons:
Hello my son,

Have I told you that I love you enough? Well, I don't think so, so I'm going to say it. I LOVE YOU MY SON.

I think about you all the time son, I want the best for you and am willing to help you achieve the goals that you have set for yourself. I see that you have some long term goals and some short term goals. That’s great to have a vision of where you want to be in the future.

Right now it’s the little things that will get you there that need to be worked on. Setting little steps to achieve the short term goals is the key to accomplishing the long term goals. There is a process to progressing toward realizing a fulfilling and meaningful life. Like setting goals of submitting at least 10 applications a week, become willing and open to talking with your significant other about your feelings and thoughts at least once a week when the time feels right. Or, research information about apprenticeships and other jobs that may interest you. Get all of the information so you can make a sound decision on the direction you want to go.

Figure out how much it will cost to maintain your own apartment, rent, gas and car expenses, insurance, electricity, cable, phone, groceries and entertainment. Another thing to consider is where exactly you want to live, what part of town. Then there is the cost of acquiring furniture and kitchen items.

Make an effort to talk with me about things that may have bothered or upset you when you were younger. Son, it is important that you face these issues and work them out with me. By interacting with me in this way you can acquire the skills of assertiveness, coping, anger management, stress reduction, interpersonal (person to person) communication, and confidence in knowing how to handle stressful situations.

All of this stuff is taxing and stressful, with the right planning and accomplishing the little steps you will grow into a more responsible and respectful young man; a man of honor, character and integrity. Set these values and principles for yourself and use them as a compass to your life, you are the captain of your ship. By filtering your decisions, thoughts and feelings through a set of ethics we gain that integrity we have talked about. By doing these things you will gain confidence and a sense of self about who you are.

Find some activities that you would be interested in getting involved in, like a softball league, hell I would do that too. That way we could socialize with more men; do the manly thing you know, testosterone. We can sit down and go over a plan for accomplishing these things, it will help relieve some of the stress and give you a focus and direction.

Well, I have preached enough,

Love, DAD

Originally published as "Hello my son."

July 13, 2008

Forgive Me

I have been searching all over the web looking for like minded people to link this site to theirs. I came across this photograph shot by Zoriah, an independent embedded photojournalist, while in Iraq. The monochrome image embodies the deep sense of sorrow and duty that I was trying to convey in part of my last post.

Taking another's life in the name of freedom, patriotism and because of your job description profoundly changes the person. How do we reconcile the killing of another human being and still maintain our principles and values? Someone who has not done so can talk all they want about what they think or believe.

When a soldier goes home to his or her family, friends and community, how do we relate to people who expect the person that is no longer us? How do we tell them that each time we took a life that, we too died in spirit a little more?

They congratulate us on a job well done and we tell ourselves that we did our job, what we were trained to do. They tell us how proud they are, and we cannot make them understand how we feel guilty for that pride.

How do we tell them that we cannot get those faces or images out of our mind?

Excerpt from Zoriah's blog:
A couple of days ago I went out on a foot patrol in Sadr City with a young a soldier and noticed the tattoo on his arm, featuring a rosary and the words “Forgive Me.” I asked him what the story behind it was.

He said, “After my first tour in Iraq, I went back home to the states and all my friends called me a murderer and killer. I guess I started thinking a lot about all the things I had done over here…you know.”

© Zoriah/www.zoriah.com

July 8, 2008

Combat Vet on Zoning Out

This posting has been edited somewhat, but I wanted to leave as much of the disjointed and convoluted train of thought to give you an indication of my thinking processes

It has been a couple of days since my last posting, I have just now realized that I am in one of those stuck positions. For a person with PTSD their brain has become highly compartmentalized, sectioned off and coordinated along narrowly entrenched connections. The mind will shut down reasoning, conscious processing and engage the unconscious reflexive mechanisms. This controller switch enables the person to react to traumatic situations without filtering sensory information through our conscious mind. Through this defensive mechanism we can survive situations that would otherwise overwhelm us if we had to process the traumatic event in the moment. By the severity of the situation this connection gets heavily imprinted, thus enabling the PTSD sufferer to shift into a stuck position or zoning out. This cognitive binding can be triggered by situations that require emotional response, trusting issues, and really just about anything that requires thinking.

I was just reading an article by Penny Coleman on AlterNet. The article is about...I have also been reading in the PTSDForum.org, both the article and the forum thread have been talking about using a drug called Propranolol. The drug is a beta-blocker, it blocks nerve impulses, which seems to have a benefit for PTSD sufferers. I AM NOT ENDORSING THIS DRUG, I am still looking into its affects and effects. So, in the forum posters were talking about being in a stuck position and that is what triggered my discussion of detachment or dissociative states, which made me realize that I was going through one myself right now, still.

Now, I was talking about my stuck position, I just started an online class yesterday. I have been also trying to write a post for this blog. I have three drafts...I am sitting here going through my rituals of emotional blocking...closing my eyes, putting my right arm across my stomach with my left arm resting on my right. Then I use my hand to run down my face, starting from my forehead then down to my nose...I have been focused on my nose for about three days now, I have been picking at the skin until it is raw. I cannot forget the pausing that I go through when I am in this dissociate position. I zone out for several minutes at a time, I can loose hours if I do not try and meditate or pray...So does this post seem kind of disjointed? Thats because I am trying to relate how PTSD effects my life. During stressful times I run through dissociative states and this ritual cycle of zoning out and wiping my face, rubbing my nose and forehead, closing my eyes, rocking back and forth and a myriad of differing affects. Back in the day this would set me up for an anxiety or panic attack. Before I learned how to manage my attacks I was on clonazepam for about two years.

Reading the forum and article made me remember what it was like to be in an extreme state of mental illness. I could of used something to take this kind of episode out of my experience. The medicine Propranolol may of helped, but I do not see this treatment as a long term fix. Maybe in the short-term along with therapy and counseling to aid in the processing and reintegration of the emotions and experiences that have been separated from one another. After the traumatic experience is over, after the soldier comes out of the combat zone and transitions home. PTSD rewires the brain, it changes its landscape, alters its coping mechanisms and permanently turns on the primitive survival mode. Throwing in the medicine during the time combat to deny the brains response could complicate the soldiers coping mechanisms further.

Taking this medication before combat would only be doing what the brain is already capable of doing, shutting off reasoning functions and turning on a wholly basic instinctual response. It appears that it would harm the brain more than it would do good. Consider that the dissociative states might be entrenched further into the mind and promote the dissection and partitions of the brain relative to PTSD. PTSD is the breaking of the toggle switch that enables a person to vacillate between a fundamental reflexive reaction to danger signals and the reasoning of common experiences. I do not think that our troops and veterans should be some kind of guinea pig any more than they have been already.

July 5, 2008

Never Give in to the Enemy

To say that with treatment we can get better seems to suggest that we can be cured. This is not the case, we can improve our standard of living by learning coping skills, become educated about our triggers, learn to identify and express our emotions. PTSD rewires the brains neurological landscape, it is as if we have been given a new brain with the same memories and no one told us of the switch. With this new brain we have been given hijacked neuropathways telling us that our survival is in jeopardy. Without the education, social and coping skills training, values identification, relaxation techniques, counseling and therapy, this debilitating and overwhelming mental illness will defeat us every time (Cercone, 305-307).

I dealt with PTSD by self medicating for 14 years until my anger, suffering, fear and unmet needs became overwhelming. It can take years for the problems to accumulate to the point of self-destruction. My realization of this began when a man stabbed me in the face because I had offended him numerous times and when he had an opportunity he acted on it. It took someone trying to take my life to realize that I was mentally ill and that I needed help. My behavior, attitude and cognitive processes had digressed to the point of self hatred and feelings of unworthiness.

I kept thinking of killing myself for 15 years or so, driving off the road, instigating fights, fingering my gun and imaging the relief I would feel if I just pulled the trigger. I could not do it myself, so I sought out people and situations that endangered my existence. How do I kill myself without me doing it? I thank God that I persevered through it and I am well enough today that I may help someone else like me, which was Gods plan all along.

If you know of a veteran or someone you may think is suffering from PTSD, help them get help. In the military we are trained to keep going, to never give in to the enemy. The returning veteran needs our help in reintegrating into society. They need our support and assistance to transition from a life or death struggle in combat to a new beginning in society. We will never be the same as we were before we went to war. But with your help and support we can redirect the negative outcomes from PTSD and become productive to society.


Duality Dissociates Discernment

A dichotomous existence without realizing our true nature results in a separation from reality and our connection to one another. An either-or duality dissociates discernment from reason leaving a fractured self. We cut up and separate rationalities in an attempt to preserve our sanity as the mind forms dissections to preserve and protect itself. The defensive mechanism overwhelms our thinking process and compartmentalizes our personality. The split in our mental reflections enables a combat veteran to switch from a killer instinct with no remorse to a loving and caring father.

Everyone sets up belief systems, a schema that enable us to react to situations as they arrive. By using this system of rules as a guide in life we can interact in society without having to analyze every aspect of our experience. We can convince ourselves that our ideology is who we are, when in reality living within our dogma cuts us off from a greater understanding and reaching our potentiality. The combat veteran's brain has invoked a divided self to ensure the integrity of the differing internal representations. His or her mind has been subdivided into incompatible subsections to deal with life in the clashing realms of their subconscious.

July 4, 2008

Emptiness, Everything and Nothing

...emptiness, everything and nothing are all just labels for the same thing...

...the underlying meaning of reality, a poor description and perception for the energy matrix that we share with our Universal Being...

...we are separated because we choose to be..

Searing Images Sheaving Surreally

I was going through some of my writings, as I will do periodically, and came across this piece that I wrote when I was in my madness. During this time my drinking and drug use had induced a couple of episodes of psychosis. I had begun to become convinced that the feelings and emotions I was experiencing were not my own. I did not know it then, but I had been undergoing a psychic split through a dissociative mechanism. My dissociative episodes had progressed to the point of a paranoid-schizoid position (11th paragraph). Most of my writing at this time was in a stream of consciousness free-form. The handwriting is fast and jagged as if I could not write fast enough. If I was in my own mind and not in a dissociative state then my mind was racing. This disjointed and convoluted thinking was the norm for me during this time, I was as confused as it seems...yet today I see the separation and mental compartmentalization that I was experiencing at the time. My self discussion dribbles on about we, our, them and I as it were a fight for me. It is no wonder that I sought escape into self medication and anything that would numb me to the pain...

Written on 1/14/2003:..Jagged edges cut so deep, reflections on me...Searing images sheave themselves surrealy and God why can I not see? I wish it to be dark at times, out of nowhere the darkness overtakes me...There have been times when I thought things were so clear...Such clarity I have found to be a mystifying similarity, that keeps declaring its ever changing tune encasing me in a cultural tomb...Should we engage in or change, how about we element our scene? Who would I piss off, if I conformed to my own rhythm and symmetry? We fumble, founder and follow with no boundaries and shower the scene without values and pay through the carnage of complicity and venerated fear...The towering twist of futile fate, our schema sanctioning the detention that we bear...

July 3, 2008

VFW-Veterans for Welfare?

I was reading an article on the website VA Watchdog dot org, where it's founder Larry Scott slams an unknown supposedly "active duty military officer with multiple Iraq deployments and continuing active duty career." The anonymous author of the posting goes on to trash our veterans who have service-connected disabilities. Insisting that veteran benefits are a drain on our country and budget while ignoring the costs of the wars.

Here is my response to a fortunate person who should thank God that they do not know the meaning of being disabled and all that entails;

I feel compelled to say some really negative and harsh words to the person writing this post. But, I will not because I believe that is exactly what he or she wants. I am a Army veteran of the Gulf War, I was a driver of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. My unit fought the Iraqi Republican Guard in three campaigns and my vehicle was point for the brigade. I drove for 172 hours straight, engaged in 100 hours of sustained combat and witnessed literally thousands of enemy combatants die in that short span of time.

Since being honorably discharged from the service of my country I have struggled with PTSD, depression, substance use disorder, homelessness, social and health issues. It took me 7 tries and 15 years to go through the VA bureaucracy to get the help that I needed. Nothing has been given to me that I have not fought for with my life, either in the Gulf War, with the VA or in the streets of despair. I gave freely of my time and service, the same was not done for me.


-The Divine commands we attune ones nature to the moment,
for this mirror reflects the true self.

-Arrogance comes from the knowledge of our strengths and humility from the enlightenment of both our strengths and weaknesses.

-His words are not his own just common threads that ignorance shades.

S. Lee

July 2, 2008

Cohesive Consciousness

What would we be without our cohesive consciousness?

For all we are but a field of atoms and subparticles infinitely spaced,

From our phenomenon of experience we perceive a solid being,

without our lifeforce we would be but dust.

S. Lee