August 31, 2008

Open Letter to the Men and Women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan

I am forever looking for resources and things to write about on the internet. I found this "open letter" on the website Soldier's Heart, nothing else needs to be added to this post,
An Open Letter to the Men and Women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan,

We, the ghosts of your past, speak to you from our pain. We are your grandmothers, grandfathers, mothers and fathers in a long line of veterans and their families who have been infected by the pain of war.

You return, riding the high of survival, men of courage returning to join families, country and your old lives. We want to tell you that the life you left, is not the life you are bringing home. You’ve changed, become fired by a government that systematically erased your humanity - for your survival. You’ve become a war machine, feelings tamped down into forgetfulness and your body programmed to survive and forget.

Forget? You may think so, but give it three months, three years, thirty years - it will rise to haunt you. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder reaches its insidious fingers into your lives and the ones you love.

We know - have been haunted for 26, 35, 50 years and are still dealing with the pain. We’ve infected our families, not realizing we’ve lost some of our humanity, our wild child, so to speak - the part that feels, acknowledges, and finally begins to put it aside. Everyone of you may experience our feelings, to some degree, and we speak now to you: there is help through counseling with a Vet Center.

We’ve taught you as parents, grandparents, extended family and government to suck it up. Well, we’ve sucked it up for all these years and remain emotional cripples. Just in the past few months, learning how to write through the WellArts Institute, how to express the fear, anger and pain, we’ve seen a glimmer of the light of healing.

We beg you, don’t suck it up, share with your families. Break this chain of pain for yourselves - your wives - your children, and believe me, they will suffer right along with you and won’t be aware of the reason for your anger or theirs. If you love them, love yourself - you owe it to everyone to talk, cry, share your pain. There are resources available to help you.

Men and women, you have learned how to survive one war - now, your personal war is beginning. We challenge you to fight this war as courageously as the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Families - listen to them. Don’t continue the cycle of your ancestors by putting your heads in the ground like ostriches, afraid to hear or share their pain.

Cut this article out of the paper, put it in a special place, and sooner or later you will need to hear our voices again, offering hope for your crippled spirits.

We leave you a small legacy. This website is for you - with resources and places that can be of help.

Be well. We care.

The writers of “Soldier’s Heart”

Sharon Rothenfluch Cooper


Sean T Lewis

Will Campbell

Eran Deran

Pat Helmstetter

Colleen Helmstetter

Jason Hoffman

Ed Martens

August 29, 2008

My PTSD Catharsis Channel

My writing here triggers me on a continuous basis with the issues of combat and war. I have had therapy for years to move beyond all of my core issues except my war experiences. It took me "growing" up through the cognitive-behavioral restructuring of my childhood to adulthood within the safe place of therapy. When I started writing this blog I began the "therapy" and reintegration of my combat and wartime issues.

I have had social skills training, cognitive restructuring therapy, anger management classes, coping skills training, values identification and the list goes on. I needed all these pieces of armor to face my war issues. This place for me here has become my sacred communion with the world, God directs my words and deeds today. I try my best not to get in the way of myself and his work.

Prior trauma can prime the veteran or soldier and put them at greater risk of developing PTSD and mental illness. I say both "PTSD and mental illness", because within the spectrum of mind fracturing lays depression, psychosis, dissociation, schizophrenia, and a myriad of other psychopathy.

Not all veterans will need intensive preparation before therapy, as many soldiers have received a solid family life in adolescence where they have learned most of these skills. Individualized attention needs to be given to each veteran or soldier as they have had different life experiences which impact the way combat and trauma affects them.

A thorough assessment considering these elements can determine where to start with therapy, counseling and the techniques that will be most successful in your particular case. Look for a therapist that you trust, one that will listen and guide more than talk.

Not all therapies will work for everyone, if something does not seem to be working let the therapist know. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy was what worked for me as I needed an intensive concentration on most fronts of reintegration.

Today I use this medium as my PTSD catharsis channel.

August 28, 2008

A Soldiers Conviction

My war was in 1991, fought against a invading force foregoing a countries self-determination and rule. A soldier has to believe that their cause has been a just one. For without this belief, war has become an act of tyranny and we amount to mercenaries. King Khalid of Saudi Arabia offered our commander in chief to pay each American soldier in the Gulf War I $1500, he refused as he should have.

I was proud to have served a noble cause of restoring a countries rights, borders and sovereignty. I had been awake fighting for seven days straight without any sleep and was upset when the cease fire had been called. We had engaged in three hard fought campaigns against the Iraqi Republican Guard, Saddam's best armored forces. We had their remaining Division cut off from returning to Iraq in a low lying basin, both opposing forces within firing range.

As we looked upon each other in anticipation, with our trigger fingers itching, we knew that this would be a heavy fought battle with many casualties. Both sides in a bid for life within a surreal cloud of apprehension, waiting for the order to fire.

A soldiers conviction carries them through the inferno of warfare, for a cause linked in faith to higher principles better enables the mind to rest within its self-preservation mode. Engaged by the confidence that our presence will be felt and fueled through our fealty to freedom for everyone. In moments like this, time stands still and listens to the call of the soldiers communion with all and none.

August 27, 2008

A Soldier and Child

The reality of war has this child at the heart of the matter and oblivious to the meaning of why daddy will never come home.

How many sons and daughters have this same dilemma in their young lives? Where does laying soldiers to rest leave their families? Why do we ignore these questions?

How do we answer, "When is daddy/mommy coming home?"

August 22, 2008

A Combat Veterans Reflects on his Thoughts, Feelings and Behavior

I would tell PTSD suffers to begin with these three things and keep them in mind if they want to make changes in their life. Thoughts, feelings and behavior (TFB). Today, the only thing you can change is your behavior, by changing your behavior over time you can change your thoughts and your feelings. The three basics incorporate values and emotion identification.

Further on the topic of the combat veteran’s value and principles, these systems have a connection to feelings and emotions or the lack thereof with one who dissociates as most PTSD sufferers do. Emotions and feelings are the arbiters of values, principles, and morality. Without emotive interaction the ethical dilemmas that keep most people in check, can get bypassed with a combat veteran’s lack of affect. The higher level processes of cognitive interaction delve into a consideration of choices and consequences, whereas the traumatized brain operates from the lower base of primitive survival systems and defensive mechanisms. A normal reaction with a non-traumatized brain would trigger an emotive response cascading into consideration of an appropriate response. Where the traumatized brain engages the primitive portion of the mind into a reflexive response forgoing the thought of repercussions.

Value identifications has importance to the combat veteran with PTSD, as their value system have been compromised by the acts of killing and war. The values and morality of war greatly conflict with society’s norms and principles. When the combat veteran brings this survival perspective home with them it alienates them from everyone who has not experienced combat, war and or trauma. Combat changes and alters the soldier’s sense of importance and trivializes niceties that lubricate society’s interactions and exchanges. Without identifying what values the veteran or soldier deems important they will continue to operate from the old combat values set and wonder why people do not understand them. While some will find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

Normal or average ways of dealing with stress before combat usually and generally was sufficient to interact in society and with family. Now that the veteran has an exaggerated anxiety and stress reflex they have become susceptible to stressors that before would not have set them off and the old coping skills have become less successful. Stress reduction has become paramount for the combat veterans healing and moving beyond the fringes of insanity.

Without the combat veterans clarification of values and identification of emotions they do not take responsibility for either prior to consequences, leaving them baffled as to how they arrived in their current calamity. They cannot change the way they think or feel today, but by paying attention to their thoughts, feelings and emotions they can gauge an appropriate reaction and behavior. By changing their actions today, they can change their thoughts and feelings over time.

August 20, 2008

Warrior Archetype

The military trains us to believe in self sufficiency in all matters other than survival in terms of 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 also instill this facade of invincibility.

The majority of soldiers in the military reside at the level of ego development, where a good dose of identifying emotions and empathy would help negate the aggressive side that young men feel (Sugar, 279-283). In primitive cultures, rituals help identify the aggression and integrate this "warrior archetype" into the complete person. Usually along the way an elder mentors them and helps 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 the ritual of drilling and killing concentrates on becoming an automatic reflexive response to aggression and survival. My point, the focus of killing without learning how to deal and cope after they go home leaves the returning veteran aimless and without a ritual of connection to community, family, and wholeness. Their formative associations have been left back in the field of combat and killing, where they have left part of themselves with the ones not going home and take with them the guilt of leaving.

They feel the egoistic interconnectedness with the military, the "warrior archetype" and the battle buddy who has been left back in the combat zone rather than with significant others upon returning. In this mind frame when the veteran goes home they become lost in a world that no longer makes sense as they have been taught not to process the five senses and emotional attachment imperative to social interaction. The combat veterans mind acts as if their life depends on a reactionary environment incompatible with the development of long lasting relationships (Sugar, 287). How do I live in regular society if I am stuck in this malposition?

Young combat veterans coming out of the military may need help with accessing and identifying their intrinsic values and principles and the process of reintegrating back into society and reestablishing their new roles.

August 19, 2008

Battling PTSD

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.

August 18, 2008

Are You Saying That you Killed People in Cold Blood?

I had posted an article Dissociative Spectrum on A Soldier's Perspective.

This response was registered first,
Are you saying that you killed people in cold blood? 
in response to my,
The Iraqi soldiers we killed that were trying to surrender.
The responder also asks,
and then the next comment:
Yes RG (Roman General, me also), what is the full story?
The full story:

On or around February 13, 1991 one day before my second son was born and four days away from my eldest sons second birthday.

We were getting close to moving out, Christmas had come and gone. I was able to call home during that time. By this time I was ready to go, it was February and I had been listening to Baghdad being bombed for about four months straight. Everyday, all day boom boom boom off in the distance, I can still hear them. All I could think about was how many people our bombs were killing, so when we got the call to go I was ready. We mounted up into my Bradley Fighting Vehicle and headed into Iraq.

Our assignment was to cut the Iraqi Republican Guard off from retreating back into Iraq. We set out on convoy toward the front line with me driving on point. A report comes over my headphones that a couple of Iraqi tanks with their turrets turned backward, Geneva Convention for surrender, approached some Marine armored vehicles. When they were in range they turned and fired on them, killing three of our troops. I was shaking all over, mad as hell and could not wait to get some payback.

I was getting myself psyched up going into driving straight for 24 hours. Later after 48 hours of continuous driving I saw silhouettes appearing on the left flank on the horizon during the night and reported it to my track commander. My TC and I hated each other, but respected one another and would have no other.

Having received the reports the night before we were weary of enemy activity. One of our Bradley's fired 3 warning shots, with permission of higher up as the ground war had not officially started yet. They kept coming and we were given permission to fire upon the enemy.

Later in the next day we received an account of the engagement. A brigade of foot soldiers had been trying to surrender and we killed them.

August 17, 2008

My Father

My father had his moments of vacillating between father of the year to bastard of the century. Today I can remember more good than bad for I have reconciled with my inner child. I remember the wrestling and tumbling about with my father into the late of night. Memories of working with him were some of the best, his paying homage and bragging of how hard we worked filling me with his praise. Taking long drives, talking of nothing in particular, to serious imparting of knowledge and engaging in the communion of son and dad.

My father was a man of convictions and usually did what he thought right even if everyone else thought otherwise. He was as hard as they came, but at times he could surprise you with his kindness and length that he would go to help. He was there when I was on deaths door, every time I woke up, he was there. Whenever we were down he was there, solid and true keeping watch and radiating confidence, showing us that all will be seen through.

My father was a man of boundless potential hampered by a world refusing to bend to his will. He has been on top of the world and knocked back down into the swill. He was a bit of everything, in that regard I am the same.

My father was a changed man in his later years, for those of you that did not know him back then; he was a pill as my grandmother would say. He surprised me at times in these last few years, we found a middle ground and he told me that if he had it to do say the least he had regrets. I remember a conversation we had, I was telling him about my sons and how we were getting closer and how good it felt to feel like a good role model.

My father told me that he wished he had been too, I told him that I understood. I could not find the words then, but what I wanted to tell him things were as they should be. I would not be the man that I am today if things had been different, I might not have ever found out who I truly am.

My father
On the day that we had the ceremony to honor my father I wrote these words. It was a small and informal gathering of close friends and family. We all sat around in the couches and chairs and talked of the man who was my father.

August 16, 2008

Dr. King's Light and my Emergence

I wrote this in 2001 about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a hero of mine. This paper was written at the beginning of my convergence and symbolizes the subsequent emergence of my true path. Dr. King had the courage to face the world:

Dr. King was assassinated in the year that I was born. His journey did not end on April 4, 1968; it was the beginning of his eternal message of hope. It was his contemplations of ancient to modern philosophies that aided his understanding of the message that he felt compelled to deliver. Which was the rediscovering of oneself. The form of his martyrdom would be solidified on this basis. His connection with spreading the word of "Rediscovering precious values" (Estate of Dr. King, documents), gave him a basis for wielding forgiveness, that being one of these virtues and his greatest asset. His belief of moral implications inherent in the universe, a universal law of right and wrong, held him on his path to enlightenment of the world.

In a sermon addressing his uncle's church at Detroit's Second Baptist Church, Dr. King said "We don't jump off the highest building...because...[the] law of final,...If we disobey it, we suffer..." He spoke in a sense of a lost generation. That we have an attitude of being owed something and warned us of filling this void with material things, which could lead us to stumble over what is not within us. He commanded that we fill our selves with the integration of the mind and soul, to commit to being a complete identity. To live as a human being means to develop into more than we are, through a cause connected to who we are and what we become no matter the consequences of these moral virtues.

In his last speech Dr. King talked of the threats against his life, without saying the words he found forgiveness for his fellow brother who snuffed his life. He found the place in his heart that allowed him to become more than he was, to demand for his dreams to take place among the stars. He became one with the universe as a noble being and claimed our brotherhood for all, through his first consideration of being.

August 15, 2008

One Small Candle

It is better to light one small candle them to curse the darkness ~~ Confucius

When one inflames a candle, an aura of light shines beyond its occupied space. Carrying into the darkness billowing beyond the blackness, engulfing the dankness and spreading its benevolence. In this way an individual springs forth an illumination of mankind when they endeavor in helping another achieve beyond their means.

To elicit change in another requires an ignition of their soul to forge a new way. People have been creatures of habit since time immortal; we will cling to despair with that having been the culmination of our experiences. For without learning something new and conditioning ourselves to it, we do what we have done the most. We must change our way of thinking to evoke an alteration in our behavior.

The hardwiring of the brain keeps our functioning within a form of automaton, an evolutionary mechanism to cope with every day tasks. In our habits we find a familiar way of engaging life with our laborious repetitious actions; a form of meditation, a massage of the familiar to feel comfort within the rigors of existence. By doing so we can delude ourselves into believing life to be static through which we hold onto old ways as a means to pacify ourselves and others.

Upon the ignition of the tranquillized soul we initiate a new way forward through creative and imaginative means. A way out of the chains that bind their souls; we give them the key to unlock their anguish and help them move beyond adapting to what ails them. We spread our light into their darkness to evoke that which envelops the tormented spirit with sparks that spread like wildfire.

August 14, 2008

Father Has Passed as has the Past

A couple of days ago I was writing about my father passing away. What I wanted to say and could not was in times of great stress my emotions shut down; my mind goes into survival mode. Into that region of temporal tempestuousness, the silent eye of a tornadic twister.

In the middle of the storm the nether expanse has suspended the rules of reason. The deep fractured fissures of the traumatic subjugated mind lay unrest. A coiled wrath waiting seemingly without care to unleash on what may not be there. Reacting without interacting racing and straining the rigors of rationalities foregoing the fulcrum of lucidity and stupidity. Reacting without reason the reflexive trigger rigorously ripping tripping and stripping the underneath.

I have been trying to write this post since the 6th, my father passed on the 2nd. The above is where my mind goes when I experience stress and extreme emotions. I thank god that I have found a new way to cope and process these emotions. My old way of self medicating has been rearing its ugly head as I try and picture this world without my dad.

I carried my fathers ashes in one hand and a portrait of him and all his sons in the other from the funeral home. When I picked him up, I thought he is heavy and I looked at the picture and felt the entire weight of everyone who now look up to me. I realized the seat of the family passing onto me, right then I had a breakthrough. I carried him fifteen feet and fell into the pew, releasing the pent up grief and emotionality.

My son told me later as I asked him whats on his mind. He said, "I just can't imagine that being you." and then he said, "How did you" He could not find the words, I understood his emotive plead to explain how I will live without my dad. I told him that you will be surprised what we can live through and do. I told him that the memories, the things that he taught me, the shared space and existence do not go away. These things will always be with us, in essence we carry with us his presence and love. He is a part of us, thats how we will carry on.

August 12, 2008

Leave Judgement at the Door Upon Entering

Some people may read one of my postings and make the assumption that I am trying to justify and make excuses for a veteran or soldiers behavior that has PTSD. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Do me and yourself a favor, reserve judgment, put it on hold and read further into my blog you just might find some understanding and compassion for the broken spirited warriors who were not lost in battle but destroyed in mind.

August 11, 2008

No Offense to our Veterans?

There has been some talk lately as to the criminality of our returning veterans and its impact on our society. Inflammatory comments have been made and a defense of our veterans has been proffered. Validity resounds upon both sides of the argument as our veterans go on and try to live their lives.

I have only been arrested twice for driving under the influence, I say only because I have drove drunk many times. To say that this is the extent of my criminal activity would be misleading. Most of my felonious behavior resulted in tearing up my own personal property or my wifes, getting into fights with the whole bar, and instigating or looking for trouble in any form. It was gods blessing that I did not wind up in jail or prison on assault charges from the numerous times that I beat someone in a blackout of rage.

With a mind reeling in the cycle of survival, a feeling of need to engage the adrenaline rush overwhelms the person. The survival mode having been triggered feeds off of dangerous situations due to the fight or flight defensive mechanism. Survival depends on a reactionary responsive reflex, a instantaneous engagement of life threatening situations (Cercone, 302). A soldiers training suppresses the flight portion of this evolutionary apparatus leaving only one option for the veteran, self destructive behavior.

The driving force behind criminal activity for the veteran comes out in situations as unplanned overreactions to stimuli in our environment. Societies law enforcement, medical and mental health institutions, and judicial systems have little understanding of the war veterans perspective on life. A punitive approach to dealing with these individuals would only compound the mental health issues prevalent in our combat veterans.

When I hear of the offensive and incendiary conversations by individuals with little comprehension or compassion on the topic of combat veterans clashing with society I feel very much disrespected. I mean really, how do we expect our soldiers and veterans who have been on multiple deployments in Iraq to act? Most of these soldiers have been in a combat zone for an average of 2 to 3 YEARS, yes you read that right, years. Roadside bombs, their buddy blown apart right next to them, bullets whizzing by, RPG's, is that child going to blow me up? Try living with this for years and see how that might affect your mental ability to separate and distinguish cognitions into comprehendable interactions.

No offense to our veterans? Please, spare me the rhetoric. Go do some research and brush up on your knowledge of the situation from more than one narrow perspective.

August 9, 2008

Mental Health Field Unprepared for Epidemic of PTSD

I received this email today and it touches on the topic of how unprepared our nation and mental health field is to handle the cases of PTSD we have right now. What will our veterans do when we have become inundated with the hundreds of thousands of combat vets seeking help in the next 20 years? Suicide rates have begun to climb on a continuous rate since the inception of the war. This trend will only increase in the next couple of decades, as of right now over 6,000 veterans kill themselves each year.

Email from a reader:
I will be reading your blog in detail. I am a counselor in [your nearest town], I have counseled 3 former soldiers, all with varying degrees of combat stress. I wish I could say that I have helped them. There is really no training information for civilian counselors that has satisfied me. The VA is little or no help to me, but I realize that I have to get more savvy about how it can help them. [The nearest base] is little or no help to civilian counselors. They didn’t even have a PTSD group on base until the 7th soldier killed himself in 2007 and received national attention b/c his widow insisted to national news that he was not helped appropriately. That was one who was credited as suicide. I know of a soldier who killed himself and the Army hushed it by giving his widow death benefits by listing it as a combat injury.

Anyway, I have applied for Tricare approval to become a provider and been denied on bogus grounds (last time they said there was no evidence that [my college] is an accredited institution – of course it is) twice despite the horrible mental health needs of the soldiers that any Joe Shomoe can read about online. I’ve appealed a third time. It all sickens me. However, as word spreads that I am open to helping and I have no military ties, they will come. AND they will pay out of their own pockets to get some relief. I want to be more prepared. Maybe you can help me to help them.

I’ll be in touch.
My response:
Thank you Joe (name changed) for your compassion towards veterans with PTSD. This insidious mental injury is all the rage in the news at this time, due to the perseverance of families with soldiers suffering from PTSD and the resulting suicides. I say all the rage because the media puts the face on this issue like things are being done to help, when in reality we are just beginning to touch on the topic and have little research on the complexities of PTSD or the resources to help our veterans. In addition we have insufficient training programs in our colleges and for practitioners already in the field. I will have to take an independent study course to be able to include trauma therapy geared toward PTSD at U of L, so I can be prepared to give our veterans the specialized care they need. We will be facing a mental health epidemic of proportions never seen before in the history of American Warfare. With the unprecedented levels of sustained combat and extended multiple tours our veterans will be facing the crippling effects of PTSD with their families as well as the public with generational consequences.

Thank you again, for your concern and commitment, I will do what I can to help you in your endeavors. I can only offer my experience as it relates to me and my life as I am not yet in the capacity of a therapist. I can answer your questions and give you insights as it pertains to my intuitions and knowledge that I have acquired.

I would like to put your email and my response in my blog as it covers and underscores the issue of how little prepared we are to handle the ensuing issue of PTSD.

An Honor

I have been been getting increased traffic and interest to my site and message. I have been invited to post in a blog that has a considerable following. CJ from A Soldier's Perspective contacted me about being a contributer. Check out their blog, it has a much needed collective voice of veterans and active duty personnel communicating on various subjects pertaining to a soldiers perspective.

I found their blog awhile back by googling different combinations of words to see how far up my blog comes on the search engine. I was surprised to find that another blog had a similar name, the similarity in names was purely coincidental. I had written a paper for one of my psychology classes and used that paper as launching pad for my blog. I took the title of this paper as an inspiration in naming my blog.

Thank you CJ for the honor of letting me post articles in your blog as it greatly expands the potential for exposure and adds another avenue to send my message to the public.

August 6, 2008

Dissociative Spectrum Disorders and the Combat Veteran

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For two years or so after Desert Storm I had severe forms of dissociative fugues, a deeper level on the dissociative spectrum, where a total separation of identity consumes the individual. I remember one time when I was working in a sheet metal shop, I was running a CNC machine that cuts and punches angle iron. I was entering data into the computer on the machine when I started to lose track of the numbers. Numbers, reading and rapid eye movement back and forth along with highly "busy" areas will trigger a dissociative amnesia episode. So, I was entering the data, I started to get confused and kept having to reenter the data. Then I was staring at the screen and realized that I had no idea what I was doing. I looked around at the shop and knew that it was familiar, but could not identify what it was or why I was there. It was like I was dropped off on a alien planet and I could see some things that looked similar to what I know but yet was totally alien in form. Then I tried to access information about me and was denied the information. I tried to think of my name and could not, my identity was foreign to me. I did not know who I was or what I was doing in this place, but I do remember that the place was familiar. I do not know how long this episode lasted, but all of a sudden all everything came back to me in a rush.

I had several more types of fugues, I would be walking down the isle of the grocery store and experience a fugue. I do not know why, but a grocery store would send me into a crying fit of guilt and grief with only one thought in my mind and nothing else. I would cry for hours and could not be moved, lying in the isle of the store just crying with my wife holding me thinking only of the one singular thought. The Iraqi soldiers we killed that were trying to surrender.

Other times in a store I would walk aimlessly around not knowing why I was there and wondering what it was that I was supposed to do. My wife would have to come to the store and get me after having been in the store for hours. The episodes were triggered by areas with an abundance of numbers, letters, colors, areas of high visual traffic. This went on for about two years after the war.

The incident that solidified the mental wound of PTSD results in a mind numbing, or psychic shift. In response to the trauma of combat, the person needs to make a mental detachment to do what needs to be done. The survival mode of operation forgoes the higher levels of functioning and depends on the primitive reactionary portion of the brain (Cercone, 296). When this unconscious detachment has been activated to frequently or for extended amounts of time it becomes part of conscious processing and interferes with everyday interactions.

I remember in the Gulf War when that cognitive fracture, or dissociative reorganization happened for me. It was at night, I was watching our long range rockets and artillery barrage launching to rain down on the enemy. It was surreal, beautiful, terrifying, the most intense fireworks I had ever seen filling the entire sky illuminating the battlefield, I was in awe. It felt like I was one with the universe, out among the everything, feeling all and knowing all. I heard over the distance of what seemed like eternity, "Move out".

I realized that I was no longer inside of my body, the instant that I heard that order and made that connection I was paralyzed as I slammed back into my body. In that same moment, I had this switch that went off or turned on. This mode of operation was no longer a thinking thing, it was a reacting thing. My field of vision opened up completely, it was like my central focus point had widened to include my whole field of vision. I was aware of everything without having to look at it. I was more alive than I had ever been, except that there was no conscious processing of information and a total lack of emotion, absolute detachment. Time had suspended itself for me, I was eternal, I had accessed a part of me that was omnipresent.

August 5, 2008

Iraqi War Mental Health Epidemic

Map of major operations and battles of the Ira...Image via Wikipedia
In the next 10 to 15 years the American public will see a sharp rise in veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder, to the point of epidemic proportions. You see, never before in war have our troops been subjected to such prolonged exposure to combat and life threatening situations.

In World War II our troops were fighting a defined enemy while engaging real objectives with sufficient downtime in between engagements. Most of the troops to see combat were infantry soldiers fighting on a distinct front, not the ones "in the rear with the gear". With a real threat to our sovereignty and way of life soldiers of this era were less affected by the trauma of war.

The significant political interference of the Vietnam War generated little to no tangible objectives for our soldiers solidifying and branding their levels of anxiety and forever troubling their minds. Guerrilla warfare, an inherently cognitively damaging military action compounded the neuropathic damage experienced by our troops in Vietnam. Even with the troops having regular downtime in between engagements the cognitive fractures of these veterans were enhanced by more intense combat and the rejection of our returning soldiers. Now that being said, I know a guy that did 5 tours in Vietnam which was uncommon, most soldiers did their two years and the ones that survived went home.

The soldiers in the Iraqi war have been sent on multiple deployments with an average of two or three tours of duty with little time in between. While in Iraq, there are no friendly countries or areas to spend leave time to relieve stress. They are on constant alert and most, even non-combat soldiers, see combat or threats on a daily basis. Now combine this with the most intensive warfare possible, guerrilla warfare in an urban environment. We get troops that are overextended and overexposed to life threatening situations within unprecedented levels of combat.

Our troops in Iraq have no respite from danger, further entrenching the effects of PTSD through the hyper levels of neurotransmitters. This information should be the on the forefront of discussion and conversation in the news and in the public arena. This is what is not being said about whats going on with this war.

The reason we don't have 20,000 soldiers dead compared to the Vietnam War 5 years into the war? Our medical knowledge and technical experience gained from another unpopular war.

What we do have are veterans that would have died in the Vietnam War or World War II that are going home with their bodies and minds shattered. The amputation rates have risen to twice that of previous wars. What will be the result of such unmitigated multiple traumas that the Iraqi veterans will be facing?

Some of the current thinking have postulated the PTSD rates of this war to be in the range of 30-50%. Come on America WAKE UP! Your freedom is due to the sacrifice of our soldiers lives, both in mortality and the possibility of becoming a meaningful and productive human being.

August 4, 2008

The Patriarch

My father passed away on Saturday the 2nd, I have been handling the funeral arraignments and proceedings. The ceremony is on Wednesday. My emotional affect has been flat and void of feelings. I feel the patriarch position being passed on and do not have time to process yet. I do not even think that I can process it all anyway