October 30, 2008

PTSD Can Evoke a Sense of Safety

My blog is about what I deal with on any given day, the continuing battle wrought by one man attempting to overcome PTSD again, and again, each day. Sometimes I achieve just that and others I succumb to its ravages; the chronic struggle that most combat PTSD sufferers deal with on a continuing basis.

Identity issues prevail throughout the mind of a PTSD host, so to speak. When I think of a cure my mind almost reels in horror, because of my survival instincts having defeated death as a result of having PTSD, and its shaping of my life. I would not be who I am today without it, this device of PTSD that engages in the survival defensive mechanisms that has sustained my life on a persistent basis.

What would I do to replace the safe feeling I receive when I am vigilant in my personal protection? How would I deal with life when I am used to coping from minute to minute and occupying myself with this endless game of self absorption? An attachment of the self to the self that is the identity of one who sufficiently succeeds in suffering.

PTSD is not only about personal protection or self preservation but in its essence a mechanism of such endeavors, thus becoming a self-perpetual entity in of itself. Almost as if it has become self-aware and not only will it steer me away from danger, but also away from its own demise; a seemingly serendipitous supra-intelligent guidance of the subconscious (I do love word play for sure).

Tis no wonder that we who suffer from combat or complex PTSD have existential identity issues intertwined with the usual symptoms, and at times, exhibit this as a personality crisis while occasionally leading to psychosis and neurosis.

October 24, 2008

Combat PTSD and Memory

Would You Want to Forget the Biggest Most Influential Part of Your Life?

Sometimes you have no choice but to do so, or go insane. I do not think that every soldier who contracts PTSD from combat in the defense of our country wants to use this as an excuse to commit crimes. Maybe some will claim so, less than 1% and I doubt that they actually have PTSD. The rest of us live in fear of what may happen, we feel the snap of reality going and when we come to we fear what may of happened and what we did.

How many times have you heard about the wife waking up in the middle of the night with the Vietnam Vet choking her, he has that 1000 yard stare and a look of death on his face. He comes to and cannot believe that he was back in combat trying to kill charlie when in fact he had his hands around her throat. This is not a warm up to go kill, rob or steal because we think what a great idea it would be to become a criminal now that we even have the "perfect" excuse. Tell me, where do you see soldiers and veterans getting away with anything?

If anything we have attention drawn to us and have placed upon us a higher demand for a show of integrity and character. We exemplify the pride and honor of our country and its people. Not that soldiers or veterans with PTSD need any more stress than we already live with, but there it is.

Sometimes I need to share with someone who will listen and validate what happened to me was real. If I do not do this I might convince myself, again, that I made it all up, that it just did not happen. I do not need solutions, I do not need answers. I just need to be heard to know what I am feeling matters, that it is real.

Imagine knowing something about yourself more than you know anything, and at the same time knowing how unreal it is. This part of you has such a hold on you, that you cannot for the life of yourself feel its grasp until it is too late, then it has you and you are no longer yourself. Imagine a watery consciousness slipping away and thinking who was that? And, you already know the answer, as it dissipates like smoke on the wind. In that moment of realization comes the instantaneous realization of your being, slipping away.

The sad truth is that the American Public has become blinded to the plight of our vets and this has become evident of the ease to condemn those that commit crimes, and vilify them rather than to actually solve the dilemmas we face. We have become accustomed to ignoring our veterans who have defended our nation, since after WWII we have become your person you love to hate. This is who we are, we who do what you do not want to do and wear the emotional scars and bear your shame.

Let me ask you again. Would you want to forget the biggest most influential part of your life?

October 22, 2008

I Would Like to Introduce 'Family of a Vet'

I read a comment on my article “A Prisoner of My Beliefs” over at A Soldier's Perspective, and went to check out the web site that was referenced. I was dually impressed with the informative articles on how to deal with a combat veteran and the life that entails. An honest and engaging snapshot of what the veteran and family faces, I think the relevance of this site extends to educating the families of soldiers, veterans and to the general public.

A much needed straight forward educational experience for struggling families, that were not informed of what they probably will face to some kind of degree from full blown PTSD and its effects or the adjustments and changes in our solders and veterans. I wept and laughed as I read the shared antidotes delivered with as much humor and obvious emotion splashed throughout with advice and stories.

The central message seems to ring true with mine as well, to inform our veterans and families that they do not have to share this burden alone. We have been through it and want to help others see their way through to the strength that can emerge and wish others to share in our triumphs and tribulations so that we all can rise above and prevail, and along the way hopefully someone who does not understand or comprehend the combat veterans plight that they too will begin to grasp what PTSD can do to a person, family and their community.

I invite all to check out Family of a Vet, a wonderful web site with true to life information for families that share their lives with a combat veteran.

October 20, 2008

For Family of Incarcerated Veterans and Soldiers

In the last post I wrote some suggestions to help with a veteran or soldier diagnosed with PTSD and charged with a crime, today I want to touch on some additional suggestions to those persons involved and separated from their loved ones. This information could apply to anyone in a position of adversity and great change.

During times of great turmoil and adversity such as a loved one struggling and succumbing to the ravishing effects of PTSD, this will release devastating effects on the person and sometimes can reap outrageous and deleterious consequences to others. During times such as the later, we may have our loved one incarcerated due to their actions under extreme duress due to triggered stressors leading to abominable repercussions to all involved.

This tragedy will lead to a host of emotional states, starting a whole cycle of sensations you will be going through, similar to the grief cycle that goes with a loss of a loved one as if they had passed away. Realize this and begin your passage through it, without doing this you will not be able to weather the oncoming issues.

The first issue needing attention more than anything; take care of yourself first. This will be a long journey that you find yourself in, it has just begun. I'm sure your loved one wants you to be happy and to do that, you need not put your life on hold during this ordeal.

I went through a long custody battle for my children and put everything on hold for 8 years and as this court battle went on, to the detriment of my mental and physical health. I won custody of my children in my state, but she moved them to the next state that did not recognize my states proceedings or my court order for custody. Long story short, I DID NOT THINK OF MY SELF FIRST and lost everything, my kids, house, my second marriage and eventually my sanity. I let the whole ordeal define me; I was the case and the case was me, there was nothing else, and I was consumed by the whole process.

Self-care is not being selfish, since I have learned that by thinking about myself and meeting my needs first I was able to take resume my responsibilities. I learned the concepts of personal boundaries where boundary concepts and identification gives you the ability to not let life and situations overwhelm and control you; your feelings of discomfort will alert you of boundary intrusions.

Self-care is loving yourself so you can love others, helping yourself so you may help others as long as no harm has come to you. When I figured this out I was able to function at a level I had never before achieved. By not taking care of self we begin to loath self and think only in terms of failure, a development of self-loathing and negative perspectives will warp our reality and doom us to fail; a self fulling prophecy. Extremely important to my peace of mind, praying and meditating.

It seems counterproductive to issues of great importance to you today, this process will be a long and drawn out trial and ordeal for all concerned. You have to accept that, it is of utmost important that you accept this, right now. It will alleviate quite a bit of anxiety and stress just by accepting that you have been committed to a long process that may take years to resolve.

It may feel as if you will be betraying your soldier or veteran by trying to let go of some of the feelings that you have been clinging to. It only feels like this, you have to let go of these feelings to get through it. By holding on to the emotions and not letting go we stay stuck in the moment and cannot grow. The ability to grow in personal development during times of extreme adversity will be the ONE thing we need to begin toward a forward momentum, without it we will fail.

Now, with our acceptance of personal self and our life situation our load will lighten, as we now have the ability to spontaneously interact with our environment instead of only reacting. We can begin to trust our own judgments in the moment without having to try and think of every possibility and contingency in exchanges between individuals. By doing this we loose sight of the subtler interactions in life and miss out on important exchanges that effective interpersonal communication requires.

List of Self-Care Contingencies:
  • Self-care, by taking care of self we can navigate life successfully
  • Personal boundaries, with self defined boundaries we can assert ourselves effectively
  • Grief-cycle, by accepting our situations and self we can grow as our life situations require
  • Acceptance, self validation and self examination allows change and forward momentum
  • Interpersonal communication, allows for effective exchanges; a give and take interaction necessary for negotiations that dominate most social situations, business networking and judicial settings
I wish you well on your journey, it will be difficult and can be an opportunity to advance and advocate the cause by shedding light on the plight our veteran and soldiers face due to the consequences of inadequate funding and lack of mental health services.

October 18, 2008

Suggested Guide to Help Your Veteran or Soldier Diagnosed With PTSD and Charged With a Crime

Today we have become faced with a growing trend of soldiers and veterans becoming enmeshed in the court systems. In direct conflict with the perception in the media I propose the theory that our veterans and soldiers face an insufficient mental health care which has a major impact to their lives, families and communities.

The problem is not individualistic but systemic requiring major changes in how we view and treat PTSD. The care of our soldiers and veterans is not being meet and we have just begun to see the aftereffects of the mind shattering results of combat trauma. Untreated PTSD can destroy the lives of many, not only the soldier and veteran. We send our soldiers to war for our freedom and then lock them up when they are broken and of no use anymore.

Below is a suggested guide on how to help your soldier or veteran with PTSD that has been charged with committing a violent crime:

To whom it may concern,

I would suggest that you start researching about PTSD right away. The mind-body connection and interactions, the psychology of PTSD, defensive mechanisms, how the mind responds to trauma, the symptoms of PTSD, how extended combat (such as multiple tours served) effects soldiers and veterans, legal ramifications of criminal behavior and PTSD, the processes of the psychic split from reality and past combat experiences, how anxiety plays an everyday part of our lives, how ordinary stress can lead to higher levels of stress and extreme responses and flashbacks, the nature of flashbacks, the nature of triggers and how they apply to PTSD, and the mental compartmentalization that happens to a PTSD survivor. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but should give you some kind of idea of where you might want to start.

Like it or not, this has consumed your life by no choice of your own, instead of letting that energy overwhelm you and feeling helpless, turn that energy into a useful endeavor and focus it toward finding out as much as possible about PTSD and the effects of combat. You have more passion about this subject than anyone, use this as an opportunity to help your loved one get a fair trial and to force the courts to consider his/her mental illness as a contributing factor in their actions.

Do not take no for an answer from his/her lawyer as to your wanting to get involved in your significant others case, jump into his/her pocket and become the "paralegal" and find them the information that needed for fair consideration of the case. Most lawyers will resist this from you, again do not take no for an answer. I am guessing that the lawyer will probably be a public defender, they are overloaded with cases and cannot really give the appropriate attention that their caseload needs. So, you need to assume that role of "defender" and information detective, this can greatly impact the outcome of the trial.

Consider trying to find a high profile lawyer who will take the case on pro bono, this type of case has become a hot topic in the news and media. A lawyer might take a case for this reason and could benefit the outcome.

Go to the clerks office and get a copy of the court case file, this will help you by becoming familiar with the states perspective on the case and what exactly is being done.

Educate yourself in Miranda rights (If they violated his rights here, this could have a considerable impact on the outcome), federal constitutional law concerning 1st, 4th (emphasis here), 5th, 6th and 8th amendments, along with state constitutional law.

Educate yourself on how the court works, the proceedings, when and where evidence can be brought, the questioning of witnesses and how that process is different in every aspect of the trial.

Educate yourself on case law concerning PTSD and other mental illnesses where a consideration or precedent has been set, this can be used in your case and can greatly influence what happens. Look into your state laws first as they will have the most sway, because state law guides state cases first, then look to federal law to find precedents and findings where PTSD was considered in the sentencing phase. Concentrate on first on the main trial part where the evidence and witnesses will be displayed then on the sentencing. Both of these parts of the overall court proceedings will be the most important part, your soldier or veterans fate will be decided between these two proceedings.

Educate yourself on and things to do:
  • Do not talk with the police or anyone else until you have talked with your lawyer, what you say will be used against you
  • Learn your rights and assert them, you do not have any rights if you do not know your rights
  • get a copy of court case file
  • get a copy of VA file and military file
  • jump in your lawyers pocket
  • try to find a pro bono lawyer
  • individual rights, Miranda and if they were violated
  • legal proceedings, structure of court formalities and rules of law
  • psychology of PTSD
  • case law, state and federal, concentrating on the main trial and sentencing process
  • constitutional law
  • legal responsibilities of the judge, your lawyer and the prosecutor
  • find a support group
  • contact your senator, congressperson
  • contact your local VFW, AMVETS, or veterans associations
I know that this seems like to much, just figure out what is coming next and then concentrate your efforts into that. Take one court proceeding at a time and concentrate on the legalities of that part of the process and use it as a guide to where you need to research and what you should do. The structure of the next proceedings will be your sign post for the direction you need to concentrate on.

You can do this, if you accept that you have been put on this earth for this. You were born to do this, this may be your purpose in life, to be the freedom fighter for all veterans and soldiers who will face this tribulation. You have more vested in this than anyone else, you have more to loose, do not stand by and be a spectator. Get involved and later you will not have the guilt of "I wish I had done something".

A most important issue to face would be finding a support group that you feel safe with and trust. You cannot do this alone, enlist the help of as many people that you can. Contact your congressperson, senator and your local VFW, AMVETS, DAV or American Legion.

This is only a suggestion for what to do. I have compiled this list and information as a suggested guide for personal empowerment.

October 17, 2008

How a Soldier Prepares to Kill

To Do the Deed, the Dance of Death

To understand what a person with PTSD goes through "in the moment" we have to think beyond our belief of how we would handle ourselves in a high stress life or death situation. Put self away, go to that place that enables you to kill or be killed.

Forget the theoretical self analyzing the process, but concentrate on the dominating, primeval alpha self that goes beyond rationalizing why or why not, realize that part of you that goes without thinking. This part operates from the law of the wild, the component that keeps you alive when your life becomes threatened to be snatched away. Your will to survive is an entity of its own and will separate from your rationale to preserve itself, self preservation.

We have a filtering mechanism inside of the mind that strains experience looking for the pertinent information needed to navigate stimuli in the environment. The subconscious screens the information through our emotive center which guides us on appropriate actions. When this controller becomes overloaded, the trigger is pulled and the irrational takes over. The flood gate becomes inundated and can no longer hold the storm wind and rain, the dam breaks releasing the rainwater's natural propensity to flow and overwhelm everything in its path.

Once this part of us has been released due to a death threat, it places itself on point and plows the way to safety. That part of us summoned by the heat of anger and the fire of rage and shuts down all thinking and rationalizing to do the deed, the dance of death.

October 16, 2008

Soldiers Who Kill Can Become Imprisoned by Their Experiences

A Prisoner of My Beliefs

Soldiers and veterans with full blown PTSD usually have low personal self-esteem, a self-constructed foundation of self-affirmations grounded in positive thought, word and deeds, reinforced through values and principles. Esteem manifests in an outward appearance of honor and moral mastery, integrity and humility as others would know a consistency of character established through words, deed and actions. Where all of these principles were meet and mastered in the field of battle they no longer apply to a civilian life or civil society.

The combat schema, a defined preconditioned set of beliefs and values enabling the warrior to navigate efficiently through the adversity of combat without a detailed consideration of consequences. To engage in a mortal fight with the enemy this schema spells out our actions in a given situation as being preoccupied with survivability of the moment can get you killed. The warrior with PTSD has grown accustomed to the value and belief systems of war and feels threatened when they become faced with having to let go of this security to reintegrate back into society.

Without a proper identification of values and a conceptualization of a solid schema we can become lost to the reality of a situation and possibly lose out on our interactions necessary for relationship building. Combat critically changes our value systems, mostly to the detriment of constructing and maintaining significant relationships with family and friends. A disconnect happens between the soldier or veteran that leaves everyone feeling as though an insurmountable wall has been erected.

By an identification of values, along with acknowledging and deconstructing the combat schema one could find the ability to critically analyze in the moment, the validity of said beliefs as required by situational reflection enabling readjustments and disallowing an inflexibility of position. An underpinning of empowering schema and a reevaluation of ethical morality allows one to find plasticity in the moment producing a positive self-efficacy; a confident and self-assured person.

October 14, 2008

When PTSD is an Excuse and Ignorance Not

I was tooling around the internet and checking for some inspiration to write a post, oh boy did I ever find one. This piece I found was on a blog that I never would have thought would allow such lowbrow lack of insight and wholly judgmental holier than thou attitude perpetuated against our soldiers and veterans who have PTSD.

Just because we have a shortage of mental health workers to help our returning soldiers and veterans does not mean we should let just anybody in the doors to help. More damage can be done than good, even if they mean well. Especially if they have the kind of mental prowess and short sightedness such as this "counselor" who wrote this piece that I read.

I try not to wail on people because of who I used to be, but this guy goes on and on...well I will let you read his treatise of ignorance if you want to, but first here are some of his astounding mental feats of "I know I'm right because I said so"
I see the effects of PTSD on a regular basis and have dealt with it’s effects on people suffering from it for quite a few years. I strongly advocate for, is better health care for our returning Soldiers, whether they have physical injuries that can change their lives, or whether they’re suffering from TBI or PTSD.
No, nothing out of order here, even looks as though he might be on a roll to advocate actually, but keep going on,
Something that I’ve been seeing lately that really alarms me however, is Soldiers suffering from PTSD, committing crimes and then using their mental disorder as an excuse to not be held accountable for the crimes they commit. Unfortunately, that’s occurring more and more and it frightens me that they would be allowed to do so.
Ouch, believe it or not this is his next sentence. I do not see where we "let" or "allow" these crimes be done. Seems to me that the lack of mental health care might be contributing to this, but I doubt that's what he meant. Read on
The one thing that I want to stress here, is that just because someone is suffering from PTSD, doesn’t mean that they don’t know the difference between right and wrong and it doesn’t mean that they don’t have control over their behavior. If we allow them to use that as a crutch and an excuse their behavior, then honestly, I don’t see them bettering themselves. Instead, we’re inviting them to stay stuck in that behavior and never taking personal responsibility for their actions. We’re telling them that it’s okay for them to break the law or do bad things, because they have a mental disorder. That’s just not acceptable. When we allow it to become acceptable, then we’re opening the door for thousands of Americans from Soldiers to a crime victim, to do whatever they please and to use the excuse that they’re suffering from PTSD.
Well, I cannot read this anymore, so if you want to see what this guy who calls himself a counselor says, the link is here.

If you would rather skip his bull shit and get straight to my comment to his article then go to the first comment here, it is kind of long just letting you know, but it goes by real fast.

October 10, 2008

Alcohol, Drugs and Killing can Become Addictive

Combat can leave a veteran or soldier addicted to the rush of adrenaline that a survival environment and killing can bring. Upon returning home it could manifest in many ways, constructively such as in positive thrill seeking activities like skydiving, rock climbing, or scuba diving. Others may fall to the wayside and react negatively through drugs, alcohol, and compulsive and impulsive self destructive behavior. I initially turned to drinking to calm my nerves which intensified the feelings of rage, anger and self-loathing.

My PTSD started up right away, it was like someone had raised the lid of my vexation and released an emotional chameleon, I could hide in plane site or jump right out at ya. In the first two years I had several dissociative amnesia episodes and drank most everyday while nearly losing my sanity over the years. I had several occurrences of psychosis during moments of peak mental instability, and self medicated while I lived a life of madness for almost 14 years before I became convinced of the need for help. It took an attempt on my life to make me realize my condition was beyond going on without help.

In the beginning the anxiety I experienced was masked as bravado and a tough guy image feeding on the power that I felt from being aggressive, dominating and coercive. I would instigate situations where I could express my built up anxiety through aggression and engage violence as a repressing mechanism to once again become detached from self and my emotions. I remember always looking for a fight or some excuse to go off on an unsuspecting person to dispel the emotional pain that I was attempting to deny. As time went by this to became troublesome as a coping skill and contributed to my overall anxiety and self-loathing.

I do see people healing from the mental scars of warfare, from where I have been and what I have seen it takes years to do so. But, my journey has taken me down the self destructive path of addiction and violence. There have been many more people who have not done so and others of varying degrees, the percentage of troops who take a more constructive way of life outnumber the ones who do so negativity. Usually the soldiers and veterans who have strong attachments and identify with a family support system have less troubles reintegrating.

October 9, 2008

Warrior Survival Skills

I thought that this comment was relevant to the problem of soldiers and veterans survival skills that worked so well in combat, actually become a hindrance once they return home. I want the warriors of today to realize that these skill sets can be adapted for use in society, that we can use most of our PTSD symptoms as new skill set.

Granted that our minds have been overexposed to the primitive portion of our brain and we have a hyper-response thinking landscape, but coming from strengths perspective we do have a vast amount of skill sets to work from. With becoming educated on how our minds used to work and how they function today after combat we can begin to make sense of our thinking patterns and reaction responses, and to learn to govern our facilities more efficiently.

Comment from a reader,
I'm a clinical psychologist who spent many years working with Vietnam vets with PTSD and doing research on PTSD. I have a son fighting in Afghanistan. One concept I found universally helpful in working with veterans with PTSD is to realize that you develop coping styles that are important survival skills in your combat environment. The problem is when you get back to the rest of the world the environment is different and those skills no longer work. Recognizing the now-past survival value of those coping styles often helps. The problem is then finding new ones to take their place while realizing your "symptoms" are just ways of expressing habits you developed to survive, that are now harmful instead of helpful.
My response,
The attachment to my combat survival skill was hard for me to let go of, I unknowingly thought I would die if I gave them up. Seemingly my senses and body would hijack my mind and I could only be a witness looking out as I reflexively reacted to apparent hostility.

I honestly feel if I had not learned about values, social skills, and identifying the habits of survival that you speak of I would have wound up in prison, dead or some other way institutionalized.

Thank you for your comments and for your work and research with our veterans of Vietnam. I look forward to becoming a clinical social worker and therapist helping our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

May God bless you and your son's safe return home.

October 8, 2008

How a Soldier Can Kill: The Making of a Soldier's Heart

Soldier's Heart, the Swiss Army Knife of Death

In combat or other trauma what can begin as a detachment of emotions from actions can lead to a fractured self, an "othering" and dehumanizing the part of us capable of dispensing death, the "Soldier's Heart" takes on its own persona deep into the shadows . In combat this defensive mechanism, or "tool of death", works well and allows a device within the person to eradicate the enemy who has been assigned a wholly less than human label of demon, enabling denial of the "killer" in us and identifying the burden of blame on its adversary as due adjudication. Thus fracturing and subdividing the mind into non-localized discoherent detachments, all necessary to survive the absurdity of war

Through splits in recognition of a personal identification of self in reality and a impersonal other or shadow self, the Soldier's Heart, one can undertake the surreal experience of destruction and death. Neatly compartmentalizing each portion of the self as a tool or blades smartly sheathed in a case knife, a "Swiss army knife of death", if you will. Just about every solder has this tool whether in their pocket, mind or both. Having objectified the apparatus of undoing life annihilates the attachments to rationale, connections to emotions and actions, and the mediation filter weighing consequences of such actions temporarily while possibly manifesting later as crippling guilt.

This paradigm shift for killing without remorse in the moment, allows for survival in combat and the eradication of other humans, a simply kill or be killed end game. A "simplicity of survival" rational in a hot zone will carry the troop home and can sometimes become difficult to turn off. Which then could lead to dissociative states of differing selves that can become activated during times of high stress. The "tools of survival" do not know the difference between an agitation or an actual threat to life. An automatic survival response takes over the body, and the Soldier's Heart springs forward to slay thine enemies.

October 7, 2008

Dissociation in Military PTSD

The term shadow persona refers to that part of the individual we deny yet that commands great influence over our behavior while projecting responsibility onto stimuli in the environment or other persons. The haziness of this lack of fully identifying with self can be discerned, it takes time and commitment to overcome our natural defensive mechanisms that have been etched into the mind stemming from great pain.

In this way it overshadowed my true nature, as if I was a passenger in the vehicle that was my body being driven by a conductor. Seemingly my senses and body would hijack my mind and I could only be a witness looking out as I reflexively reacted to apparent hostility and a viral environment. For me it was more of a forward frontal facade that forcefully identified me more so than conversely while surrendering my personal power.

I still feel its presence, today that part of me truly has become a shadow as I have integrated it into my being and personality. In that way it has less power over me compared to when it dominated my worldview by denying that it existed. By claiming this shadow persona I reclaim its capitalization of my faculties and effectuate my assertions of choice, instead of hiding within the silhouette of my soul and vanquishing determinative values and principles.

God intended for us to claim our being through the humility of practicing principles and integrity, both moral imperatives toward communion with humanity. By doing so we break the hold of our subconscious mind controlling our thoughts, feelings and actions. Reach out and go forth to claim all that you are and will become, in doing so you will control the consequences of your actions and gain a new freedom never before experienced.

October 4, 2008

Personal Attachments, Before and After Combat

In normal environments such as a community, surroundings and especially in our family lives, we as humans develop attachments to people, places and things. Such connections bring a sense of comfort, peace and normalcy along with feelings of protection and safety. We can let down our guard and protective mechanisms around people most familiar to us as we have become bonded to one another.

The bonds, mutuality, and familiarity combine to form a sphere of communion we rarely think about until we loose it. The concentric circles of influence radiate outward while becoming increasingly formal and incrementally lacking of freely given trust. We learn boundaries initially from parental role models within the family unit and continue doing so through our peers as we mature and branch out ever more into our communities.

We will incorporate feelings of nostalgia associated with the environments that bring about pleasant emotional states; the proverbial "memory lane". By doing so we link personal affinity to such settings, that bring positive grounding through personalizing the identifying emotional states, with the environment.

Upon penetrating the point of no return in the combat zone the soldier enters into another world of existence that defies all prior knowledge and experience. No amount of training can prepare one for the mental severing of the soul from the body and mind. This cleaving wretches all other affiliations both externally and internally as the body, mind and soul have become compartmentalized from all other aspects of the person. The higher mind and soul become fastened to the absurdity of war and locked away, while out of necessity the body becomes separated and fixated to the immediate arena of kill or be killed. The mind resets the linkage of attachments from the ruble of comfort, contentedness and connectedness to the raging fight for life.

The powerful attachments and reliance on combat survival skills, and their battle buddies have become so welded to the soldier's identity, that some find it hard to let go of that familial feeling of brotherhood. The valid fear of dying does not become real until returning home which then becomes projected at the environment and all apparent abject hostility.

Our returning soldiers and veterans can begin to readjust to the psychological trauma they have received during combat. Especially the ones who have developed strong attachments within a group they identify and interact with regularly. They will need to seek others who have experinced similar situations so as to lessen the internal pain of severing the ties of blood brothers back in the battlefield. The soldier or veteran did not choose for these bonds with family members to be broken, it was a matter of necessity for their survival.

Family understanding and involvement has an integral impact on our returning troops successful reintegration back into society. Upon returning home the warrior will require time, to actually feel like they have returned home, it may take years for some. "The battle never leaves us, as we return from conflict everyday of our lives" (Lee, S.).

The family must understand that the soldier returning will not be the same person they walked to the tarmac and watched depart.

October 3, 2008

Posse Comitatus Loophole to Rule by Decree

I have striven to not become political where this blog was concerned as the message here is of great importance to me, our troops and veterans. I will always do my best to not spout my political views here, other than were legislation and actions concerning issues of PTSD and aid to our veterans and soldiers. I have come to realize that sometimes it is necessary to do so, the later more so than otherwise.

I will never think that having the regular military deployed within our borders is a good idea. The executive orders of the last two years have set the ground work for a military "intervention" as prescribed and interpreted by the commander in chief and answerable to no one, absolute power has been consolidated. When has this ever been a good idea?

As the laws stand right now, one man can say I invoke marital law and commandeer the country bypassing and foregoing any judicial or congressional oversight. Without having to explain or a clear indication of a threat to its citizens except to "say" that a national security issue has arisen.

It sets an extremely bad precedence and mechanism for our own troops to be used against its citizens. Yes they may have "nonlethal" means to "subdue" its citizens. But now that our military can be used to quell riots or demonstrations, which was how our nation was founded and every major civil rights and liberties were won, we will see abuses of this power. Do we really have confidence in the benevolence of our leaders in Washington to act in our best interest? Huh, hello, the bailout!

The Posse Comitatus Act has been completely circumvented, even thought it still stands the executive orders of late have created a loophole and sets a very loose interpretation without oversight as to how and when federal forces can be used inside our borders. When has our government ever created a loophole that was not used?

I do not doubt the intentions of our troops, it is the consolidation of powers that I question and do not trust. As it stands right now ONE person can seize control of our government, nation and its assets in the name of national security without a damn good reason to do so.

The only way I see this as acceptable would be a scenario of regular military forces invading our country and a temporary order of command during such incursions.

The actions taken of late are permanent and set the stage for absolute control, a despot, supreme rule. The complete mechanism for rule by decree has been set.

October 1, 2008

Combat Veterans and Institutions: A Systems Analysis

Returning Combat Veterans (RCV), have a difficult time reintegrating back into society and life within their family. They deal with a myriad of symptoms combining to hinder the RCV from coping in the civilian world, while having constructive relationships with their family and friends. The lack of psychological education and training while in the military poorly prepares the soldier for the horrors of war and the negative effects on mental functioning. Further compounding the problems for the RCV upon their return they encounter limited services and a Veterans Administration (VA) system more in tune with economics and regulations then providing best outcomes. The scope of this paper explains these concerns as they relate to the competition between veterans seeking help and a system geared toward a macro structural functionalist model that concentrates on peripheral wide applications. A deeper apprehension and awareness has to come forward for our veterans to get the help they need.

The problem between bureaucracies, the combat veteran and their family receiving help lies with the systems application of dynamic systems theory to address problems that require a more interactive ideology such as the ecological systems approach. The main criticism of systems theory treats the person as a machine or something that can be “fixed” lies central to the VA’s approach (Robbins, S.P., Pranab, C., Canda, E. R., pps. 28-47). The models and programs stemming from government to redress RCV issues fail to take into account the magnitude of their problems that extend beyond the medical model and psychological paradigm. The attempt by the VA to apply a blanket policy of treatment on all veterans who face problems such as the affects of psychological trauma in combat has failed.

The military way of life provides strong attachments through a communal approach to every aspect of interactions between soldiers and their families, whether through a support network for the spouse of a soldier to help one another, or to the training of our troops. Developing and enveloping the individual perspectives while opening them to a cohesive togetherness usually not felt before enlisting in the armed services. Now add in a military conflagration and this level of interpersonal commitment and associations become welded to each other’s identity (Lee, 2008f). By educating the soldiers on how personal bonds can be broken by combat and the importance of redeveloping connections with significant others could lessen the mental shock upon returning home.

While many physical features of the RCV may have changed, the deleterious effects of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) leave nothing the same and completely alter the landscape of the mind. “Taking another's life in the name of freedom, patriotism and because of your job description profoundly changes the person.” (Lee, 2008a, para. 2) Their whole existence has been transformed by the experience of killing; the morality of war trumps the niceties of society and lends the RCV to a reflexive reactionary response to the environment. The enormous adaptive impositions caused by combat disposes of coping and social skills, personal values, cognitive development, definitions of boundaries, stress management, and appropriate responses to environmental stimuli. All of these issues combine to challenge the RCV’s reintegration back into society, “…the environment, which is physical and social…can either support or fail to support the adaptive achievements of autonomy, competence, identity formation, and relatedness to others” (Robbins, 35).

Value identifications have importance to the combat veteran with PTSD, as their value system has 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 [fail to] understand them (Lee 2008c, para. 3).

Soldiers in combat develop a powerful attachment to one another; the strength of this symbiotic bonding overshadows all others, even family. First of all the degree of familiarity and closeness that extreme survival situations such as combat, brings people together to a height one has never experienced before. People have an instinctual need to feel a belonging such as in a herd where they feel safe. This “herdness” has supplanted all other attachments while people they once knew intimately have become foreign and strange. The family, friends and soldier feel this estrangement and all involved become unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Family and friends cannot understand what the RCV has been through, so the soldier or veteran seeks other survivors who do (Lee, 2008e).

The militaristic concentration on rituals of drilling and killing so that one becomes a more efficient “terminator” through automatic reflexive responses to survival, leads the veteran prone to using violent behavior in any given situation where boundaries have been crossed. The open system dynamics of “normal” interaction has become highly dysfunctional for the RCV who has lost their “goodness of fit” within their home environment. The breakdown of a unifying suprasystem interferes with the holistic dimensions of the veteran, increasing the separation and antagonizing the loss of identity that humans claim from associations within their communities. Without an understanding of boundary maintenance the RCV often develops a feeling of being attacked at home and in their community due to their inability to adapt to the fluidity of boundaries inherent with socialization.

Ehrenreich (2003) seeks to advance an understanding of “social traumas” where, …[i]n the context of physical devastation, massive social displacement, and ongoing violence, the hierarchy of need reasserts itself: concrete needs for, health care, housing, and jobs, the need for social reconstruction and reintegration, and the necessity of social reconciliation may dwarf individual emotional needs.

The identification and reinforcement of values, emotion identification, and anger management techniques along with stress management training would enable soldiers to realize better coping strategies when coming out of the combat zone. Further, interpersonal communication and social skills education along with boundaries identification would foster closer relationships with significant others (Lee, 2008d). Further on the topic of values and principles, these systems have a connection to feelings and emotions or the lack thereof with one who dissociates as most RCVs and complex-PTSD sufferers do. Emotions and feelings are the arbiters of values, principles, and morality; the ethical dilemmas that keep most people in check can get bypassed with a combat veteran’s lack of affect. A normal reaction with a non-traumatized brain would trigger an emotive response cascading into consideration of appropriate responses. 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 forgoing the thought of repercussions (Lee, 2008c).

The subsystem of a combat squad having experienced several fire fights develops a sense of oneness with each other; they have become an independent ecosystem; one organism through the forging process of fight or flight. Due to the nature of killing and survival their emotionality has become severed from their environment and channeled into the solidarity that soldiering brings. If one of them gets wounded or killed they all feel it through their connection of unity and common goal of survival (Lee 2008d). Bonding through blood and battle takes the soldier to a new level of raw humanism forged through survival and fight or flight defensive mechanisms. The psychology of killing alters the terrain of the mind disabling the rational machinery and enabling the ancient reflexive responsive unconscious (Lee, 2008f).

The focus on killing without contemplating consequences severs the RCVs ritual of connection to community, family, and wholeness resulting in deviant adaptations. Their formative connections have remained back in the field of combat and killing, where they left part of themselves with their buddies who have yet to come home while carrying the guilt of leaving them behind. They feel that egoistic “warrior archetype” connection with the military and the battle buddy who had their back in the combat zone. In this mind frame when the veteran comes home; they become lost in a world that no longer makes sense to them due to adaptive process of bypassing the five senses and emotional attachment to considerations of interactions. The hard wiring of the combat veterans mind acts as if their life depends on the ritualism of defensive hyper-vigilance and keeps the RCV stuck in a malposition (Lee, 2008b).

When combat takes away the soldier who has became the centerpiece of an intimate community it breaks down. Whether he has been buried or she has become a prisoner of her own mind; war fractures the body, mind, spirit and the community that once knew cohesion (Lee, 2008f). Some soldiers will long for that interconnectedness left in the field when they came home and reenlist or volunteer for another tour. Many soldiers find that their PTSD symptoms dissipate or vanish while back in the theater of combat, they have reentered the realm of survival, fight or flight and oneness with soldiering (Lee, 2008e).

The troops who do make it out of the theater of combat have been changed in body and mind. They have lost substantial parts of their mind, soul and community. Psychological trauma devastates the battle buddy, spouse, and children while splintering everything that once was the bedrock of the American Soldier (Lee, 2008f). In addition the military needs to teach mental health sensitivity training and PTSD awareness as a standard, in basic training and continuing throughout their careers thus giving mental injuries of war validity. Training in these areas would give our soldiers an extra set of tools and weapons in fighting the psychological effects of combat and war. Educating them before hand of what they may face upon going home would prepare them if they develop PTSD. Otherwise they will have gained the insights and ability to recognize when their fellow soldier suffers from PTSD (Lee, 2008d).


Ehrenreich, J. H., (2003). Understanding PTSD: forgetting trauma. Journal of Social Issues, 3 (1) 15-28.

Lee, S. (2008a, July 13). Forgive me. PTSD, a soldier’s perspective. Retrieved from http://ptsdasoldiersperspective.blogspot.com/2008/07/forgive-me.html

Lee, S (2008b, July 20). My first email response. PTSD, a soldier’s perspective. Retrieved from http://ptsdasoldiersperspective.blogspot.com/2008/07/my-first-e-mail-response.html

Lee, S. (2008c, August 22). Thoughts feelings and behavior. PTSD, a soldier’s perspective. Retrieved from http://ptsdasoldiersperspective.blogspot.com/2008/08/thoughts-eelings-and-actions.html

Lee, S. (2008d, September 5). Fully train our soldiers for the rigors of war. PTSD, a soldier’s perspective. Retrieved from http://ptsdasoldiersperspective.blogspot.com/2008/09/fully-train-our-soldiers-for-rigors-of.html

Lee, S. (2008e, September 6). Soldiers in combat develop powerful attachments to one another. PTSD, a soldier’s perspective. Retrieved from http://ptsdasoldiersperspective.blogspot.com/2008/09/soldiers-in-combat-develop-powerful.html

Lee, S. (2008f, September 14). Lower recruitment standards contributing to military suicide rates. PTSD, a soldier's perspective. Retrieved from http://ptsdasoldiersperspective.blogspot.com/2008/09/lower-recruitment-standards.html

Robbins, S. P., Pranab, C. and Canda, E. R. (2006). Contemporary human behavior theory: a critical perspective for social work. Boston: Pearson Education.