December 26, 2012

If I Had a Caregiver

I don't have a caregiver or someone to share my life with, I live alone with my dog whom helps with the companion component. But, I lack a special someone who empathizes and has compassion towards this disabled vet. An advocate for me when I no longer feel like fighting the system and naysayers and a healer for when the pain is too much to bear. The person whom I trust implicitly when it comes to making executive decisions on my behalf when the PTSD beast bites.

Here's what I'd say to my caregiver if I could;

I trust you the most and it's why I can lay my soul wound bare. I understand it hurts you when I'm not able to reciprocate and you may seem to feel a failing. Please understand when I'm lost in pain, mental and otherwise, you are the angel feeding my soul sutures one stitch at a time.

Thank you for being my beacon and providing a base for reality testing. Sometimes it may seem that I'm lobbing round after round with you scurrying about, within the chaos your feelings and place get lost. I recognize the cost upon our reserves of rationality and understanding when the darkness sets in. When I'm delusional and dissociative you receive the overflow from my war trauma and it rings a high toll. I see you doing everything possible and seeking knowledge when there is none. Above all I see your pain and loneliness when I'm in despair.

I see the struggle to understand my conditions and diagnosis, swimming through paperwork and drowning in supporting me. You do not have to be everything to me because then there would be nothing left for you. I choose you because of your capacity for compassion and love. Not your ability to take on my pain, your soul needs nurturing. Let it go and take a break, go for a walk. It's okay to capture your own mind and read a book or go see a friend. I need you to let your creative side out through networking with other talented people and groups.

When I'm in the trenches and you feel out of options, know that I have faith in you.

August 7, 2012

When, Where and How to Approach a Combat Veteran

I'm on the floor
I was talking to one of my new Journal of Military Experience friends and she expressed a discomfort in approaching me during the Military Experience Arts Symposium. She wanted to respect my space but didn't know a comfortable way to approach me in relation to PTSD symptoms in a group setting. It made me start to think about the intense air I must emote for her to question when and how to approach me. I love talking to people, it's where I get some of my greatest inspirations. But, sometimes my condition may not permit me to interact on a desired level or in an expected way. In a couple of the pictures floating around from the symposium you could find me off by myself concentrating on breathing and meditating.

The PTSD mind sees all interactions and people as a possible threat, even loved ones and friends we have known our whole lives. In between events and workshops I was concentrating heavily on trying to talk to people and maintain my anxiety level which gets in the way of communicating. Internally we may be caught up in our inner world and if we are wrapped up in high emotional states we may be displaying body postures and facial expressions that says, "I'm not at home right now, please don't leave a message." Our body language may be misconstrued as offensive and therefore subject to misinformation, stereotyping, stigma and personal biases. To the uninitiated in trauma we may appear as someone to wary or fear.

A common aspect of our mental wound is the defensive state of mind, when understood in this context may help facilitate communication. If I am not completely zoned out my hypervigilance is zapping my energy on purely defensive matters. Whether from fighting my delusions rendering reality obsolete to dodging my many triggers so that I may not hallucinate. Our triggers are many and some of us hallucinate regularly, please consider this and be respectful. Balance this with knowing that we don't want to be feared or treated as though broken. This inner battle we wage is against ourselves, not you. You would be safer standing next to a combat veteran with PTSD than most people. When our symptoms manifests try not to take it personally and see at it as a learning opportunity. It's easier to accept the pain and discomfort of a veteran wounded from a bullet or bomb and much more difficult to see our mental wound and difficulties in interacting as our scars.

I've met some combat veterans with some intense stares, some just recently. But the funny thing is one of the most intense looking guys at the symposium had a wicked humor and a huge heart. No, not me. I was having the same trouble as my new friend. How to approach an intense looking combat veteran? I would imagine my new friend would also be thinking, "What do I do if he begins to share some of his burdens?" A veterans sharing lightens their burden and extends a unique opportunity and honor to the recipient. Less than 14% of our nation has served our republic in the military and when we opt to open up, our voices should resound. I am starved of human interaction due to my superhero ability to run people off who have little understanding of my condition. Sharing nurtures the healing process soothing the mental wound, filling me with empathy. Even though I resist talking about my experiences, I feel compelled to share.

I am willing to expound upon on my condition and life, but many veterans do not feel comfortable discussing their experiences and wounds, mental or otherwise. If you want to approach a veteran and they have a flat affect as the textbooks like to call it, assess the situation. That's what we are doing during those intensely long pauses, you might as well do the same. Do we wear military fatigues, insignia or medals? Do we appear anxious, guarded or rigid? How about spring loaded? What is that all about? Unresolved trauma becomes locked in the body giving our posture the appearance of aggression or overly assertiveness thus reinforcing the stereotype. 

If you were to notice my hearing aids, I would be comfortable with questions on how it would be best to communicate with me concerning my hearing. I have bilateral hearing loss and being able to see the lips move enables better hearing. This could be a possible segue into how I lost my hearing, which I would tell you was from enemy artillery. I'm not suggesting that asking a veteran about how they got a prosthetic limb is a good idea, that may be akin to asking about someones sex life. Never ask a veteran if they have killed someone. Might as well say, "Hi! I don't know you. But, would you completely bare your soul to me here and now?" It's rude and completely disrespectful. But asking a warrior about a pin worn may be a good way to see if she is open to sharing.

Many veterans are open to sharing about the Military Experience, it wasn't all bad and in many ways better than today. If we are approached with respect and treated with dignity we may impart upon a part of our nations living oral history. Who knows you may become a member of their trusted inner circle, their squad at home.  

July 22, 2012

Powerful Healing Journeys Through the Arts and The Military Experience

The mission of the Journal of Military Experience is to mentor veterans through the writing and arts process for publication in the JME. The feedback from talented writers, authors, and artists were instrumental in my decision to explore the Arts as a medium for healing. The high level of understanding of war trauma from the Eastern Kentucky University professors and support staff was phenomenal and no wonder the EKU Vets program was recognized as a National Program of the Year in 2011. I felt at home.

The first night we had an impromptu poetry and prose reading and barriers came down for story tellers near, connecting with other warrior veterans in this way inspired hope again. The bonds formed that night were carried over into classes enabling me to concentrate on interact genuinely rather than reacting from heightened senses. I was able to relax in the classes and interact with the participants and instructors, powerful people in different parts of healing journeys and felt an immediate affinity. 

As some of you may know, I have an anti-personal mind obstacle; being around people in public causes a range of constant triggering. Several times seeking refuge I forced myself to keep going back to share and bond and gravitated to others similarly affected by war. I met a pizza cook who didn't know how brilliant and vividly he could describe his experiences by word and a Vietnam veteran who had amassed decades of publishable poemsI met many different levels of writers, from published authors to veteran published and unpublished poets sparking an inspiration to write more poetry. It gives word to the disjointed in me, to examine and expound with context and content. 

I'm still overwhelmed with life and struggling with the basics, but after attending The Military Experience and Arts Symposium I have been able to divert my anxieties into creative projects. I started another rewrite of my combat narratives, flirting with the idea of submitting it to the Journal of Military Experience. I am also attempting to write an audition script for a graphic novel. I have no idea how to do that, but I am getting some good coaching from a graphic novelist and plugging along. It's a different aspect of writing to think in images, which causes more information from my memory to become triggered and a need to write that instead of the script and so forth. So, go and do something creative. Your life just may depend on it.

July 12, 2012

Homes for Wounded Heros

Military Warriors Support Foundation awards mortgage-free homes to warriors injured during combat. The homes are for families who have severe and/or unique circumstances due to their injuries received while serving our country. In addition to the home, the families will receive 3 years of family and financial mentoring.

Homes 4 Wounded Heroes

Who Can Apply:

1. Must be a combat wounded veteran (PTSD included) or unmarried Gold Star Spouse of OEF/OIF.

2. Must be honorably retired or separated from the military. (Those with compelling situations, whom are less than 90 days from retirement or separation may be considered)

3. Must not currently have a mortgage.

How To Apply:

1. Review Available Homes at the link above that are currently open to applications. Click on the picture of the home to see more photos and details about the home.

2. If you are interested in applying for the home, click “Apply Now” to download the application and for directions on how to submit your application. Applications MUST be submitted in either Microsoft Word or PDF formats. (Word format preferred) If you have filled out an application for a previous home, be sure to download the most current application to verify that you have the most updated version.

3. Home recipient is typically selected within 3-4 weeks of closing date.

If there are not currently have homes available in your area, please fill out one of our Open Applications! This allows you the option to tell us specifically where you'd like a home.

Please check back regularly as new homes will be posted as they become available. Each home will be open to applications for 10 days*, starting from the initial posting date. Once the final closing date has been reached, the MWSF Review Board will review all applications. Once the Review Board makes their final decision, the wounded warrior will be contacted and an announcement will be posted on the website. Thank you for applying and for your service to our country!

June 25, 2012

USA Cares Program for Post 9/11 Veterans

I’d like to take the time to introduce USA Cares as a fantastic resource available to many of you.

USA Cares exists to help bear the burdens of service by providing post-9/11 military families with financial and advocacy support in their time of need. Assistance is provided to all branches of service, all components, and all ranks while protecting the privacy and dignity of those military families and veterans who request our help. Since 2003, USA Cares has responded to over 36,000 requests for assistance with more than $9,000,000 in direct support grants.

Warrior Treatment Today

The USA Cares Program, Warrior Treatment Today helps bridge the gap between personal financial demands and the need to receive treatment. Specifically, our program seeks to remove the financial barrier that exists for many service members who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or traumatic brain injury (TBI), but cannot afford to leave their employment for treatment.

Warrior Treatment today pays essential household bills while the service member/veteran is attending residential treatment such as:
  • Rent 
  • Mortgage 
  • Utilities 
  • Car payment 
“A Hand Up- Not a Handout” Services are free to service men and women and their families without obligation to repay, providing “A Hand Up not A Hand Out” and sharing the sacrifice with those who serve America. No fees are ever charged and no repayment is ever requested. Financial assistance is not given directly to service members or their families; instead, payments are made to mortgage lenders, utility companies, and other vendors. Each family accepted for assistance is assigned an advocate from our family resource center who assures that assistance is timely and effective. These advocates often mobilize additional support for families from other military assistance groups, and the service member’s community of local organizations, stores and church groups.

How To Apply

Applying is simple with the online application found on the website Just fill out the online form and a real live person will follow up with a return phone call and to determine how we can help.

Getting The Word Out

We try to martial our resources so that most of our funds go to the troops we serve. Typically more than 80% of all contributions received from donations and grants go directly to support service members and their families. As such, our outreach program is on a shoestring budget. Don’t underestimate the power of Word of Mouth. So, tell everyone you can think of. Reblog, tweet and like us on Facebook.

Together, we will get the word out:

USA Cares, cares. 
Guest Blogger - Theresa DeMario

June 24, 2012

Combat PTSD Veterans Need a Strong Inner Circle

To the people who are near but seem the furthest away. I need a strong inner circle, which I lack. People in my life have the designation of friends but have never been to my house even though I have been to theirs, you stop inviting people that never come over. Others hold resentments and make it my responsibility for our relationship. I understand that my people skills can suffer and I withdraw quite a bit, but this is when I need people the most. The last thing I need during these times are petty resentments or ignorance and fear to interfere with my deep need for human connection.

Most people don't want to talk about dark and emotional conversations, it triggers people's unresolved issues. That's when they tell you to get over it, that people don't want to hear about it all the time, or tune you out, etcetera etcetera. We do need to talk about it often sometimes, but sharing on that level requires a tremendous amount of trust. Which is why we don't share much, even with our loved ones the bonding needs to be a high level for us to embark on telling our stories. It's important the immediate circle see our condition as a psychological injury and become educated in how to interact with someone with a mental wound.

Active Listening is the first lesson. Listening has important components to employed that will increase your ability to communicate effectively.

What is active listening? (
  • It’s a communication skill that involves both the speaker and the receiver.
  • In active listening, the receiver tries to understand what feelings, thoughts, and beliefs are being communicated and accepts it as the person’s own.
  • The listener feeds back only what they believe the sender’s message meant - nothing more, nothing less. It involves feedback and verification that the receiver correctly understood the senders message.
  • The active listener avoids getting stuck in another person’s “helpless” feelings.
I employ much empathy and compassion in my friendships, along with active listening. Depending on many of the factors above I share with my most trusted freely. Sharing here is different than in person or with someone I have a strong personal bond. People's insensitivity and unintentional attempts to support often become offensive and another case of my mental feats of dispatching evil thoughts going unnoticed. I'm tired of being told to just get over it, or told try and not to think about it, or being told that no one really wants to hear about my issues all the time. I understand people's intention when giving this "advice." I try and see these as teaching moments. But, it is difficult to have a great need to unburden myself when someone gives really bad advice. It usually clams me up and sends my mind spinning.

Veterans diagnosed with PTSD need a strong and unconditional support network in which to begin to heal. Unfortunately people mistake many PTSD and behavioral issues as character defects and not symptoms of a mental wound. This turns people off. Additionally many people are put off by the way I break down their facades quickly and call them on their shit; a defensive behavior to shut others down. I am learning that a friend to keep is one who shares in the good and bad. We don't need people to understand us completely. But, we do not wish to be alone in our pain or joy anymore. We need people close to us who are willing to learn about our condition and dish and take some shit; aka then still be there.

PTSD people have this thing with calling everyone out on their shit. People have to be ready for that, no really.

I have a mental and spiritual wound, my struggles are symptoms manifested. What is your excuse?

June 23, 2012

The Military Experience and the Arts Symposium

I am excited to announce my attendance as a participant in The Military Experience and the Arts Symposium on July 5-7 at Eastern Kentucky University. I will be working on two projects for submission in The Journal of Military Experience.
Attention Military Veterans and Those Who Support Them:

The Military Experience and the Arts Symposium will take place July 5-7, at Eastern Kentucky University. 100 veterans–from all over the country–will receive three, free days of lodging, meals, textbooks, and workshops to help them express themselves through the creative arts.

The MEA has three goals in mind:
  • To expand the type of one-on-one help provided to veteran contributors to The Journal of Military Experience to the masses
  • To celebrate veteran writing and art through a number of activities and events open to both veterans and the general public
  • To educate individuals about the healing capabilities of creative expression through testimonials and public lectures by experts in fields that provide veterans with creative, cathartic outlets for veterans to express themselves on their own terms.
The best part…If you are reading this YOU are cordially invited to take part in the festivities. Below you’ll find a day-by-day schedule of the offerings. We hope to see you in July at Eastern Kentucky University!


Travis L. Martin
Director, Military Experience and the Arts Symposium
Editor, The Journal of Military Experience

June 21, 2012

Suicidal Thoughts: Recovering From the Darkness

NOTE: I am in therapy and have an appointment in an hour and thirteen minutes and will be discussing the below. I have a safety plan called Smoke Break if the thoughts become persistent. When I can think of nothing else, it's time to check myself in to the local VA, for the 7th time if necessary.

If a veteran admits they have thought about killing themselves, then they mean yes, hell yes, too much and maybe even all the time. We talked about the compulsions to kill myself in the last post. Now I want to address the buildup to compulsive behavior; the compulsive thinking and the many reasons not to live rolling around in my head.

If you are feeling suicidal or homicidal, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has helped me several times over the years, so call 1-800-273-TALK.

I have few close friends locally and family comes around every so often; my dog and a few friends, that's it. I do not want to keep feeling this pain in isolation. Been fantasizing about how ending it would 'show them' or how 'they wouldn't care' while stoking my resentments and devising a list of who cannot come to my funeral. The obsessive thoughts of self assisted doom have been patrolling my mind to seize upon my life. There's no loved one or caregiver here, or resources for assistance for a non-Post 9/11 and undeserving veteran. I don't have a plan, just unmet needs fueled by distorted and delusional thinking leaving me vulnerable to the compulsions to kill myself. But, such is life.

Along comes detachment and numbness to replace the physical and mental pain, a different kind of anguish that makes us relish the void and can last for as long as life for some. It's another kind of hell to be cut off from the out going person I used to be, that deep down my desire to be among loved ones out in the world is buried under the fears of loosing my reality to the past, cyclical thoughts fueled by petal to the metal emotions raging on and on to loose myself. Or yourself if you are stuck in this pattern thinking. Below is how I get through moments of utter inner panic, most do not see it. But, those in the know do.

If you need a therapist in person or over the phone, click the Give an Hour picture above to get you in touch with mental health practitioners in your area free of charge.

Chronic traumatization causes our survival mechanisms to become hard-wired into our neuropathways; a veritable surgical steel Swiss Army Knife of fight, flight or freeze. A constant threat assessment on the battlefield was a lifesaving skill to master, at home it can manifest in distorted and delusional thinking, a major component of chronic Combat PTSD. The entrenchment of our evolutionary and primitive defensive mechanisms makes us prone to reactionary and compulsive behavior in civilization. The evolutionary defensive mechanism confound us with cyclical and repetitive thinking that may or may not be grounded in reality. Over time I have been able to become less reactionary by learning coping skills, education on my condition and triggers along with treatment. I can attest to the plasticity of the brain as per becoming a completely different person from 7 years ago, it has been exhausting most days but well worth the hard work.

Accept that you cannot prevent all of your triggering events and see them as a window into your suppressed self. 

The compartmentalized part of the mind acts as projections into the environment as seemingly inconspicuous triggers such as the unconscious sensory stimuli exchange of a tailpipe backfire for a battlefield bullet discharge. The damaged subconscious suppresses the ability to consolidate past and present memories thus giving birth to the dissociative features of Combat PTSD; a phenomenon we experience most days. It will make you question your own reality. During PTSD moments our arguments may have paranoid and delusional components set within circular arguments and backed by defensive mechanisms. As we learn our triggers, defensive mechanisms and look into what our subconscious is trying to communicate to us we begin to see a perspective from the out side of the chaotic, we begin to see more options. When we get caught up inside the circle and the battle is on. Anxiety and panic attacks can be coped with to where they pass without making us freak out. Meditation and pray have been my greatest tools to work through mine.

Meditation and mindfulness exercises like guided imagery can give you the sense of letting your thoughts go, or clearing your mind.

How? Imagine a body of water representing and matching your emotional level from raging seas to the calming stillness of a pond. Start with was an open body of water with the waves matching the level of your stress and anxiety. Visualize the waves calming to the point of stillness. This tool can be used to gauge internally your stress level and as a way to self sooth during these moments. Where there was no emotional gauge before, now if I am out of touch with my emotions accessing this image helps me gain perspective again. Coping skills such as guided imagery and other mindfulness techniques help by giving us a visual representation of our emotions so that we may better self sooth our anxiety and stress levels. Keep practicing and remember is not about perfection, it's about addressing our dangerously detached and compulsive behavior.

I ask God to take the power of it and practice letting go rather then holding onto.

Part of Prayer is asking God's blessing, an oft looked over piece is the sharing of the burden. We do not have too onerously endeavor, a trick of the Defensive State of Mind is to believe that we are alone. The sharing of the burden is living a prayerful life, venting to God and all who will listen is doing His work. Do you think the Apostles and saints talked calmly to God? By sharing your experience, you are the change you wish to see in the world. Your footsteps blaze the path where many will follow

Maybe it's time for us all to begin healing, if in your heart you feel the welling sense of hope beginning. Please, do not squelch this; you will be happy again given time. Also, accompanying may be apprehension and a sense of foreboding. This is a normal response, you were meant for more than you have been living and your being resonates this. You will become what you dream, if you dare to accept what is in your heart and act soon, if not now.

June 13, 2012

Vets Prevail: for Vets by Vets

Our veterans face a severe 30% shortfall of therapists and mental health practitioners in both the government and private sectors. It's estimated that 70% of soldiers and veterans needing help do not seek it. Our Veteran's Administration budget is strained and cannot handle the patients they have let alone address the on coming tsunami of help seeking veterans.
The Vets Prevail program is much different than the rest of the veteran's sites that only offer information in base form, such as this one. The interactive skills teaching aspect and the asking and answering questions section are paramount in helping to address the veterans and soldiers mental health problem. This program can get a soldier or veteran the skills needed to navigate life successfully. It can get the warrior fast tracked and ready for therapy and treatment by teaching them skills needed to process traumatic memories.

It's centered on proven coping and behavioral skills building concepts, values and emotive identification. All needed as a strong foundation for therapy and recovery from the Unseen Wounds of War. The interactive program is thoughtful, creative and a much needed tool for the veteran suffering in silence. Veterans can learn the skills they need to safely navigate their Combat PTSD in and outside the home.

June 10, 2012

Mental Health Emergencies

An overwhelming sense of hopelessness may lead a person to think of only one way out. I want to say that we all have errant thoughts of others being better off without us, but that's probably a symptom of something in me. Obsession is an often overlooked component of the hypervigilance portion of PTSD, coupled with the delusional aspects of traumatization cause the suicidal thoughts to be seen as a way to escape the emotional and physical pain.

Upon percolation the overwhelming and despondent thoughts often lead us too constantly resist compulsions to drive head on with a truck or off an embankment. Picking up a sharp knife to chop veggies for dinner becomes an ominous dilemma or looking out the window makes me wonder if the second story is high enough. When the higher thought processes shut down and give way to base emotional states we become susceptible to reactionary and compulsive behavior. In our hearts and minds we are torn between the vast chasm of the macabrous to spiritual enlightenment, of which in war we felt simultaneously.

Get help now, for your mental health emergencies. Don't sit alone waiting for months on end. Your life depends on getting treatment and reducing these obsessive thoughts.

Attention New York and Surrounding Area Veterans

The Traumatic Stress Studies Division at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine is conducting a research study, if I was there I'd go.

Biomarkers for PTSD
ID Number 09-0765

Contact Information
Charu Sood
Tel: 718-741-4000 x6152

Did you serve in Iraq or Afghanistan? If so, you may be eligible to participate in a study designed to identify biomarkers associated with PTSD. You may be eligible for participation whether or not you have PTSD symptoms.

June 9, 2012

Memory and PTSD

I have lost large blocks of my memory, so much so that I have to rely on loved ones to piece my life back together. The more people share with me, the more memory I am able to regain. But, many still remain out of reach. Much like our childhood memories fade, except last week is foggy and a couple of years ago mostly I can't recall. Unless triggered by talking with someone, then a flood of memories come like they were always there. Kind of unsettling when not expecting it and can trigger other less wanted memories that only nightmares can dream.

by Scott Lee
The same with my combat experiences, once I researched my unit movement the memories of the individual engagements began to come back. There we so many for three days straight night and day one after another without a break. Imagine gearing up for a fueled up  three day binge on energy drinks and playing "The Greatest Tank Battle in the History of War" video game where you drive an infantry vehicle at  the tip of the spear for your company and brigade. It's a nonstop meat grinder and you get to lead your tanks into position, just under our Apache's hellfire rain. The night sky's a red glare illuminating the exploding carnage as you weave through a hail of enemy artillery.

Now, multiply that sugar and herbal remedy rage beyond a pure adrenaline wave of controlled ride through combat and, now. CAN YOU IMAGINE FORGETTING ANY PART OF IT?

Know of a veteran that needs help? Send him or her the link to this site as I detail how to prepare for therapy.

June 7, 2012

PTSD: Get Over It

Ever been told to get past it? Or told to get over it and can't?

I wouldn't ask you to beat your noggin against that wall, my head hurts just thinking about it. But, working through it; that won't be as difficult. Our language says much. "Getting past it" or "getting over it" suggests it's something to be pushed aside or to get around all at once. To work through suggests that it can be managed, one trauma at a time, and one therapy session at at time. Outside of therapy you can start by learning from others who have been in your shoes through online social media sites; Facebook is an excellent tool to network Additionally I suggest learning coping skills, guided imagery to lessen anxiety, becoming familiar with your triggers, and mindfulness of thoughts and feelings to help process. Grounding techniques such as putting a rock in your pocket can help ease anxiety along with learning to pray and meditate. Journaling is a tremendous instrument in purging and self reflection, a tactile sensory expression of our experiences allowing differing perspectives on ourselves.

April 20, 2012

What Keeps Me from Killing Myself Today

This answer keeps changing over the last 20 years, it used to be various family members and friends. This becomes too much for our caregivers if they alone bear that burden as I learned the hard way.
Today varying by degree this sacred duty I charge to select few friends whom I try and educate beforehand. But, the brunt falls to my dog Smokey. I've had him for almost four months an 80lb, 10 month old black lab. I am learning to train and looking for trainers to help me train him as a psychiatric service dog.

February 8, 2012

A Ruse Indeed: Wanna Be Therapists

Comment from a guy who originally placed on his Facebook education and work page that he worked for me here on this blog. I asked him to remove it, he apologized and gave me a huge line, I accepted his apology and gave him the benefit of the doubt. But then he makes this comment on my last article, this guy says he is a clinical social worker and I am sure he is. I was astounded when he referred to his clients as "wanna be's". Please plow through his wordage, at the end you will be rewarded as I tear him up real nicely.

February 7, 2012

Army Review of PTSD May Reinforce Combat Veterans Not to Seek Help

This article seems to say they are passing out PTSD diagnosis to anyone who walks by and sneezes. It is not easy to get a PTSD diagnosis, that is the truth. When this same issue was brought up in the Veterans Administration, the government investigation showed that there was less then 1% actual fraud on PTSD diagnosis and service-connection compensation. When we do get that term put on our records as a service-connection, it is not a favor done for us. It means that we owe these men and women who have been destroyed in mind, body and spirit by the incredible sacrifices the average person would not think possible.
In a lecture to colleagues, a Madigan Army Medical Center psychiatrist said a soldier who retires with a post-traumatic-stress-disorder diagnosis could eventually receive $1.5 million in government payments, according to a memo by a Western Regional Medical Command ombudsman who attended the September presentation.
The psychiatrist went on to claim the rate of such diagnoses eventually could cause the Army and Department of Veterans Affairs to go broke (By Hal Bernton, Seattle Times staff reporter).
We did not hit the lottery because we get this diagnosis, this in not a windfall or something special in terms of winning. The diagnosis for PTSD is not permanent as it suggests, we are subject to reviews yearly and can be called to come before the Compensation and Pension Board. The 100% rating is a living wage paid monthly to us while we heal, and some of us may never heal completely. Most of us do not get the 100% rating, to suggest that this is the normal 'payout' for this detrimental psychiatric wound is dead wrong. Most veterans diagnosed with PTSD carry a 30% rating, not much to live on.

The system is overloaded not because of fraud which research shows is under 1% at the VA; the problem is not veterans or soldiers trying to work the system. The problem is not taking care of our soldiers and veterans when they become symptomatic, its not taking them seriously when they get home. This type of culture in the military and the VA effectively keeps soldiers and veterans from getting help in the beginning when it would do the most good.
As axiomatic to veterans as the oath they swore to defend the U.S. Constitution is the reality that a veteran filing a disability benefit claim encounters the VA’s ‘deny-delay-and-hope-you-die’ culture (Micheal Leon, Veterans Today).
It is sad that the we are being labeled as malingerer's again by another government organization trying to balance their budgets. I was called a malingerer to my face by nurses, doctors, psychiatrists and many people at the VA for the first 5 to 10 years due to a hostile culture towards veterans in the 90s in Louisville, KY (VA is better now in Kentucky). It was after the overwhelming evidence from the wreckage of my life I was finally diagnosed with PTSD in 2005 and received my 80% compensation in 2010.

I was actually service-connected in 2002 with hearing loss and tinnitus due to enemy artillery, but they had issues with reconciling my personal combat experience with the way Desert Storm was portrayed in the media; the myth that the First Gulf War was a bloodless conflict of buttons and smart-bombs. When I told them of the Highway of Death and driving seven (7) days without sleep, about what it looks like to see the world erupt in so much death in so little time; the 100 Hour Ground War was an enemy meat grinder. I was the Point Driver, an Mechanized Infantry Soldier leading our Main Battle Tanks to the enemy. My vehicle led 5,000 men into combat in the Biggest Tank Battle in the History of War. Driving in between explosions, mind screaming to go anywhere but here. I'm looking to move a brigade, not just myself. I am scanning the immediate ground and the terrain for the best movement for our unit, the landscape has a moon quality due to all the craters erupting from explosion after explosions. Their artillery was as good as ours, I hear it most days, boom, boom, boom in the distance, but when near you can feel the meat in your body shake like jelly and you try and control your movements to keep going, no time to die.

We operated at exponentially high stress rates everyday of our deployments, living on the edge of life and death to serve our country and freedom. Knowing you should have died a hundred times can leave us numb to everything; our loved ones included. This country owes those who cannot cope with life or make sense of what we did and saw in combat; this may take decades. That is what we should focus on, how do we reduce the amount of time it takes to reconcile war trauma so that we may live without the red vistas of war spraying all over our reality today.

Any therapist or psychiatrist worth their salt can discern malingering, lets test them on that and not the veteran. To blame the soldiers or veterans just alienates them further and reinforces "If you go forward with asking for help then you cannot be trusted." We loose 18 to 22 veterans a day to suicide, this culture of denial is killing more of our soldiers and veterans then the last 10 years of war, over 60,000 veterans to suicide in the last ten years. That's not counting the suicide in the military.

NOTE: I am so very grateful for the courage the Army investigators showed for blowing the lid off this repugnant practice based in an outdated culture within our military.

January 31, 2012

Why a Combat Veteran Holds onto Anger

Anger was a successful way to get us and our guys through war, a tool that was honed and perfected for effective use. But, today this way of thinking – faulty thinking or defensive state of mind – keeps us from building the kind of relationships we need. It pushes people away, a defensive mechanism we developed in combat that was very effective at saving our lives and the lives of our squad members. Today it keeps us from building a ‘squad’ at home.

To let it go is counter intuitive and goes against our training and experiences, which have imprinted this false belief that if we let it go it will consume us. The opposite is true; to let it go is to begin healing. I do this by imaging the negative energy upward in intense moments to imaging a body of water matching my emotional state then imaging the waters calming thus lowering my emotional state to the point where I can reason without being clouded by my Combat Values which are not needed in the realm of home and personal relationships. Praying and meditation are a way of life, incorporate it into your life.

False Beliefs supports our hopelessness and seemingly endless self-torture that we feel we deserve for whatever reasons we harnessed to our souls. We did what we had to do and we make ourselves pay for it. You do not deserve this torture son or daughter – God, I know you delivered this young warrior for a reason. God, I ask that you help guide her successfully through his inner daemons so that he can see the value in surviving the impossible situations in combat. He needs Your divine grace and acceptance of his new self so that he can find inner peace again – You do not deserve this self imposed imprisonment.

You can find a way out, it will take time, your mind has been fractured and the pieces will continue to surface and sometimes without your permission as it were. Today I surrender to the flashbacks, in doing so I am able to lessen the effect. The more I fight them, the more they have a hold on me and can take me fully. When I submit to my mind, not my inner daemons, but where my mind NEEDS to go they usually just look imprinted onto everything around me. In this way I am still able to ground myself in my surroundings while not getting lost in the flashback. Whether massive explosions or vaporizing images no human should see the images are superimposed onto my reality; rather than my reality being stolen and overlaid with the vast past.

We have been changed by our experiences in war, we will forever think like a warrior. We have seen and done what people think they can imagine, but we know they cannot. This does not have to separate us from everyone, what you have discovered is the illusion of normalcy. Social norms, family norms and professional norms whether the military or the corporate world we all follow a list of rules that govern our behavior in many settings. Normal is a label, not a state of mind or being. Your journey is to accept this, healing begins by accepting yourself. My acceptance of self has taken decades, it doesn't have to be that long for you. Today the resources are available if you know how to access the services. You can find support in your journey, you are not alone, you never were.

The Price to be Superman: Combat PTSD

Hey, we have those moments that run into eternity sometimes it seems, lol. We must cry to grieve the part of ourselves that we lost in those moments when we had to hold it together. Who said we always had to hold it together? Did we do what was required to save more then we lost? That is why we must cry today, for in doing what we needed to do then we paid a price. Today, you cry for those who were lost. And for what we must accept as our personal responsibility in our actions as weighed against the incalculable absurdity of war (my account of one event where I accept the appropriate level of responsibility for my actions thus enabling me to work through that aspect of my war trauma).

We paid a price to be superman in the moment, to perform flawlessly for days on end without sleep to carry or guide our guys across alien landscapes as war erupted and ripped through the dunes. We were the super soldiers in the commercials they show for brief moments of controlled fear that required our full attention or people would and did die. We were kids with million dollar pieces of equipment with the most sophisticated weapons in the world shooting targets like the video games. Except, niggling behind the commercial appeal of the technology, we were killing people.

While I had the advantage, our enemy fought with a fierce zeal to the tune of over 20,000 deaths in 100 hours. These are the flashbacks that I have and experiences daily. It is frightening when I'm having a really cool moment with people and these images become strewn about their faces, trying to attach themselves. I fight to separate the flashbacks from the people in reality. At times when others act defensive or passive aggressively it triggers me, happened today with a friend of mine. What is the appropriate response to that, "Excuse me, but I need a moment all I can see right now is the bright red glare of vaporized people misting in the air."

January 13, 2012

Combat PTSD: A Psycho-Social and Spiritual Wound

America, I gave you my soul in 1991. I didn't know it then that I would receive a psycho-social and spiritual wound that not even I could see. Of late we have heard much on the common symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD in the media and the soldier or veteran, you won't hear me talk about that much. I deal mostly in the chronic nature of Combat PTSD and it's many flavors and identities as it relates to me. I'm all about talking about the mental, physical, social and spiritual aspects of where going to combat can take us.

Along with the mental health issues where I perform the equivalence of aerial acrobatics in a paper airplane with an elephant pilot. Yeah, go read that again. I have recently started taking a new anti-depressant, Lexapro to help with the seasonal depression which buffers the chronic depression this last year. Since I have a "sensitivity" to such medications I get the distinction of trying novel and 'off label' usage of medications. Or I get to be first again, leading the way with taking new medications where hundreds of thousands of veterans will go!

The year 2011 was a year of grieving and mourning; I went into an inpatient PTSD program in Memphis, TN. Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) is a tremendous tool I was able to learn and apply to novel ways of processing my war trauma. Long story short, I was able to reconcile and mourn 5 marine deaths. In doing so it unblocked a flood of mourning for my grandmother, mother, father and friends who had died since 1991. The year 2011 was the year I took my soul back.

Other symptoms of the Combat PTSD Veteran? Toxic levels of stress hormones and chemicals in the body can cause muscle and nerve damage over years from constant flooding of the body. Stomach ulcers, acid re-flux, chronic bowel problems. Then there are the side effects from the medications starting with erectile dysfunction from the medications to treat chronic PTSD I take 9, down from 15 two years ago. If you or a loved you is not on top of your medications they can kill you!

Speaking of family and loved ones. We have the propensity to push everyone away and many of us will alienate the ones we love. Combined with a sense of loss of community, no wonder we are still loosing veterans at a rate of 18 a day. I have the gift of hindsight for all the good it does me in repairing some relationships, if I can manage to keep dodging those land mines! Yeah, the flashbacks. We don't talk about those for two reasons; one because they scare the hell out of us and two, most of us don't have the language to describe it

I do, drop me a line.

January 9, 2012

Darktimes Indeed

wshat a lod of shit. yh0out think you know ptsgd becaue you a brad driver?
step outsi8d edand ytell me what is ptsd . fuck all od you that felel sorry for soldiers. we chowse this profdssion sna we know whaT WE get oursxledves in6o. you think oyu know ptsdL> ypou ever put yuour friends in a ody bvad? jyou ever see peolpe melted to th eground from an ied. fuck you .spr4eadign this bullthis. oyu know wh0o tis is

bootsw onty the ground
My response,
Darktimes indeed, check it out,

I was a Bradley Driver who witnessed thousands of deaths in 100 hours. I was the Bradly Fighting Vehicle Driver ON Point for the 3rd Brigade, 1st AD. The 1st Brigade and the 2nd Brigade boxed the enemy Division in, then I led 5,000 men through and we killed them all!

Go ahead research what my unit did, I dare you. I led our tanks and infantry through a meat grinder; with over 20,000 enemy kills in 100 hours. I had a front row seat.

I drove for seven days straight without sleep through the biggest tank battle in the history of war. I watched people be vaporized, over and over again. I never saw the explosive force of an IED, but I did save a private from stepping on one of our air dispersed anti-personnel mines though.

This shit ain't even half of it, You hear me?

January 4, 2012

ON Dealing with the Combat PTSD Veteran: We Came Home in Spirit as Warriors and Will Forever Be

Unconditional love is to surrender, it is faith in the other and spontaneity unleashed, it is emotional freedom and nurturing of the spirit. All of these things we had to shed before combat; we had to be steadfast, precise and deadly - the exact opposite of unconditional love. Now we are conditioned to it and operate from a Combat Values structure, which can leave our family and loved ones attachments broken. We can experience these states of mind and spirit again, but usually in spurts and sputters. We will develop a set of Signs to warn of our emotional states, we came home in spirit as Warriors and will forever be.

It may take time to learn your veterans triggers, warning signs, and different ways of coping depending on their stress level. When stress levels are high your veteran will be operating from a Warrior Persona and defensive operational procedures will be exhibited. If you keep killing yourself from expectations of your Vet during this time, resentments can build and interfere with your subconscious intentions and interactions with her. If you expect him to call all day and he doesn't - then you have made yourself feel like shit; self made suffering. Many times we will operate from our expectations, intentions and resentments and we must constantly check ourselves for these three relationship wreckers.

When stress levels are high; Expectations, Intentions and Resentments – The 3 Generals of Chaos (3GC) – This Triad of Chaos can wreck havoc on communication, understanding and empathy; Expectations erects barriers between people. Intentions fortifies those walls and Resentments assails those defensive barriers just because they are there. Reason becomes absent, logic rules and only applies to those who can wield it with surgical precision to serve Righteous Indignation, Defamation and Demoralization. – A false belief system maintains a Defensive State of Mind and creates a culture of aggression; providing the fuel for chaos, discord and strife. More on this later…