18
March

What PTSD is

248 Comments

I’ve talked before about genre writers who have been very open about per­sonal trials, par­tic­u­larly the kind of depression/anxiety con­di­tions that I feel are a nat­ural part of the uneven ter­rain all authors have to walk. I’ve always appre­ci­ated their will­ing­ness to go public with these issues, as the first (and false) thing that most people suf­fering from these sorts of things think is a.) that they’re alone and b.) the problem is unique to them. When your lit­erary heroes step into the spot­light and say, “hey, this is more normal than you think and you can figure out how to live with it,” well, let’s just say I wouldn’t be sur­prised if there are more than a few folks still pushing air past their teeth because of a blog post they read.

The thought of talking about what goes on in my head in any­thing but the most gen­eral terms in the public square takes me way out of my com­fort zone. But I reread the first para­graph of this post, espe­cially that last line. Some­times, you need to go out­side your com­fort zone, talk about a thing not because you need to get it off your chest, but because it might help others to hear it.

I was diag­nosed with PTSD in August of ’09, just after my third tour in Iraq. Of course my first con­cern (like everyone in my line of work) was losing my secu­rity clear­ance, and that kept me from going for help for a long time. But DoD did right by me, and I kept working for another 2 years before the book deal got me out of the business.

I had a hard time admit­ting it to myself. There was a cul­ture in my line of work, that PTSD was the province of the hard oper­a­tors, the door­kickers who got into 2–3 fire­fights every single day. Like most cul­tures, you bought into it silently, it was simply a thing that was, not worth ques­tioning any more than the law of gravity.

I mean, sure I’d sup­ported cer­tain spe­cial­ized units, sure I’d been to some funerals, sure there’d been some danger close indi­rect rounds. Sure I’d had some mis­giv­ings about what I was fighting for, what my actions were con­tributing to. But, I’d seen the ads on AFN, showing young men with gun­powder still on their hands, often fresh off the bat­tle­field, having trem­bling flash­backs of a fire­fight where their best friend went down right next to them. THAT was PTSD.

Except, it wasn’t.

I kept seeing non­profit TV spots, charity pieces and solemn psy­cho­an­a­lyt­ical essays. They all described a PTSD that I’d never seen in myself, and more impor­tantly, in anyone else I knew who suf­fered from it. I’ll never forget this one spot on AFN, where a sol­dier washes his hands, only to find blood pouring out of the faucet Stephen King’s Shining style. He hears gun­fire, looks into the mirror, the back­ground is a desert bat­tle­field strewn with corpses, glowing red.

I picked that apart with some friends for an hour. I’m not saying that there aren’t people out there for whom PTSD is like that, but it sure as hell wasn’t like that for any of us. As I thought about that spot, as I con­sid­ered the mounting reports of sui­cides, home­less vets, col­lapsing fam­i­lies, I began to get the uneasy feeling that PTSD is a lot like autism: A thing iden­ti­fied, but poorly under­stood. I read about the sup­posed symp­toms, the height­ened alert­ness, the re-experiencing of spe­cific trauma, the going numb. It was all true. Up to a point.

When James Lowder invited me to write an essay for BEYOND THE WALL, we started brain­storming what it would be about. After a few rounds of back and forth, I real­ized that I wanted to write about PTSD, and how I saw it man­i­festing in fan­tasy char­ac­ters. I used the Cooper Color System, talked about how living in the per­petual state of readi­ness known as “Con­di­tion Yellow,” both enfran­chised and hurt people. Con­stant vig­i­lance has its uses, but it is exhausting and, over time, transforming.

After the book was pub­lished I real­ized that I hadn’t gotten close enough to the issue. Arya Stark and Theon Greyjoy aren’t real people, and so addressing their PTSD was tack­ling the issue at a safe remove. It was a toe in the water. It wasn’t good enough.

Because the truth is, I’ve never heard anyone, med­ical pro­fes­sional, spir­i­tual leader or oth­er­wise describe the PTSD I know. What I see are people embracing a def­i­n­i­tion that explains PTSD using the vocab­u­lary of clas­sical pathology. It implies that, like a dis­ease, you can pre­scribe a course of treat­ment and fix it.

But, in my expe­ri­ence, PTSD doesn’t get fixed. That’s because it was never about get­ting shot at, or seeing people die. It was never the snap trauma, the quick moment of action that breaks a person. PTSD is the wages of a life spent in crisis, the slow, the­matic build that grad­u­ally changes the way the suf­ferer sees the world. You get boiled by heating the water one degree each hour. By the time you finally suc­cumb, you realize you had no idea it was get­ting hotter.

Because you kept adjusting.

Because PTSD isn’t a dis­ease, it’s a world view.

War, dis­aster response, police work, these things force a person to live in the spaces where trauma hap­pens, to spend most of their time there, until that world becomes yours, seeps through your skin and runs in your blood. Most of us in indus­tri­al­ized western soci­eties live with feeling that we are safe, that our lives are sin­gular, mean­ingful, that we are loved, that we matter. We know intel­lec­tu­ally that this may not be the case, but we don’t feel it.

PTSD is what hap­pens when all that is stripped away. It is the cur­tain pulled back, the deep and the­matic real­iza­tion that life is fun­gible, that death is capri­cious and sudden. That anyone’s life can be snuffed out or worse, ruined, in the space of a few sec­onds. It is the shaking real­iza­tion that love cannot pro­tect you, and even worse, that you cannot pro­tect those you love. It is the final sur­ren­dering of the myth that, if you are decent enough, eth­ical enough, skilled enough, you’ll be spared. The war­riors that the media ascribes so much power are the first to truly know pow­er­less­ness, as death becomes com­modi­tized, sta­tis­tics that you use to make an argu­ment for pro­mo­tion, or funding, or to score polit­ical points.

War­rior cults (and, heck, most reli­gions) were invented to give death meaning. Even if you look past the promise of immor­tality, they offer a tremor in the world, a ripple of sig­nif­i­cance in your passing. You do the right thing knowing that, some­where down the line, you have a mean­ingful death. PTSD is what hap­pens when you realize that you won’t, that your sur­vival will be deter­mined by some­thing as random as the moment you bent over to tie your shoelace.

Dis­eases are dis­crete things. But how do you treat a change in per­spec­tive? Joe Aber­crombie cap­tured it best in his descrip­tion of Ferro Maljinn’s final rev­e­la­tion of the world of demons just along­side our own. Once seen, the crea­tures cannot be unseen. When you’re quiet enough, you can hear them breathing.

Nobody talks about this. Nobody talks about the boredom, the impos­si­bility of finding meaning in 8 hours work in an air-conditioned office after you just spent months working 18 hours a day on a bat­tle­field where your touch altered his­tory. Nobody talks about the sur­real expe­ri­ence of trying to remember how you got excited about a book, or clothing, or even a car or house. On the bat­tle­field, in the burning building, the ground trem­bled, we felt our impact in every­thing we did, until the world seemed to ripple at our touch. Back home, or off shift, we are sud­denly the sub­ject of sym­pa­thetic glances, of silly, repet­i­tive ques­tions. The anonymity of the uni­form is nothing com­pared the anonymity of com­fort. We drown in it, cut off from what makes it worth­while for others, unable to carve out a piece of it for ourselves.

Time helps you to shift back, but you never shift back all the way. You develop the dreaded “cop’s eyes,” where you see the poten­tial threat around every corner, where you ask the waiter for the chair with its back to the wall. Where the trust essen­tial to build rela­tion­ships is com­pro­mised, because in the world you live in, every­body is trying to harm someone.

And this is why so many of us, even post diag­nosis, go back to work in the fields that exposed us to the trauma in the first place. Because the fear is bone deep, and the only thing that puts it to sleep is the thought that you can maybe patch a few of the holes in the swiss cheese net under the high wire. Because we are fright­ened from the moment we wake until the moment we sleep, and if we can stave that off for someone else, well, then maybe that’s some­thing to live for.

And that’s for those of us who get off easy. In the worst cases, people aren’t able to find meaning in a reg­ular job, or in wealth-building, or rela­tion­ships, or any of the things that modern soci­eties tell us charts the course of a life. These are the people that PTSD takes, as they flail their way into sui­cide, or crime, or insanity, des­per­ately trying to carve meaning out of a world where all the goal posts have sud­denly moved, where the giant ques­tion that no one can answer is, “why bother?”

The root of the treat­ment has to come from meeting those who suffer where they are. It isn’t just hard oper­a­tors. It’s clerks and phle­botomists and chem­ical engi­neers. It’s people who thought they were fine, only to wake up one morning and realize that the last few years have changed them in ways they don’t quite under­stand. It isn’t just sol­diers and cops and ER nurses. Life in poverty can bring on PTSD. An abu­sive parent can have the same effect.

We need to treat the fear, address the world view, acknowl­edging that these aren’t things you cure, maybe aren’t even things you change. We need to tip our hat to the trauma, and look instead at what the life after it looks like. We have to find a way to con­struct sig­nif­i­cance, to help a changed person forge a path in a world that hasn’t changed along with them.

And if you’re a vet, or an EMT, or a cop, or fire­fighter and you’re reading this, I want you to know that you can’t put the cur­tain back, but it’s pos­sible to build ways to move for­ward, to find alter­na­tives to the rush of crisis. There are ways you can matter. There is a way to rejoin the dust of the world, to find your own space on the dance floor.

I know this.

Because I did it, am still doing it, every day.

Don’t give up.

 

 

 

  • http://twitter.com/FredKiesche Fred Kiesche

    Thanks for speaking out about this, Myke. I was diag­nosed with PTSD after my expe­ri­ences on 9/11 and I know a lot of other people from that day who suffer from it (whether they or the people who care about them rec­og­nize it or not).

    From 2001 to 2013 is a long period. It has gotten better for most of each year, but gets trig­gered often–in crowds, with cer­tain smells (burning plastic), even sights (low flying airplanes).

    If you (I’m speaking to the audi­ence) suffer…don’t suffer alone. Reach out and people will help you.

  • http://twitter.com/PrinceJvstin Paul Weimer

    Wow.

    This is moving, touching and feels true, Myke

    PTSD always seemed to me to be a per­ma­nent (or near per­ma­nent) per­cep­tional shit problem–being ready for a stressful envi­ron­ment, to the point of being mal­adap­tive to everyday life. The human mind and the human body are remark­able things-but when a body and a mind are attuned to War, more and more, it becomes more and more extreme. I think PTSD is some­where along that spec­trum of how a human being reacts to being in a threat envi­ron­ment for extended periods of time.

    (And by threat and stress, as you say, I mean sol­diers, and fire­fighters, and teachers in inner city schools, and any envi­ron­ment which sculpts us in this way)

    • http://twitter.com/SheckyX SheckyX

      My wife was a vol­un­teer EMT for a number of years and was also diag­nosed with PTSD. She was for­tu­nate to be able to work through it with help, but it still affects her today. This is an impor­tant thing, Myke, as you point out: you’re not alone.

  • http://twitter.com/stormkingskc Sandy King Carpenter

    Astounding insight into a con­di­tion I’ve never heard so deeply and per­son­ally explained. Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/LianaBrooks Liana Brooks

    Oh, Myke. *hugs*

    I know a cyber hug is not enough, and I wish I could do more.

    Know that this is going to help someone. That someone is going to be better off because you are there every day, because you wrote this, because you under­stand them and they need that right now.

  • Kari Hayes

    Thank you. That cru­cial ques­tion of why I should bother is some­thing I’m still trying to figure out.

  • Thomas M Hewlett

    Thank you for being so open and so honest. I had a hard time talking about my battle with depression/suicide, and I was sur­prised by the wel­coming reac­tion I got when I finally did. I think every voice, espe­cially when it’s public, that adds to this dis­cus­sion is sorely needed.

  • http://twitter.com/cadence3198 Cadence Brennan

    This is the most truthful descrip­tion of PTSD that I’ve ever read. Thank you, brave man.

  • Graylin Fox
  • http://www.facebook.com/kristene.perron Kris­tene Perron

    I have a good friend who works with the Wounded War­riors pro­gram. I will be sending this post to her. Thanks for your hon­esty and insight.

  • Mazarkis Williams

    Thanks, Myke. My mother suf­fered from PTSD and I rec­og­nize her in you when you write about it. I was working on a ter­ribly long email but I wouldn’t have typed in any­thing you don’t know. Remember our neu­rons are capable of carving new path­ways no matter how old we are. Thanks.

  • water­shed

    Even saying thank you is a risk. Even saying it anony­mously. But.. Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/Autumn2May Jennie Ivins

    Thank you for sharing. That was an awe­some and inspiring
    post. ~hugs~

  • s.e.

    I had no idea that sol­diers and those who had been in war zones or dis­aster sit­u­a­tions expe­ri­enced PTSD that way. I recently heard that care­givers care expe­ri­ence PTSD. I do not have a diag­nosis but what you describe is very close to how I feel in recent years due to family ill­ness, death and other med­ical diag­noses in my imme­diate family.

    thank you for writing this.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/krystletips Kim Thomas

    Thank you . This ..I know this space in a dif­ferent way . Sur­vived of early incest , long term molesta­tion . Too early. So much the same , with the excep­tion of feeling your actions making the world tremble. It helps to hear other sto­ries , views . Your cul­tural ref­er­ences are fas­ci­nating. Thank you for sharing all of you , in ser­vice , and in ser­vice still through writing.

  • Lily

    Because PTSD isn’t a dis­ease, it’s a world view.”

    Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    • http://www.facebook.com/dawn.montgomery.author Dawn Mont­gomery

      From the bottom of my heart, yes! thank you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/G2Hutton Gayle Nicholson

    Make, this is won­derful, but I’m here to tell you there is an effec­tive treat­ment for PTSD. I’m living proof, as are others, like your­self, who acquired PTSD through mil­i­tary ser­vice. I’d be happy to show you the data pri­vately, and to help you if I can.

    • Krissy Gibbs

      If you are refer­ring to EMDR it is a mixed bag. It isn’t per­fectly suc­cessful with all people.

      • Rebecca

        HMR is more effec­tive than EMDR. And much easier to process.

  • http://gersande.com/ Ger­sande

    One of the best things I’ve ever read.

  • http://twitter.com/matociquala Eliz­a­beth Bear

    Hey, Myke.

    Thank you for doing this, as a member of the club.

    Here’s mine, from a few years back: http://​mato​ci​quala​.live​journal​.com/​1​1​2​0​9​5​1​.​h​tml

    …all I got is this: turns out I was wrong about some things when I wrote that, and it’s easier now. There are still bad days and night ter­rors and the hyper­vig­i­lance kicks in–but it’s not every day now. I don’t know if I *ever* knew what it was to feel safe… but I’m starting to learn bits of that now.

    And I’ve actu­ally started talking with a coun­selor about some strate­gies from relaxing my bound­aries a little. It feels like a pos­i­tive thing, and it might even make me easier to live with.

    Peace, man.

  • Karen Feldman

    Thank you for this post and speaking out. I’m mom to a young adult with aspergers syn­drome (a form of autism). Every day of his life he strug­gles with a view of the world that has been altered because for him school was his war zone. It changed him from an open, enthu­si­astic kid into a dis­trustful, anx­ious one. He spent every day in a fight/flight mode because of bul­lying from both other kids and school per­sonnel. Because he didnt com­mu­ni­cate effec­tively, I was unaware of the extent of what was hap­pening to him until he gained the com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills to tell me. By then the damage was done.

    Its taken years of therapy for him to trust people. He will never be the kid he was, but he’s learned coping skills and is finding a way to accept what he’s been through and find hap­pi­ness. What people dont under­stand is that long-term stress like that can actu­ally alter your brain’s chem­ical make-up.

    Stay strong. And again, thanks for speaking out.
    (p.s. I love your books.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/robert.durand.96 Robert Durand

    Much like Fred my life changed on 9/11 (my 32nd Birthday). Is it PTSD? I have no idea as that’s not my diag­nosis, but your words ring so very true with me. All I can do is echo your thoughts that yes I see things dif­fer­ently and that’s okay. It can get better, it did for me, because I real­ized I was NOT alone and that seeking help was not a sign of weak­ness, but rather of strength.

    Thank you for sharing your story and thoughts on this oft mis­un­der­stood sub­ject, and for reaf­firming, with word and action, that there IS hope. Thank you for being my friend and an inspiration.

  • http://claudiaputnam.com Clau­di­a­Putnam

    That explains it. Thanks. I’ve been won­dering why an event that didn’t even happen to me, but hap­pened to my neigh­bor­hood, put me over the edge after a life­time of a lot of extreme stress I’d mostly managed.

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  • Krissy Gibbs

    My PTSD is fairly dif­ferent from yours. I’m of the sur­vived severe poverty, neglect, and trauma sort. I responded to you on my blog because I always out-character responses. (http://​www​.kris​sy​gibbs​.com/​2​0​1​3​/​0​3​/​1​8​/​p​t​s​d​-​v​a​r​i​e​s​-​d​r​a​m​a​t​i​c​a​l​ly/)

    I appre­ciate this post. You were very thor­ough and respectful. It is inter­esting finding out how sol­diers expe­ri­ence this set of symp­toms dif­fer­ently than I do.

    I’m glad you are in a pos­i­tive space with your symptoms.

  • J.T. Evans

    Thank you for posting this, Myke. I really appre­ciate and under­stand your words. I’ve never been to an active war zone. I’ve never been shot at with a firearm. I’ve only once had a human mean me lethal harm (he obvi­ously failed). How­ever, after reading your very open and honest writing on the topic of PTSD, I realize I most likely have a touch of it as well. Par­tially from a rough and borderline-abusive child­hood. Mostly from the night of 1988-08-08 (yeah, I don’t like the #8 any­more). That’s the night I was in a single-vehicle rollover crash when I was a pas­senger. There was nothing I could do to pre­vent it or cause it. I was “along for the ride.” Once the SUV stopped flip­ping and rolling, I ended up with my right arm barely attached to my body by a few shredded pieces of meat and nothing else. It was mirac­u­lous that I sur­vived. God guided the hands of amazing para­medics, ER staff and three sur­geons to keep me going and put me back together. I mostly have the use of my right arm these days. How­ever, I don’t have full mental fac­ul­ties when I’m a pas­senger in a car. I keep expecting it to flip, roll and take my arm off again. When a car leans a bit, or a corner is taken too hard, I have flash­backs. They’re not as severe as they once were, but they’re there. Some­times I just intake a hard breath and realize that I’m safe. Some­times I go full cata­tonic and curl into a screaming, crying ball.

    Your words have given me hope that anyone, including me, with trauma in their lives can step up to the face of their hor­rors and stare it down long enough to live a happy life.

    Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alexvdl Alex Von Der Linden

    Stay strong, brother.

  • Breathing

    So.…two OIF tours, plus some other stuff. My ser­vice was all w/in USACAPOC so in theory I had more impact with a com­puter than bul­lets… still plenty of time jinking around in fixed– and rotary– winged ac, avoiding whatnot…driving out­side the wire…searching vehi­cles after, um, serious safire.… And other stuff that seems boring to repeat here but kept me always in fight or flight, I guess. Some­times I can tell funny stories…or they come out that way.

    But explaining why a cer­tain seat isn’t accept­able gets boring, and isn’t so enter­taining. And not rec­og­nizing myself in those PTSD public ser­vice mes­sages, not wanting to be ‘dam­aged goods’ when con­sid­ered for future fed­eral ser­vice posi­tions.… I’m trying to explain, and doing it poorly, why this post ( found via E Bear’s twitter, among others) has me a little nau­se­ated, hyper­ven­ti­lating a bit.

    ^*THIS*^–I want to say. This. The words above, by Myke Cole. I’ll send the link to my mom, because talking doesn’t work. And maybe to a few other people. Plus prob­ably reread it too many times. And think a lot about next steps. (Thank you, Mr. Cole.)

  • Alyk

    Inter­esting per­spec­tive. My hus­band had PTSD from nearly dying of a sudden ill­ness and I know many women with PTSD from their birth expe­ri­ences, although most women with post-birth PTSD end up with “depres­sion” diag­noses and anti-depressants, which of course, don’t help.

    I think your analysis works for them, too, actu­ally. They thought they were safe and found out oth­er­wise, whether through an abrupt near death expe­ri­ence of mistreatment.

  • Peter V Brett

    I’ve been living in con­di­tion yellow every since I was mugged back in 1997, pushed down hard onto the con­crete, con­vinced I would be killed for nothing more than the $20 in my pocket and my metro­card. I don’t think I’ve every felt truly safe since, and plot a means to defend myself every time I am alone in public. It’s no way to live, exhausting and stressful, and prob­ably only a frac­tion of what you’re feeling. I’m there for you, brother.

  • Sarah

    Thanks for this. I have PTSD from sur­viving a mas­sive apart­ment fire…mine is dif­ferent, yet yours is familiar to me. Our brains and bodies act so dif­fer­ently to var­ious types of traumas…important to realize the range of how we live afterwards.

  • http://twitter.com/TonyNoland Tony Noland

    I’ve been dealing with PTSD since 2008 after suf­fering an extended emo­tional trauma. For months, I’d suffer panic attacks every time the phone rang. My reac­tive rage and bit­ter­ness cost me friends and rela­tion­ships. It was when my wife had no more sup­port that she could offer that I finally admitted it was beyond my ability to fix. At her encour­age­ment, I got pro­fes­sional coun­seling. It helped, but changing the cir­cum­stances of my life helped more.

    Even now, though, years later, it comes back. The panic, the rage, the depres­sion. I’m still some­times beset by the ques­tion of “why bother?” when I look at the world around me. Your saying that really struck a chord.

    Time isn’t an auto­matic healer of wounds, and the way things are described in the media is far from the truth. I’m glad you wrote this.

  • Cat Rambo

    Thank you, Myke. This is a ter­rific piece.

  • Stina Leicht

    I was diag­nosed with PTSD years ago, but I’ve never seen a bat­tle­field. How­ever, this post hit home. I didn’t expect it, but it did. Thanks for writing it. Par­tic­u­larly this: “Because we are fright­ened from the moment we wake until the moment we sleep, and if we can stave that off for someone else, well, then maybe that’s some­thing to live for.” Wow. That explains so much.

  • Beth

    I am not a mil­i­tary person. My PTSD stems from a prob­lem­atic child hood, sexual assault, and a bad rela­tion­ship. I just had a trigger for it yes­terday, so I feel like this piece was placed on my feed as a gift to help with it. Beau­tiful. Thank you.

  • zebra­mouse

    Thank you for this open post. I rec­og­nize my vet­eran hus­band and myself (car crash expe­ri­ence, adult child of parental sui­cide) in the world view shift you describe.

  • http://twitter.com/mamacasz66 Casz Brew­ster

    Myke:
    Wow, if we didn’t all appre­ciate, respect and adore you already. This def­i­nitely puts those feel­ings in the “hell yeah” column.
    Part of me is at a loss for words, because you’ve just put them on the screen better than I have been able to put them together in my head — let alone explain it to anyone else, whether that person be family, friend, VA coun­selor, ther­a­pist, neigh­bors, etc. I’ve been on height­ened alert for so long, I can’t even tell you when it began…Iraq Once? Bosnia? Mace­donia? 9/11? Iraq Twice? Hur­ri­cane Kat­rina? Abu­sive Spouse? Men­tally Ill Son? I didn’t even realize it, like you high­light here, until years after my last time in country. I peeled back the cur­tain finally and saw the ugli­ness, let it sit down next to me and have a drink with me and try to teach me what it wants. I’m still learning to live with it. Like you said, “Time helps you shift back, but you never shift back all the way.” My kids’ friends know me as the tough mom — and its that “cop’s eyes” things you talk about. Regard­less, I still forge ahead, my war­rior ethos strong, believing that there’s a reason I’m still out here dancing, growing things, rearing chil­dren, raising aware­ness, and writing it all down.

    By the way, it’s clear to me since my first expo­sure to your first novel and fol­lowing your blog, how much you’ve grown in your capacity not only as mil­i­tary leader, but author. Keep sol­diering on. Keep writing, keep talking about what’s in your head. And, thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/connie.suttle Connie Suttle

    you are so very, very right. Thank you for saying the truth so eloquently.

  • Rebecca

    This made me cry, damn it. The best com­pli­ment I can give. Thanking you is com­pletely inad­e­quate, but its the best I can do. Reading this and knowing I’m not alone…Thank you for sharing some­thing that touched me so profoundly.

  • MykeCole

    Thanks, all. It’s great to know that so many are finding this helpful

    • http://www.facebook.com/michele.lagueux Michele Lagueux

      I can’t thank you enough, Myke. I don’t know if it’s PTSD or a mul­ti­tude of issues, but your writing struck a chord today. I’ve been diag­nosed with bi-polar and we’ve been trying a variety of meds to “sta­bi­lize” my moods. From my point of view, that isn’t fixing me. When you wrote that PTSD is a change in per­spec­tive, about how you keep adjusting, that’s me. That’s been me for the last 15 years. Maybe more, but that seems to be the place in time that I can point to and say, “that’s where it all changed for me.” I hope to take some­thing from this, to learn that I do matter.

    • http://www.facebook.com/michele.lagueux Michele Lagueux

      I can’t thank you enough, Myke. I don’t know if it’s PTSD or a mul­ti­tude of issues, but your writing struck a chord today. I’ve been diag­nosed with bi-polar and we’ve been trying a variety of meds to “sta­bi­lize” my moods. From my point of view, that isn’t fixing me. When you wrote that PTSD is a change in per­spec­tive, about how you keep adjusting, that’s me. That’s been me for the last 15 years. Maybe more, but that seems to be the place in time that I can point to and say, “that’s where it all changed for me.” I hope to take some­thing from this, to learn that I do matter.

  • End­paper

    life is fun­gible, that death is capri­cious and sudden. That anyone’s life can be snuffed out or worse, ruined, in the space of a few sec­onds. It is the shaking real­iza­tion that love cannot pro­tect you, and even worse, that you cannot pro­tect those you love. It is the final sur­ren­dering of the myth that, if you are decent enough, eth­ical enough, skilled enough, you’ll be spared.” … that’s just life, dude. I mean, I feel for you, and it’s kind of great that you grew up without knowing what life was really like, but it’s also kind of sad… like being a 40yr old man who doesn’t know where babies come from.

  • End­paper

    life is fun­gible, that death is capri­cious and sudden. That anyone’s life can be snuffed out or worse, ruined, in the space of a few sec­onds. It is the shaking real­iza­tion that love cannot pro­tect you, and even worse, that you cannot pro­tect those you love. It is the final sur­ren­dering of the myth that, if you are decent enough, eth­ical enough, skilled enough, you’ll be spared.” … that’s just life, dude. I mean, I feel for you, and it’s kind of great that you grew up without knowing what life was really like, but it’s also kind of sad… like being a 40yr old man who doesn’t know where babies come from.

    • Jose

      You’re either so entrenched in your own prob­lems that you can’t realize how ridicu­lous that state­ment is, or you’ve never expe­ri­enced one and thus have no under­standing or com­pas­sion for people who expe­ri­ence the world on high alert like this.

      Thanks for sharing. Your com­ment cer­tainly made me feel better.

    • Rebecca

      There are a lot of people who grow up safe and many are blessed to keep it that way. I wish I was one of them. Safety sounds like a gift you didn’t have. I’m sorry for that.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Stachura/100000697905790 Chris Stachura

      Agreed.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Stachura/100000697905790 Chris Stachura

      Agreed.

  • Kaleigh

    As someone studying to be a psy­chol­o­gist, this is so extremely impor­tant to rec­og­nize and I’m so glad you’ve spoken up about this. Thank you so much for finding the strength and courage to artic­u­late, address, and post this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kaolinfire Kaolin Fire

    You may be plugged into this already, but I just came across it and thought you might appre­ciate — http://​www​.navy​.mil/​s​u​b​m​i​t​/​d​i​s​p​l​a​y​.​a​s​p​?​s​t​o​r​y​_​i​d​=​7​2​533 “Navy Cre­ates iPad App for Man­aging Stress and Fending off PTSD

  • Brent Weeks

    Hey Myke,
    Thanks for being brave enough to share. You’ve done a good thing here.

  • Mar­i­anne

    Thank you for writing the only thing that describes accu­rately the way I am. I have PTSD since 2001 when the first ter­rible thing that hap­pened to me was anes­thesia aware­ness break­through right before triple bypass surgery. Other ter­rible things have hap­pened to me since then. I am in a con­stant waking state of hyper­vig­i­lance and I know that death is a caprice. I have lost count of how many times I have almost died over the past 12 years. I have trans­ferred almost all of my trauma response into pho­bias regarding dri­ving a car, which I hate to do. I am OK with my prob­lems and I have no guilt about my dis­ability. My friends accept me for who I am and they have come to realize that phobia knows no logic or reason. My friends love me and help me. I thank God for that and I thank God that I have not hidden my prob­lems from a mis­guided sense of shame.

  • Wendy S. Delmater

    Hi Myke, thanks for posting this. Yeah, PTSD is all about the ongoing trauma of real­izing the world is not a safe place. My openness/passion is about kids get­ting PSTD from suf­fering through child sex abuse, which can cause it, too. You can move on from PSTD, but only when you allow your­self to admit it is real. And then it seems you need to get at least one other person to agree you have a right to be over­whelmed. It gets better from there.

  • JM

    Thank you

  • Tim

    Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/titetraductrice Laura Chris­tensen

    Thanks for writing this. I needed it.

  • Rox­anna

    Prob­ably the first time I’ve heard a sol­dier describe PTSD in a way that was relat­able to my expe­ri­ence with PTSD. Obvi­ously trig­gers are going to be dif­ferent with dif­ferent types of trauma, but from the way the media por­trays PTSD in combat vets, I always thought it was apples and oranges. The way he describes it though, I can tell it’s the same deal regardless.

  • http://www.renegadeword.com/ Julie M. Rodriguez

    Thanks for this post, Myke. As someone who spent 2 years in a pretty emo­tion­ally abu­sive rela­tion­ship, I have a hard time finding anyone who describes the kind of PTSD I live with, too. The only lit­er­a­ture on dealing with the emo­tional scars from a bad rela­tion­ship seems to work off the assump­tion that if you weren’t beaten by your partner, it’s easy to move on… It’s hard to explain to people who haven’t “been there.”

    • Terri

      Been there and am still working through it 25 years later.

  • http://www.facebook.com/evlokadottr Ever­grey Joy Lokadottr

    Well-written, and I think I agree with some of this. I think that no, this is not some­thing that you simply cure. When inno­cence is lost, you can’t ever have that back.
    I think that you may be missing the very real phys­i­o­log­ical effects of PTSD, and the phys­i­o­log­ical issues that make for a fer­tile field, in the brain, for PTSD.
    The lack of a cer­tain receptor, that tells the brain where to store memory, for example… which changes where trauma is stored. How it ends up sort of in “present” instead of “past,” and the hor­mone and chem­ical soup the brain and body are con­stantly pro­ducing as a result of the “I am going to die any moment” fight or flight or freeze instinct.
    It’s more than a point of view. A point of view doesn’t make you lose con­trol of your brain, your body. It doesn’t cause you to black out for hours. It doesn’t cause your visual cortex to par­tially shut down, or sud­denly rob you of your ability to speak, or send you into con­vul­sions.
    But yeah. Throwing one’s self back into dan­gerous sit­u­a­tions? Yes, maybe to make it better for others, pos­sibly.
    But also, if you KNOW you’re in REAL danger?
    Every­thing makes a lot more sense.
    All those feel­ings, the instincts, the adren­a­line?
    Then you can actu­ally, when you’re in a serious, dan­gerous sit­u­a­tion, IDENTIFY the threat that your instincts are always telling you is there. If you can iden­tify it, that gives you a feeling of a little more con­trol. A little more power. Because then you can get an idea about how to DEAL with it. And the world makes sense. It doesn’t feel like so much of an illu­sion. The curtain’s pulled back. It feels more real.

    So, I agree with you, and I don’t, because it’s more com­pli­cated, I think. But really, some things just can’t get put back together again and become the way they were BEFORE.

    Finding a new life, a new way of living, that works for us “walking wounded,” that’s impor­tant. With you on that, 100%.

  • Kevin Flynn

    Firstly…I think what you’re describing is PDSD, Pro­longed Duress Stress Dis­order. It’s very sim­ilar, but not quite the same PTSD.

    And I know because I’ve done my own research, and lived through my own hell. 7 years of being held against my will, psy­cho­log­ical tor­ture and occa­sional beat­ings. Never being able to trust anyone and unable to get anyone to realise what was hap­pening. Real­ising that my life could be ruined at any moment for no reason at all.

    They called it boarding school, [for ‘trou­bled & dif­fi­cult’ kids]

    It drove me to the brink of suicide.

    • http://www.facebook.com/evlokadottr Ever­grey Joy Lokadottr

      Ahh, I had not heard of PDSD, but that does make sense, yes. Thank you!

    • Ana_Lake

      Actu­ally, PDSD has now been super­seded by Com­plex PTSD as a description/diagnosis, it seems. So you’re both right.

  • Amanda Jones

    When I clicked this link, I didn’t expect to read what was
    in it. I had trig­gers going off the whole piece, and I had to close the window. I reopened it after a while though, knowing I had to finish it. I never really con­sid­ered the idea that I might have PTSD. My father is a vet of the first
    Gulf War, and I can still remember standing at my par­ents’ bed­room door, lis­tening to him kicking in his sleep and crying loudly at night. That was PTSD to me, and I was only barely able to count. After today, that has changed.

    When you men­tioned abuse, I started fighting tears. I know
    my mother never meant harm, but after suf­fering neglect as a child, she strug­gles with PTSD. You are 100% cor­rect that PTSD is a muta­tion of the mind as a whole. Until recently, I hadn’t even real­ized how much guilt I car­ried in being loved by someone. My mother left an impres­sion on me that I was inca­pable of expressing love to people. I’ve been strug­gling to figure out how to change, to fix myself, so I stop hurting those I care about. After reading this though, things have become much clearer to me.

    As much as it hurt to read this, I needed to. Thank you for
    sharing it. I know, as a novice writer myself, it couldn’t have been easy. Writing about myself is the hardest for me to write. I hope that one day the world will get it, but it’s a long road ahead. At least with arti­cles like this, we have a rough guide to help.

  • jhasan

    Thank you for writing this piece– it must have been dif­fi­cult. I rec­og­nize some of what you are describing as what I’ve been thinking of as depres­sion in myself. This pro­vides a useful per­spec­tive and it will be helpful to me, and I’m guessing many other people. Writing this makes a dif­fer­ence to many.

  • AJ

    do you have a more reader-friendly ver­sion of this site? i’d love to read this blog post (it was shared to me by a FB friend), but i’m finding the com­bi­na­tion of font and colors to be nearly illegible.

  • Red­scribe

    Thank you so much for posting this. I hope that you find some mea­sure of peace and a sense of safety at some point.

    Last year was the year of trauma for me. I’ve had basic First Aid training, thanks to my office job at a Uni­ver­sity. Last year I helped to save the lives of two guys who col­lapsed with heart attacks in and around my building. I have flash­backs of their purple faces, of the way their exposed bel­lies flopped around as we pumped their chests. Both sur­vived, luckily for everyone.

    I also heard a guy get hit by a car at a huge inter­sec­tion close to my house. My friends and I had been out to dinner nearby and (care­fully) ran over to assist. He’d smashed out the wind­screen and had been thrown three meters by the impact. I held a bor­rowed cardigan to the flap of scalp that had been sliced off and held this stranger’s hand. I looked him in the eyes and told him that it was OK, that he was going to be fine, that we had him, without knowing if he had mas­sive internal injuries or not.

    I find it very dif­fi­cult to relax, knowing that anyone around me could drop, any­time, and that only luck has kept them all alive so far.

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  • Sally McLennan

    Hi Myke, I have PTSD and under­went Dr Eli Lipov’s treat­ment in Chicago. It involves injecting local anaes­thetic into a cluster of cells impli­cated in PTSD. It doesn’t work for everyone but this treat­ment has cer­tainly worked for me and there has only been one woman with any side effects (she got some muscle tremors). For me I have been able to go off all PTSD related med­ica­tion and live a better life for $1000 USD total. I hope it might help others reading this.

  • http://priscillaking.blogspot.com/ Priscilla King

    More thanks for this. I’m posting a link and com­ments at my site, and wonder what you (or youall who’ve men­tioned sim­ilar PTSD/PDSD in the com­ments) find helpful?

    • MykeCole

      Glad it was helpful to you. I engage in a wide variety of strate­gies to deal with my PTSD, but the single most helpful thing is treating it as a shift in per­spec­tive, as I have men­tioned above.

      You don’t treat a shift in per­spec­tive, you acknowl­edge that you have changed, and changed per­ma­nently, and go about con­structing a new life with new goals based on the person you have become. You also don’t view this new person as “wrong” or “sick” or “dam­aged.” You are dif­ferent, and that is what it is.

      The 2 big fresh goals that have hon­estly saved me are:

      1.) Secu­rity — Taking on crisis related work, espe­cially those tasks that are dan­gerous and dif­fi­cult (I cur­rently work in Search-and-Rescue and Mar­itime Law Enforce­ment) has been enor­mously helpful. It is the closest thing to that the bone-rattling feeling of sig­nif­i­cance I had when deployed to Iraq or major domestic dis­as­ters. It also helps put the fear to bed as I men­tion in the the post above.

      2.) Art — Pur­suing a career in the arts was a thing I was always taught was foolish, and that respon­sible people didn’t do it because one could never make a living. But pub­lishing novels is the only thing (other than armed ser­vice) that makes me feel rel­e­vant to the world post Iraq. Part of coping with PTSD was giving myself per­mis­sion to be poor, or bohemian, or what­ever I had to be in order to allow myself to follow this calling.

      I am not saying that PTSD is a way to chase your dreams. I am saying that, instead of treating it like a pathology, I had to find new ways to be in the world that fit the new way in which I saw the world. I had to find life goals that felt rel­e­vant post dis­aster. Writing and fighting and the only 2 that work for me so far.

      Hope that helps.

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  • armynurse801

    After 25 years of being in the busi­ness of helping people under­stand and work through their trau­matic stress, and after having suf­fered from trau­matic stress for close to 40 years, this may be the single most cogent essay I’ve every read on the expe­ri­ence. Absolutely spot on. I’m going to share it with a bunch of other professionals–they need to get this, once and for all. Thanks, man.

  • armynurse801

    After 25 years of being in the busi­ness of helping people under­stand and work through their trau­matic stress, and after having suf­fered from trau­matic stress for close to 40 years, this may be the single most cogent essay I’ve every read on the expe­ri­ence. Absolutely spot on. I’m going to share it with a bunch of other professionals–they need to get this, once and for all. Thanks, man.

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  • Marlin May

    Hi Myke:
    Like everyone else here has said, Thank you!

    I have a ques­tion. What is hap­pening with the young men and women who are entering ser­vice already hyper­vig­i­lant, already on the lookout, already in the grips of The Fear, because that’s how they sur­vived their neigh­bor­hoods or their home life?

    • MykeCole

      That’s a great ques­tion, Marlin, and one I haven’t had to address in my own mil­i­tary career thus far. The mil­i­tary revolves around the mis­sion, and so long as indi­vidual ser­vice mem­bers are per­forming well, I don’t think com­mands would have any policy driven cause to inter­vene. In many cases, PTSD “symp­toms” like hyper­vig­i­lance are an “asset” in secu­rity sce­narios. I also know that, at least for me, doing crisis work is helpful for me, for rea­sons I write about above. I think that mil­i­tary envi­ron­ment is prob­ably no dif­ferent than any other social/work envi­ron­ment: The person’s coworkers and friends would be the ones to notice and speak up. I see people who I know are suf­fering every day. You can’t force help on them. They have to want it.

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  • PTSD Patty

    I’m sorry I couldn’t get through this. I have PTSD. Shit’s not fun and nei­ther are generalizations.

  • PTSD Patty

    I’m sorry I couldn’t get through this. I have PTSD. Shit’s not fun and nei­ther are generalizations.

  • Anki

    Not even remotely having been through what you have, the term ‘con­di­tion yellow’ star­tled me ~ I was sud­denly hurled back to a period in which I was socially bul­lied (adult sce­nario) for years & I refused to cave in; this involving me having to make myself go to the clubs I was used to go to, to endure bad mouthing, black stares, people who judged me from hearsay without even knowing me. I endured because I could not let them win, & slowly, with the help of one stal­wart friend, I regained ground and even reaped suc­cess. Some­times I look back & wonder how I did it. But it cost a lot; the con­stant wari­ness, pre­pared­ness for what ‘bull’ might fly my way next, the sense of being the main target for so many people (around 10 were actively at the job; some former ‘friends’) man­i­fested in my shoul­ders: I’d wake up in the morn­ings with them pushed up at the height of my ears, unable to relax. my mind con­stantly on high alert to tackle what­ever would be the ‘next’ thing.
    I’ve come out of it head high & without PTSD, but a lot of me is burnt out & I am acutely aware that it aged my body & I need to recover that ground too. The hardest bit now, is people’s com­plete incom­pre­hen­sion as to what it was like ~ I cannot convey to them my expe­ri­ence. I don’t talk of it much as I have accepted that it will always be triv­i­alised (one of the women that bad­mouthed me, is now trying to wedge into my friend­ship group & my cur­rent friends seem to regard me a bit ‘over­dra­matic’ when I bluntly told them I would leave our table if she made it a habit to sit with us). In this, I guess, the web is invalu­able to find others ~ sadly, empathy comes hand in hand with expe­ri­ence, and when people haven’t had your expe­ri­ence it is nigh impos­sible to gain their full under­standing. My biggest embrace to you and any sol­dier (and person living in a war zone) who has this per­ma­nently etched into their bodies like unwanted war scars; I have but briefly glimpsed where you are. X

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  • Rina

    Thank you so much for writing this. For sharing it. So many parts of it spoke to me, made me feel like someone in the world really does under­stand. It seems like every­where I turn in my life all I hear is a chorus of, “get over it” — who gets over being held against your will and tor­tured for months on end?

    It makes me wish that I could have at least gotten this new “world view” from some­thing mean­ingful, or some­thing that mat­tered. Some­thing heroic. It made me wish I could have been a sol­dier, or a fire­fighter, or *someone*… alas, I was just a stupid, gullible young girl who turned out to be the victim of a sol­dier instead. A girl who has become a woman, and is now trying to become a survivor.

    Thank you. You’ve helped me make one more step towards that goal today. We may never speak, we may never meet; but you have undoubt­edly changed me for the better.

  • Rina

    Thank you so much for writing this. For sharing it. So many parts of it spoke to me, made me feel like someone in the world really does under­stand. It seems like every­where I turn in my life all I hear is a chorus of, “get over it” — who gets over being held against your will and tor­tured for months on end?

    It makes me wish that I could have at least gotten this new “world view” from some­thing mean­ingful, or some­thing that mat­tered. Some­thing heroic. It made me wish I could have been a sol­dier, or a fire­fighter, or *someone*… alas, I was just a stupid, gullible young girl who turned out to be the victim of a sol­dier instead. A girl who has become a woman, and is now trying to become a survivor.

    Thank you. You’ve helped me make one more step towards that goal today. We may never speak, we may never meet; but you have undoubt­edly changed me for the better.

  • http://twitter.com/piratefoxy Kris

    Oh my gosh, reading this I got chills. I don’t have PTSD from any of the things that the media likes to claim give you PTSD, but I do have it, and it’s so hard to explain to people. But yes, this, exactly.

  • Luke Thomas

    Myke, just read this excel­lent article after speaking with you about it over Aussie beers the other night. Really salient points. I just sent it to my buddy in Afgan­istan and can’t wait to hear his take on it.

    –Luke

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  • Sky fighter

    Are you for real? My guess is you were mis­di­ag­noses. Not to worry it hap­pens a lot. A world view is when you are a repub­lican or a demo­crat. A world view is where you stand on illegal immi­gra­tion. A world view is if you think we should give money to hostil coun­tries. Walking by a sign that has a symbol on it that makes your heart pound, knees go weak and puts the fear of hell in you is NOT a world view. Con­stantly forget things is NOT a world view. Dri­ving down a road you have driven down your whole life and know like the back of your hand when all of a sudden you have no clue where you or where you where going is NOT a world view! Going into a rage simply because a trusted friend grabs your arm in a cer­tain way is NOT a work view. And that sol­dier that saw blood coming out of the tap, most likely he saw blood gushing out of his buddy’s head­less body. You need to go get reeval­u­ated and be sure you actu­ally under stand

  • Sky fighter

    Are you for real? My guess is you were mis­di­ag­noses. Not to worry it hap­pens a lot. A world view is when you are a repub­lican or a demo­crat. A world view is where you stand on illegal immi­gra­tion. A world view is if you think we should give money to hostil coun­tries. Walking by a sign that has a symbol on it that makes your heart pound, knees go weak and puts the fear of hell in you is NOT a world view. Con­stantly forget things is NOT a world view. Dri­ving down a road you have driven down your whole life and know like the back of your hand when all of a sudden you have no clue where you or where you where going is NOT a world view! Going into a rage simply because a trusted friend grabs your arm in a cer­tain way is NOT a work view. And that sol­dier that saw blood coming out of the tap, most likely he saw blood gushing out of his buddy’s head­less body. You need to go get reeval­u­ated and be sure you actu­ally under stand

  • http://www.facebook.com/katherine.lampe Kele Lampe

    Beau­tiful post. I was diag­nosed with PTSD from ongoing child abuse about five years ago. My ther­a­pist was one of the few I’ve ever met who gets that it’s not nec­es­sarily a single event you relive, but it’s a way you learn to sur­vive, a view you develop when your day-to-day reality is FUBAR. And I also hate the way this dis­order is por­trayed in the media and else­where. Thank you for writing this.

  • Jenny C

    I found this post the day after my psy­chol­o­gist gently explained to me that I have PTSD — I hadn’t even imag­ined it as a pos­si­bility because I, just as you described, was taught about PTSD from the main­stream media. She explained to me exactly what you artic­u­lated so well — the PTSD doesn’t have to come from a ‘crisis career’, or a one-off event but can be the con­se­quence of my own child­hood and the social cul­ture I grew up in — “… the wages of a life spent in crisis, the slow, the­matic build that grad­u­ally changes the way the suf­ferer sees the world. You get boiled by heating the water one degree each hour. By the time you finally suc­cumb, you realize you had no idea it was get­ting hotter.

    Because you kept adjusting.

    Because PTSD isn’t a dis­ease, it’s a world view.…”

    I can’t begin to explain how much you helped me under­stand and accept my psychologist’s view­point. And start moving for­ward from there. Thank you.

  • Harry

    There is an evidence-based therapy for PTSD called neu­ro­feed­back. Here is a video of a Vet­eran, who had been sui­cidal, describing his expe­ri­ence with the modality. He no longer meets the diag­nostic cri­teria for PTSDhttp://​p​-​t​-​s​-​d​.com.

  • Elise Matthesen

    Thank you. Because yeah.

  • Wolf Baginski

    I recog­nise this from two dis­tinct angles, one maybe a bit trivial. First is the fic­tion of H P Love­craft, which is built around the horror of an uncaring uni­verse. Second is my time acting as carer for my elderly par­ents. maybe six years of a slow decline to death. It still feels wrong to call my mental state an instance of PTSD, but there are, I think, at least echoes of what you have written about.

    Labels can be so misleading.

  • Katie Sutton

    This is an amaz­ingly bril­liant and well written article. I am a suf­ferer of PTSD from an early life filled with sick­ness and death of myself and family mem­bers. My expe­ri­ence is not the same as a solider’s but the feel­ings are the same. I have never heard how I feel each day, each time someone I love gets sick like this, my feel­ings right there in writing. I wish more people would read and under­stand what it feels like. Then when they tell us to snap out of it they would know just how ridicu­lous that idea is. We are alway vig­i­lant. Watching for that one thing we can do to change the path so we don’t have to walk down that road again. I am exhausted. I am tired of being scared. Thank you for the voice.

  • Pho­to­Coyote

    I grew up feeling unsafe in my family home, then lived with a series of unsafe boyfriends, then mar­ried an alco­holic. When he started endan­gering our kids, I filed for divorce, a living hell. I lost every­thing except my car and my kids, who I raised as a single parent for 17 years, on a far-below-poverty-level income. During that time, my health dete­ri­o­rated dra­mat­i­cally, and I am still far from well.….. Were all that not enough, a year and a half ago, I fell through a hole in the floor of my second story bed­room. In com­plete dark­ness. I hit my head so hard, my room­mate said the house shook and he thought some­thing had exploded. Some­thing DID explode. My life. I have not been the same since. I’ve devel­oped an anx­iety dis­order because I now know that nowhere is safe, and no one can be trusted.…. What’s weird is that having fallen through the floor doesn’t bother me as much as all the trauma that occured prior to that inci­dent. But some­thing about the fall brought to light the real­iza­tion that my life has, indeed, been one long episode of ongoing trauma. A catharsis of sorts.…. Having read this incred­ible blog post, I can now clearly explain my changed reality to my ther­a­pist. THANK YOU SO MUCH.

  • Beau­tiful Life

    It’s is absolutely the most well written trea­tise on this topic. Per­fect. Thank you.

  • Kat

    I’ve been in coun­seling for 5 years due to the effects of a phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally abu­sive mar­riage. After I divorced him and was diag­nosed with PTSD, I thought “oh, good, I know the issue so I can do some­thing about it and fix it.” Not as easy to tackle as I thought.

    Although I just hap­pened upon some­thing written months ago, just wanted to say I related so well to this article that it cured me. Just kid­ding. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m off to see what kind of irra­tional fear I’ll develop today. :)

  • Ana_Lake

    The root of the treat­ment has to come from meeting those who suffer
    where they are. It isn’t just hard oper­a­tors. It’s clerks and
    phle­botomists and chem­ical engi­neers. It’s people who thought they
    were fine, only to wake up one morning and realize that the last few
    years have changed them in ways they don’t quite under­stand. It isn’t
    just sol­diers and cops and ER nurses. Life in poverty can bring on PTSD. An abu­sive parent can have the same effect.”

    Thank you. Thank you for writing that. Thank you for GETTING it.

    Thank you.

  • fiveO

    I can’t put into words what this article means to me. I can remember being full of excite­ment for my career only to find myself drowning on how to deal with the two worlds that play out everyday. To me the real world has become the vic­tims, the scenes of death, the sense­lees acts of vio­lence, and the split second adren­a­line highs/dumps on the pos­si­bility of my own life being taken in a split second. Then there’s the other world only seen with blinders by the people we pro­tect and serve that have no clue they make feel like out­sider because even if I were to try and explain they just wouldn’t under­stand. I feel, no, I know I’m not the same person I was any­more and it’s a con­stent battle to make myself believe that I’m making a dif­fer­ence. Then there is the struggle of not wanting to let my brothers down, but also the fear of the reac­tion of being seen as weak. Out of every­thing, that is one of the hardest to deal with. How did you over­come that?

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  • philocrates

    I have rewritten this sev­eral times. But all I want to say is thank you. Thank you for describing what it really is and what it isn’t. My alter­na­tive was to move home to the one place I still felt safe because if you belong to the clan [your family is from here], they will take care of you. I could go home to the clan and I did. I now have someone to watch my back. And at least there are days of rest now and some nights without night­mares. Out­side of here? I go back on high alert.

  • Davina

    Thank you for this article. Thank you for bringing to light how those with PTSD feel about the world. Thank you for acknowl­edging that you don’t have to go to war or be in the mil­i­tary to have it. I hon­estly cried while reading this article because I can relate to what you’ve said here. I can relate to how those closest to me don’t (and can’t under­stand) that I have it or why. They believe that because I wasn’t in the mil­i­tary or at war that it’s weird or wrong for me to have it, but I know I do.

    I know I do because when I hear that cer­tain name, I go straight into a panic attack where all I can do is think of that name over and over and over again while the mem­o­ries of that per­sons affect on my life seeps into every­thing I do until I force that name out of my head. I know because I’m con­stantly on alert for loud noises: bumps, honks, people falling. When it hap­pens, I am auto­mat­i­cally on alert. I am auto­mat­i­cally read for the worst; ready to run, ready to fight.

    I know because I am uncom­fort­able in small spaces. I am uncom­fort­able if I cannot see a whole room. When in a crowd of people, I feel so afraid that I latch onto the person I’m with like a baby ele­phant. I know that other people will never under­stand why these thing affect me the way they do or even that they do so, as I try to hide it to the best of my ability, but I know why they’re there and the worst part is that I’ll never forget them.

  • Chris

    My hus­band was a Marine and always denied having PTSD for years, but he was nearly impos­sible to live with–VERY angry and unhappy all the time. When he finally went into law enforce­ment he seemed to make peace with it and now finally admits the PTSD he denied for so long. I am copying this for him because the
    PTSD we always seem to see on TV, movies, etc doesn’t look like what his life has been like. Great stuff–thanks for writing!

  • Matthew Joseph Helbig

    Well put brother. I’m a former infantry officer and I have to make a con­fes­sion, I was unfairly biased about non-combat arms soldiers/marines making claims about PTSD. When I found myself strug­gling with my own prob­lems, I went and got some help (www​.pwht​.org). In the group there were vets from all walks, and by lis­tening to their sto­ries I iden­ti­fied one of the major causes of my trouble; deploy­ments in gen­eral are unhealthy. Working 7 days a week, rocket attacks, work that has life & death con­se­quences; that goes for everyone. Thanks for sharing and check out PWHT.

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  • Jared Gar­rett

    Dude. Thank you for this. Beau­tiful illu­mi­na­tion of one of the biggest costs of war.

  • Ken­neth Hayes

    This post artic­u­lates and mir­rors a lot of the expe­ri­ences I’ve
    had with PTSD. I was never diag­nosed offi­cially mostly because if I ever
    thought the docs were even thinking along those lines I would bolt. There is
    too much at stake with my clear­ance to have to worry about the mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion
    that a diag­nosis sug­gests to a dis­order that has such a broad spec­trum. I’m
    lucky though because I’m blessed with a selec­tive memory; Thank
    you for posting.

  • Terri

    And my own take on it from last week:

    http://​read​in​rit​tin​rhetoric​.blogspot​.com/​2​0​1​4​/​0​3​/​o​n​-​t​h​e​r​a​p​y​-​a​n​d​-​g​a​r​d​e​n​i​n​g​.​h​tml

    Bril­liant piece Myke. My brother never made it all the way home from Vietnam. When he mus­tered out of the Navy, a chopper took him and dropped him, in the dark, in the parking lot of a closed super­market. Four years of living it 24/7 on board an air­craft car­rier fer­rying Marine amphib units between Subic Bay and Vietnam, to standing in a parking lot in San Diego without even a ride. He was 22.

  • tgstoneb­utch

    I have spent the last 20 years doing trauma work of one sort or another, focused on inter­per­sonal trauma (inti­mate partner vio­lence, child sexual abuse, sexual assault), and what you are describing sounds like what some folks call *com­plex* PTSD (the kind of PTSD that results from ongoing trau­matic expe­ri­ences over time). One piece that par­tic­u­larly res­onated was the way that our expe­ri­ence of and frame­work for under­standing the world is trans­formed by ongoing trauma–it shifts the way we think about our­selves, our safety, our trust in others, etc. It’s some­thing that is less talked about, but so vitally impor­tant to get about long-term trauma and how it works. Thank you for putting elo­quent words to an often unspoken experience.

  • Mary Spila

    PTSD is the wages of a life spent in crisis, the slow, the­matic build that grad­u­ally changes the way the suf­ferer sees the world. You get boiled by heating the water one degree each hour. By the time you finally suc­cumb, you realize you had no idea it was get­ting hotter.“
    Thank you.

  • SmSorif Khan

    Grad­u­ates
    of some of the top uni­ver­si­ties in the UK, most of whom are Archi­tec­ture
    Studies degree holders. Our writers spe­cialise in sev­eral Architecture-related
    fields including design and aes­thetic theory.

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    Clip­ping Path

  • http://www.theclippingpathindia.com/ Clip­ping Path

    So this year we have gone directly to The National Cancer
    Insti­tute to bring you links to the latest infor­ma­tion on the fight against
    breast cancer. Just click on the images, and find the infor­ma­tion you are
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