18
March

What PTSD is

265 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.

 

 

 

  • 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.

  • 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)

    • 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.

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

  • 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.

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

  • Graylin Fox
  • 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.

  • 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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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • One of the best things I’ve ever read.

  • Hey, Myke.

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

    Here’s mine, from a few years back: http://matociquala.livejournal.com/1120951.html

    …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.)

  • 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.

  • 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.krissygibbs.com/2013/03/18/ptsd-varies-dramatically/)

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • Agreed.

    • 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.

  • You may be plugged into this already, but I just came across it and thought you might appreciate — http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=72533 “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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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 PTSD – http://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://readinrittinrhetoric.blogspot.com/2014/03/on-therapy-and-gardening.html

    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.

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  • Ineedtoexpressthispleasehelp

    I tried to reply on the blog Disquss but not sure if it posted. I am also in the med field and am working with a group in Dallas, but trials are everywhere that are very very promising for PTSD. (it’s quite revolutionary and I’d like to send you info on it…..you are enough of a hero, please do all you can to try what these studies are showing huge strides in helping short circuit via techniques that sound scary but are very safe and may help even the slightest with your suffering)…..please consider looking over the info and we can go from there. Please consider how this could change the others who are tormented by similar afflictions. The rest of us cant ever imagine how anyoe gets through life like that but you deserve MORE help from the research community in the medical community and a lot has been in the works for years that is very safe and will not leave you unable to work in the future nor leave you a vegetable. let me know if you are interested….you’re suffering does not make you a hero…what you have been through for my life, my freedom and all who are here today is what makes you beyond any word I can think of beyond the greatest kind of hero our world will ever know and YOU DESERVE MORE THAN WHAT HELP YOU ARE GETTING. cost is NOT a concern…..please love yourself as much as you love this country…..and love your men by giving it a shot.

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  • Marianne

    Difficult to read, but thought provoking. Thank you. Maybe I’ll post the blog entry that I haven’t had the guts to.

  • Poul Erik Holmelund

    Amazing write up Myke.
    Thank you for sharing such personal information.

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  • Matt

    Wow. Your way with words is amazing. I found this due to a link about your fiction on wired. All I could really add is it seems often that people with PTSD find that amped-up is new normal. They become “addicted to Chaos”. To quote “Changing Lanes”.

  • LynnR

    Amazing. Thank you for sharing. My son, I believe, has ptsd from spending years 3-12 running to and from the hospital while we struggles to keep his sister alive. He is barely functioning and I struggle to find help for him .

  • Tasha Muhammad

    I do not have the words to accurately communicate to you just how much your posting has impacted me. I am an LPC and throughout graduate school and beyond, I have NEVER experienced the subject of PTSD in this manner. While reading, I found myself connecting to how PTSD manifests itself and thought to myself,”that’s me”.
    From the traumatic experiences, to the feelings and experiences, to the adjustments, I have had them all. I experienced severe trauma at the age of 5 and I have been adjusting every since. I could never explain the feeling of dread, the fear, the horrific “daymares” ,as I entitled them, that would flash through my mind leaving me frozen(literally). Ashamed, with no safe person to share them with, I hid my dirty secret. I learned to deal with it so long, that it became apart of me, motivating me to adopt healthy tools such as daily mindfullness practices that has allowed me some peace and freedom. So, thank you for giving my 5yr old self a voice, she has finally released a breathe I never knew she was holding.

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  • Moria

    I just heard about this post from listening to “Geek’s Guide” and read it. After 20+ years of battling PTSD, I feel as though I may have a way to re-frame how I’m living with it. Thank you for this.

  • Michael Lafors

    My Sister Danielle met with you and directed me to this. I was an Army Medic in Ramadi. I live every moment hoping I dont die. Fear numbs me, I am trying to get help but I broke my neck and the fix gave me a nerve condition so that when I am tense a feel more pain and I am always tense. My life is pain and fear. The VA is less than helpful. If you know any places that actually know what I know that would be a thread to hold onto.

  • Sage Ravenwood

    “PTSD isn’t something you get over or cure”, Thank you!

    You learn to live with it and eventually accept it’s a part of your way of life and that’s how you go forward. And sometimes…life can be horrifying and dangerous, so surreal you wonder was it even real, but the truth is behind the door in your mind is something many rarely glimpse or know about.

    Without getting into details, PTSD can happen and does happen in situations outside of military or service work. Personally, I’ve learned to make my peace with the hypervigilance and whatever comes of it. There are times it helps to realize I suffer from PTSD and yes, it will be a lifetime friend (we all have those friends that hang on and won’t let go), but in some ways PTSD marks me as a survivor too.

    When we fight against the demons (nightmares, memories, and re-living trauma), more or less we’re really fighting against ourselves. Drawing those demons to us and saying, I get it, you’re now part of me, let’s get this done…provides the balance to move forward. And no it’s not always that simple or easy…

    I guess what I wanted to say is, it’s a beautiful thing when someone else gets it.
    ~ Sage Ravenwood

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