Monthly Archives: June 2012

For Discussion: PTSD-Purple Hearts – via ABC News

PTSD-Purple Hearts – ABC News.

The Purple Heart

I am giving my Press This and Google Alerts integration a go.

This story, and versions of it, have been crossing my inbox for the better part of the week.

I would like nothing more for than the stigma of PTSD to be wiped away.  I am leaning towards more and frank education.  I don’t think re-writing diagnosis is the place to start.  I would like to hear from more people on this, civilian, Veteran, Active Duty…

Thanks for reading and, hopefully, discussing!

 

Trust and #PTSD: Why the VA needs to employ more Veterans

Damn that’s some good intel…

It’s hot.  The meeting room is stuffy and we are only through the first half of the briefing.  It was, as expected, a busy week patrolling the streets.  Things that go boom, and how to find them before they blew up were always high on the priority list.

“Well, we figured out why the intel on the the IED’s was so accurate…” the S2 briefed.

Cue giant graphic picture of dead Iraqi.

“Turns out Mohammed was planting them to collect our rewards…”

Here is where I create a metaphor: Imagine some athletic Spartan with a chisel and a huge Thor-like hammer chipping away at a beautiful piece of marble.  The word TRUST emblazoned on the front.

Every day I spent in combat that Spartan hit the marble.

Lost in Translation

There were often not enough translators to facilitate our missions.  We had US Contractors with security clearances and in country scrubs that we needed to keep the communication flowing.  We were constantly rotating through the translators.  One translator in particular left an indelible mark.

We paid him, fed him, and protected him.  Sh!t, I can safely say our guys saved his life on more than one occasion.  We found him on a non-issued phone more than a few times.  Those instances started to coincided with our attacks.  We compiled a case, and when we had enough data, ran his phone.

He was a mole.

His deception led to the death of one of our Soldiers.

It took tremendous control not to beat him to a pulp and execute him.

The Spartan took extra swings that day…

Aliens and a Pile of Dust

I always got a kick out of reading Star, US Weekly, and People magazine.  When you return from a patrol, you are dirty, tired and still have hours of work in front of you, reading about Alien life on Earth while taking a crap is a good distraction.

Aliens.  That is what celebrities and civilians were in Iraq.  Latest fashions, who dumped who, who is pregnant, who had surgery…  Who gives a sh!t.  I had the same three uniforms and three sets of boots for an entire year.  If someone went away for surgery, it was usually after they got hurt and we would see them when, and if, we got home.  It was very easy to see that people in the magazine, and what people cared about, were very different from my ten tan t-shirts and me.

By the time I got home, my block of trust was a pile of pebbles and sand.

The Familiar

Since I have returned, I have softened in my approach, but I gravitate towards my military friends, and stick close to my family.

New friends?  Maybe five.  Of that group, how many have no military experience?  One.

If you are not a Veteran, and I did not know you before I went to Combat, I have a hard time trusting you.  Nothing personal.  It’s just a feeling that has evolved over time.

When it comes to PTSD treatment, I faced this trust problem countless times at the VA.

Too many non-Veterans. 

I understand that specialties and job qualifications must be filled.  But, there needs to be less of a gap.  There needs to be more paid interns or consultants that just work with the VA and are Veterans, especially to help tear down the trust barrier.

Overcoming the stigma of PTSD is one thing.  Trusting others with that stigma is something quite different.

If I sit and evaluate my trust, I am much better than I was six years ago.  I don’t avoid people as much.  I can at least engage in conversation.

For the crop of new Veterans that has not engaged the VA and is just beginning the integration, it will go a long way to have a few more Veterans around.

 

Housekeeping:

June 27th is National PTSD Awareness day.  Please share this blog and others.

When Worlds Collide: working through fresh trauma with #PTSD

The Worst Stretch of Highway in America

Impact

I got rear ended the other day.  It was raining.  I was on the worst stretch of highway in America, the Cross Bronx Expressway, and I got hit in my little Prius by an F350 Super duty towing a motor home.

From impact it was an exercise in control.  Now, three weeks later worlds are still colliding…

At the onset I had to take a few seconds to not instinctively rip the old man from the drivers seat and throttle him on the highway.

Deep breath.

Accidents happen, he just got a little too close.

I asked if everyone was ok in the other car.  I took out my camera phone and started snapping pictures.  Ugh.  Bumper is pretty jacked.  Did I mention I had only bought the car five days prior?  Oh yeah, there was that that level of frustration…  I had not been in an accident in years.  This happens now?

Good old FM 7-8 or FM 3.21.8 or …

My mind started to race.  Thinking back, the impact was not much harder than my Bradley crew and I knocking on someone’s door, but I was braced for that, this was more sudden, and as such made me more alert in a snap.  The feelings reminded me of a contract drill after an IED.  Dynamic opposites at play.  High adrenaline from anger playing off a souring stomach while we waiting to hear if anyone was hurt.

The tension from the impact had me soaring. I pushed all my feelings and emotions into that little box and let my training take over.

The checklist runs without prompt…

Return fire… wait… scratch that…

Check to see if anyone is hurt.

Check to make sure everything is in a place that is safe.

Notify the appropriate personnel…

It was a battle drill I had done too many times.

Everyone was ok. A little shaken up and wet, but OK.  His F350 laughed at my little Prius.

Dusting off the Stuck Points and probabilities…

The real fun has been the symptoms that have crept back into my life that I had though I had a good handle on.  I continually brace for impact.  I see cars coming close and I cannot help but think about getting hit.  I drive slower and in the right lane (saves MPG in my hybrid right?)

I’m also back to running through the crippling “if” scenarios I worked hard to get past.  A little jolt and I have to work extra hard to fight the swirling patterns and negative thoughts.

In Iraq, getting attacked was a when not if.  We left the gate ready for the worst case scenario.  Unfortunately, we found those scenarios on a few occasions.   The level of hyper-vigilance that was woven into our daily routine is high and deep.   It helped us survive.

I guess driving a car and accidents are the same way. It is just a matter of time.  The difference is that driving on the Cross Bronx, while frustrating and somewhat dangerous, is nowhere near the level of patrolling the streets of Iraq.  And, the frequency of any one individual having multiple accidents is a low probability, unless you drive like some people I know…

Now, my stuck points related to safety are back.  My rumination habits of reviewing the scenario to attempt to improve a similar scenario, or respond to a worse scenario are back.  I am trying to over control scenarios.

I am unwinding them, and much quicker than I did my time in Iraq, but it is still a setback in my mind.   But, a positive is I can clearly see these issues.  I have the skills and tools to tighten them up.  So, with a little time I will step forward again, with a new experience to notch in my belt.

Housekeeping

This month is PTSD awareness month.  In keeping with the notion that we are not alone in this fight here are a few resources from the VA and others:

http://www.ptsd.va.gov/about/ptsd-awareness/ptsd_awareness_month.asp?from=carousel&position=1&date=06062012

AboutFace:  Testimonials of the afflicted


http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/about_face/veterans/cpt-sarah-c-humphries/what-ptsd-did-to-the-people-i-love.html

June 27th is National PTSD Awareness day

http://www.nctsn.org/resources/public-awareness/national-ptsd-awareness-day