I decided that I need to speak out more about where I am and what perspective I can give from my perpetual dance with PTSD. As such, I am going to change the format of this blog and start writing about what I think works/worked. (I am also kicking around the idea of opening up a “Dear Mikey”, but more to follow on those columns.)
With that, I have a small preamble or disclaimer. I cannot be so brash as to say I know what anyone else is going through (though people who have known me for a while may get a chuckle out of that last part).
I suspect from feedback there is a lot of cross over of experiences. Over the past seven years I have been keeping pretty solid track of what worked and didn’t work for me. In my years of reintegration, I made some fairly drastic life decisions in an effort to combat this disorder. From the beginning, I have tried to hit this head on, but my experience does not mean it will or should work for others.
I just recently hit another snag after clipping along at a stable pace for a good while.
Rather than spiral, I will attempt to move forward, but based on the text messages I am trading with my wife, it is proving more difficult than I first thought.
So without further interruption here is my survivor myths of PTSD recovery list.
I can go this alone
I fell into this trap right way. Despite a loving wife and family, friends all over the place, I got it stuck in my thick head that I could work this out myself. It is absurd. If you stop to think about our time in combat, did we really do anything alone? I mean, we seriously let each other know we were going to take a shit in case a mortar attack rained in. Yet, a vast majority of us feel we can just get a dog, hole up somewhere for a while and work it out. (My wife bought me a dog almost immediately. I love the fart-ripping bastard, but it suffice to say he is a little short on tips to manage sleep or medicine side effects.). We got into this mess together, we need others to get us out.
Waiting to get help makes it easier (or I’m too busy)
I talk to Vietnam Vets. A lot. I tell them pretty frankly about what I am working through. The resounding response from the Vets of Vietnam I talk to is “Shit, I wish I took care of mine sooner. It is harder now.” Amen. We are so fortunate in this generation that the Vietnam Vets fought for all the benefits we are starting with. Heed their advice and start now.
There is a magic pill or therapy that will work quickly
Sorry, I searched high and low for the quick fix solution. I have tried many many different combinations of various therapies and drugs. As for therapy, if the VA sanctioned it, I tried it, and in a few cases had to restart it. There was no magic, just a lot of hard work. But, with that hard work, in conjunction with a number of other lifestyle changes, I am able to sustain longer periods of normal.
Recovery and management is a linear graph
You will notice I said longer periods of normal in the point above. I am generally accepting that, similar to the war I came from, this is going to be a long and protracted fight. Progress cannot be mapped on a graph. Weeks of steps forward sometimes suffered setbacks in hours, though with effort and support, I am trending in the right direction. Setbacks happen. Progress can happen too. But, unlike the board game of “Life” it is much harder to see where you stand at any given time with PTSD.
I am too far gone
It is the first lesson of a defense: continually improve your position. Things may seem horrendous, it may feel like the world is crashing around you. We are here to help. I am here to help. There are people who want to help. Ask. We will.
Getting help is a sign of weakness
To this I say the only person I have to live with is myself. I made the decision a few years ago that I would swallow my pride and ask for assistance in facing something I had never faced before and had no idea where to start piecing it back together. Today, if you were to ask my boys about their Dad, the would tell say “Dad is strong like the Hulk and good at Legos.” Works for me.
The war is winding down. The GP will forget. It is our solemn duty to never turn our back on this or any generation of Veterans. We can help ourselves. Dispelling these myths is a good start.