The Myths of #PTSD recovery: A survivors’ perspective

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.

5 thoughts on “The Myths of #PTSD recovery: A survivors’ perspective

  1. Bridget Heckman

    Excellent article. “Swallowing Your Pride” is the biggest thing to get help. You have to swallow your pride again when you go talk to a “professional'; you might sit in your car not wanting to go in; you might drive around the psychologists building a few times, convincing yourself you can handle it yourself. Getting Help is a sign of strength and good in yourself. You want to make something better. If you have a life to live, then, enough said. Just do it. You’ve been through worse. Talking to someone (professional) helps. God bless you in your journey.

    Reply
  2. Juliza Ramirez-Wylie

    Hi Mikey. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on “what works” in your blog. I can’t help but to think of PTSD in the same way that I learned to think of substance abuse and addiction. As “providers in training” we are taught think of “remission” as the end goal for treatment with the long term possibility of relapse. Like you, if most PTSD survivors and their families could look at PTSD as something that never is 100percent gone, and must always be managed (as is the case with addiction) – maybe we can be more realistic with what to expect in successful treatment. Vietnam veterans have so much to share and an the important insight that aging with PTSD is challenging is one example of that. We are responsible as veterans to educate ourselves on these challenges. While the rest of the country may forget about the OIF/OEF war – we as military veterans, have a duty to keep the fire lit on PTSD and its much sweeter twin – Post Traumatic Growth (PTG) so that we can continue thrive and take care of each other.

    Well written and thanks again for sharing.

    Reply
  3. caringamerican

    Wanted to share with this community that there will be a session this weekend at a conference in CA called Wisdom 2.0 titled “Wisdom and Healing.” The conference is all about living with more wisdom and compassion in the technology age, and gives voice to Mindfulness practice. The particular session I’m referencing will be moderated by Congressman Tim Ryan and will include a panel of military veterans. It might be a good one to check out online (I believe they will have live streaming again and will later post the videos). Happens at 10am on Sunday PST. Sending loving thoughts to all of you that follow this blog. Thank you for what you have done for us, and may you find more peace.

    Reply
  4. Scott Lee

    MIkey, I’ve been reading through some of your posts and appreciate your ability to make the reader feel what you are detailing. Your hard earned understanding of your condition and insightful reflections give voice to a generation of veterans with Combat PTSD. I am the director of the Veteran’s PTSD Project and would like you to consider joining us in attending our online writing workshops for veterans experiencing posttraumatic growth. The pieces accepted will be published in a yet to be named journal under the auspice of the Military Experience and the Arts and The Journal of Military Experience.

    Additionally I would like for you to consider joining us at our Facebook page as an admin. You would have access to over 14,000 members who would greatly benefit from your ability to successfully communicate what we think and feel. If you are interested contact me through Facebook or at rmngen@gmail.com.

    Reply
  5. kapnasty

    All the points you raised in this post are important but I really think the most important part of this is that you’re writing about it and doing so openly. Unfortunately, the general public doesn’t really give a damn about what’s going on with veterans right now (yes they do care technically, but on a day-to-day basis they don’t think about it, because they’re too worried about keeping their jobs, paying the bills, etc.). That’s why I think it’s important for us veterans to, as much as possible, talk about these things openly with people. They need to know what this is like and how it affects day-to-day life, and we also need to work on killing the stigma and stereotyping that is associated with PTSD (I’m looking at you especially Hollywood). The only way to do that is swallow our pride, and try to be open about these processes. At that hopefully we can raise the consciousness of this issue and hopefully then people will start being held accountable for not doing their job effectively and letting this problem getting out of hand. Until people start losing elections and jobs over this there will be very little movement.

    Good luck!

    Reply

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