Coming Back After Great Mental and Emotional Trauma Including PTSD

4327124010_33737c608b_zI often learn so much from reading about the true life experiences of others suffering with or from PTSD.

1.  “Catching Up and Cleaning Up” from Broken Brain–Brilliant Mind:

“And amazing, how much my life has changed, in the past three years or so. I’ve essentially gone from being locked away in a world of my own making and imagining, to being fully out in the outside world, participating with life on life’s terms… a whole lot more integrated into regular society, than I ever was before. Thinking back, I was seriously reality-impaired, and it showed. The 30+ years I spent inventing my own version of what life was all about — by never fully engaging with real-live people who could steer me right, and keeping my head buried in books that I was either reading or writing — did not help when it came to interacting with the outside world.”

“I would just say and do the most off-the-wall things… and never realize just how off base I was”.

“But what did I know? I was off in my own private Idaho, creating my own world and my own version of reality. Whenever I ventured out, I was met by people who would ridicule or dismiss me. What did I care about participating in their world? Indeed.”

“So, I built up this persona and this “reality” that was structured around and informed by my own partial imaginings of how life really was and how people really were. In some cases, I could be incredibly insightful, in others I could be so far off-base, people had no idea if I was in my right mind… An interesting mix, needless to say. And I filled my life — and my office — with all the stuff that reflected and supported that persona of mine.”

“Now I find myself at an interesting place, where the old stuff — while it served me at the time — is no longer entirely useful to me. In fact, in many ways, it just holds me back. But at the same time, there’s part of me that wants to hang onto it, like Linus’es security blanket from Charlie Brown. It’s like all the books and items around me from years gone by offer me a way to escape, a destination to run to, if things on the outside get to be too much. So, in that sense, I do want to hang onto the old things. Just in case.”

“This is all probably coming up, because I watched the move “Marwencol” the other night – the documentary about the guy who got beaten within an inch of his life, who went on to create his own little world — literally — out of 1/6 size action figures in a WWII setting. Nazis and spies and witches, oh my. I had intended to watch it, but I forgot to write it down, and I spaced on the time and date, so I only caught the last half of it.  But that last half was absolutely fascinating.”

“It was also a little sobering, because in a way, Mark’s story is similar to my own, though his experience was more abrupt and extreme. A band of hooligans beat him within an inch of his life, and after that, he had no memory of the attack, he had hand-eye coordination issues. To deal with it all, he turned to a world of his own that would give him safety and a way to play out his own experiences and pain, in the privacy of an environment that he could control, that he made happen.”

2. From Wounded Times: Editor and Publisher Chaplain Kathie: Chairelli Lauds Anti-Suicide PSAs:

“I tell the story often of a young Marine back from Iraq crying and apologizing for crying because he was a Marine and wasn’t supposed to cry. He did everything he needed to do no matter how much pain he was in. He didn’t allow himself to feel it until he was back home and no one else was in danger, except him. He wanted to live.”

“The other night I got a phone call from a National Guards Mom I hadn’t heard from in a couple of years. Her son had tired to commit suicide twice by the time she contacted me. She didn’t know what to do any more than she understood what was going on. He was totally lost. He carried the pain of something he had to do, started to think he was evil because all he focused on was what happened, forgetting what came before the end of this event. He needed to see himself through different eyes. Anyway, fast forward to two year later, he got married again, is back in treatment, went back to church and is healing. He’s closer to his Mom than ever before because she was willing to do whatever it took to help him. She wanted to understand and it saved his life.”

“We need to stop making excuses to not care, not want to know, because we lose 18 veterans a day to suicide and we’re still losing them to suicide while on active duty. We can’t save them all but they are worth fighting for and doing whatever we can to save them. After all, the fact they were willing to die for us shouldn’t mean we should let them.”

“You don’t have to know what it was like for them to be a soldier. You just need to understand what it is like for them to be human.”

3. From Marcella Zimmerman writing “Learning How to Understand Each Other” published in Family of a Vet:

“I noticed about a month after my husband returned home from Iraq, in February 2004,that something wasn’t right. He refused to go to sleep at night, and then would end up sleeping all of the following day. He was extremely aggressive and would go off on these rages that I had never seen before. One day he went on a rampage and pulled out the drawers to our dresser, smashing it and chipping the hard wood floors. At this point, I took our three year old son and had a friend pick us up.  I was shaking and crying pretty hard as I called his 1SGT to tell him that I thought my husband had a serious problem. His response to me and our situation was that he hadn’t noticed anything different about his behavior at the motor pool and that maybe I needed to back off.”

“When my husband didn’t come home early from work about three months later, I started to worry, though I was also getting use to him arriving later than usual. At first, I didn’t think to much on it when I heard his key turn in the door. Then when I saw his face and the look on it, I knew something wasn’t right. He told me that he had to go away from awhile to a locked down mental health facility in the next town. He was driving and had seen the post hospital blow up. He stopped the car in the middle of the road and started doing ID checks. An officer from another unit called the MP’s and from then on things just got worse. Trying to regulate the medication he was on was terrible. He’d sleep all the time and when he was awake, he was like a walking zombie. his temper only got worse and finally he was medically discharged from the military. Now, he is on 100% disability for PTSD and TBI. At one point he turned to substance abuse to self medicate. I developed secondary PTSD and would even have anxiety attacks. If there were too many people in line at the grocery store, I would leave my cart to the side and just go home. There were days I was too nervous to even leave my house. I began checking all the locks in the house several times throughout the night just to make sure my house was completely locked up. If I ran into someone I knew while out running errands, I would get nervous and make any excuse I could just to leave. If anything unexpected would happen, it would upset me. I developed insomnia, nightmares, and an ulcer.I filed for divorce on two separate occasions. We have been to hell and back and everything in between. So many hardships that I could probably write a novel.”

“Now he is active in ACVOW and volunteers at the local VA. He still has his nightmares and crowds will still make him nervous. He doesn’t like to talk about his experiences, so I have learned to stop asking. It took me six years to learn how to navigate through his troubles and through it all, we have become a much closer family. There isn’t too much that can shake us now days. It’s a process to go through and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But, he is active in pursuing all the outlets that help and he is taking classes to help counsel his peers with PTSD. It is our dream to one day open our own center for soldiers and their families suffering from PTSD. I have learned to be more understanding, but I have also learned not to allow the fact that he has PTSD take control of the way the family will be. In return, he has learned that while he does have PTSD, it is no excuse to fly off the handle and act any way he wants when he is mad. While we have come a long ways. we still have miles to go. I just wish there had been more support when all of this first started. At that point, I had no one and I was 22, without a clue on how to handle any of it.”

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