Vets and Signs of PTSD

Photo by Somchai Kongkamsri on Pexels.com

My dad was a vet who fought in both the Korean and Vietnam war. He saw his friends, the soldiers that fought along side him pass. He saw death from both sides. I never thought he had any issues; I was oblivious to his trauma. It wasn’t until I was older and dated men who fought in Desert Storm and saw the trauma they faced. I saw the fear, the sleep issues, the thoughts of suicide, and more effecting them at different times.

es with no rhyme or reason. At least as an outsider what I thought.

I then started working with a vet who was proud of being a vet but had many demons from the tours he had in the middle east. He saw his friends die, his Humvee blown up with him barely surviving, and then the aftermath of dreams, suicide was a thought that came up many times of the year. The worst time is when the date of his near-death experiences is very traumatizing, even years later.  

The triggers of his thoughts were many, even speedbumps. Anxiety is minor compared to the anguish he has with PTSD.

On the website healthprep.com they stated that PTSD is defined by:

Fear is an intense emotion that is part of the human experience. It activates certain chemical processes in our bodies that make the memories more significant and causes us to think irrationally. Individuals who do not face their fears or overcome them may either develop Stockholm syndrome, where they begin to cope with terrible and frightening situations by becoming submissive and apathetic, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from long-term exposure to fear. It is not the fear itself that can lead to serious health problems but our inability to overcome it or logically escape it when we enter ourselves into it voluntarily. The long-term damage from fear can damage our brains, cardiovascular system, digestive system, and lead to premature aging or sudden death. The impact of chronic exposure to fear is also associated with mental disorders such as clinical depression, PTSD, anxiety, and fatigue.

If you have a family member, friend, or co-worker understand this can manifest in many ways, you should make sure a specialist has a chance to diagnose and create the best plan of action to help the vet have a successful life.

Moving on After Being Attacked

Being attacked can leave many scars, both physical and mental. Everyone deals with the aftermath in different ways. After being attacked and the perpetrators thinking they left me for dead, was just the start of my trauma. I don’t know how anyone can be in control again, however I try all the time. The pattern of what happened to me happens to men, women, and children all over the world. Race, sexual orientation, social economic status, and even in a group setting don’t matter when a person is attacked.

The real concern I have is what happens after the fact. For me I would check all the windows, doors, under the bed, in the closet, and so on. I was so worried that the two me would show up again. I began to have panic attacks, that moved into PTSD, anxiety, and depression. As the progression continued my mood continued to swing. I acted out in very negative ways and became self-destructive. How is it that some people can move on and some people fall apart?

I have many years later have found my way through a counselor, doctors, and allowing myself to open up to my family and friends. It will never leave me, it has made my senses heightened with my children, probably overprotective but I just never want my kids to be beaten the way I was. I would never forgive myself as a parent and more than likely want to kill the person who would try and hurt them.

I wonder if I will always carry these feelings, if I will always be scared, and if I will ever get over my fear and PTSD. On PsychologyToday.com Some of the triggers after an attack:

Replaying the Memory. Many people find that the mind returns over and over to the upsetting memory, almost as if on a loop.

Nightmares. While the actual experience probably felt like a nightmare, it’s common for real nightmares to haunt our dreams in the aftermath of a trauma.

Flashbacks. A flashback occurs when the trauma memory gets cued and makes it feel as if the trauma is happening all over again.

Fear and Anxiety. Perhaps the most common emotional reaction to a trauma is feeling fearful and anxious.

Anger. In addition to fear and anxiety, anger is a very common reaction to trauma. We might feel anger at the person or situation responsible for our trauma.

Sadness. We often will feel sad and cry after a highly traumatic event.

Guilt. If the trauma involved someone close to us being injured or killed, we may blame ourselves and feel guilty that we didn’t somehow prevent it.

Feeling Numb. Sometimes rather than feeling strong emotions, we feel shut down emotionally, as though we’re made of wood.

Trying Not to Think About the Event. By definition, a traumatic event is not a pleasant memory, so it makes sense that we would want to avoid thinking about it.

Avoiding Things Related to the Event. Sometimes we avoid people, places, or things related to our trauma because they trigger the painful memory.

Difficulty Trusting People. When we’ve been attacked by another person, it can be hard to know whom we can trust—especially if we were caught off guard.

Believing the World Is Extremely Dangerous. Immediately after a trauma, the mind is likely to see the world as very dangerous. Whereas we might have underestimated the danger in the world before the trauma.

Blaming Yourself for the Trauma. It’s common to feel guilty after something terrible happens to you, as though you’re to blame that it happened.

It’s easy to use the advantage of hindsight to see the “mistakes” we made. In reality we almost certainly overstate our own responsibility for the traumatic event, and as a result feel unnecessary guilt.

Thinking You Should Have Handled the Trauma Differently. So many trauma survivors I’ve treated have talked about how they “should have” had a different response to the trauma,

Seeing Yourself as Weak or Inadequate. It’s not uncommon after a trauma to start to see ourselves as being “less than” in some way.

Criticizing Yourself for Reactions to the Trauma. In addition to beating ourselves up for having experienced the trauma, we might also be upset with ourselves for being upset.

Feeling Constantly On Guard. When the nervous system has had a terrifying shock, it doesn’t immediately settle down.

Seeing Danger Everywhere. When your nervous system is highly attuned for danger, it’s going to be set to detect any possible threat, which probably means you’ll have a lot of false alarms.

Being Easily Startled. A nervous system temporarily stuck in the “high” setting is going to be easily startled by things like a slamming door.

Difficulty Sleeping. Sleep is a vulnerable state, and when the brain and body are revved up, we’re likely to have a hard time sleeping.

Loss of Interest in Sex.​ As with sleep, the brain may be inclined to avoid sexual activity following a trauma.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/think-act-be/201609/21-common-reactions-trauma

Cigna gives ways a person can support their natural resilience to help the healing process, even if a person can’t forget the pain, mental and physical, you can help work through some of the trauma a person sustains:

Allow your feelings. Don’t try to ignore or deny them. You may feel grief, anger, anxiety, exhaustion, or something else. You may just feel numb. These are all normal reactions.

Balance your thoughts. When feeling overwhelmed by tragic events, it’s easy to forget the good in the world.

Minimize your exposure to news media. Once you have the facts, it’s a good idea to limit watching replays of the events.

Focus on what you do have control over. The images we see, the stories we hear, and our own thoughts about what happened can increase our anxiety.

Turn to others for support. Being alone with your thoughts and emotions means there is no other voice in the conversation. Others offer different perspectives, while giving you a chance to talk about how you feel.

Tap into your compassion. Reaching out and supporting others can shift your mental and emotional focus.

Understand what is being done to protect your community. The more you know about what has happened, the more effective steps you can take to minimize your risk and increase your sense of safety.

Move from fear to awareness. Being constantly fearful is not helpful. It can limit awareness. Awareness – paying attention to your surroundings and noticing anything unusual about people and their behavior – is helpful.

Maintain a normal routine and lifestyle as much as possible. When an attack occurs, life can feel chaotic in many ways.

Feeling physically strong can help you feel emotionally strong. Make sure you get enough sleep to feel well rested. Eat a healthy diet. Exercise and being physically active can reduce stress. Avoid overuse of alcohol and/or substances.

Give yourself a break. It may be hard to focus and concentrate at times after a traumatic event. Your energy level may be low.

Try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation, when emotions run high. Even taking a short time-out to bring your thoughts to the here and now can help.

https://www.cigna.com/individuals-families/health-wellness/managing-distress-after-violence

Suicide Watch Is Always Needed

It can happen to anyone; happy, sad, medicated legally or illegally, or being bullied. Do you know what to look for? I remember the first time I was affected by suicide; I was a freshman and a boy in our class shot himself in his family’s barn. That was just the beginning and didn’t think I would ever be touched by suicide. As the years pass, I found myself touched through family, friends, co-workers, and celebrities. Why does this happen? What are people thinking when they try or commit suicide? For me, it was depression. I was able to pick up the phone and call my dad and then a friend. I realized I was lucky to make the decision to call my dad. So many others are not. We want to be mad at them, we cry and can’t wrap our heads around it. Some people leave notes and letters, others do it through drugs and end up overdosing, thinking drugs will make it better.

You can learn more about why people try and do commit suicide. Alex Lickerman with Psychology Today gives 6 reasons why:

They’re depressed. This is, without question, the most common reason people die by suicide. Severe depression is almost always accompanied by a pervasive sense of suffering as well as the belief that escape from it is hopeless. The pain of existence often becomes too much for severely depressed people to bear. The state of depression warps their thinking, allowing ideas like, “Everyone would all be better off without me” to make rational sense. They shouldn’t be blamed for falling prey to such distorted thoughts any more than a heart patient should be blamed for experiencing chest pain; it’s simply the nature of their disease. Because depression, as we all know, is almost always treatable, we should all seek to recognize its presence in our close friends and loved ones. Often, people suffer with it silently, planning suicide without anyone ever knowing. Despite making both parties uncomfortable, inquiring directly about suicidal thoughts, in my experience, almost always yields an honest response. If you suspect someone might be depressed, don’t allow your tendency to deny the possibility of suicidal ideation prevent you from asking about it.

2.They’re psychotic. Malevolent inner voices often command self-destruction for unintelligible reasons. Psychosis is much harder to mask than depression, and is arguably even more tragic. The worldwide incidence of schizophrenia is 1 percent and often strikes otherwise healthy, high-performing individuals, whose lives, though manageable with medication, are often derailed from their original promise. Schizophrenics are just as likely to talk freely about the voices commanding them to kill themselves as not, and also, in my experience, give honest answers about thoughts of suicide when asked directly. Psychosis, too, is treatable, and usually must be treated for a schizophrenic to be able to function at all. Untreated or poorly treated psychosis almost always requires hospital admission until the voices lose their commanding power.

3.They’re impulsive. Often related to drugs and alcohol, some people become maudlin and impulsively attempt to end their own lives. Once sobered and calmed, these people usually feel emphatically ashamed. The remorse is often genuine, but whether or not they’ll ever attempt suicide again is unpredictable. They may try it again the very next time they become drunk or high, or never again in their lifetime. Hospital admission is, therefore, not usually indicated. Substance abuse and the underlying reasons for it are generally a greater concern in these people and should be addressed as aggressively as possible.

4.They’re crying out for help, and don’t know how else to get it. These people don’t usually want to die but do want to alert those around them that something is seriously wrong. They often don’t believe they will die, frequently choosing methods they don’t think can kill them in order to call attention to their challenges, but they are sometimes tragically misinformed. For instance, a young teenage girl suffering genuine angst because she feels lonely or has gotten into a devastating fight with her parents, may swallow a bottle of Tylenol—not realizing that in high enough doses, Tylenol causes irreversible liver damage. I’ve watched more than one teenager die a horrible death in an ICU days after such an ingestion when remorse has already cured them of their desire to die and their true goal of alerting those close to them of their distress has been achieved.

5.They have a philosophical desire to die. The decision to die by suicide for some is based on a reasoned decision, often motivated by the presence of a painful terminal illness from which little to no hope of reprieve exists. These people aren’t depressed, psychotic, maudlin, or crying out for help. They’re trying to take control of their destiny and alleviate their own suffering, which usually can only be done in death. They often look at their choice to die by suicide as a way to shorten a dying that will happen regardless. In my personal view, if such people are evaluated by a qualified professional who can reliably exclude the other possibilities for why suicide is desired, these people should be allowed to die at their own hands.

6.They’ve made a mistake. This is a recent, tragic phenomenon in which typically young people flirt with oxygen deprivation for the high it brings and simply go too far. The only defense against this, it seems to me, is education. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/happiness-in-world/201004/the-six-reasons-people-attempt-suicide

A way we can help is with the “Out of Dark” suicide walks.  I have been a part of the suicide walk where people share their stories. The walk is healing because you meet so many people who understand what you are going through. Sharing stories that are sad and give hope to others.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention puts on the suicide walks through out the US. They believe that having the walks and donating monetarily will save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide. The website will have information: https://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=cms.home

Anytime someone is showing signs that they want to hurt themselves, reach out to a professional. We might feel we are imposing but I would rather impose than loose someone.

How Can I Help?

Being a family member or a friend of someone who has mental health issues can become overwhelming. How do we become involved in the healing, caring, or to stop enabling those who are being self-destructive? Where can I go to get help, what do I need to know, or how to I keep myself and family protected from someone with a mental health issue? Such a simple set of questions but to many answers can be found. I want to give some scenarios and then what can be done to help. All definitions come from Mayo Clinic’s website, http://www.mayclinic.org. Knowing firsthand how mental health concerns can cause distance between those you love and have family and friends that have mental health concerns guides me to continue to talk about the ways to help and watch for signs. Below are the definitions of six disorders.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): A mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

Suicide: taking your own life, is a tragic reaction to stressful life situations — and even more tragic because suicide can be prevented. Whether you’re considering suicide or know someone who feels suicidal, learn suicide warning signs and how to reach out for immediate help and professional treatment. You may save a life — your own or someone else’s.

Bipolar disorder: Formerly called manic depression, is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). Episodes of mood swings may occur rarely or multiple times a year. While most people will experience some emotional symptoms between episodes, some may not experience any. Although bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, you can manage your mood swings and other symptoms by following a treatment plan. In most cases, bipolar disorder is treated with medications and psychological counseling (psychotherapy).

Schizophrenia: A serious mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. Schizophrenia may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior that impairs daily functioning and can be disabling. People with schizophrenia require lifelong treatment. Early treatment may help get symptoms under control before serious complications develop and may help improve the long-term outlook.

Depression: Feeling sad or hopeless and lose interest or pleasure in most activities. When your mood shifts to mania or hypomania (less extreme than mania), you may feel euphoric, full of energy or unusually irritable. These mood swings can affect sleep, energy, activity, judgment, behavior and the ability to think clearly.

Generalized anxiety disorder: Has symptoms that are like a panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other types of anxiety, but they’re all different conditions. Living with generalized anxiety disorder can be a long-term challenge. In many cases, it occurs along with other anxiety or mood disorders. In most cases, generalized anxiety disorder improves with psychotherapy or medications. Making lifestyle changes, learning coping skills and using relaxation techniques also can help.

If you or you find your friend or a family member is not being themselves, it’s best to not get upset with them. Each of us have our own issues and we need to remember this.