PTSD; The Battle Wounds You Can’t See
PTSD; The Battle Wounds You Can’t See
“I engaged the enemy in numerous gun battles. I was close to someone that was killed or injured. Fear and death were all around me. The military even had me plan for my own death I was numb inside. When I returned home, did you really expect me to pick up from where I left off?” (Combat PTSD) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is one of the most overlooked stressed related diseases of all time. PTSD can affect anyone after an event or a series of events that threatens your life or others; causing intense fear, horror, and since of hopelessness.
People who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can often have a short attention span, making them unable to sit for long periods of time. Victims of PTSD find it hard to stay focused on normal, everyday activities. Almost anything can trigger an anxiety attack. PTSD affects the mind, causing a victim to be on constant edge. People with PTSD often find themselves feeling as if they are re-living a traumatic event, causing them to be unable to focus on the present. PTSD is a whole body tragedy inside humans that causes enormous difficulties in everyday life.
My uncle, who is a retired United States Navy Veteran, spent 25 years traveling around the world and in many war situations. He finds himself getting side tracked all the time. There are many times he finds himself in situations he doesn’t remember getting himself into. One second he is working on paying bills, then the next he is staring into space, not thinking at all. He told me that he use to think it was impossible to not think at all. Yet, it is common when you have a mental disease that controls your life. Everyone has their own priorities to worry about, their own problems they need to block out; but with PTSD the exhaustion does it for them.
Victims of PTSD find the numbness that comes with being exhausted normal. They live in chaos that only exists in their head. They try to keep themselves busy so they don’t relapse and have a mental breakdown. Society can replace damage that was caused by war efforts: buildings, houses, and shopping centers. But the soldiers, they never get over it.
Memorizing daily routines may not seem like a huge deal to all of us, but victims of PTSD find it almost impossible. The ability to memorize is a gift that humans are given to help make life easier. Freighting situations stimulate the brain to activate the nervous system and the adrenal glands causing the glands to secrete stress related hormones. Everyone’s human mind is made up of all the same pieces and parts. But how and when our brain chooses to project them is how we all differ. Our brains develop this selective nature of what we memorize. Our ability to remember traumatic events can harm us. Memories that trigger an anxiety attack with PTSD victims react when a stress related hormone activates the memory gland in our brain. This causes PTSD victims to only remember traumatic events.
My ROTC instructor Sargent First Class Fredrick Lawshe has many experiences with his memory. He said that he once was driving to pick up his daughter from school, and while on the way there he forgot why he was driving and ended up turning around and pulling back into his driveway. His wife walked into their living room and asked him, “Where is Maggie? I thought you were heading to pick her up?” He said to me that after she brought it up, it all hit him again. He ran back to his truck and flew to her school. After all was said in done he came to the realization that while he was driving the first time he found himself back into a war state of mind. He stated, “I use to drive around Afghanistan in tanks all alone, with the orders of, “If you see anything move, shoot it.” I guess when I was driving in the car, I thought I was back in Afghanistan driving a tank.”
Every human is born with the ability to memorize (exempt rare disease, and head injuries). People without PTSD memorize things without effort. It just comes natural. People with PTSD have to work at memorizing things making it more of a chore, especially when it may not be permanent. PTSD victims are put into reality without first letting go of the past.
Nightmares are likely for people who suffer from PTSD. Nightmares can wake up a person in the middle of the night, making sleep a little less than impossible. Without the needed hours of sleep one can become physically and mentally abusive to ones self. People with PTSD often worry about general problems that can put them into danger. If the thought of always having to protect them at night, they will stay up to do whatever it takes to do so.
Matthew Rottman stood a six-hour post every day. Standing post is the military term for standing guard while everyone else is asleep. While on post, Rottman was on constant watch, reacting to every noise that he heard. Still today Rottman stays awake while his wife and two children sleep; to make sure that nothing will harm them during the night.
The feeling of always needing to be on the look out makes it difficult to get a good nights rest. Some victims of PTSD turn to alcohol or even drugs to help them cope with their symptoms. But in fact, to much alcohol can change the quality of sleep, making it less refreshing. It is not the victims of PTSD that do not want to sleep; it’s the fact that when they do, they have no control of what the mind thinks. It makes for another sleepless night.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can cause the brain to go into relapse mode, causing a victim of PTSD to go into a rampage. Sometimes if a victim suffers to a higher degree of PTSD; attempts or murder, or violence will increase towards others has been brought about in some court cases Even though this is rare occurrence, it is possible. The human body can be very sensitive when it comes to how the brain operates. When a victim of PTSD is triggered be something around them, the brain tells the adrenal glands to release epinephrine.
Epinephrine is the body’s way to show excitement and to pump adrenaline throughout the body. Meaning that if to much is produced parts of the brain can shut down making the victim go into a “crazy” state of mind; placing them back into the event that caused PTSD. The victim no longer can control what the brain does, leaving them in no control of their own body. Sometimes victims get so wrapped up into what is around them the PTSD takes over, and the violence starts.
In a blog chartroom an adult explains his experience with violence involving PTSD. “After being diagnosed with PTSD from abuse as a child. I do lash out when triggered, especially if someone touches me and I don’t see them coming and super especially if anyone goes near my head. I lash out with words (very loud usually) and have swung my fists instinctively. I don’t plan it, intend it or mean it — it just happens. It feels like a defense, even if it’s a total overreaction.”
We have all read these newspaper headlines: “PTSD made him a Murderer!” “Psychologist: Killer has PTSD!” “War damaged vet kills girlfriend; PTSD to blame?” “Officer uses PTSD defense for strangling, battering his wife.”(Andy O’Hara, Sergeant) It is the headlines like theses that are making society fear veterans. Society has a view towards them because of the social media. If civilians understood the mental characteristics of PTSD, that would not be so quick to judge. PTSD is not what is wrong with you; it is what happened to you.
Almost every victim of PTSD will engage in some degree of depression from high dosages to very slim. Depression is when you loss interest in activities that use to give joy, significant change in weight, and feelings of guilt and uselessness. PTSD and depression go together because PTSD constantly brings back flashbacks of events that can cause depression. Some victims with PTSD go through depression stages where they feel their life is not worth living, and attempt it end it. Depression can cause anxiety attacks that end up with most people in therapy. Treatments can include antidepressants, counseling, and sometimes group therapy is recommended so others with PTSD can all express their feelings so they are able to see how others with PTSD are copping with it. PTSD and depression therapy are not one hundred percent accurate for cure, but it is a start to a long life of recovery. Judy, a wife and a mother or 5 children; was abused as a child and as her life continues she feels as if she can longer love her husband, and no longer live her life to the fullest. “…I couldn’t remember most of my childhood, why even the word “childhood” felt like a heavy blanket over me.
The memories were so real that I often experienced physical reactions to them, such as spontaneous bleeding. I was diagnosed with PTSD, as well as depression, and things finally started to make sense…” Even though depression is a whole mental disability itself PTSD can often led to it, causing recovery almost impossible. Being put into the war scene isn’t like what you see in movies or play in video games. Maybe the guns and the technology are the same but unlike video games where you have unlimited lives, in real combat you only have one. When many veterans finally get home it is not what they expected. Some come from war with no stable income or even a family. Throwing a solider into the real world after a 4-year tour over seas is like throwing a wild bear into a dog show; he’s going to have no idea what he’s doing there. (Meadows) Most veterans who commit suicide are veterans who didn’t receive treatment for their PTSD. Suicide rates will always be high but studies have shown that risk is higher in people diagnosed with PTSD. After a 7 year tour in combat Sargent Erik Willie came home to his beautiful wife, and 2 loving children.
The four of them were the picture perfect family; when he returned home he refused to talk to anyone about what he encounter. His wife started to notice him tossing and turning in the middle of the night. When she would question him, he would laugh it off; but onetime he did not find it as funny. When she confronted him to stop tapping his fork on the kitchen table, he then stood up grabbed her by the arms and pinned her against the wall. She screamed at him to let her go. He then dropped her to the grown, slowly backed off. As he went to help her up she pushed him away. She ran into the bathroom. Willie then noticed that his PTSD was serious, but still refused to seek medical help. As the days went on, Willie was cautious of every move he took. His wife blew off the whole incident as if nothing happened. Willie found himself in places and situations he didn’t remember putting himself into. After many more violent episodes, his eight-year-old son found him sitting on the end up of the bed with the barrel of the gun in his mouth. Willie stood up, kissed his son on the forehead and shut the door.
Around and hour later he walked in on his dad; but this time he was sitting in the bed; he was lying on the floor with a pool of blood around him. Depression affects everyone different, but unfortunately for Willie, it took his life. Military Veterans make up 7 percent of the American population, but they account for 20 percent of its suicides. In 2012 more United States soldiers died by their own hands than in battle; suicide was the number one cause of death among US troops that year (CBSnews). People without PTSD face typical daily tasks such as driving a car, socializing with others, and sleeping. But to ones with PTSD see these simple tasks as obstacles. Because PTSD affects parts of the brain that interact with social inability a victim with PTSD finds it almost impossible to do “normal” everyday activities. Everyone has their times of frustration when they cannot do a simple task; but with PTSD victims live with the fear of the unknown. They fear the judgment of others when they are unable to do a task. They also fear the agony that could be forced upon them. PTSD victims are scared to even make one wrong move that could trigger an emotional breakdown. Bipolar disease is one of the common diseases that are associated with PTSD.
One second someone with PTSD could be with there loved one, having the time of his or her life, then in a few seconds they are back in a combat zone fighting for their life. Up to 30 percent of PTSD patients will also be diagnosed with bipolar disease at some point. Bipolar mental disability is the act of having mood swings based on the environment around you. Bipolar, patients are more likely to have high suicide number attempts. Because depression, anxiety, and PTSD can make recovering from bipolar worse, therapy is recommended to every patient. Survivors of a traumatic event sometimes lack interest in social or sexual activities. They start to feel detached and worried in their relationships. They start believing that everyone is an enemy. They also may feel as if they need to protect their loved ones. This makes them come across as tense or demanding. For example, if someone was sexual abused as a child by a family member they sometimes will have issues with others touching them, or even trusting them. Amy Douglas; a 30 year old woman that claims that still after 25 years she can not forget her stepdads hands on her body.
At night she wakes up screaming because of the nightmares that happen over and over again. She can’t keep a job because they thought of trusting a man with hire authority frightens her. She cannot keep a steady boyfriend because her fears of a man taking advantage of her. “I also believed that the older I got, the more I would forget about it all… I never was the one to show my emotions, in high school I had a lot of friends, but I never got into boys.” Amy states that, “…but now I am older, the flashbacks are more intense, I can hear myself telling him no, and that I wouldn’t tell mommy. I’ve tried to love but nobody wants to be with a girl who has monsters in her head that never sleep”.
Post Traumatic Stress disorder is a state of mind that no human could live a normal life with. It is where you are afraid to ask for help because you believe it will destroy whomever you tell, so you cope by keeping it deep inside yourself; where it will only destroy you. With PTSD your head is a horrible place to be; everyone is a threat, you start to see that quiet people have the loudest minds. Where space is craved to help others breathe; where being around others is exhausting. It’s where you wake up useless, terrified, and unskilled in your own habits. It is where the old you disappears and a new shell is formed around you. PTSD is where caring for yourself is an act of survival not just a life quality.
David. “Brain Affected in Ptsd.” CNSforum. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2013. .
O’Hara, Andy. “NATIONAL CENTER for PTSD Home.” NATIONAL CENTER for PTSD Home. Department of Veterans Affairs, n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2013. .
Schirald, Glenn. “The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook: A Guide to Healing, Recovery, and Growth [Paperback].” The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook: A Guide to Healing, Recovery, and Growth: Glenn Schiraldi: 9780071614948: Amazon.com: Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2013. . Print
Wood, David. “Combat Veterans With PTSD, Anger Issues More Likely To Commit Crimes: New Report, “The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 09 Oct. 2012. Web. 28. 2013