June 27, 2011

Frustrated and Alone: Combat PTSD Awareness

I received this comment on one of my better articles on Combat Rage and What We May Do With It; the Combat PTSD Veteran. Frustrated and Alone (FA) was me 6 years ago, I have come back from the brink of utter loneliness and abject isolation this young vet suffers silently with today, right now.

Frustrated and Alone says,
Mr. Lee, I completely agree with your statement. My personal story may very form another’s but I’m sure in many ways its related. I feel that the effects of “self medicating” I.E. alcoholic and/or drug abuse should have been brought up; it makes the pain stop… for awhile, then it only numbs and after time its only used to stay as sane as possible. I got so bad that I volunteered to leave my wife and 3 year old daughter for another deployment (my forth Marine Infantry deployment, 3 in Iraq and 1 in Afghanistan).

I went to what I truly knew and felt comfortable, but to no avail… I came back worse than ever. The lack of sleep, always sitting at diners facing the doors, panic attacks from driving through underpasses or litter on the street. Since my first deployment during the invasion in 2003 to my last in Afghanistan in 2009 it has been a drunken downward spiral and its truly taken its toll on my family. I went for help at the V.A. and was told that I need deal with my alcoholism before “they” can deal with P.T.S.D. and I stressed that the problem was not from the alcohol but from my mental problems.

I was sent to doctors, counselors and shrinks and I kept telling them I need to fight the pain in me or I’ll keep using the “medicine” I’m using. It seemed to me obviously redundant to fight one while ignoring the other. That being said, I was refused mental health treatment and ultimately left to fend for myself, and here I am… frustrated and alone.

If you want to join our cause and volunteer your time to help men and women like FA, leave your contact info in the comment section or email me through my profile.

VA Late to National PTSD Awareness Day

Family Of a Vet, Inc. / FamilyOfaVet.com

Contact: Brannan Vines
E-mail: Brannan@FamilyOfaVet.com
UPDATE: As of 12:47 CST and 1:47 EST the VA has FINALLY heard us! See, we can make a difference with social media! The VA has finally acknowledged the day of awareness for PTSD sufferers, National PTSD Awareness Day. I wonder how many opportunities the VA missed with getting a such late start on this day? ~ Combat PTSD Blogger
VA MAIN SITES GIVE NO MENTION OF NATIONAL PTSD AWARENESS DAY, Further Underlining the Stigma for Heroes and Families Who Are Struggling Daily with This Illness.

June 27, 2011, is National PTSD Awareness Day, a day intended to encourage awareness and education about post-traumatic stress disorder and help end the stigma associated with the disorder.

The Veterans Administration, our nation’s largest provider of combat-related PTSD care, is an integral component in the fight against PTSD-related stigma. Which contributes to the loss of 18 veterans each day to suicide, to the failing of 2 out of every 3 impacted marriages, and to hundreds of thousands of caregivers and family members who are now struggling with Secondary PTSD.

However, as of 10:45 am CST on June 27th, the home page of the VA’s website (http://www.va.gov/), the VA’s blog (http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/), and the VA’s main Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/VeteransAffairs), give no mention of this critical day.

In a society where the majority of veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan (according to the VA’s own research - http://www.hsrd.research.va.gov/publications/forum/may11/may11-2.cfm) access the internet each and every day, this lack of coverage by the institution which is supposed to provide the majority of their PTSD-related care is an incredible oversight and one that further underlines and intensifies the stigma this day is supposed to fight against.

More information, including time stamped screen shots of the mentioned pages, is available on our blog at: http://blog.familyofavet.com/2011/06/hello-va-no-mention-of-national-ptsd.html

Family Of a Vet, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping veterans and their families learn how to cope with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), TBI (traumatic brain injury) and life after combat through real-world, plain language education and resources for heroes, families, and communities.

For more information about this topic or to schedule an interview, please contact Brannan Vines, President and Founder of Family Of a Vet, Inc., by e-mail at Brannan@FamilyOfaVet.com.

Thank you.

June 20, 2011

Anger Needs a Target: Don't Ask a Vet About Their Medicine During Stressful Events

The other day a friend unknowingly asked me the wrong question during a PTSD moment. "Are you taking your meds?" Asking a Combat PTSD Veteran if they have taken their medicine during times of stress can often be frowned upon by the wary Vet (attempt at humor); not really a good idea. The only thing she did was ask me if I was taking my meds because she could see I was stressed, that's it. But, to the stressed out Combat PTSD Veteran, timing is everything. I needed to counter-reflect in the moment, which I have love to do, to take myself out of being stressed. So I looked at this occasion as am opportunity to teach someone I love about how my mind works.

Her question,
But isn't that a natural question? I know if I don't take mine, I get symptoms.

Me, "Yes, and you shouldn't know that its not a good thing to do ask a vet at that time."

Ok, thanks for letting me know. I'll try to remember that. Can I be honest about my opinion of what you just told me?

Me, "Yes. If I am not mad at you its ok to ask if I am taking my meds, if not then ask the next day."

I don't really think that's fair to just say "don't ask if I am taking my meds" I understand that it can cause a reaction. Of course I don't understand because I haven't been where you have been. But if your friend is showing roller coaster moods it seems like a logical question. I want to understand, but I will never be able to truly truly understand, only one who has lived it can understand.
I can explain to most people what I go through and make them understand for the most part.

Anger needs a target for everyone. Anger heeds a object, for without a quarry there is no anger. If we feel angry then we can usually name who or what has triggered this emotion within us. If not, it can manifest as an internal conflict, thereby creating a problematic environment or situation for the Combat PTSD Veteran. Without realizing this internal conflict we can project this struggle onto others we feel emotionally close, for the dissociative mind can confuse the intimacy with loved ones with the intimacy of war.

June 14, 2011

Kent School of Social Work Screws Over Combat PTSD Blogger

I went to Walmart about an hour and half ago and about had a meltdown, it surprised the hell out of me. The last time a panic attack threatened to engulf me was a year ago. The latest panic attack TRIGGERED this rant at home on the keyboard; you heard it here first.

WARNING: If you read this article from here on, YOU WILL BE OFFENDED!

A year ago I was screwed by the Raymond A. Kent School of Social Work out of a college degree in social work. This appalling excuse for a Social Work Program screwed a disabled veteran out of a degree. I have the conflicting paperwork that flies in the face of the disgrace they propose to place upon me. I was three months short, after 7 years in college, from graduating with a bachelors in Social Work. Three weeks into my graduating semester they pull me out of class to tell me that I was 10 hours short on my internship. I was to make it up by repeating the year again! Yes, you read that right.

Here is the messed up part; I was hospitalized during the hours they were talking about for suicidal ideation. I was going to kill myself or go to the VA, they hospitalized me for 11 days. I have been hospitalized for suicidal ideation and Chronic Combat PTSD four times in the last two years.

I missed 10 hours from an internship; my understanding of the situation was the hours would be made up the following semester. I provided the documentation and nothing else was said until the clarification came in the form of my being pulled out of class the following semester.

So, I was going to talk about Walmart. Here is the process as I work through the reasons why I should not use what Uncle Sam taught me,
I about had a PTSD moment at Walmart 20 minutes ago, its been a lone time since I had a panic attack. Its a good thing I can recognize them and have the tools to talk myself down from physically removing someone from my personal space.

My thought process; WTF is this guy doing? - Ok, I'm feeling severe anxiety. - OMG, not now. Panic attack, really? - Its been so long since I had... - Ok, you are feeling this. This is not you, you do not have to react. See, he has a small child with him. - He is only being socially rude, maybe he is not aware of it. - It's not worth saying anything just move a little to the right. - Time to go, paid the cashier. - None but me were aware...
This panic attack at Walmart triggered my one year anniversary blues of my U of L experience! A year ago the University of Louisville made a mistake and let me fall between the bureaucratic cracks. I kept everyone in the chain of command at Kent School of Social Work up to date on my mental health. They knew I had Combat PTSD and still worked behind the scenes to derail my chance at a degree, I walk away with a 3.2 GPA. Just recently they sent me a letter saying that they were dismissing me for unprofessional conduct. That conduct? Missing 2 meetings.

The mistakes I made was trusting three Social Workers at the University of Louisville to make an empathetic decision and not registering with the Disability Resource Center. I would have to say that the University of Louisville has left a bad taste in my mouth for the discipline of Social work.

June 9, 2011

Caregivers Need to Learn the Signs of Burnout and Secondary PTSD

You are not alone; welcome home to our veteran’s means something more profound then setting foot back on our homeland. For the combat veteran returning from war does not mean it’s a done deal; coming home. I tell a veteran welcome home to honor their continued sacrifice; the visions of war will never leave us and sometimes they swim in a deluge that reigns.

Add to your PTSD Toolbox
The panic attacks you are receiving are an attunement to the survival instinctual part of us; you have been programmed to react rather than rationalize in the moment. The deluge is the snapping in and out of reality; flashbacks, hallucinations, delusional thinking, the extreme dissociative features of Combat PTSD. The symptomology for chronic combat PTSD or Complex PTSD (CPTSD) has many similarities to Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).

Switching of personalities to suit the situation, thus the veteran will exhibit extreme characteristics not otherwise in line with "person we knew before war" (Dissociation of the Personality in Complex Trauma-Related Disorders and EMDR: Theoretical Considerations, p. 81-82). In combat we must compartmentalize our spirit or soul, our happiness, compassion, empathy and our humanity. We must demonize our enemy so that we may kill them. Later, coming to terms with taking lives, we trip over our Combat Values Structure; which does not fit in the civilian world. So, we make our home the war zone. Because, believe it or not. We know how to survive in here, outside those doors is a foreign world trying to invade. That's the world you live in now; I see you. You do not have to be ruled by it anymore. You can learn to take care of your veteran AFTER you take care of yourself first!

Go to a retreat for family members, such as When War Comes Home Retreat. There is a way out from under the oppressive emotions that chain us to our past; we survived not because we are weak. God put you on this path. What are you going to do with it?

Go to FamilyofaVet.com to learn more about the symptoms and signs of Secondary PTSD. Family of a Vet and Combat PTSD Blogger are partnering to bring together local resources that may not be available in your area; we aim to become that resource. If you would like to help click the link below and join us.

June 6, 2011

USA Cares and Mark Wills Crazy Being Home Campaign

USA Cares and Crazy Being Home: A Warrior Treatment Today and USA Cares Program have created an awareness campaign shedding light on the difficulties surrounding our returning veterans and their families. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury have engulfed many veterans lives and we need to take corrective acts to stem the tide of the PTSD/TBI tsunami. This joint venture between Mark Wills and USA Cares is an important milestone in creating awareness.

This video is of Mark Wills' song "Crazy Being Home," it's a tribute to the way the combat veteran feels when coming home and what we may expect to encounter. It captures the emotion and identification we mysterosly seem to lack when we return home. Our ignoracne of this phenomenon can wreck our lives and those around us.

Go to Crazybeinghome.com to sign up to share your story and get your personal URL to spread the message, if your URL has the most hits you win a prize! Share it on Facebook, a personal webpage and on all your social networking sites.

The song immediatly took me back to my war as it was happening; except this time it more of a narrative with you. I can go with it today and learn what nature has to teach me of myself.

Heres where I went as I listened to the song. It immediately took me back to combat, sitting in the sandbox riding the line between boredom and terror. My war was in 1991 to you; for me, its everyday that I fight for your freedom since that day. I signed that blank check the media seems to throw up in our faces when we veterans say something is wrong; I make my daily installments on that debt. I am that crazy veteran with an attitude and I'm looking at you.

"...sadly, fighting a mental battle wasn't covered in basic training..." quoted from this video. God I never thought I would live to be this old, not that I'm old. I'm 43. God, I'm crying. This song it's me, there were no flags or anyone waiting for me when I got off the plane. It hasn't been right since, you would understand if you live where I've been.

It's crazy to crave insanity, it's crazy being home within the battle that is me. Thank you Mark Wills and USA Cares.

June 5, 2011

Memories, Flashbacks and Dissociation as a Function of Combat PTSD/TBI: Experiential Research

I am a Combat PTSD Veteran of the First Gulf War, I saw hectares of blood stained sands strung as the death clock clicked, chimed and claimed 45,000 lives. I lay witness, on point for the 3rd brigade of the 1st AD and beheld the 20,000 lives my unit snuffed in three bloody campaigns lasting 100 hours. I drove for 172 hours straight without sleeping, yes that's 7 days, on drugs they force me to take. I can speak on the horrors of flashbacks; memories that materialize and steal my reality to those thousands of enemy soldiers being wiped out in hours; the struggle with dissociative features of Combat PTSD as it threatens to engulf me everyday for the last 20 years. Imagine you are having a happy moment and the next thing you know visions of bodies and carnage engulf your view, confusion rings and the struggle to return to war or remain in the present resounds and sometimes I do not know where I left off or began. So, I pick it up where my slipped consciousness puts me and take my cues from those around me as to the reality of the situation sets in.

Today I understand these moments for what they are, a window into a place I tried to shut off. I have learned that this window, when open needs aired out. So I feel it and go with what nature needs me to understand. To live my purpose is to find a way.

Just percolating an idea for a paper I have 25 days to write, title is solid. Just needs fleshing out now...

June 4, 2011

Call for Local Community Organization

If you are a family member of a veteran with Combat PTSD, OR a family member of the fallen. You are welcome here. If you need support, I can assist you in understanding the Combat PTSD Veterans mind and how to communicate with your loved one.

We can do something about how we feel; if you choose too join me to help spread the word. I can put you in touch with an organization in need of your help, your personal experience is important in the healing of our combat veterans and possibly yourself.

June 3, 2011

The Graffiti of War Project

Used with permission from http://www.graffitiofwar.com/ 
Offering a unique perspective, experience the wars through the eyes of those living and dying through these conflicts.  Each image represents a moment in time, when an emotion was captured in ink, paint, or pencil, an unconventional historical record of this generation's war. Our Mission is that through sharing these images, we will begin a dialog between soldier and civilian, to bridge this ever-widening divide between our warfighters and civilians.  To bring understanding and true empathy of what our military men and women experience during their deployments.

We are collecting these images through submissions to our website, on Facebook and those sent into us via email.  This summer, Jaeson "Doc" Parsons is heading to Kuwait and Iraq to document the images on different posts and outposts located across Iraq.  Our content and blog, detailing the journey, will be a feature on Maxim.com and in their upcoming "Military" tab.

We will continue to accept images through Facebook and this website until we feel we have accurately and thoroughly collected enough to complete the book, The Graffiti of war.  Proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to The Graffiti of War Fouondation as well as organizations supporting our service members and veterans suffering from the silent wounds of war, PTSD.

We have NO political affiliation, NO ulterior agenda other than to ensure our brothers and sisters-in-arms receive the help and support they deserve because of their selfless service to answer the call to arms.  They are that 1% and it is our duty as Americans to ensure their health and posterity.

How will our generation of citizens be judged?

From The Graffiti of War Project http://www.graffitiofwar.com/