PTSD & ANGER

Anger is not a primary emotion; it’s a secondary response we have that makes it easier to cope with our original feelings. For instance, something first scares you and then you become angry as a response to that fear. If you have PTSD, you may response to other threats in the same manner you did when you went through the original trauma. Your response may be the same whether the threat is small or large. In essence, you respond to all stress as if you were in survival mode. This automatic response of irritability and anger can create serious problems in the workplace and in family life.
In the past, the best response to danger was to act aggressively as a form of protection. Many trauma survivors never learn any other way of handling threatening situations. A person with PTSD may think or believe that threat is all around, all the time. He or she may not even be fully aware of these thoughts and beliefs. For example, a combat Veteran may become angry when his wife, children, or coworkers don’t “follow the rules.” He doesn’t realize that his strong belief is actually related to how important it was for him to follow rules during the war in order to prevent deaths.
Anger causes certain reactions in the body: blood pressure rises, muscles tense, and your awareness of danger increases. If you have PTSD, this higher level of tension and arousal can become your normal state. The emotional and physical feelings of anger are more intense, and you may often feel on edge, keyed up, or irritable. You may be easily provoked. This high level of arousal may cause you to actually seek out situations that require you to stay alert and ward off danger. Aggressive behaviors include complaining, being late or doing a poor job on purpose, self-blame, or even self-injury. On the other hand, you may also be tempted to use alcohol or drugs to reduce the level of tension you’re feeling.
If you see yourself reacting in anger toward others, especially the ones you love, please consider getting some help. The VA offers Anger Management courses that can help you manage your anger.

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THE VETERANS HISTORY PROJECT: LET US NEVER FORGET

The Veterans History Project (VHP) of the Library of Congress American Folklife Center is an oral history program that collects and preserves the first-hand interviews of America’s wartime veterans. VHP relies on volunteers, both individuals and organizations, throughout the nation to contribute veterans’ stories to VHP. In addition to audio- and video-recorded interviews, VHP accepts memoirs, collections of original photographs and letters, diaries, maps, and other historical documents from World War I through current conflicts.
The VHP collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.
The Project collects first-hand accounts of U.S. Veterans from the following wars:
• World War I (1914-1920)
• World War II (1939-1946)
• Korean War (1950-1955)
• Vietnam War (1961-1975)
• Persian Gulf War (1990-1995)
• Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts (2001-present)
In addition, those U.S. citizen civilians who were actively involved in supporting war efforts (such as war industry workers, USO workers, flight instructors, medical volunteers, etc.) are also invited to share their valuable stories.

View and print the The Field Kit (for interviews) and Memoir Guidelines at: http://www.loc.gov/vets. You may also order a printed version by sending an email to vohp@loc.gov or by calling 888-371-5848 (please allow 2 to 4 weeks for delivery).

DEALING WITH YOUR ANGER

I’m mad. The anger lies just below the surface waiting to rear its’ ugly head. I lash out at the dog for minor infractions. I kick the wastepaper basket at work. I snap at friends and, in general, I hate myself for it. I’m depressed. It feels like a hopeless cycle, but I know better.

I have PTSD too. Mine is not from a wartime experience, but from living in a battle zone as I grew up. I learned to survive, but there are some things I carry with me that go along with those survival skills. I have to ride herd on the anger-beast within me all the time. I’ve done well over the years learning to do just that, but every now and then, it gets out; then watch out!

What am I angry about, you ask? It’s a lousy situation knowing that my spouse is in a nursing facility now. I never wanted that. I’m angry at myself for not being able to keep him at home. I know it’s not rational, but that doesn’t help. I’m a gerontologist. My specialty is handing problems dealing with aging, but I couldn’t help him. That makes me mad. Fighting family interference makes me madder. It’s a problem and I have to deal with it. Fortunately, help is available.

So, what’s my secret to handling the red-rage? It’s not really a secret; it takes a lot of work. First off, I have to own my anger – admit that it’s there. That may seem like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised at how we can deny anger even when it’s staring us in the face. My tip-off is when the dog is sitting on the other side of the room with her ears down. Then I pay attention to what I’m doing: grousing and slamming things around as I think about what I want to say to the person who has ticked me off. Hard to deny that!

So, what’s the cure? I’ve had to look at a variety of solutions and play around with them until I found my personal favorite: music. I put on some music and crank it up! I take the time to think about how I’m letting my rage run my life.

There are many other ways to tame the tiger too:

• Using mindfulness which involves getting into the moment by focusing on what you are feeling right now. Anger makes us live in the past and robs us of the future. Bringing yourself back to the current moment helps us focus on what is happening now, not what happened a little while ago.
• Breathing exercises. Yes, simply taking control of your breathing can reduce your anger. By slowing your breathing down, you pull your body out of that “fight or flight” mode that comes with anger. It helps us release the anger too.
• Journaling. I use this technique too. When I get angry, my thoughts race and it’s hard to know just exactly what I am feeling, yet alone figure out a way to cope. Writing it down allows me to organize my thoughts without the anger clouding the issues. It’s one of the healthiest things I do.
• Do a reality check on your expectations. Sometimes I get angry with others because I’m already angry. That’s not fair to them. It’s kind of the kick the dog issue when you’re mad about something else and you take it out on the dog simply because he’s there. I don’t want to do that with my dog or the kids, or anyone else for that matter. My anger is my responsibility and I am the one who needs to deal with it.

There are more ways to cope with anger. The main thing is that you start looking at how to control yours. Don’t let anger manage you; there’s too much at stake. Instead start managing your anger today!

Disabled Veterans in the Workplace

Recently, I met a man who had just hired a veteran to work for his business. He was wondering what he should know to support veterans in his workplace.

According to “Supporting Our Wounded Warriors in the Workplace,” by James Allen, many employers are eager to hire veterans because of their leadership skills, discipline, ability to work well under pressure, and strong work ethic. There are, though, many challenges that veterans who want to work must overcome.

Physical and emotional problems which may require special accommodation include amputations, traumatic brain injuries, PTSD, and other mental health impairments. How can an employer be supportive of a veteran who has just been hired? A few things that might help include:

• Know the symptoms of PTSD and TBI – (it is likely that symptoms will improve over time)
• Know what is included in the Employers Assistance Program for Wounded Warriors
• Check out services provided by federal and local government to veterans such as those offered through the Wounded Warrior Project

Keep in mind that veterans may be struggling as they reintegrate into civilian life. Some of the issues they may face include:
• Grief
• Feelings that he or she doesn’t belong in a non-military environment
• May miss the structure provided by the military
• May miss the intensity of combat duty

Tips for helping a veteran adjust to working in a non-military environment include:
• Do not initiate discussions of war
• Allow veterans to sit facing doors and windows
• Understand that the veteran may need to move frequently due to chronic pain
• Acknowledge military holidays
• Respect medication-related ups and downs