THE OTHER SIDE OF PTSD

I have been diagnosed with PTSD and I have to admit, I HATE that there is no “cure” for it.  I mean, I’d like to know that someday I’ll be over the struggle so I can say, “I have been healed from my PTSD.”  It doesn’t work that way though.

Fortunately, I can now say that PTSD does not rule my life.  That’s pretty big if you think about it.  There was a time when I walked into a room full of people, I could almost instantly assess which ones were most likely to cause trouble and which were safe.   I was a nervous wreck tracking where each person was and making sure no one got behind me.  No, that would make me too vulnerable, so it could not be allowed.  It didn’t matter how non-threatening the people in the room were; I perceived everyone as a threat and kept an eye on all of them.  You can imagine the energy that took, and the horror with which I viewed attending a party!

It’s not like that now though.  Can I say I’ve healed from PTSD?  No.  Am I still l bothered by it?  Yes, sometimes I am.  But most of the time, I no longer think about it.  My world isn’t driven by it, and I am not consumed with staying safe.  You might wonder how I got to this point.  By being open and allowing my fears to be challenged by several counselors over the course of several years.  It’s a slow process.

I know most of us don’t want to wait that long to feel we can live relatively comfortably with our PTSD, but now that I’m on this side of it, I can say it’s worth wait.  There was a time I thought I’d never feel better, or less afraid.  Life now is much, much better.

Although you and I may never be “cured” of PTSD, it is possible to reach the other side where you feel like you’re in control rather than having PTSD control you.  In other words, there is hope.  Don’t give up.  Go to those meetings, talk with others who suffer from it.  Challenge yourself and your beliefs.   It’s a slow process, but you can make it to the other side.

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PTSD AND THE HOLIDAYS

The holidays are here and most of us are being treated to Christmas carols, beautiful lights and all the excitement that makes it a joyful time of year, yet there are many who won’t be experiencing peace on earth tonight.   For many soldiers, the holiday will be spent in the war zone.  For many veterans, although they have returned home, they will relive the horrors of war over and over again each night.  PTSD steals security, peace, and distorts our sense of “home.”

Home is no longer the safe haven it once was, and the world seems to be a much darker, more dangerous place.  Dreams of sugar plums and candy canes don’t exist, and peace on earth seems to be a pipedream.  Yet, there remains a desire for us all to live in peace, for a time when there will be no more war, no more killing and maiming, no more horror that goes on day after day, year after year.

My wish for you this holiday season is for a gentle peace, prosperity and acceptance that with all the horrors of this world, there is also much good in it and there are good people as well as bad.  I wish for you a calm spirit, peaceful interactions with your loved ones, and healing rest.  Peace on earth.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

Holidays can be very difficult for some veterans.  It’s nice to think of the holidays as being a time of peaceful music, beautiful lights and friendly smiles, but it is often anything but that.  Sometimes it can be hard to find anything to be happy about and peace on earth may seem like a pipe dream.  The holidays may mean extra people in the home when the relatives come, or traveling to the homes of others and then trying to fit in and not let the noise and stress make you crazy.

Please understand that PTSD often causes excessive noise and activity.  When this goes on around a veteran it can heighten anxiety and lead to blow ups and temper flares.  By recognizing the problem, you can work with it.  Try to keep the pace easy and the atmosphere peaceful.  Soft, gentle holiday music can promote a calm, soothing environment.  If family and friends will be arriving, try to plan to have a quiet room where the veteran can go to unwind.  If travel is necessary, look for ways to provide comfort to the vet: seat him or her by the door on the plane, if possible, or bring along a book or magazine of interest.

Above all, understand that this is a stressful time for veterans for a variety of reasons, and try to be forgiving.  After all, isn’t that what the season is all about?

IT’S HAPPENING HERE TOO

There have been many reports of problems within the VA medical system lately concerning delays with veterans receiving medical care.  Indeed, even locally, veterans who need care through the VA find the experience very frustrating.  Veterans may wait for long periods of time before getting an appointment, or even for a doctor to be assigned.   In other instances, the care can be given locally outside of the VA medical care system, but the VA insists the veteran drive hundreds of miles to receive the care he or she needs at a VA Med Center.

It is not unusual for the VA doctors to send veterans from Western Michigan across the state to the VA hospital in Detroit.  It’s bad enough when it’s Ann Arbor or another site not so far away, but when it’s Detroit, the veterans often do without the care they need because they can’t get there.

While the VA has been trying to correct the problem, unfortunately things remain much the same today.  Veterans who need care are paying too high a price in pain and anguish while trying to get the care they need and deserve.  It’s time the VA started working with local physicians if they don’t have the medical staff needed to provide adequate and appropriate care.  Our veterans deserve better than they are getting.