FIGHTING BACK: REFUSING TO BOW TO PTSD

One of the more common ways PTSD manifests itself is through isolation. People who have PTSD often cut themselves off from the rest of the world and refuse to participate in any kind of group activity. While that may help them feel safe, it’s sad because is just makes the isolation more intense.

I decided that even though I have been diagnosed with PTSD, I didn’t want to let it ruin my entire life. I mean by that, it’s bad enough that the things that lead to the PTSD happened. If I allow it to control my life now, then I’ve given it the power to continue to hurt me. It’s like carrying the past into the future and letting it rob you of your happiness.

If I face my fears and go out even though I don’t want to, then I get to enjoy the moment, the other people I’m with, and I begin to heal. I want to be able to enjoy my friends and make new ones. I want to have my life back. I’m not going to let PTSD rule me.

Am I afraid sometimes? Of course. But I’d rather live in the moment and be truly free than hide in the dark and be afraid of everyone for the rest of my life. I won’t carry my PTSD into my future if I can help it. I want a life; I’m a survivor, so I refuse to bow to the nightmares of the past. I want new memories, and I’ll work hard to make them happen.

LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF SUICIDE

When you know you’re living with someone who needs to be in control, and that they have a plan to manage their own dying if needed, it leaves you feeling very helpless and fearful. My sister passed away this week, and she had for years planned on taking her own life if she felt she were becoming a burden on anyone else.

Suicide is not an event that occurs only to the person ending his or her own life. Those of us left behind must go on as best we can, and the scars left by knowing your loved one chose that final path can be so devastating. My sister died two days after learning she had cancer, but she did not take matters into her own hands. She died of natural causes. For that I will always be grateful.

While my sister did not resort to taking that final step, we do have a family history of suicide. Having a family member who has committed suicide gives permission to the rest of the family to choose that same path. You would think it would be the opposite: that it would be so devastating to the survivors that it would never happen again in the same family, but apparently that’s not so. Having a family member who committed suicide is one of the red flags that professionals look for in determining who really might choose to end their own life.

The statistics we hear currently are that 22 veterans commit suicide every day in the United States. Actually that’s only a number and it probably doesn’t reflect what is really happening. The study that came up with that number did not look at suicide across all states; it left out the states of Texas and California, I believe, and those are two states with very high levels of suicide.

Each time I hear someone talking about those statistics, no matter what the number is, I cringe. I always end up thinking of the loved ones left behind to cope in the aftermath.

There is always guilt. Why didn’t I see this coming? Why didn’t s/he confide in me and ask for help? Why couldn’t I have provided more emotional support? Why did I get into that last fight with him/her? The list of questions goes on and on. And there are never any answers.

There is other fallout: the fear that other family members will choose the same route, the spiritual aspects, the financial factors such as no longer having the income that the person was bringing in, or even the life insurance as most policies exclude persons that take their own lives.

If you are contemplating suicide, please talk to a professional first. The sun does come out to shine once again, there will be good times that come along, and things will change! Life is not stagnant. Please think about those you’re leaving behind and get professional help. What do you have to lose? And what a gift to those you’d otherwise leave behind!

A RESPONSIBILITY TO SELF

If you suffer from PTSD and you’ve been thinking about getting help, then let me assure you, the time to do it is now. Don’t put off seeking treatment because it’s not a convenient time, or you don’t have the money, or you think you’ll get to it tomorrow. Tomorrow has a way of never coming, and most of us never have money for things we need when we need them.

The time to get treatment for PTSD is NOW. Don’t waste another minute, hour, or day thinking about it– do it now. You have a responsibility to your family, yes, but you also have a responsibility to yourself. You have PTSD because you stepped up and served your country. Now let your country return the favor and do something for you! You owe it to yourself to reclaim your life and to live it to the fullest extent possible.

To live in fear of leaving your house because you might get hurt is to let yourself down. Life is precious. Your life is precious. Your happiness is precious too. You have bought and paid for the freedoms we live with today. Now, make sure you can enjoy those freedoms with the rest of society.

Treatment may be difficult; I’m not saying otherwise. But, the one thing I can assure you of is that it is worth it. Life is waiting. Don’t miss out on it! Make the call today!

PTSD: A FAMILY AFFAIR

I have a good friend who is a veteran and copes with PTSD every day. He avoids getting into any kind of situation where there might be a crowd. He is often depressed and keeps to himself when his wife would like him to do things with her. The flashbacks are the worst though as he relives the horror of his wartime experiences again and again. I was surprised then to learn that he was refusing to go to the VA or anywhere else for treatment of his PTSD. When I questioned him as to why he wouldn’t try to get some help, he told me it wasn’t something he wanted to take the time to do or to put the effort into. His final stance was that since it was his problem, he’d deal with it.

While it may ultimately be his problem, it does not affect just him. It also tears at his family, hurting his wife and children as they try to cope with “his” problem. The kids are disappointed because dad won’t go with them to any of the community events they attend. They have told me they’d love to go to a football game with their father or even be able to have friends sleep over once in a while, but that can’t happen because Dad might “blow up” in front of them. His wife would like to go out to dinner or a movie with her husband, but he tells her to go by herself. It makes her sad that he won’t go along, but worse is the fear that he’ll hurt her or their children when he’s having a flashback.

If you have PTSD, it does not affect just you. It touches every person in the family and often friends as well. If you won’t leave the house, how can you go to functions with your spouse and children? If you yell at the kids in front of their friends, then why would they bring anyone home with them? PTSD is not just your problem. It can and does respond to treatment, so please, if you won’t do it for yourself, get some help for your family’s sake. Don’t think for one minute that it’s your problem alone.