PTSD– Taking Stock

September 23, 2011

I am speaking now as someone who has dealt with PTSD.  In a previous post I talked about this issue and although everyone is different, like they say, we are more similar than different in reality.  There are obviously two choices that everyone who has PTSD or is a PTSD Spouse or involved with someone who suffers symptoms of PTSD 
You can do something to try and change the way you are feeling or do nothing and suffer and cause suffering for those around you.  That’s as simple as I can make it.  It isn’t up to anyone else but you to change the direction of the path you are on.

I went through the same things you are going through.  I knew I was suffering and saw no clear way to change things.  I must honestly state that I didn’t even know the term PTSD .  I had heard the term “Shell shocked”  but I didn’t think this was what I was dealing with.  I had seen and done things that I wish I hadn’t done and regret to this day for having been put in a situation that I had to do.  Someone once said “There are many people that will die in War and they are the lucky ones”  This may, in fact, be how you are feeling right now and I certainly believe I had these thoughts,too. 

I don’t know what path  you will take or how you will answer the above listed two choices.  I will tell you that I chose to do something.  I am 67 years old now and returned fron Vietnam 40 years ago and I am nothing but greatful for making the choice I did, to recover.  I do hope you will do the same.

In returning from Vietnam I was emersed in my pain.  I had no one to talk to and I was spiraling out of contol.  I started writing to myself. I started by taking stock of where I was and decided that was my starting point.  Some basic questions and thoughts that I put down and that I asked myself were these:

1. “I’ve  experienced something that I can’t seem to shake”  My answer to myself was “Yes you have and you can’t go back and redo it. So what now?”  The fact is that you are a product of your experiences, good and bad.  This is something that will never go away.  I still can remember some of my more vivid PTSD memories and it has been over 40 years ago but I have been able to successfully put them into their proper place.  You will be able to as well, if you start deaing with them now.

2.”I wish I had chosen differently and avoided this experience altogether”. “Duh” of course this was not the word I chose at the time.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could rewrite history and magically change it?  Unfortunately this is not a dress rehearsal.  We make choices at the time and base them on what we felt or knew at the time.  I couldn’t relitigate my past.  I had to take stock of where I was at the time and not the “what ifs” that were getting me nowhere.

3. “I don’t want to feel this way anymore. How do I get out of this PTSD nightmare?”  I couldn’t really see any clear choices at the time.  Ironically I am married now to a wonderful woman who happens to be a psychologist but at that time I though psychologists were only for crazy people or weaklings that couldn’t handle their own problems.  I wish I had known then what I know now, I could have sought a healer to make my job of recovery a lot easier.

These questions were where I started.  I quickly came to the realization that I had the power to steer my own boat.  I didn’t want to be in that miserable place any more and I started writing to myself more often.  Each time I wrote I started feeling clearer and clearer about what I was going through and started nibbling around the edges of my PTSD issue.  I was able to face more and more of the things that I was hiding from or trying to mask with alcohol and drugs.  It became easier and easier to talk to myself about it and I found that when people would ask me questions I was more free to talk honestly and openly about them rather than stuffing them.  My symptoms started to ebb and I felt better as the time went by. 

Again I want to be clear, it wasn’t an overnight process that miraculously cured me of PTSD.  As a matter of fact I don’t believe that I am cured at all. It was diligent hard work but I was working on myself and I felt I was worth it.  I wish the internet existed in my day.  I could have hopefully documented my progress for others to read and perhaps encourage them to follow me and join me on my journey back from this terrible time.  You do not have that excuse.  We are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  The posting is free and you can come and write any time of the day or night.  Sunlight is the greatest disinfectant.