Friday, September 6, 2013

Step three De-tour Combat PTSD Survivor's Guide

What did you think about while deployed?

Being away from home actually began back at home. Everything that happened in your life was part of "who" was deployed.

Your hopes, dreams, history, joys and heartbreaks were all packed up and every detail of your life before that mattered even if you didn't notice.

You may aware of the fact you have a memory of your first love, but if you do not try to remember more than that, it is all you have. The memories are still there but filed away in your brain because it is not necessary to function on a daily basis with that memory. You didn't pull up to a drive-thru to order a taco and think of him/her unless a taco had something to do with an important moment between you. When you need to remember, your brain does a search much like the way Google does searches of what information is available on the web. The memory data base you walk around with does not quit. It is taking in what you may think as useless as well as important details.

Think of the first time you saw something amazing, like the ocean. Huge, powerful, constantly moving and even though you may know it is part of the weather system, that fact is the last thing on your mind when you put your feet in the sand.

Your eyes see the view as you get closer. Your nose takes in the scent of the salty air. If it was during the winter at a beach like Revere in Massachusetts, the smell was a lot different than during low tide in August.

Your ears take in the sound of the waves, seagulls, people and vehicles.

Your skin feels the sun, moisture and gritty sand.

As you walk closer to the water, the sand turns from hotter than hell to soothingly cool and it feels good.

Nothing changed from the time you first laid eyes on it but your experience of it changed with every move of your body and your senses were being fed new information.

All of that went with you, how you got there, what you were wearing, what the others were wearing, what you said, what they said, what kind of mood you were in and what you say from the corner of your eyes without really paying attention. Bet you didn't think a relaxing day at the beach was actually that busy for your brain,

Once at home you deal with sand all over your body, clothes and car, sun burned on the parts of your body you forgot to put lotion on and the strange echo of the waves in your ears. Most of it is forgotten as you moved from the past event at the beach to the current event of dealing with what came with being at the beach. Depending on what you thought was important and didn't matter, your brain keeps all of it but sorts it out so unimportant stuff is pushed into the recycle bin but as hard as you try, it never really gets emptied out even though my Mom said after a while your brain runs out of room so stuff starts to fall out.

It stays.

If you have a hard time understanding this, think about school. How much did you learn in your last year? Even if you scored 100% on a test, it is more likely than not to have been forgotten about. It was not lost, it is just stored and you have to try to find it if you need it again. Usually it takes a trigger to get your brain to search for it. A word or a question will send it on a search.

While you are deployed the same thing happened. Your brain took it all in. When you have PTSD there are memories that do not get sorted as well as they should.

Flashbacks and nightmares are usually based on something real that happened even if they are not the exact event. Triggers to set your mind searching are words, sounds, smells and often going unnoticed, an anniversary date.

The event that starts PTSD taking hold may not be the biggest one because as with life, things pile up so you need to take them down starting with the one that haunts you the most.

The worst part of the event is usually what freezes everything else out of view. It is the strongest part you are connected to.

Take that event and try to remember to the beginning of that day. What was going on, what were you doing, what were you thinking and then try to remember what emotions were the strongest before the worst moment.

Look at it as if you were watching a movie. If you think you need to be forgiven for something you did, you can be but the hardest part is forgiving yourself. That is why the first part of this guide is so important.

Remembering you were willing to join the military to help, to defend, to save, then you will remember that you were not evil and there is nothing evil in your now except for things your mind is doing that you don't understand.

Forgiveness is vital. Forgiving others for what they did or did not do. Forgiving yourself for what you had to do and what you did because you were in pain begins the healing.

After something terrible happens humans question God. What did He let it happen? What wasn't He there? How could a loving God just stand there and do nothing?

Look at it another way. He was there because no matter what happened, you still cared about others. You still grieved. You are in pain now because your ability to care was strong while others ability was not as strong.

There are all different types of people. There are some more selfish than others so they tend to walk away concerned with their own lives. Some are a pretty good blend of selfish and caring. Then there is the type of person usually putting other people first. It is a safe bet that you were that way when you were growing up. Your ability to care also included the ability to feel more pain.

What you need to heal is already inside of you. I hope this helped so far to have all of this make more sense to you.

Next week we'll start talking about healing. For now, look back on what you wrote down for the reasons you gave about joining.

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