Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Soul Survivor of Combat

The Soul Survivor of Combat
De-tour Combat PTSD Survivor's Guide
Kathie Costos
September 3, 2013

Before we begin, there are several things that have to get out of the way. The first thing you need to know is that God is not punishing you. You are doing a good enough job of that on your own. He didn't abandon you or put the whammy on your head. Just because you didn't notice what came from God during combat doesn't mean it was not all around you.

Most wonder how a loving God can allow all the horrors and suffering in combat. The fact is, He has to allow it. God doesn't mess with freewill. Every human is free to make their own choices and that includes leaders of nations. Wars have been fought since one caveman clan decided they wanted what another clan had. When other humans decide to start wars, it is up to the war fighters to carry it out but when you really get to the bottom of why you were willing to die, it isn't for the deciders. You do it for each other.

The fact you are still grieving means you still care. You cared then. You cared when one of your buddies was killed as much as you cared when one was wounded. You cared when prayed, wished, hoped or screamed for an end to the horrors going on all around you. You cared when you put your arm around a friend but showed you cared even more when you comforted another soldier you didn't really like. When you shed a tear, you cared. Caring, especially in that kind of action, being able to think about someone else other than yourself, showed that God was there all along.

Another thing to get out of the way is the notion that Combat PTSD is the same as all others. While there are different levels there are also different types and Combat PTSD is much different from the others. The only type that comes close is what police officers get because most of the time they have to decide to use their weapons or not. They are not just responding to the danger, they participate in it must like you did.

If you think PTSD means you are demented instead of tormented, you need to know the difference.

Demented is Mentally ill; insane. Suffering from dementia or a loss of cognitive function

While tormented is,
1. Great physical pain or mental anguish.
2. A source of harassment, annoyance, or pain.
3. The torture inflicted on prisoners under interrogation.
1. To cause to undergo great physical pain or mental anguish. See Synonyms at afflict.
2. To agitate or upset greatly.
3. To annoy, pester, or harass.

PTSD has nothing to do with what you were born with but has everything to do with what was done to you. The only way to get PTSD is by surviving a traumatic event. How many times did that happen while you were deployed and then add up the other deployments you had but don't stop there. You have to add in what happened during training as well. (We'll discuss this during the week)

What you will read does not come from a "professional" but from a wise friend. I remember what it was like reading all the damn clinical books ending up more confused trying to stop what I was reading so I could look up the definition of the words they used. IT SUCKED! That was before the Internet so I had to have a dictionary right by the book from experts. I've been reading them ever since but at least now I have the ability to have different windows open instead of heavy books sitting in a hard library chair.

As a friend I write the way I talk so don't expect it to be grammatically correct. I tossed out the rules of grammar when I passed my last English class. As for speaking, count yourself fortunate you are reading this instead of listening to me talk. If you had to listen you'd need a Massachusetts translation guide to figure out where the "r" is really supposed to be.

What we'll work on are the basics. I am tired of rehashing how things got this bad. I want to focus on what works instead so after today that is what we'll address. For now, you need to catch up on some things you haven't heard in the press as they begin to focus on Suicide Awareness Month.

Attempted suicides shows how screwed up all of this is.
The report said that the 99 confirmed suicides by active-duty soldiers compared with 87 in 2005 and that it was the highest raw number since 102 suicides were reported in 1991, the year of the Persian Gulf War. Investigations are pending on two other deaths.
Officials reported 948 suicide attempts, but there were no comparisons for previous years.
Among soldiers who were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan when they attempted suicide in 2005 and 2006, a full 60 percent had been seen by outpatient mental health workers before the attempts. Forty-three percent of the deployed troops who attempted suicide had been prescribed psychotropic medications, the report shows.
As many as 121 Army soldiers committed suicide in 2007, a jump of some 20 percent over the year before, officials said Thursday. The rise comes despite numerous efforts to improve the mental health of a force stressed by a longer-than-expected war in Iraq and the most deadly year yet in the now six-year-old conflict in Afghanistan. Internal briefing papers prepared by the Army's psychiatry consultant early this month show there were 89 confirmed suicides last year and 32 deaths that are suspected suicides and still under investigation. More than a quarter of those — about 34 — happened during deployments in Iraq, an increase from 27 in Iraq the previous year, according to the preliminary figures.

The report also shows an increase in the number of attempted suicides and self-injuries — some 2,100 in 2007 compared to less than 1,500 the previous year and less than 500 in 2002.

863 suicide attempts across all Services in 2010 for 837 individuals. 
 915 Service Members attempted suicide in 2011 (Air Force = 241, Army = 432, Marine Corps = 156, Navy = 86). DoDSERs were submitted for 935 suicide attempts (Air Force = 251, Army = 440, Marine Corps = 157, Navy = 87). Of the 915 Service Members who attempted suicide, 896 had one attempt, 18 had two attempts, and 1 had three attempts.

Now you know more than the number of suicides we keep talking about. For a much larger view read Suicides After War, but for now, there is one article that is of great importance to read.
Col. Carl Castro, director of the Military Operational Medicine Research Program, has been funding studies into post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PTSD, over the past five years, and he said the results are beginning to come in.

"I really think the next eight to nine months are going to be the most exciting as the data comes on line and we can start saying, okay, this is really working, we really know what we're doing here, let's do this," Castro said.

Apparently he forgot about another program he was instrumental in "providing" after "research" and "funding" produced it. Battlemind came in 2006. "What is Battlemind? A Soldier’s inner strength to face fear and adversity during combat, with courage. It is the will to persevere and win. It is resilience."

Castro must have forgotten how much they paid for it as well as what the results proved. An increase in suicides and attempted suicides.
"Ten years ago, I think most people would be appalled that we hadn't already done those studies. I know I was surprised that we hadn't done them."

Castro said if people are really honest with themselves, nobody thought these wars were going to last this long, so nobody really felt the need to energize and make changes.

"Finally we started changing when we realized we can no longer say the war is going to end any day because it hasn't ended in the last five years and if you really look at when funding started being provided for medical research and development, or R and D, and when people started changing, it was about five years ago," he said.

The first time medical R and D received any big increases in its budget was when a congressional special interest group gave $301 million in fiscal year 2007.
(Army research looks at new PTSD treatment, Army By Rob McIlvaine June 20, 2012)
More than 1,100 U.S. servicemen and women killed themselves between 2005 and 2009.

In July, the Army announced a $50 million study of suicide and mental health involving about 500,000 service members and four other research institutions. That is separate from this initiative, which will be directed by the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Denver and Florida State University.

"We know we're not going to solve the suicide problem in the military with this three-year research consortium," Castro said. "But what we hope to do at the end of this three years is to lay a very solid foundation on which other research can be built."
(Army Putting $17 Million toward Suicide Research, CBS News, January 19, 2011)

If you believe Castro, then you are just not aware of the fact that research programs started over 40 years ago. If Castro thinks everything available before he came along popped out of thin air, then he has a lot to learn. Very little of what he is talking about is working. Evidence isn't just found by how many successfully killed themselves. It isn't proven just by how many attempted it. It is found when everything is put together including the reports from the men and women no longer in the military. Wounded Times covers these reports everyday. While I keep waiting for evidence they finally have it right, more and more sad stories come. So whatever the military told you about "what is wrong with you" (since they clearly don't understand how you are hearing what they are trying to say) is tossed out, common sense has room to get into your head.

For now we'll walk together until they catch up.

There is only one reason a person decides to commit suicide. They lost the last sliver of hope that tomorrow would be any better than this day was. Whatever you have going on in your life think of it this way. If yesterday sucked but you got up this morning, you can get up tomorrow too. You survived a lot worse than this before. Today is already a bit better because you are learning what you need to know to heal. There is no cure for PTSD but there is a lot of healing going on all over the country.

If that doesn't give you enough hope think of this little tidbit of news. When nothing was being done for PTSD in the 60's and 70's, Vietnam veterans with PTSD were still able to not just survive but are still walking around today. My husband is one of them. This month we'll be married for 29 years, still holding hands and still in love.

If your family and friends don't understand you, give them a break because honestly you are pretty hard for most people to understand in the first place. If they have no clue what combat is like then they are in the majority since veterans are only 7% of the population. WWII veterans had the most people understanding them simply because most able bodied men went. For your family and friends, they may be expecting you to just get over it and go back to the way you were before. You need to get them to think of you in a different way.

If you know them really well, there is a little trick I use when I talk to an audience full of civilians trying to understand. I make it personal to them. I talk about traumatic events most people experience. Someone had a shocking death of someone close to them in their past. Remind them what that felt like. Then tell them PTSD is like feeling it everyday the same way. If they don't have that experience, then use one of the other events that are traumatic. Natural disasters, fire or floods can cause PTSD. Crimes and accidents can cause PTSD and does abuse. If all that is not part of their lives then remind them of the event that hit everyone in this nation. The attack of September 11th when everyone was in shock plus changed by it. No one was really the same after that day.

Talk to them afterwards. You don't have to give them details they probably couldn't handle. Just help them to have a basic understanding of what it going on with you. Tell them you are hurting and sometimes you act out inappropriately but you don't mean any harm. You just need help. If they think you are just being a jerk, they will get defensive. If they understand it is coming from pain, they will want to help. It is human nature especially when they care about you.

You are hurting because your soul survived. What you need to heal it is already inside of you. Tomorrow your reconnection begins.

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