VETERAN SUICIDE IS FUELED BY PTSD
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a new name for an old condition: a traumatic, life-threatening event triggers this anxiety disorder. Through the years it has taken on different names, but no matter what you call it, PTSD or “shell-shock”, it’s a horror of war that we’ve had since the beginning. All we can say is #FUPTSD.
PTSD In Their Own Words
I began having nightmares and intrusive thoughts in addition to developing a sleep disorder, but was afraid of the stigma to seek help. I was starting to have suicidal ideations. I had lost at least two more of my battle buddies at that point. Death seemed welcoming at that point. I wanted to end the pain I was going through. It just felt very confusing. I couldn’t concentrate and couldn’t sleep. I didn’t like that I was taking it out on my soldiers and my family.
– Manuel “Al” Alcantara
I avoid elevators, crowds and July 4th fireworks; I’m claustrophobic from the 12 days I spent in a lightless cell at the Luftwaffe interrogation center in Germany, and I won’t fly unless I have an aisle seat. I tell them about my bombing missions with the Eighth Air Force during WWII and the day that my B-17 exploded over Berlin. How I am plagued with guilt over the loss of four of my crewmates that day. What it was like being a POW for a year and how exhilarating it was to see Patton lead his troops through the barbed wire gates of our Stalag to liberate us.
Anon WW II vet
Photo credit to Warbirds News
Link to story by Normal Bussel
The emotional numbness…will just tear away all of the relationships in your life, you know, if you don’t learn to unlock them [and] get those emotions out.
— Sarah C. Humphries US Army (1994–2012)
Image and text copyright of VA
I went home one evening and all of sudden, I felt a tightness in my chest, it was hard to breathe, I felt closed in and panicky. I bolted out of bed thinking I was dying. I paced the room in the dark for hours before I exhausted myself. I almost went to the ER that night, but the Soldier in me said to stick it out.
– Chaplain (Maj.) Carlos C. Huerta
April 25, 2012 Image and text copyright VA
Memory of the improvised explosive device (IED) that had taken my leg remained fresh in my mind. It took me a while to get down from that. Especially driving on the road, anything that looked like trash or debris on the side … I had nightmares
– Dexter Pitts Iraq 2014
It was almost eight years ago that I took all the sleeping pills and medication I could get, drove to a farmer’s field and laid down, hoping for the end. I didn’t understand what was going on with me and it seemed everything I was doing was hurting people around me.
– Corporal Joseph Rustenburg
Sometimes I think I have most of this PTSD and guilt resolved. Other times I feel nothing has changed. I’m always rehashing the past, turning things over and over in my mind. I feel like I’m under constant scrutiny. I avoid group attention.
– Anonymous Vietnam Veteran
MORE FIRST-PERSON ACCOUNTS OF WHAT PTSD FEELS LIKE
From The Mighty where they asked people what PTSD feels like. Here’s what they shared:
1. “It’s constantly looking over your shoulder and having difficulty trusting people… It’s not just something you can walk away from.” — Kathryn P.
2. “Triggers can come from anywhere at any time… a smell, a look/ glance, a vibe, a dream… how someone treats you. You are unable, as hard as you try, to turn it off.” — Mike T.
3. “The best description I’ve ever come across is the Walking Dead episode ‘Here’s Not Here.’ One character describes PTSD: ‘You saw it happen. That’s how this started, right? It’s all happening right in front of your eyes over and over. Your body’s here, but your mind is still there. There’s a door and you want to go through it to get away from it, so you do and it leads you right back to that moment. And you see that door again and you know it won’t work, but, hell, maybe it’ll work. So you step through that door and you’re right back in that horrible moment every time. You still feel it every time. So you just want to stop opening that door. So you just sit in it. But I assure you, one of those doors leads out, my friend.’” — Tara H.
4. “You know that feeling you get when someone jumps out and scares you and you are on high alert for a few minutes? That alertness never goes away for me.” — Holly M.
5. “It’s like you’re tidying your house before a dinner party. But there’s this one item that’s just out of place. The doorbell rings. It’s your guests. You just shove that item into the closet and tell yourself you’ll deal with it later. You start to do this every time. Filling the closest more and more. Saying to yourself that you’ll deal with it later. The closet becomes so full that it starts to creak. That’s your bodies way of saying ‘Hey! You got a lot of stuff to deal with! It’s time!’ But you keep thinking it’s fine. Out of sight, out of mind. You ignore the closet. Until one day it’s too much. The closet bursts. And everything comes flying out in weird and wacky ways. Panic attacks. Dissociative episodes. Depression. Anxiety. Flashbacks. Intrusive thoughts. And then you’re left lying on the floor with all the items that were stuffed into the closet, splattered around you. Forced to finally accept what happened. And forced to finally deal with it. Forced to clean up the items around you and find appropriate places for each thing. And then over time, slowly, you learn what to do with each item, and how to deal with each thing, uniquely.” — Nargis D.
6. “It’s like a sideshow ‘fun house;’ you never know what’s around the corner to screw up your day. Then you walk over to the house of mirrors and realize no matter which one you look at, it will never be who you truly are.” — Tash G.
7. “My nightmares when I’m asleep bleed into my daily life. At times after just getting up I’m unable to differentiate whether I’m awake or asleep. They feel so real, I even experience the physical pain in them. Then while I am at home if someone knocks on my door I could scream and start rocking back and forth.” — Will D.
8. “It’s difficult to explain. Sometimes it’s the feeling that something bad is right behind you. Every car door that shuts at night is something bad. It’s being afraid to go to sleep because you know the nightmares are waiting. No one can be trusted. I constantly feel like someone is behind me. It’s being so hyper-vigilant every minute, it’s exhausting. Certain places or a flash of something brings it all crashing back down on you. It’s feeling like every day you’re going to die, and sometimes wishing for death just to get away from the memories.” — Jennifer T.
9. “You’re constantly on guard. You can never rest without thinking about something. I get panicked at the slightest thing that wouldn’t bother anyone like loud bangs or someone’s footsteps, or someone calling my name and I don’t know where it’s coming from.” — Ross R.
10. “It’s like being trapped in a time capsule. Your surroundings change, but you’re forever in the state of your trauma — flashes of memories through all five senses, body memories, nightmares — it consumes your entire being and never by choice!” — Corey L.
11. “Imagine walking down the yellow stripe in the middle of a crowded street: it’s happy and sunny and everyone is doing everything great — but if you lose your balance or get pushed to the left side, it’s dark and scary. Few people know the left side.” — Brynn L.
12. “PTSD is a bunch of nightmares during the day. I lose grips on where I am, and I get lost in the memory. It’s like I’m not even where I actually am. It feels so real, and next thing I wake up and do not know how I got to where I am now.” — Nicole V.
13. “It’s like when you watch a scary movie and you’re on edge the entire time… except that’s how you live, all day, every day. You’re literally afraid of everything.” — Kate M.
14. “It’s like living in a slideshow instead of a video. Everything is choppy and confusing. There’s doubt, chaos and terror night and day.” — Adele E.
15. “I always compare it to the episode of ‘Spongebob’ when he was trying to remember his name and inside of his head people were looking through all the filing cabinets, but couldn’t find it so they started burning everything up and completely destroyed the memory bank… it’s like certain things trigger an episode whether it’s a smell or even a certain color. It causes me to panic.” — Shonte R.
They’re all sad and painful, but I have to say that #15 really sends it home for me. Here’s more from that same page:
16. “It’s like being hit by a car and you never see the car coming! It knocks you down, and when you try to get up another car hits you again.” — Minister W.
17. “It’s like a rubber band in that you can stretch so far out of your comfort zone, but once you’ve been triggered you fly back right to where you started.” — Rachel M.
18. “It’s like being afraid of the monster under your bed that no one else really believes is there. It can creep up on u at any moment, and the smallest of things can trigger it.” — Destiny B.
19. “Having PTSD for me is like being set apart from everyone else, finding fault with everyone you meet and walking a constant tightrope between fight or flight. The overwhelming feeling of guilt is hard to live with, and no one can convince you otherwise. It’s truly terrible. But there is always hope and always a light that never goes out so hang on in there.” — Jon A.