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PTSD in Returning Soldiers
Transcript of PTSD in Returning Soldiers
by: Jamison Braz
What is PTSD?
What are the symptoms?
How is it caused?
How is it treated?
BANG! The explosions I witnessed still ring in my ears, the violence and gore I saw still play in my mind like a never-ending horror film. I served two tours in Iraq. They made enlisting sound so exciting, “Serving one’s country”. I always wanted to be a hero. I was nothing before I enlisted, and now, after discharge, I’m still nothing. A worthless bullet casing.
There we were, driving along one of Iraq’s endless dirt roads, if you could even call them roads, just tracks in the sand really. The bomb, it was meant for us, the “enemy”, but instead it claimed the lives of the innocent. A family of five. They were dead before their car had even hit the ground, they didn’t stand a chance. At least they didn’t suffer.
Iraq used to be my reality, but now it’s my worst nightmare. Everyone who I was ever close to out there, gone. I lash out at my family but I never mean to hurt them. They don’t understand, they don’t know what I saw out there. They never had to watch men and women as young as 18 gunned down in the streets. They never had to hold their best friend in their arms as he gasped for his final breath in a roadside ditch. They were never covered in blood not knowing who it belonged to. They’ll never understand my pain.
The doctors say I have post-traumatic stress disorder. Maybe they are right, what am I to know, does it matter though? I should never have enlisted, why was I so stupid? So many lives lost, so many ruined. Ultimately I can try and blame who ever I want but I know deep down that it was my decision, my fault.
I went for a walk through the park earlier, I sat on a bench and I watched. I watched the people walk past, and I thought, what if our time in this world is the pointless part, maybe death is our only way out, the only thing we can look forward too. But then, in my mind, I see the faces of those whose lives I saved in Iraq, those to whom I gave a second chance, but then… BANG! The explosions, they fill my head again, will they ever go away?
Running through a town
On the border of Afghanistan
I feel my heart beating
My best friend in my hands
Bullets wiz by us
As I carry him to our platoon
And then all the sudden
I wake up in my room
It’s nothing just a dream
Of a distant memory
And yet I’m haunted by it
As I wake up nightly with screams
I’m afraid to sleep at night
Because I don’t want to be in another firefight
Everytime I close my eyes
I’m afraid someone else dies
It’s been five months since I’ve been in war
And yet every night I return for more
Every relived experience
Is causing me to go delirious
Journal from a veteran with PTSD
August 22, 2013
First Sergeant John Taylor
Honorably Discharged June 18, 2013
I seem to be having nightmares more and more each night. At first I thought it was nothing but now they only get worse. I picture I’m back in Afghanistan, back in war. I’m haunted by what I’ve seen, every time I close my eyes I can see the faces of the dead. They never leave. I haven’t gotten a full night of sleep in a weeks. I can’t stand it anymore, I’m starting to lose my temper and my mind. I’m as afraid to sleep as I was in the war, it’s just like going back and I can’t handle it. Tonight before I went to bed the weather was bad and we had a thunder storm. The thunder sounded just like the explosions I encountered in Afghanistan. Throughout the entire storm I was tense and afraid, it felt like I was back in war and at any moment an artillery strike could land right on top of me. I was in my own house and yet I didn’t feel safe. I felt like a little kid afraid of the thunder yet I just couldn’t shake it. I didn’t sleep at all that night. I’m afraid to tell anyone especially my family because I don’t want them to see me afraid and weak.
Journal from the wife of a veteran with PTSD
Stephanie Taylor (wife of John)
I’m worried about John, He has been home for 2 months after serving in Afghanistan and he seems different. He really seems to be struggling but he won’t open up about anything. If I try to ask about Afghanistan he just gets very frustrated and angry. He seems to be bottling up a lot and it’s not good for him. He rarely will leave the house and is struggling to sleep. He is constantly waking up in the middle of the night sweating with his heart beating. He says its nothing but I’m sure he is having nightmares about the war. Last night there was a thunder storm and it seemed to petrify him. With ever crash he tensed up and started breathing heavily. I did some research on all of this and it sounds like he has PTSD. I think I’m going to call our parents tomorrow and have them come over so that we can talk to him about this and let him know we are there for him and bring him to a doctor at the VA. He just needs to understand that no matter what he isn’t alone and we will all do the best we can to get him better.
1678: Swiss Physicians identify ‘Nostalgia’ as a condition characterized by depression, continuous thinking of home, disturbed sleep or insomnia, weakness, loss of appetite, anxiety, cardiac palpitations, stupor, and fever”.
1700’s: Dominique Jean Larrey, a French surgeon, described Nostalgia as having three stages: 1) “heightened excitement and imagination,” 2) “period of fever and prominent gastrointestinal symptoms,” and 3) frustration and depression
1860s: Thousands of Union Civil War combat veterans are hospitalized with “nostalgia,”
1917-1919: Distress of soldiers is attributed to ‘shell shock’ during WWI
1939-1945: Terminology changes to ‘combat exhaustion’ or “combat fatigue”during WWII, and U.S. Army adopts the official slogan, “Every man has his breaking point”
1947: U.S. Army releases a documentary about causes and treatment of mental illness during WWII
1972: Chaim Shatan raises awareness of ‘post-Vietnam syndrome’ in the New York Times
1980: The American Psychiatric Association, in the third edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, recognizes PTSD as a disorder, replacing disorders related to specific traumas.
1989: Congress establishes the National Center for PTSD within the Department of Veterans Affairs. Spread among seven “academic centers of excellence” around the country, the unit is charged with promoting research and better education about PTSD.
2008: A landmark study by the RAND Corporation estimates that 300,000 of the 1.64 million U.S. service members deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan may suffer from PTSD or depression and that far too few are getting effective treatment.
TIME LINE OF PTSD
PTSD is a fairly new condition, only being recognized by the medical profession since 1980. It may be new but it is something that has been seen in countless wars over the past hundreds of years. Though it never had the same diagnostic name all the symptoms matched each other. Among solders PTSD is caused by a severe trauma on the battlefield like seeing someone wounded or killed, or being injured yourself. PTSD causes many symptoms such as recurring memories, nightmares of what you witnessed in battle ,sleeplessness, loss of interest, feeling numb, anger, irritability, staying indoors, feeling emotionally cut off from others, and the thought of being in constant danger. This following symptoms have been matched to many different diagnostic names over the years. In the Civil War it was called Nostalgia or soldier’s heart, in WWI it was called shell shock, in WWII it was called combat or battle fatigue, in Vietnam it was called post-Vietnam syndrome. Although the name has been different over the years the similarities made them identical and they can all now be labeled as PTSD.
Now that we know more about PTSD the medical profession has been able to pinpoint the symptoms and signs of the disorder. With all this research that has been done there is treatment that has been developed to help veterans cope with post-dramatic stress. For treatment you have a couple of choices that you can make. You can take medication that can increase the amount of serotonin that your brain produces so that you stop feeling as sad and depressed. If you don’t want to medicate another very affective technique is going through counseling with a therapist that will help you understand your thoughts, and find out how to cope with your feelings as well as finding out what triggers these PTSD episodes and how to work passed them. These memories might not go away but working with a professional can really help you get over these episodes. Some forms of therapy are Trauma-focused cognitive-behavior therapy (TF-CBT), and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). TF-CBT is a therapy that exposes you to thoughts and feeling that bring you back to the trauma you experienced. This helps you see what causes your PTSD and it helps you over time replace these thoughts of the trauma with better pictures. For example instead of during a thunderstorm thinking you are in the middle of a bombing. You learn to instead recall the time you were camping with friends and saw that really cool thunder storm instead. It replaces a bad memory with a good one. EMDR is based on the idea that different memories cause different eye movements. A therapist will then use this method to isolate the bad memory that is caused by the PTSD and work with the veteran to get over this thought and give him different ways to cope and work past this anxiety. All of these methods are proven to work well with patients suffering with PTSD and are now the main ways the medical field treats PTSD.
Other than these treatments there are many self-help tips that can help people with PTSD. The tips include, reaching out to friends, family, and support groups for help, avoiding alcohol and drugs, overcoming your sense of helplessness, and spending time in nature. Studies have shown that all of these techniques can help you overcome PTSD. If you are a loved one of someone with PTSD there are steps you can take to help your loved one overcome PTSD. One step a loved one can take is being patient and understanding. Recovery can take a long time so patience and understanding can help someone immensely in the healing process, lending an ear and support can really help someone with PTSD move on. Another way to help a loved one is being able to notice and prepare for their PTSD triggers. If you know their triggers you can avoid setting them off yourself and once you see one happen you can be there to calm them down. The final and most important thing you can do to help someone recovering from PTSD is not pressuring them into talking about what caused their PTSD. Reliving that experience can be very negative to their progress and can cause even more problems. Instead let your loved ones know that you are there for them when they are ready to talk.
Over the years PTSD has had many different names and has been seen in many different wars. It is caused by undergoing an extremely traumatic experience and is seen in 1 of 8 soldiers. With the research of PTSD doctors have been able to pinpoint symptoms and come up with many affective ways to treat PTSD. The most popular treatment methods seen today are medicating, and therapy. Both have given significant results on curing patients PTSD. Other than that to help the process both the individual and family can do things to help speed the recovery process such as support groups, and just being there for the person with PTSD if they want to talk to someone. If you have PTSD and take all the steps to help it you can easily recover and going back to living your life like normal, it’s up to you.
George is a Vietnam Veteran
who’d been a medic. A
Vietnamese mother brought her
badly injured child to his field
hospital. He was unable to save
the child, who died in his arms.
Back home, he never held his
own children. “I never held
my kids, never changed their diapers. I
didn’t want to have that reminder.” But
with the birth of his first grandchild he
decided to get help. His therapy was a
success. At the end of his treatment he
showed his therapist a picture of himself
with his grandson in his arms. He said, “I
love holding my grandson. And you know
what? I couldn’t hold my kids then, but I’m
holding them now.”
"1 in 8 Returning Soldiers Suffers from PTSD." Msnbc.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2013. <http://www.nbcnews.com/id/5334479>.
"EMDR Institute, Inc. - EMDR Institute." EMDR Institute, Inc. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2013. <https://www.emdr.com/general-information/ptsd-research.html>.
"Make The Connection." Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2013.
"Make The Connection." Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2013. <http://maketheconnection.net/conditions/ptsd?gclid=CLjA1-jkrbsCFWLNOgodEw4AVw>.
"Post Traumatic Stress Disorder." Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2013. <http://www.ptsd.ne.gov/what-is-ptsd.html>.
"Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)." : Symptoms, Treatment and Self-Help. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2013. <http://www.helpguide.org/mental/post_traumatic_stress_disorder_symptoms_treatment.htm>.
"Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Diagnosis - MedicineNet." MedicineNet. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2013. <http://www.medicinenet.com/posttraumatic_stress_disorder/article.htm>.
"PTSD: National Center for PTSD." Understanding PTS(D): Adapt and Overcome -. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2013. <http://www.ptsd.va.gov//public/pages/veteransdaystory.asp>.
Understanding PTSD Treatment. N.p.: National Center for PTSD, 2011.
Understanding PTSD Treatment. National Center for PTSD, Feb. 2011. Web. 12 Dec. 2013. <http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/understanding_TX/booklet.pdf>.
"Understanding PTSD." Understanding PTSD. National Center for PTSD, Feb. 2011. Web. 12 Dec. 2013. <http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/understanding_ptsd/booklet.pdf>.
I have always been interested in history especially war history. For my essay I decided to focus on a new area, soldiers returning from war. Specifically I wanted to learn something about veterans who return with PTSD. I had always known that PTSD was something new so I wanted to learn more about its history and how it became so well-known and common. I knew the effects of PTSD and I saw it as a problem that as a society we are more accustomed to the physical injuries and sometimes forget about the emotional and psychological ones. So that you can better understand the extent of PTSD, as you read this imagine yourself as the person involved, whether it be the veteran suffering from PTSD but bottling it up, or the wife of the soldier that returned home a different man. As you read this put yourself in the shoes of the character involved to understand the hardship they face daily. Hopefully this will give you a better understanding of the struggles of PTSD and it will help you see it as a large problem that we as a society need to put more effort into recognizing.
Table of contents
1. To begin my first genre is an expository piece. It is three pages that focus on many different areas of PTSD. It starts off talking about the different names it had over the years and how it developed in different wars. Then it goes on to talk about different symptoms it includes. After talking about the symptoms I go on to speak of the different treatment techniques and I name the top three that are used today to treat PTSD. After treatment I state different things the individual suffering from PTSD can do to help the recovery process. Finally I end it with a way that someone can help a loved one who is suffering from PTSD. This essay provides a good history on PTSD and give good instruction on how to treat and help someone with PTSD. (Slide #4)
2. My next Genre is a monologue I wrote about a soldier suffering from PTSD. In the monologue he talks about the flashbacks and nightmares he experiences on a daily bases from when he was deployed in Iraq. To get everything out of this piece read it as the soldier telling his story. (SLIDE #7)
3. My third genre is a poem that I wrote of a soldier having a nightmare of when he was in Afghanistan. It talks about how he was running away from the enemy with his friend dying in his arms as he tried to reach his platoon. (SLIDE #9)
4. My fourth genre is two different journal articles. The first journal is from a soldier suffering from PTSD and the struggles he faces because of it. He also says in this journal that he doesn’t want to tell his family because he doesn’t want them to be ashamed of him. My second journal is from the wife of the soldier who realizes that something is wrong and wants to help her husband so she looks up his symptoms and is going to try to get him to go the VA. (SLIDE #’s 12,15)
5. My final Genre is a visual piece. It is a timeline I created of important years in the history and development of PTSD. (SLIDE #16)