When our Unit was on deployment back in 2006 we had a hell of a time fighting the enemy. Mainly because we could not tell the civilians from the enemy. The enemy would blend in with them, and we could not speak the language so it made our job that much harder. They were crafty and intelligent, and as they hid in the shadows their primary weapon became IED’s. IED’s were inexpensive, dangerous to put together, but an extremely effective means for an enemy that desired to remain unseen. IED’s like its maker remained unseen until it was too late. P.T.S.D. in a sense operates the same way IED’s operate. Our objective in all of this is to neutralize the the enemy.
In comparison like IED’s P.T.S.D. is not something you see. Many individuals living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder do not have much to show for it. As to say you can’t tell that anything is wrong with them. They are sick mentally on a level that only they can describe. The occasional down mood or spaced out look or outburst of anger is the tip of the iceberg. What’s going on inside the individual is far more complex.
IED’s can come at you in various ways. For example: they can be daisy chained (more than one set to explode), pressure plated (can go off from being stepped on), rigged to severed heads (seen that explode not a pretty sight), rigged to inanimate objects made to look like rocks (a buddy of mine spotted the painted rock), rigged to the human body for maximum effect (thankfully no received that one), and so on and so forth. [I’ve seen the effects of every sized IED from 155 shells to tank mines. The graveyard of vehicles back in the rear (main base in war) tells a lot of stories.]
P.T.S.D. is diverse. You could be expecting one thing, and get another. For example I could be expecting a panic attack to come on but instead I become extremely irritable. Another example is I can expect my mood to be down but have the best day of my life. You never really know what you are going to get. Often you pick up on it but there are times when you don’t. Everyday is different.
So here are a few ways we neutralized the threat of IED’s in Iraq. First, we stayed off or avoided the roads not used by the locals, did less vehicle patrols, and more foot patrols. Next we went after the bomb making material, which there was so much of. We also went on the offensive by conducting raids, ambushes, and maintaining a constant presence in the area.
How this correlates to P.T.S.D. is not quite simple because everyone is different. When we avoided the roads not used by the locals we began to use the roads the locals used. What happened next is we got some help. The enemy began to lay IED’s on these roads. So the locals who needed to use these roads began to tell us where the IED’s were. In our fight against the unseen enemy we need help from others that can see where the enemy has laid a bomb. This can be in the form of a professional or in the form or peer support or support group or friends who are supportive, and can see what we can’t see. I had my wife write a letter detailing her experience with me and P.T.S.D. and it was eye opening.
Next we went after the bomb making material. There are things that actually make P.T.S.D. worse for starters alcohol. I’m only going to talk about alcohol but there are more. Alcohol should either not be used or used in a controlled setting. For example, there were nights when I would get pissed drunk and drive through town eating stop signs and red lights. Today I don’t drink as much. I might have a drink with a brother whenever we meet up, which is not as often as I would like.
Next going on the offensive. This is tricky because for some it will mean you need to get on medication. For others it will mean you have to face the facts. What happened, and you can’t change the past but there’s more to life. You might have to stop blaming yourself or go to Church. You decide that for yourself. Going on the offensive basically means doing what you must do in whatever way that looks to you to neutralize the threat. The threat is the deprivation of your life. I’ll give you an example. I noticed that I was avoiding people, and that I had been doing this for years. So I stopped, and made spending more time with people my priority. Is it a struggle yes but I have great support. Do I still avoid people yes but not as much as I used to.
Consider this an intro into neutralizing the threat. There is so much more to learn, and I am constantly learning. I apologize if I come off like I have it all figured out. I battle often, and have openly shared about my bouts with suicidal thoughts. I believe life is precious right now but in a depressed state I forget how precious it is. Some people consider suicide weakness but I say that unless you have experienced suffering on that level it’s hard to pass judgment. Suicide to me is someone in great pain deciding that they don’t want to be in pain anymore. Whether they know it or not that tomorrow is another day does not matter if they can’t see hope in the moment they are in.