Ah, I dare to raise the dreaded topic that so many Vets suffer from and have in one way or another, yet so few get the help or the support they need. PTSD is caused by so many reasons/situations that to even attempt to list them is futile, but it exists and not enough is done to help those that suffer. I speak from experience.
The symptoms are varied not only in cause but also in reaction. I can list mine, the physical and the mental issues I suffer, I do so, not for sympathy but in the hope that if anyone out there suffers from any of these this post may just help them.
Mine has manifested itself in some really stupid things, one of which is so pathetic it makes me smile at myself, I can't use any form of public transport, being in the proximity of a group of people I don't know brings on a variety of physical issues, I sweat profusely, I feel extremely nauseous, the dreaded need to visit the toilet, the stress/anxiety increase with every minute until a stress attack is inevitable. Those are the normal ones, a few extra get thrown i for good measure. Noise is another one, loud noises set me off on one, instead of being annoying they become threatening.
A good nights sleep used to be a thing of the past, I used to wake up every night either fighting, screaming or such actions. I could go on but think that is enough for now.
So, what did I do. The first help I got was by accident not by design. I got a dog because, to be honest, talking to my Malamute was probably better than talking things through with myself. I got fewer strange looks anyway!! Dogs are great, mine is the greatest of the great. When my nightmares start he has taken it upon himself to wake me up. Have you seen a Malamutes paw? A good clout from that wakes anyone up! Yes, I still get woken, but now I just have to tickle behind his ears and we can go both go back to sleep.
Then, I took up fishing, it's a solitary "sport" for the most part and I am out there with nature. Sometimes, I must admit, I have gone out to some rocky outcrop, set up my rods and never even cast them into the water. It gives me a reason to get out into the world and, when there, it has a soothing effect on me. Strange thing is, I don't really like fish that much, not half as much as I like catching one and letting it go.
I have no idea if there is a way to cure PTSD, but there are ways out there to combat its effects on you. I have a few prescriptions for medication noted as "repeat on request" on my Doctors notes, I don't get them anymore, but knowing they are there, if I need them is a crutch I am happy to live with.
Probably the most important thing to do is to talk to your loved ones, your family and the friends you can trust, let them know your issues, let them know the reason why you suffer, (as much as you can) and after time, they will recognise the symptoms better than you do yourself. The best thing I have ever done was to tell my wife, she has stood by me, supported me and made excuses for me when needed. She declines social invites when she knows I will probably not cope that well but accepts them when she knows I am feeling ok.
I hope this helps someone out there.
Its not a dreaded topic but i just think we are not good at talking about it. It used to be part and parcel of military life that you just cracked on. Nobody wanted to admit they felt crap or had problems as it was seen as weakness. Although things are changing and its about time. For me it started in Kosovo in 1999. It was a running joke that i had 9 lifes. I had no kids at the time so spent 9 months out there but during that tour was caught in a serb trap for 19 hours, was involved in an horrific car accident which involved the choice of going into a marked minefield or hitting another car. The car it was unfortunetley not everyone survived, we managed to get the others out when we regained consciousness but i remember vividly the guy we couldn't and the tap tap tap on the steering wheel of the blood as the steering wheel had split and gone through his throat, after we had got all we could to safety i passed out as i had the imprint of my capbadge on my head as i had hit my head that hard. When i woke my mental health support was the padre, never been religious, did not want to talk about it and he decided the best thing to to was bring a surviving member of the opposite vehicle to come see me. He spat at me as you can imagine as his friend had died. Broke every bone in his body as the RMP told me and i couldnt have possibly saved him. (did not help and only made things worse). I had nightmares for about 2 years, vivid, felt guilt, retreated into myself socially but never at work, i could do my job cracked on as was expected at the time. After 2 years i felt i had healed the nightmares stopped and i could function properly again without having to pretend i was okay. I cracked on, went to Iraq lost a friend due to an ND but i grieved and it didn't affect me. I then became a training instructor loved the job as it was rewarding. Decided to transfer to nursing and saw a lot of death and the impact of Afghanistan but did it as i thought it was a job which would secure me a job in civvy street. Despite seeing multiple injuries this did not phase me this included multiple amputations and deaths. I left the service late last year but felt like I was grieving for a loss of identity, i felt like i lost who i was. I thought this was a normal process and to expect some of this. I walked into a well paid job immediately had my pension supported by a lovely commutation of it. I felt lonely as you can imagine as i had moved back to an area which i had been away for 22 years and then reconnected with someone who i had not seen in a long time since Kosovo. They unexpectedly turned up on my door step. Was it great to see them absolutely what i didnt expect was the nightmares to start again from then. After all i have seen and witnessed why is it what happened in Kosovo which is stopping me from sleeping, why is it if the water is left running i can hear the tap, tap, tap of it. I will be honest not slept properly in weeks. Yes i am functioning at work but barely. I am knackered all the time, i am not happy despite having a well paid job and money in the bank, my alcohol intake has increased. Don't get me wrong by no means am i alcohol dependent, i have no suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self harm but beside work during the week on the saturday i can barely get myself out of bed. I feel numb, feel like a failure despite a successful career. I feel like every movement is robotic and i am just getting through the day and have lost my sense of identity. I am putting it on here as i feel people wont understand if i tell someone. From the outside i look successful but inside i struggle everyday to get up.
Hi, I am a London based filmmaker researching a short documentary on veterans suffering from PTSD. The documentary would be told from the perspective of the veterans themselves, and I am looking for contributors who would like to share their story of war and experience of PTSD, but also why they joined the army, what they liked about it, what it was like to go to war and what it was/is like to come home.
Please let me know if you would like to get involved or maybe you know other veterans who do.
You can contact me at this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org