A look inside the mind of Post Traumatic Stress

Greetings all: This is an artical sent to us us Mentors of Spokane Veterans Forum [Sent by Mike Lovas USMCViet Nam]

One of our fellow mentors (Mike Maehl) sent the following
to me.  I found it to be a really clear
tour inside the mind of a vet with post traumatic stress.  I value these glimpses as they help me be a
better mentor.  I hope it serves you as
well:

Gregory Roberts was an infantry staff sergeant with A
Company 2/136 Infantry 1st Brigade Combat Team 34th Infantry Division.  He served in Iraq from March 2006 to July
2007 and in Bosnia from September 2003 to April 2004.  He lives in Lakeville, MN, and is a student
at Northwestern College of Chiropractic.
This essay is adapted from testimony he delivered Dec. 19 to a joint
legislative committee on veterans.

*     Article by:
GREGORY ROBERTS

*     December 24,
2011 – 4:08 PM

The thing they didn’t tell you is that coming home is the
most difficult part of deploying to a combat zone.

Month after month, the thing that kept your chin up was
the thought of home.

When all the stories have been told and retold 10 times
over, the one thing every Joe will talk about are plans of what he’s going to
do when he gets home.

Buy a new truck. Go back to school.  Call that one girl.

Home is painstakingly polished over and over again.  And when you get there, you are let down.

Coming home isn’t the answer to your pain and suffering,
your troubles. Coming home is only the beginning.

But they don’t tell you that.

You have a week stateside before being released back to
your former life — a life that is relatively the same compared to how
different you have become.  But you don’t
realize how much you have changed.

You are no longer the same person.

Things you once enjoyed, you no longer do.  Things you once found antagonizing aren’t
worth the effort to complain about.

And the pettiness of the average person, with their
insignificant problems, pisses you right off.

It doesn’t take long before you realize you are a space
alien on earth. Nobody “gets” you, except your buddies with whom you
served.

Even other combat vets don’t necessarily get you.  Their war was different than yours. Even if
they were in Iraq, like you, things were very different in 2003 than in 2006.

It gets even better when you realize you have a short
fuse and can’t seem to handle normal stress.
You snap at family and perhaps a few friends.

They don’t say anything because they know you are not the
same and are afraid to say the wrong thing.
They never broach the subject because they don’t know how.

Then, out of nowhere, the panic attacks creep in.  At first you think you are having a heart
attack.  And then you think you are going
crazy.

After a few months of dealing with them on your own, you
finally decide to go to the VA for help. They give you pills and a
psychologist.

Sure, you talk to the psychologist, but you know this
civilian does not and cannot understand.

The only people you can really talk to — the only ones
you can relate to — are the mates you served with.  These are your buddies from your squad,
platoon and company.

There is only one problem: After getting off that bus and
conducting the coming-home ceremony, everyone was released — and nobody looked
back.  Avoidance, you could say.

Sure, it’s nice bumping into your Army buddy at the bar,
and you are generally happy to see each other, but there is a part of you that
screams as the memories are dredged up from the bottom.

Not only do you make no effort to reach out to these
friends, but you avoid them.  As you have
begun to avoid everything associated with your war.

This avoidance extends to guard drills.  You still have a year left on your contract,
and that promotion you took while overseas moved you to a new unit — a new
unit with only one or two combat vets.

The thought of putting your uniform on makes you sick,
and you come up with any and every excuse not to go to drill.

So you don’t.

When the situation comes to a head and must be dealt
with, you level with your unit that you have been seeing a psychologist for
PTSD and just can’t do the ‘Army thing’ right now.  They understand, or at least it seems like
that until you get papers in the mail for a demotion.

You choose to fight the demotion and they drop the
issue.  Or, rather, they change the
issue.

Now your unit chooses to dishonorably discharge you one
week before your end of service date as their way of saying thanks very kindly
for all that you have done.

No, I am not bitter at all, thanks for asking.

After some time and the right connections, you get the
dishonorable changed to an honorable.

A year passes; you seem to be making progress.  You’ve ditched the psychologist and most of
the pills the VA gave you for back pain and anxiety.

You’ve learned that the best way to deal with your panic
attacks is to take them head-on and recognize them for what they are. You are
starting to feel a little, dare I say, normal.

And then your buddy shoots himself in the face.

It’s like you have been playing a Nintendo game and were
making some real progress when suddenly the power goes out and — whoops! –
you forgot to save the game.

So you are set back, not to square one, but somewhere
near it, and now you have to fight your way back to where you were.

But you are growing tired of fighting.

Coming home can be every bit as difficult as the war
was.  Units that have soldiers who
recently returned from war must reach out if they should begin to have problems
at drill or at home.

To do otherwise is a disservice.

 

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