Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Okay, maybe by now you have realized that I suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) from combat in Vietnam. I actually feel that I am one of the lucky ones because mine was the late in life onset type. Many men and women find themselves in the grips of PTSD soon after the stressor. I had some symptoms early on such as inability to remember names, excessive responses to loud noises and anxiety after hearing the sound of Huey helicopters. These did not affect my life much so I lived a normal life for many years.

Many Vets feel the symptoms right away after coming back from the war zone. Some of the Vets in my therapy group have had multi-marriages, multi-jobs and addictions to drugs or alcohol. Their lives were affected as soon as they got back.

That is why I say that I was lucky because I lived a normal life for many years. I started having flashbacks about 1995 but they did not totally engulf me. The big problem with my flashbacks was because they started occurring while I was driving. As it turned out, certain songs on the radio would trigger the flashback. Luckily, I was able to get the car off the road before causing an accident. Even at this point, I did not really comprehend what was happening and continued with my normal life.

There were many changes at work that caused undue stress in my life and may have contributed to the old memories breaking through the wall that I had created. I did not associate with Veterans or even talk about Vietnam. I had done a great job of walling off that part of my life. Bad mistake.

About this time, I also became a little more negative about things at work. The administration of my area began to force things on us that I felt were not in the best interest of our department and the institution. An example was a new computer system that a department head was pushing for us to use. They did not want me involved with the main part of the development of this program even though I was the Manager of the area. Therefore, I assisted the accounting side of the program. When it came time to implement the program, old Mr. Negative stood up and said the program would not work the way it was set up. How did I know that? Because I had run, what I call “What If” scenarios repeatedly using different parameters and discovered they failed to include a "deliver to" location in the programming.

Of course, this created an uproar and I was the outcast, which upset me even more. However, when I explained that they had failed to create in the program a method to tell the Receiving Department where the material was to be delivered they listened to me very carefully. We receive over 40,000 line items daily so the Receiving Department would back up very quickly if they could not deliver the material. Accounting and I never liked this particular program anyway and talked administration into going with another program. Millions spent for nothing.

It was things such as this that started to upset me and the flashbacks started becoming more frequent. About the same time, a power struggle started taking place within the department and my boss and I decided to leave the area and stay out of the politics that was brewing. I began helping the Nursing Department create a bar code ordering system and a system for next day delivery of supplies for Nursing.

About this same time, another power struggle was going on by a VP who wanted control of my old department. He won that battle and got rid of the director and managers. At this point, my problems were getting worse but I was dealing with it by trying to ignore the problem. Even my wife could feel that something was not right. She was afraid that I might be having an affair. Guess I was starting to shut down socially and did not want to do things that we normally would do.

One day I attended an informational meeting that I thought was going to tell us the new structure of Purchasing. This VP laid out his plan for the future and informed the group that I (Stanley) was going to be the Manager again. Bad move on his part. You do not tell some one that they will be in charge of an area without first talking to them. I wanted to turn it down because of my problems. A couple people I talked to about it said that was a career-ending move if I did turn it down. Guess it did not really matter at that point because PTSD was ending my career anyway.

I did quickly turn the department around and speeded up the process for ordering via the new computer system. What was a 5 to 7 day cycle was reduced to 2.5 days and I felt that I could get that below 2 days. This was a large department and we processed one million dollars per day in orders. By now, I was experiencing about two flashbacks per day. Not a good thing. I was afraid I might hurt someone if I had a bad flashback.

One day I met with the VP and he informed me that he wanted me to get rid of one of my best buyers. Good buyers are trained to question things and to find the best solution to a problem. He did not like her questioning his authority. This is when I went ballistic. I called him an ‘asshole’ and felt that I was ready to pound the shit out of him. He must have sensed that he was in big trouble and made a quick exit.

We had a department called EAP (Employee Assistance Program) which helps employees with work or home problems. I went down to them, told them I have a problem, and needed help. They sent me to the Psychiatrist and she said at the end of our session that I had classic PTSD.

I immediately went on Long Term Disability and finally decided to take early retirement. I did not want to hurt any of the wonderful employees that I had hired and had dealt with for many years. I was able to get Social Security Disability and the judge that heard my case told me to go to the VA and apply for benefits.

If you are already familiar with the VA, you know that process is a long drawn out one. Mine did not take as long as some that I have heard about. I did have an advantage in that I already was rated at 30% disability due to my mangled foot. After talking with the VA Psych department, I was awarded 100%. So now, you know that part of the story.

If you feel you are having problems adjusting after combat, please seek help from the VA and do not wait for 30 years as I did. I hope our little talk helps someone and good luck.

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