Monday, March 9, 2009

Guest Blog

Another blogger, Michele Rosenthal, has a wonderful site about PTSD with lots of helpful hints in dealing with the condition. She commented on my site and requested I do a guest topic on her site. I am posting what I sent to her. Her website is Please check out her site because it has tons of helpful information about PTSD. It will take me days to go through all her information.

Guest Blog

Hi,…I am a Vietnam Veteran suffering from PTSD and Michele asked me to write something on her blog. If you are recently back from Iraqi or Afghanistan and you do not feel right mentally, seek help. If your wife, husband, or family thinks you have changed for the worse, seek help. You probably have the beginnings of PTSD so get help ASAP. When you get back from war, you should notice positive changes in your character. However, if the negatives out weight the positives, then seek help.

The VA is offering you returning vets 5 years of fast care in the system. Now what you and I think is fast is not the VA form of fast. At least, do not be afraid to try, and make an appointment to be seen by one of their many Social workers and Shrinks. They will very easily, in most cases, identify if you do or do not have symptoms of PTSD.

I believe that most forms of PTSD from combat manifests itself fairly soon after coming back from combat. We Vietnam Vets did not have that luxury because the mental illness did not exist in the books. The Vietnam Vet brought this problem to the forefront and now it is recognized.

The other form of PTSD manifests itself later in life. Mine took this form. Sure, there were little things that began fairly soon such as the inability to remember peoples names and a heightened sense of awareness of my surrounding. I was able to function in a job and keep jobs. Twenty-seven years later the flashbacks started to occur. Mine started while driving which in itself was a scary adventure. It turns out the reason was certain music from the Vietnam period would trigger my flashback. I would have one a month, and then a couple a month until near the end, I was experiencing two to three per day.

I was seeing body bags and faces of my friends that died. I would dream of “incoming” at night and end up on the floor to be low to the ground. Good sleep turned to bad sleep. The worst thing for me was the fear that I would hurt one of my employees during a flashback.

When I finally sought help, the shrink (she luckily did her internship at the VA) immediately identified it as PTSD. The facility where I worked and was Manager of a large department put me on long-term disability. Behavioral Services put me on medications and began therapy and EMDR treatment. I quickly started to show improvement but not enough to function in a normal world. Hyper-awareness, agoraphobia (fear of leaving your safe zone), depression, anxiety, were all part of the symptoms.

I stepped on a booby-trapped grenade in Nam and developed a fear of even walking in the yard for fear of another explosion. You literally cannot function the way you did before.

Do not let it get to this point. Seek help and get on medications, therapy, group therapy and EMDR. Get a good experienced EMDR therapist but I am sorry to say they are currently rare in the VA system.

Because it was not a recognized diagnosis until late after the Vietnam War, many WWII and Korean War vets developed and have PTSD. In my group therapy, we have one of each from those wars. One of these men had almost 50 jobs in 50 years. He is much better now with meds and therapy. My therapist calls my office in the basement, my cave or safe zone. Do not get stuck in your cave. Seek treatment from the VA immediately.

Next time I will talk about dealing with the VA and what a mess that system is or has been. It is getting better but needs a lot more work.

Semper Fi

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