January – December 2005
Date: 20 Jan 2005
I found your website really useful, but too late as I was diagnosed with ptsd 18 mths ago, I also self harmed and try to overdose 4 times. But with expert help and medication I am now coming to terms with my past and am happy to report I have not self harmed for 44 weeks and I got married in November last year. I am lucky as my new husband is very understanding.
Date: 20 Jan 2005
I don’t know who you are but thank you.
I need help and although I am in a forces environment, even though i am not serving any more, I am so fucked up because of the bullying I endured. I have army welfare working with me (even though I am ex RAF of 11 years)
I am lost in this world. I have already lost a wife and two kids and I am fast on track to losing my second wife. I cant go on like this for much longer.
I don’t know what to do anymore. I keep myself busy but I am just watching everything go by whilst I am stood still.
Kez (ex RAF Cpl aircraft Tech)
Date: 01 Feb 2005
Hi – I have just found your site and was dumbfounded when I went through your lists. The first block I more or less answered all of the above but it was the second block that grabbed my attention because all I’ve seen so far is aimed at PTSD caused through active service. I honestly thought I was alone.
I was diagnosed with chronic PTSD in the first half of 2002 whilst still serving. Things came to a head when I was on a tour in Kosovo and after I was RTU’d to Germany and considering my past history I sought help. I was basically excommunicated by my unit who wanted nothing to do with me and had to instigate the physciatric procedures myself.
I received counselling and support from the Military Mental Health Authorities in Germany and was diagnosed chronic PTSD triggered by an initiation ceremony’ which included sexual and physical abuse that I was subjected to at the age of 17 shortly after joining my Regiment. It appears that I have tried to bury this through alcohol over the years and more recent disciplinary incidents were triggered by my apparent loathing of what I considered to be incompetence from my senior officers.
Anyway – I was signed off by the shrink because as I said my unit wanted rid of me. I was posted over 500 miles away from my family despite my pleadings that they were the only thing holding me together. The shrink gave me the contact details of one of his colleagues at my new posting. I was determined to see those two years out without incident. The unit was at the time considered non deployable and was in fact the only unit that would take me considering my background of disciplinary problems.
I was doing ok for a while then my so called non deployable unit was deployed to Kuwait in February 2003. I returned from Iraq in July 2003 and wasn’t allowed home to see my family for a week after I got back. I had some leave and went back to my unit. Another incident happened and I was back to square one except this time I didn’t have my family for support. I saw the shrink and he sent me on sick leave in September 2003. Nothing was resolved and he made arrangements for me to see him once a month for about 10 minutes and he just kept sending me home. This went on until I was discharged in May 2004.
I feel as if I’ve just been pushed out of the door after 24 years of service because it was the easy option. As I said at the beginning I didn’t know where to turn because all of the organisations talk about combat stress.
If you would like to talk some more privately then please email me at Andy@ptsd.org.uk
Although Combat Stress appear to be very military they are not MOD controlled and would be able to help and support you as they deal with the PTSD issues and not your military ones. It does not matter if your PTSD came via military action, bullying, sexual abuse or discrimination Combat Stress can help.
Take care my friend and please remember hat I am here to help you if you want an ear to talk to.
Date: 9 Feb 2005
Andy, I come onto your website quite a lot – it is great.
Date: 9 Feb 2005
And I am sorry to read that you have had malicious messages – what a world we live in
Date: 15 Feb 2005
I was medically discharged with a severe disability in 1981. Since then I’ve lived alone with no support or help from Veterans agency, and actually stopped myself from getting help from anyone, thinking I could do it all on my own. I’ve virtually driven myself “Mad” over the last 20 odd years. I’ve now plucked up the courage to contact Combat stress, who have offered me help. I hate myself for the person I’ve become, and hope that somehow my thinking can be altered.. because it’s like someone else occupying my body.
Date: 23 Feb 2005
I have not been to war
Date: 04 Mar 2005
I have been hiding in the clouds for over 30 years. I was afraid I would be locked up or no company would hire me or no insurance company would touch us, and we would be blacked balled. I am very hesitent to say anything because of being hurt. I am very tired and i want to go home. I am tired of fighting. I keep to myself, but my wife does not what to do anymore. she reported me to the VA. I just started talking to the psychologist. I still not sure I can trust anybody. the night mares and flashbacks are getting best of me. she gave me pills to sleep
If you feel you want to talk you can email me for a private and confidential chat.
Date: 10 Mar 2005
I would just like to thank you I use your site often just to refresh my memory. I am still trying to find a treatment to deal with my ptsd.
It helps a great deal knowing I am not alone with this, it is trying to deal with it that is hard.
Date: 23 Mar 2005
I am an Occupational therapist working in Mental Health and discovered your website today via the BBC Health news site.
Some years ago I used to treat outpatients for stress and anxiety difficulties. Some of therse people were elderly- ex-WW 2 soldiers. Symptoms of PTSD can resurface after many years. A website like yours is a very helpful tool for all those brave ex-service personnel suffering from the effects of their involvement in wars.
Congratulations and well done.
Date: 23 Mar 2005
I’m glad I found this website although it is not entirely relevant to my situation. I am finally recovered from the worst aspects of PTSD following a parental suicide when I was in my early 20′s. A childhood utterly destroyed. I know you have seen far worse in service and I really feel for you.
Have faith that it can improve in waves and that rock bottom may be a necessary part of the process but that it’s not so bad as things then start to improve. I know I am stronger now even if I am a slightly different person than I was before.
I wouldn’t wish this horrible form of stress on anybody and am very grateful to all servicemen and women who have served. You will always be in my thoughts as fellow survivors. With the greatest respect, Penny
Date: 24 Mar 2005
Thank you. I’m not a Vet. But a survivor of childhood abuse. I was diagnosed with Schizophrenia in my early 20′s. How accurate that diagnosis is I can’t say, if it was caused by the abuse I don’t know. Maybe the two are unrelated. To the end of last year I made a conscious decision to ‘get better’. I’ve basically dissected myself and taken a good hard look at what was there. I can relate to maybe 90% of what you talk about on this web site. Last year I decided not to keep my childhood a secret anymore. To stop feeling guilty about it. I’m in the process of putting myself back together, and what I’ve read here is going to help no end. Thank you. “Born to lose – Live to Win – Never Give Up – And Never Give In”….. Peace be with you.
Date: 25 Mar 2005
Unlike many who have provided comments, I haven’t been in the military. However, my PTSD occurred in the 1970′s when I was about 11 years old. I was fishing by myself, in Yorkshire, when I was attacked by a group of older boys – nowadays we call it swarming.
My treatment at the time consisted of a quick trip to the ER and a follow up trip to the family GP to deal with the cuts and bruises. Then no other treatment until a few years ago. Unknown to me I’ve been carrying the affects of the attack for 30 or so years. Aside from the flash-backs, I had lots of anxiety, low self-esteem, difficulty making friends, and difficulty being in or around groups of people. Like many with undiagnosed PTSD I thought it was just me and didn’t really make the connection between the flash-backs and the other symptoms – after all, I was very young when the attack occurred. As I look back, the lack of treatment, or any sort of counselling or intervention, defiantly changed my life, hurt my schooling and career choices.
My breakthrough came a couple of years ago when I was in a business meeting and had difficulty making a presentation (e.g. anxiety, heart palpitations etc) because of the group/confrontational nature of the situation that reminded my sub-conscious mind of the original attack. I sought professional help and was referred to a psychologist. Originally I thought it was all about being in groups, but he found the cause of the problem was the attack.
He treated me with a technique called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) If you haven’t come across this before, it basically consists of a flashing light bar. Your eyes follow the flashing lights as you repeatedly, under the direction of the psychologist, go over your traumatic experience. By going over my story of the attack, and triggering and then lowering my anxiety response to it, we found that we could re-train my response to images of the attack. Although not completely eliminated, the flash-backs are few and far between, and other symptoms are down to very low levels. EMDR changed my life. All it took was about 4 sessions to change what I’d been living with for 30 years.
My unscientific interpretation of how it works is that we experience rapid eye movement (rem) when we sleep when our brains process information. The flashing light bar replicates this rem pattern, so by talking through your trauma you can desensitise the experience and your brain will process this. Simply, your brain gets rid of the angry and emotional response to the flashback with a more mellow response.
If you have PTSD symptoms, please seek help. EMDR is one option that worked for me.
Date: 17 Apr 2005
You have put together a great site for helping ex servicemen in their time of need when government agencies no longer want to know them. A friend of mine is suffering from PTSD ( I didn’t know about it until it was on the front page of the local paper), of course the NHS don’t ‘want to know’.
Finding your web site and printing the pages off may be able to help in, and more especially his wife, to come to terms with his past (Gulf war ! in the RAF).
chairman Stowmarket Branch, RAFA.
Date: 19 Apr 2005
Dear sir, thank you for your website, my husband was just recently diagnosed with PTSD.,14 years after Basra road, can you believe it ,it took the tsunami to realize him that he had a problem. It has been a difficult time, it makes it more complicated living outside the UK. but thank you, the information is very clear and very helpful and puts my mind at ease also that my husband is not mad and neither am I. Keep up the good work. greetings from cloggy land and where the tulips grow.
Date: 22 Apr 2005
Hello to all guests past and present and unfortunately the future guests!
I wish I had an outlet like this when I received my gunshot wounds back in October 1991. I have been coping with PTSD for 14 years now, and I must confess it has been a roller coaster ride.
I am making an entry here because I feel that I would like to make a little good come of something so bad.
You see, only we who have been there can understand how we feel and have felt. The rank structure above frowning on your behaviour, the so called stiff upper lip. well I could not tolerate the ignorance of people both military and civilian who would not understand. In there eyes I was lazy.
I had a breakdown 2 years to the day I got shot, and ended up in Woolwich hospital, it was military back then and I found myself for the first time amongst sane normal people who had also been through similar and worse experiences than mine. For the first time in 2 years I was talking to people who understood. People who were let down!
I could type an essay here regarding the next twelve years but will wrap up with the following,
I will never get rid of ptsd as all on here will not, I have grown to understand this enemy within me and control it now more than it controls me. My heart goes out to those who have had it for years and have not been given the support, you see, I believe I was very lucky, A civilian lawyer, a standard personal injury lawyer, tried to help me in the early days and tried to get me some financial loss etc for my injuries and on going care,
I have controlled my ptsd and have a successful business. I’m not saying that it will be the same for all but every little helps.
Cheer up guys, and many thanks to Andy for such a great site.
Date: 23 Apr 2005
Great site Andy, and some good methods of relaxation, which as you said do work. I lately have just left the Prozac club after being told by my doctor that I was suffering from depression and stress which dated back to the Falklands. I served in 82 and then again in 83 [spent nearly a year down there on active duty] It still seems like yesterday. Although I’m now a civi I have changed so much in the last ten years or so, I get angry much quicker and I am void of emotion. My brick wall that I had holding back all the memories for years started to crumble about 3 years ago and confess that I can talk about what I saw at long last, but I daren’t go too deep because I’m scared of what emotions might come through. So I keep trying to build my wall up to protect me again. I confess I feel that all of us ex military folks got NO help what so ever from the gov when we returned home….what’s new.
Anyway at least I’m here, some of my friends never made it back.
Date: 14 May 2005
I have been diagnosed with ptsd since my return from Iraq in 2003. I am a TA bloke. So what my life is worth the same as my regular mates I served with. who by the way were fukin brilliant. The main problem I found was coming home. treated like shit. nobody understands how frightening war is. Had some bad experiences. got to live with them. But I will. Still gettin in fights because I’m a sad old squady.
My advice is see a Good GP. The heads fucked compared to civies. They will never grasp the concept..
Date: 10 June 2005
How many veterans who suffered from PTSD have comited suicide, I’m a NI vet 2 wives later and 35 years on and I’m still having nightmares and flashbacks, I wish id never seen an army uniform
god bless you all
Date: 22 June 2005
I have been a patient at “Tyrwhitt House” Combat Stress for some 21 years.
The staff do all they can to help, but the real help comes from us, the veterans, helping each other to cope.
Talking to others who know exactly what you are going through, because they too are going through their own personal HELL !
I would recommend, Tyrwhitt House, for this reason alone.
Date: 25 June 2005
I found your site through a link on a fusilier site I always thought I had a problem but now iv found your site and seen some of the remarks . I know I have ptsd I’ve been on the bottle for years and have not had a good nights sleep sine 75 thats hard to believe but its true im sure most of my old mates from the battalion have problems as well but who do we talk to. who do we contact for help I cant talk to a civvie about my experiances in N.I
Date: 29 June 2005
Thank you for putting up this great website.
So kind and helpful! )
I have a tip I use to remain calm.
I let the word “relax” run in my mind every moment, not only for a few minutes. ; >
fyi, the reason why I might have PTSD is because I had went through 8 years of domestic violence (all forms of abuse except sexual) by my birth mother.
May everyone who come to your website leave it smiling and feeling much better like I do.
Love and Peace,
Date: 29 June 2005
Thank you Andy for a voice of sanity in my chaotic life. I have worked in child protection for 15yrs and have seen and heard of everything that could be done to a child. I guess it doesn’t matter how you get it the outcome is the same. I feel totally abandoned by the ‘system’, and very isolated by this awful injury.
Like you it was some years before I was diagnosed and I kept working and getting more and more depressed. I am in the position now of having to give up my career in social work (the helper has become the helped!), at the age of 53, and figure out a way of making my life more meaningful.
The organisation I work for has been of no help at all. As with many Gvt Depts, they prefer not to advertise the fact that they were wholly responsible for my injury by lack of adequate debriefing, and failure to provide a safe working environment. I have often had to go into houses where it is known that the parent has a weapon and is a violent drug user, and Police have been ‘unavailable’ to assist. What chances do 2 women have in these circumstances? I am really good at negotiating, but it is unacceptable to expose people to such high levels of stress.
Sorry I’m rambling…
Thanks again for your site.
Date: 11 July 2005
Thank you for your input and interest in a difficult subject. I am a County VSO and it seems to me that the vast majority of people I meet do have this problem (even civilians).
Thanks again, Linda
Date: 19 July 2005
How do I know if I am suffering from PTSD?
I can tick a lot of the boxes, but can not think of a particular stressful incident that make my life the mess it is today. I know I need help. I hope this is my first step. It’s only taken 14 years.
Date: 23 July 2005
Having just done the DSM-IV questionnaire for PTSD on bullyonline website, It is very apparent that I do have the complaint. My problem now is getting my doctor to recognise it. I am suffering from deep seated depression as a result of it and between your website and David Kinchin’s book, am pleased to say that I feel there might be some light at the end of the tunnel. Keep up the good work. Best wishes from a fellow sufferer of both long term PTSD (from my childhood) and complex PTSD from workplace bullying.
Date: 31 July 2005
I’m a PTSD sufferer myself and thoroughly agree with your sites advice ( and humour ) Am also ex-service and applaud the job Combat Stress do on ‘a shoestring’
My wife and I both found things to take away and try, so look forward to coming back soon.
Harry and Aileen Chapman, Flotta, Orkney
Date: 1 Aug 2005
Great site. Boy did I need this. Got out of the mob a couple of years ago after service in NI, Gulf 1 Bosnia et al, never spoke about any of it with wife or family, they just accepted that I was an ‘angry man’ I had a run in with my employers last year and was almost sacked, depression gripped pretty hard and my GP has done a great job, he’s got me seeing the right people. they managed to extract the sleeping problems, nightmares, flashbacks, feelings of isolation and generally ‘going mad’. Anger management didn’t work for me but they feel it is underlying PTSD that is causing my problems (I’m shaking and sweating bullets whilst I’m typing this). It was finally the catalist of the depression and self harm and verbalised suicidal tendencies, following the trouble at work that encouraged my wife to push me to the Doctors and after 15+ years of being a nightmare there is light at the end of the tunnel. It’s going to be a long journey and they are all baby steps but just having a diagnosis helps.
Date: 30 Aug 2005
I was bullied in training by my training instructors. I was suffocated with a plastic bag over my head and then water then poured down my throat then the plastic bag over my head while the water was still in my mouth this went on for about half an hour I then had my pants pulled down and my penis pulled with a pair of pliers, shouting asking me ‘what’s the fucking password’ interrogation they called it? I now suffer with ptsd and have had it now for 10years I need help with legal action? help me
If you would like to email me in confidence via Andy@ptsd.org.uk then I will try and advice you and steer you towards the right people who can help you.
Date: 10 Oct 2005
Excellent web site
Date: 10 Oct 2005
Hi, I’ve never been in the armed forces, my PTSD syptoms come from elsewhere. I have DID. I have been really suffering lately and I really struggle. All attempts at getting help have gone nowhere and I just don’t know what to do anymore. And it just gets worse. I can’t stand the ‘body’ memories. I don’t even know what my ‘trauma’ is. I’ve slowly getting the picture and it sux. I just want it all to stop. I want my life back. I’m unemployed now and facing financial ruin. I need to go back to work but I look like s**t and I just can’t believe this is my life now. I like your website, it sort of helps knowing that I’m not on my own. My family don’t know what’s wrong with me and I don’t tell them. I have an overwhelming urge to flee, to just run and run and run and maybe if I run far enough and fast enough I can leave all this behind. The thought of living like this for the next 40+ years makes me not want to be here. Maybe the website could be expanded to include some testimonies of people that have beaten this thing. The NHS sux and all they did was made me worse.
Hi Ell, I think that you are right. If anyone would like to put their POSITIVE stories of how they have coped with and beaten PTSD please email them to me and I will set-up a new page to publish these for you all to read and hopefully take courage and learn from.
Date: 25 Oct 2005
I have been dealing with PTSD for five years now, and I have been taking Zoloft for two. The Zoloft has helped with the depression and anger attacks, but has not helped with the PTSD. Since looking at your website, I have been able to understand my disorder and deal with it appropriately. Thank you, Melissa De Boer
Date: 28 Oct 2005
Wonderful site Andy, well done, hope its the start of something good.
I joined the British Army aged 17, back in the seventies. then served in NI, and after my court martial at Colchester MCTC, D wing.
Had a assortment of lost and injured mates, resulting in the usual assortment of flashbacks of close encounters an Infantryman experiences on active service.
After years of alcoholism, trashed relationships, emotionally scarred children, bouts of homelessness, prison, drug dependency etc, and an uncountable number of few day jobs., not to mention the hatchet under my pillow, and other blunt instruments and noxious chemicals placed strategically around the home.
I was wiped out mentally and could no longer function, washing my face was a big deal.
Diagnosed with Personality disorder by the first shrink I saw , Alcohol dependant and chronic depression by the next , chronic depression by a GP, who prescribed six different anti-depressants over the course of a few years . I heard of Combat Stress, I called them, and a regional welfare rep called and helped me through the mire of War Pension application lottery.
I was finally diagnosed with PTSD etc, by the specialist selected by the War Pensions Agency, and got a pension, more important than the merger pittance of a pension award , which was promptly clawed back by the income support agency , was putting a name to my illness, the years of shame and guilt I had about myself , lifted, in a way I can’t describe.
The first Combat Stress Rep was a real gent, ex Navy, but the next rep an ex-Army guy, made me feel like a piece of malingering crap, I dreaded his visits, and told him, eventually, I no longer wanted visits, it was a real pity, because I really could have done with a bit of help. but I lost trust in welfare support people . I already feel immense shame about not being able to provide for my kids, and being dependant on government hand outs, I don’t need a guilt trip from some guy, who seemed to have a few unresolved issues himself. It may be paranoia but I got the feeling our conversations were being recorded by him, no doubt for the purpose of accurate note taking.
I hope this does not put people off contacting Combat Stress, after all, who else can you call, ex enlisted guys, have no one else, but the system that claims to help victims seems to be run by ex-Officers and we all know from our military days , there are good and not so good officers, just as in all walks of life.
My contact with various “Support “ Agencies has left me very resentful in that they appear to have a conflict of interest, they seem to have too cosy a relationship with the Veterans Agency and sometimes make the victim feel even more demoralised.
The Veterans Agency also claims to be a helpful organisation, well, I have met a few unsavoury characters in my time, but they are innocents in comparison to the callous sorts I encountered at the Veterans Agency, MOD , medical profession , and associated care bare cushy job brigade.
Yes, even ex- Squadies are prone to a bit bitching and moaning, don’t get me started on the ex-service personnel trying to get justice through the labyrinth of the British court system.
Anyway , thanks again for setting up this site, its long overdue, we need more such resources, in the control of the victims who are looking for common justice and respect , without the controlling influence of the Officer clique, and agencies designed to screw the victim.
Regards to all.
Date: 10 Nov 2005
Thank ~~~~ for that. I was beginning to think that I was the only one of my generation that was suffering from PTSD. I thought that I was weak because I was suffering from it and the other lads in the Regiment were stronger than me and as a consequence I felt useless. I have now been a very heavy drinker for a considerable number of years and my health has suffered accordingly. In the past couple of years I have been managing to control the symptoms somewhat with the help of friends and Combat Stress (a very good org). My days are varied with good and bad, and at the moment what with bonfire night they are bad. I would like to pass on my regards to all and wish them well in the future.
Date: 19 Nov 2005
I am a Somalia vet who is being treated for ptsd. I have to prove one thing happened but truth be told it was a accumulation of things. I was in a fire fight with a weapon that failed. I was in Haiti with all the disease starvation and death and I mine swept off the cowcatcher of a hummvee and they wonder why my nerves are shot. I now face the battle of getting the VA to believe me wish me luck. I forgot to add I’m American and served with the 18th airborne corps us army 93 94
Date: 27 Nov 2005
I just done a really long waffle, to a bloke I respect. his name is Andy. I hope this works but id like to add a link. about poetry. about instead of this disease we can express ourselves. and just like solicitors and psychiatrists we can stand together in civvy strasse. ive been Craig
Date: 30 Nov 2005
A great site that has put my mind at some kind of peace, as I have felt that I am the only one suffering from these symptoms.
I can only thank you for spending the time putting this website together and maintaining it.
My best regards
Date: 15 Dec 2005
hi my name is bones Bartlett and I suffer with combat ptsd I am spending 6 weeks a year at Tyrwhitt house which is an ex service mans mental health unit. it is a brilliant place. I am ex royal navy and I served in the Falklands on H.M.S Sheffield and this kicked in about 6 years ago.
Date: 18 Dec 2005
Andy, you have helped me, more than you know! I was medically discharged from the Military with PTSD, 3yrs ago. I have served in the first Gulf War, 3.5yrs in N. Ireland, Bosnia, Kosova, Macedonia, …etc. I have been to Combat Stress and had similar experiences as you. I also have a drink problem but am trying to address my problems and have found out about an experimental trial for PTSD suffers, in Oxford. I am hoping to be included in the trial and will let you know how it goes.
Keep up the good work with your web-site, it provides hope and concern that I am not alone, as only other PTSD suffers know how it feels!
Date: 21 Dec 2005
Hi Andy………I don’t suffer from PTSD, but unfortunately my Son does. Both he and I have found your site a great relief, and source of info.
“We” are now close to getting treatment (after nearly 3 years of “banging” at all sorts of “doors)
our local MP is on the case.
It never ceases to amaze us; the lack of information that the NHS has on this subject. “We” have recently found a mass of info. on the net re; ptsd & how and where to get treatment…..yet, when presented to the NHS………Wow….too much info. & MOST of it is written within the NHS ? Anyway….thanks again…and keep at it….cheers Bob
Date: 27 Dec 2005
I have visited your site a number of times over the years, looking for answers for my son becoming ill.I knew quite a few years back after reading the symptoms on your site then, what was wrong with my son. Lost count of how many times I have tried to get him to look at your site. I guess he was to ill then because he couldn’t even concentrate to watch TV or read a newspaper let alone going on the internet. It has been a long haul, but he is starting to get his life together again. The other day I got him to look at your site and he could immediately identify most if not all of the feelings and symptoms you describe to his own. I feel you have done a brilliant job with your site and am sure it helps many who visit it to realise they are not alone and with help and support it is possible to start to live again.
Best Wishes Pam Pinder
Date: 29 Dec 2005
I’m a PTSD survivor. Served two terms in the military. I’ve been enlisted, NCO, Officer wife, and served as an Officer in the Gulf war. I have always dealt with stress by ignoring it and dealing with it later. I had two years of intense military training and then served during the war. All this as a 30 year old female competing with women and men 10 years younger than myself. When I returned from the Gulf, I couldn’t get to my unit without crying. I started journaling as I had found it helpful before. My symptoms grew, forgetfulness, confusion, depression, no sleep, and no focus. I jumped at horns, sirens and lights. One day at my unit I started sobbing and couldn’t stop. I was rushed to the VA hospital. I was terrified they would lock me up and made my husband swear to free me. They did a battery of tests to make sure it wasn’t a physical problem (i.e. tumour) and assigned me a psychiatrist. She went into civilian practice 2 years later and I’ve been with her since, almost 10 years. (I have been with 2 psychologists & psychiatrists; some experiences good/some bad) I lived in a black hole (check out Dick Cavets autobiography), hallucination, panic attacks and more for a year. Just as I was recovering, our first child died during delivery. Hmmm, was I a mess? Yep. Took another year but I fought my way back up. Held onto my husband in the stores (while walls & floors tilted), dealt with anger, withdrawal from everyone, and side effects from medicines. I fought against medicines and disability for years refusing to allow this to run my life.
MY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SURVIVAL:
(1)Accept that this is happening to you. It’s chemical imbalance in your body and it needs a little help. There are 30 + antidepressants. Each has a different purpose. Your diagnosis will help locate which one/combination is best. Keep trying. Side effects are a given with medications. Do your research; use the internet, books, libraries and other patients. Example: Prozac left me feeling soulless and angry. This is not an endorsement but I stayed on Prozac during my pregnancies as research and my doctor showed less harmful. I have been on approx 9 diff. meds.
(2) Find a good doctor. Preferably a psychiatrist who can monitor your medication. If the first doesn’t work, get a different one. Fight the VA system if you have to to get another one. Don’t take no for an answer. This is critical. If it doesn’t work, push for them to pay for a civilian. It can be done!! Don’t be surprised if you don’t talk about the war or the trigger to the PTSD right away. Learning to identify and change patterns of behaviour is important and may be a large focus of your therapy.
(3) Get signed up for military disability. Don’t be embarrassed or guilty like I was and wait 8 years. After the cutbacks threatened any VA help I finally filed. There is a VA rep at each hospital to help with paperwork. Use letters from friends, family, work, doctor, anyone who can attest to your problem. Yes, it’s embarrassing. Give up the secret for this. If it isn’t approved, find another rep and try again. Use it to pay for medicines and other expenses. I used my journaling notes for my application. The VA asked for one instance/event and I ended up submitting over 4 life threatening situations; sexual harassment, and a dozen other incidents.
(4) Talk to your spouse/family. Explain there will be ups/downs and figure out how you can support each other. Accept their help. As my husband told me many times, he couldn’t help when he didn’t know what I was feeling.
(5) Take it one day at a time. Accept that you cannot do what you did before. Keep a small notebook handy to deal with forgetfulness. When going out for whatever reason take someone with you and let them be your focus to eliminate outside stressors. Bring your world down to a small circumference around you, gradually expanding it as you learn to cope. Identify what the triggers are. Loud stereos, booming sounds, sirens, horns? Lights and the confusion of colours and patterns in the store? Learn to focus on something close to you and block them out. I found a good size, solid dark object (purse) in my cart helped me to focus. Not unlike Lamaze training.
(6) Relaxation exercises. Can’t stress it enough. Learn to breath and relax. Find some tapes at a New Age store. You must practice!!!
My husband will sit and coach me when panic or crying set in. Breath deep. Pay attention to breathing patterns during depressive episodes.
(7) Don’t make concrete plans and expect that you will carry them out. Your world has changed. Be prepared to change them at the last minute. It’s okay. I found living for spontaneity was best. It’s actually more fun and less stressful than forgetting to show up appointments. Do what you can, when you can. There will be good/bad days, hours, and minutes.
(8) Don’t beat yourself up mentally when faced with the difficulties listed. You are going through enough. It’s okay to tell you family you are frustrated. Share that with them.
(9) Try journaling. This is tough. But until you face your trauma you cannot deal with it. If you don’t know what the trauma is/was use this to track your feelings. Use the technique in #10 to help. I ended up writing a book; record of my whole experience. Stop if it is too difficult and go back later.
(10) Here is a technique my doctor taught me. We have thought patterns which lead us to the emotional trigger for depression. You have to learn to trace backwards what your thoughts were. i.e. * made me cry, ** made me think of that, etc until you get to where your thoughts started straying. This take a lot of practice but is a valuable tool to use in controlling those errant thoughts and learning exactly what upsets you.
I lived in terror of set backs, of falling back into the black hole. Now, I only dread them because using the above I have learned I have some control. There have been 4 occasions when meds stopped working or events created more than I could deal with and I ended up falling back. I will not be able to work a regular job again. I hate not being the competent person I once was and will struggle with it my whole life.
I allow humour to get me through a lot. I guard my diagnosis very carefully as I have been judged by others who do not understand depression and have preconceived ideas that I might kill their children, myself, etc. You know, be that Looney tune they themselves might actually be! At least we PTSD sufferers ‘know’ our problem! PTSD has affected every facet of my life. It will yours also. Accepting it is the hardest part. Forgiving someone else who hurt you is tough. Forgiving yourself for suffering through this is harder. One day at a time.
Thanks Andy for the opportunity to share. I hope a specific column on helpful suggestions/experiences is successful. A combined resource of tried experiences would go a long way in helping many people. Best wishes to everyone.
Many thanks RR for this. How right you are. Those of you reading this who are UK Vets can also get a War Pension from the Veterans Agency but unfortunately unlike our fellow brothers and sisters in America we do not have any specialist hospital to help us. Please remember the highlighted section above, this is excellent advice to all.
Thanks again, Andy
Date: 29 Dec 2005
Luke – Ipswich
I recently got back from being in the gulf… I loved my time in the RN, but was diagnosed with PTSD. came home and nobody wanted to know. I was just going to end it there and then… but a thought popped into my head – if they don’t want to know, then who’s in the wrong? I might be the one with PTSD, but they’re the ones with the problems with it. I got my life sorted now. still have flashbacks. but I’m starting to love my life again.
Date: 30 Dec 2005
I have been suffering from the affects of military induced PTSD since 1968 and have only recently been diagnosed as suffering from this life destroying disorder. Like so many of those who have left messages, I now face bankruptcy and drink due to my PTSD problem and found support through many organisation to get me through the trauma that am going through.
I find it very difficult to talk about my many military experiences throughout my 26 years military service, including “N” number of operational tours with the final being Gulf 1, and during a recent visit to Combat Stress I had to find some way of letting people finally know of the events that affect me so I wrote them down. Yes, it troubled me deeply whilst doing so but the relief once I had done this was worth the effort and pain involved. I cannot even talk to my wife about these events so I gave her a copy of this. As she read my lengthy story she realised exactly what I was going through. I could not accept her verbal comments so, in return, she did the same by writing down what I had been like to live with through our 34 years of marriage about the sleepless nights and the changes in my temperament. Reading this helped me realise that it is not only ourselves that suffer, it is those closet to us who also live the nightmare. My PTSD will never go away but I had, at least for a short period, found some form of relief. It may help others who find it difficult to talk about the things that are bothering them. I don’t know but at least it worked, for me, for a short period of time. There is a lot of embarrassment involved here but it is worth the pain and effort “Don’t suffer in silence” as I have for many years. Yes, there is a lot of embarrassment but there is no shame involved in the way we are. The confusion, depression, nightmares, flashbacks and sleepless nights are still here and will be for the rest of my life.
I am a retired officer who came through the ranks who has only recently been diagnosed and we are a community that are victims of events and circumstances in our lives that were beyond our control whilst serving for our country and “RR” is so right in saying that “Accepting it is the hardest part.” I found this terribly difficult but now I have done so, I feel a little more confident in facing the many hurdles that I now have to confront. I have my “up” and “down” days and, providing you let people know how you are feeling, most will understand and stand by you.
Andy, Sir, you have my greatest admiration for putting together such a great site and given somewhere, for at least some of us, where we can learn from other sufferers, express ourselves and hopefully help others.
A merry Christmas to you all, God bless, keep safe and above all else, “don’t ever give up.”
Thank you KK, I agree with you about writing things down. I too have used this before with professionals at Combat Stress and SSAFA but I have not used this as an exercise to help explain my life and behaviours with my wife. I intend to do this myself over the next few days. Thank you for your message, it has helped me and I am sure will help the many thousands who visit my website every month.
Thank you again. Andy
I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to my website through the Guestbook during the past 5 years. Life is hard for all of us, more so at different times of our lives. There are High’s and many very Low’s and at times life is so desperately unfair and unbearably hard. What has kept me going along my own rollercoaster of a life is the nice words of thanks, support and words of wisdom you all leave here.
Thank you all and I hope 2006 brings us all a better more peaceful life.