letter that came to us which reminds me of Bill Clinton’s answer “it all depends
what the definition of ‘It’ is”. Below
is a letter we received from one of our followers. I’ve seen it asked in different ways and I’ve
talked about it before but from my elementary school teacher days I will repeat
it as often as need be to help answer the question. Here’s the letter…
how did you figure out exactly what ‘IT’ is??
journal, I read, I research, I’ve done groups, I continue one-on-one
think is what it is) but I still find myself feeling more and more
confused. Which causes me to fall deeper and deeper into depression.
I am so far
down at this point that I truly understand and have a huge amount of respect
those 22+ a day (no I’m not suicidal but I have a greater perception of why
I have an
excellent team of Doctors that have been helpful, to an extent, but I can’t
get over ‘IT’ if I don’t know what ‘it’ was is. I know what caused my
I have a good understanding of that aspect – but don’t understand why I just
can’t move forward.
stopping my therapy because…well, seriously, it’s been over 2
years and I feel like I’m going backwards instead of forward and I feel like
just wasting their time when there are others that might benefit more from the
time I waste of theirs.
And the VA
C&P examiners are of no real value, that’s what threw me backwards.
Some of the allegations and guessing with her statements were
incorrect. That’s part of what set me back after all the work I’ve done
and get better.
I just don’t
understand and I’m tired of trying when it seems the
progress I had made was all for nothing – it’s hard to explain.
I just want
some semblance of normal, my new normal…whatever you want to call
it. I’m just tired of trying and feeling like the harder I try the more I
there it is. It is complex to talk with
some people. Sometimes I have felt this
same way and I don’t know why my instinct was to just keep pushing
forward. I had no real scientific evidence
that what I was doing was even helping.
In fact, when the PTSD was finally labeling me, I was sure that “it” was
what I was suffering from. It was only much later that I decided to go to
the VA and find out for sure and get classified.
has simply become my new reality. I don’t
see a mental health provider currently except for my wife who does chime in on
occasion. As far as a mental health
provider or ground support or anything like this I do not although I am not
averse to it either. It just is that I
seem to have a bit of control of “it” now and I’m OK with where I am, now. But, as you can obviously see, I still post. I, personally, love doing it now. I now it
helps me stay clear and hopefully it helps others who I always assume will
sooner or later experience something similar.
sound like a silly thing to some of you but to others it might be painfully
true. I was very glib when I was young. I loved taking exams in a blue book because I
could talk and talk about almost anything.
Even when I knew nothing about a subject, I could usually bluff my way
if I only knew a few facts. So, when I
got this message from one of my followers, I took a bit of time to think about
it and then to decide to write about it.
“This must be why I’m
so ashamed/guilt ridden that I cannot fully open up to my
therapist (who is an excellent therapist) but gets frustrated
because I don’t
discuss things that actually bother me. Instead I talk
about stupid irrelevant
things. I’ve even been considering stopping my mental
I remember when I
started writing about my own PTSD.
Remember I had no idea that PTSD was even a thing. All I knew is that there was something
different about me. I had expected
things, for me, to be normal once I returned home from Vietnam. At first, I blamed it on being away for a
year and my adjustment to being back home.
Then I even blamed others for changing or for them making comments about
me. I was not sleeping, drinking too
much, and overreacting to things going on around my life. Sometimes I was numb sometimes I was
hypersensitive. In short, I was messed
I decided to do
something about it. I never considered a
therapist because, at first, I believed it was everyone else that was screwed
up and not me. I knew no one either in
my family or even among my friends who was seeing a psychologist. As a matter of fact, I always thought that a
psychologist saw “crazy people” and I didn’t consider myself as being crazy. I never even considered a therapist honestly. I never considered the VA either. I thought that once I was out of the service,
it meant I was finished with that part of my life. My family was tiptoeing around me, afraid to
make me angry or upset by saying something that I would take offense at. I had no friends either in or out of the military
that I was close enough to, to open myself up to. I was alone to deal with my feelings. So, I decided to start writing myself notes
about what I was feeling or experiencing so that maybe I could understand it
better. I thought this would be easy,
but I discovered even though I was writing to myself I was still being
critical. Was this thing Important? Why
should I waste my time on that?
Sometimes I would write
a word or phrase and other times I’d write more. I’d rewrite things because it was like once I
would write things down, I’d realize that what I was writing, really wasn’t
exactly right once I wrote it down. I
threw a lot of things away because they seemed irrelevant once I had written
them. I’d have slips of paper all over
the place until I decided that none of, any of this, was important yet
everything might be important, at some time in the future. I reread things trying to figure out what I
was trying to say and why I was saying them, and then adding things or detracting
things. The thing that I realized,
finally, was that this was my exploration and I didn’t have to explain myself,
or answer to anyone and the growth from that realization was a freeing
So, let me assure you,
it doesn’t matter what you write but that you write. Do it as a routine which takes time to build
up to. If you see it as a chore then you
are not seeing it correctly. This is not
for anyone else but you. Your writing is
a gift to yourself. I tried to see this
like this, I am walking around with my pockets full of sand. The sand is your PTSD burden. Every time I would stop to write I was taking
a little of the sand out of the pockets and throwing it away. I wouldn’t notice the loss at first but
little by little I started to feel the pockets getting lighter and lighter. I
knew that things were starting to change and when that happened, I was encouraged to continue writing. It was becoming easier to say what I was
experiencing and I was being less critical of myself except when I noticed that
I was saying the same thing over and over and I hadn’t realized that I was in a
rut and didn’t know it.
The trap for me was
when I felt so confident that I was in control that I let my guard down and
didn’t write for days or weeks. Little
by little I felt things changing again but not for the good. I quickly picked up the pen and paper and
started getting back into my routine.
You are reading this because I am sitting down and writing. It has been 50 years since I left
Vietnam. I’m writing now not only for me
but for you too. I discovered along the
way #23. Some of you may be familiar
with this some not. MY #23 on my bucket
list was to try and help a stranger who has PTSD and needs a shoulder to lean
on. This is my call for you to come to
our site www.beyondptsd.org and start
your own journey.
I’m quite baffled by PTSD sufferers. Firstly, I know that there are many who visit both this Facebook page
and also our site at militaryptsdforum.com. There are many who complain
about their symptoms on this Facebook page. They complain about the VA and how
the VA hasn’t “cured” them. They complain about how I haven’t fixed
them and then they complain about how miserable their lives have become since
they were added to the PTSD statistics. I have warned so many about
Facebook and these sufferers and their willingness to publicize to the World
that they are a PTSD patient not knowing who may be reading their
confessions. This warning of protection resulted in quite a few people
criticizing me for some reason. I do believe that you are welcome to say
whatever you want but I am starting to believe that though many talk a good
game, few really have any interest in trying to heal themselves. I guess
these people want to find an easy out and complaining is their starting point
but unfortunately their ending point too.
Someone came up with an idea that I thought was a good one. They suggested that I select topics to
discuss on our website at www.beyondptsd.org,
which is completely confidential and
allows for anyone to speak freely without the danger of an unwanted viewer exposing them and/or their hidden
feelings. I thought that this idea had some merit, so I opened the
discussion with his suggestion. At first, the topic “Triggers” received
zero responses. I complained on Facebook and admitted my disappointment. As a result, received 4 responses on our web site.
Considering that there may be, as many as, 400,000 military PTSD sufferers in the United States, this seemed rather an anemic number of
responses. But I rationalized that perhaps the topic was wrong.
I then offered a warning about what the next topic was going to be
so that anyone with something to say would have a time to think about it.
My second topic was “Suicide”. With the magnitude of this issue, in many
people’s minds, I thought this would be a very thoughtful conversation that
might lead us to interesting possibilities to think about and explore
further. That was my thought. I warned not to admit to anything on
Facebook and welcomed ideas at out site. After three days, we received 2
I’ve repeated to all, repeatedly, that this is not my site, alone.
It belongs to all PTSD sufferers. With 7.7 million in the United States, I
felt that it would offer everyone a place where we (those who have PTSD and
their caregivers), can come and safely discuss their issues. There is no right
or wrong thing to say but everything said has value. I strongly believe
that we , as a group, have the answer buried in us somewhere.
I am sorry that those who feel discouraged because of their PTSD,
choose not to write but hopefully, they might read. I am sorry that those
who already have found some peace in their own struggles with PTSD have chosen
to ignore those who might benefit from seeing and hearing of their successes in
the battle. In general, the apathy of PTSD sufferers is so shocking to me!!
It seems complaining is the easiest choice so everyone wants to complain and yet very few will lift a finger to start to figure out
their own healing.
in my discussion of suicide, that I attended, led by, Col. Carl Castro. He stated at this conference that the Army cannot
figure out what to do about the suicide issue. After seeing the response
to my request for a discussion about it, I can see why. The excuse of
“I’ve never contemplated suicide” doesn’t fly with me. All this really
says to me is that, not only do I not have any ideas that might advance the
subject so I won’t even take the time to think about it. So sad!!
We who have PTSD are the key to finding out the answers but only if we want to
do something more that complain or say, “Tell me what I can do?” It is
you who must pledge to help by participating. I have just as many possible
answers as you. Some of mine might be right, some might be wrong, but all
possibilities are worth discussing. I have mentioned this African proverb
many times both in my book, and also at the web site and probably here on
Facebook too. The proverb goes, “If you don’t think one person can make a
difference then try locking yourself in a tent with one mosquito.”
Several days ago, I wrote a post entitled “Hate,
Hate, Hate”. I explained how I looked at
a specific incident, the shooting in a gay nightclub in Florida. I tried to show how there are arguments on
both sides regarding gun possession and also the LGBT conversation but that in
order to really have any chance to sorting things out, we needed to stay away
from incendiary language. Apparently,
this issue must have struck a chord because I received dozens and dozens of
follow-up posts from other PTSD sufferers and their caregivers, who appreciated
a more thoughtful approach to lots of our current arguments. But I also received a post from someone who
obviously was not an Obama fan. It was a
cartoon of Obama planting a kiss on the rear end of a character that looked
like a sheik. As I warned with the title
of my “hate” post, it had nothing to do with a rational argument but the
lobbing of an anti-Obama bomb where there was, obviously, no positive results,
that the Obama regime had been able to accomplish because of the rhetoric surrounding
his 8 years in office. The anger poured out
even hotter than ever, after my response. I tried to explain the opposite point of view
to his post. In fact, it got worse as he
answered my post. Nothing I could say
would ease the situation and trust me I tried to stay away from accusations and
name calling. Example #1
At around the same time I also saw a video of a
middle age guy who was wearing a MAGA hat daring anyone to try and knock the
hat off his head. Of course, this
followed by a horde of responders who, obviously, were anti-Trump. All I could think was when I was a teenager
and I remembered that I, too, was looking for a fight at every turn, as a
response to anyone who didn’t go along with what I had to say. But I also remember how I had grown out of this
stage when I grew up. I was shocked at how far the Tribal sides had gathered
and willing to go to “War” over a hat. I
can easily see this simple challenge resulting in some dire consequences. Example #2
At the same time my wife was watching a podcast
about a knitting project where the person giving the podcast spoke of this
Cherokee quote. My wife wasn’t familiar
with this and so I looked it up and showed it to her. She loved it and if you like it too, and
haven’t seen it, it will make sense to you regarding the times we are living
“An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about
life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight
and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed,
arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride,
superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace,
love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity,
truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and
inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought
about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply
replied, “The one you feed.”
It’s the one you feed. Where as the kind and gentler America where
we offer a shoulder to lean on or a kind word to share? I remember once going to a therapy when we
were first married. There was a
philosophy that encouraged the anger we were all hiding inside. The therapist was suggesting that we take a
tennis racket and yell and scream at a pillow that we’d temporarily renamed for
our enemy. The psychologist theorized
that getting the anger out would do us a World of good.
I’m not sure whether this worked for me or not
since I felt some relief at venting, yet I also felt enormously angry more so
then I was comfortable with. It seemed I
was feeding my angry wolf
letter continues to deal with the suicide issue and I know this is a complex
issue that needs to be looked at from various angles and philosophies. Here is another worth a moment to ponder.
“I understand the logic behind the thoughts and ideas of suicide. People will grieve my passing whether it’s today or tomorrow, so that issue, for me, is moot. I have excellent mental health providers but I do not want to be a career patient. I have attended many groups offered but I’m still not comfortable ‘talking’ about my issues – it’s just who and how I am. But, at the same time, just talking about anything such as the weather, how fast my lawn grows, pretty much anything helps divert my attention from my PTSD and focus on something that I normally would otherwise not focus on. I don’t get this opportunity much because I don’t really get out unless I have an appointment or my husband really persuades me to do something – but I’m comfortable being in my own space at home.
My husband also suffers from PTSD and our issues are completely different and we have completely different triggers and so forth which makes it extremely hard for me (and for him as well I’m sure) because I hate to see him going through his troubles and I’m certain he feels the same. Somehow, we’ve made it work this long but every day is a double battle. I’m afraid to express myself so it doesn’t affect him yet having the need to just talk even if it’s not about anything. This is why I talk to my dogs – extremely therapeutic for me. I have kids but they have their own lives, families and needs. I have siblings who also have their own lives, families and needs – so I don’t want to burden anyone. There are very bad days when I am completely certain that it will be my last day on earth (which is most days) but somehow, I pull through. Maybe one day I won’t just continue and I’m ok with that, but I will fight as hard as I can every day until I can fight no more.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I have my plan when I get to that point. For now, I try to be a listener to those that want it, this helps me probably more than it helps the other individual.
Thanks for covering this topic…I got to vent and that’s a good thing”
like her spunk and her realistic view of her plan. This was never my plan, but she is
entitled. It is her life. The only thing I disagree with is her choice
to not talk about hurting. I have not
seen or heard anything that works except this.
As my wife said, and I’m repeating myself. When I asked her about her job and how long a
person has to talk about their problem?
Her response was, “A person has to continue to talk about their issues
until they don’t have to talk about them anymore.
is on to something when she said “I try to be a listener to those that want it,
this helps me probably more than it helps the other individual” Our website www.beyondptsd.org
allows you to listen to others but also be able to post your own thoughts, as