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The definition of what “It” is

Another 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…

“So how did you figure out exactly what ‘IT’ is??

I journal, I read, I research, I’ve done groups, I continue one-on-one therapy
(CBT I 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 for
those 22+ a day (no I’m not suicidal but I have a greater perception of why they
do it).

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 trauma and
I have a good understanding of that aspect – but don’t understand why I just
can’t move forward.

I’m considering 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 I’m
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 absolutely
incorrect.  That’s part of what set me back after all the work I’ve done to try
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 fail.

So, 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. 

Post 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.   

I don’t know what to talk about

This may 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.

Here’s the letter:

“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 healthcare altogether.”

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 up.

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 experience.

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.

Suicide #3

Suicide # 3

PTSD- Suicide topic recap

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 responses.

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.


I spoke 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.”

Hate, hate, hate Part 2

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 through.       

“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

Suicide Post continue

Suicide Post Continued

Another 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”

I 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.

She 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 well.

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