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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.

PTSD-cmyk

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.

Disagreeing with a post-PTSD

Disagreeing with a post- PTSD

After my blog yesterday I received quite a few name calling responses from people who don’t agree with me.  This is such a shame because it immediately puts people into their chosen corners.   Many, who are reluctant to take a position because they are tired of personal attacks that they might receive.   You see, it doesn’t matter what side of any debate you take there are always some on the other side who are just as sure that you are wrong that they are quick to jump on you and usually it begins not with a cogent opinion or argument but instead, “You are an idiot” or something similar.  This is a tip that I believe will allow for more of an intelligent discussion rather then a missile lob from one side followed by n equal and opposite lob from the other.

This is one of the reasons that I have had to read each post submitted before I enter it.  I don’t care what anyone says about themselves, or any of their own personal experiences but I do not want to have anyone attack what anyone else says about themselves.  I know personally that it is immensely hard to bare your soul only to hear feedback from someone saying something derogatory, or worse, something they think is amusing but is mean spirited.  I love hearing supportive comments which, I feel, encourages additional opening up.  PTSD sufferers may have been in the closet for a long time and a lame comment to them at the wrong time does nothing but drive them back into hiding.  I know that some of these people thing that what they say is humorous but honestly most are just not that funny.

I’ve gotten so far down the road with my own admissions that, though I’m not happy to hear the derogative things, I’m not crushed by them.  I simply wish people would try and say their point of view without the name calling.  Your experiences are different then mine and mine different than yours.  Because you don’t or won’t understand doesn’t mean that either of our experiences are wrong.  I’m telling my truths at this sight.  These posts are mine alone and they are intended to help others open up and let the light shine in.  They say that sunlight is the best disinfectant.  When you are ready please come and share yourself with others www.beyondptsd.org is our web site.  There are lots of things to read and comment on. This could be an easy way for you to get started on your own path to healing.  PTSD is a formidable enemy and we are here to support you any way that we can.  If there is something that you feel could be beneficial to everyone please share it.  I truly believe that we as a group holds some of the keys to solving the PTSD puzzle.

Hate, Hate, Hate PTSD

Hate, Hate, Hate
I sometimes look at things and try to break it down into its simplest parts so as to understand it better. This is like a binary code where everything is a series of yes, no or “0” or “1” numbers. So, everything becomes a series of opposites. Love/ Hate, War/ Peace, Acceptance/ Bigotry, Science/ Religion, and so forth. Unfortunately, emotions are hard to calculate since they are influenced by the beholder. Having PTSD or Moral Injuries, further clouds the water since judgement is influenced by our own experiences.
After many years of trying to self-analyze myself, I’ve come to know myself better which may be the only positive that has come out of my PTSD experience. (I would recommend it to others too since it allows growth). When I do something that seems to be out of character for me, I still write it down and try to figure out why? This continues even up to today, and I attempt to understand not only what I’m feeling but why I’m feeling it? I think more people should do this instead of jumping to a side and staying there even when in their hearts they know they are wrong. My saying is, it is never too late to do the right thing.
The mass murder in Orlando, Florida is an example of my thought process. I tried to figure out exactly what I was feeling about it and why others have come to diametrically opposite conclusions from my own. Just as in other mass shootings I see basically the same two sides starting to enlist their teams. One side wants to blame it on too many guns, the other on not enough guns. Obviously both sides cannot be right. Whenever something like this occurs, I try to look to the logical conclusions if both sides had their way. Therefore, one side would have no guns and the other would have everyone carrying multiple guns. This is absurd to think about because it couldn’t possible happen. Our Constitution allows people to bear arms with a regulated militia so we couldn’t take guns away since the Constitution grants them. Hunters, target practice people, even those who chose to defend themselves have a voice in this and their side has some compelling arguments. The opposite side look at their personal situations and their fear that left unregulated life becomes more perilous. Their side must be attended to, as well. 
The question then is, “Can we not agree on someplace that we can come together where each side has to give and take a bit? There are some questions that can not have a definitive answer. Does asking for a slight change in the existing law immediately mean that those asking for some relief want to get rid of the 2nd Amendment? Is there not some sensible mid-ground that isn’t so politically charged?
The second part of my thinking was the obvious choice of the shooter to choose a gay bar to do his killings. I hope that this was not a purposeful choice but there have to be many more straight bars than gay bars so this might have been his target. I’m using some deductive reasoning on this issue since I am no surer about of the answer than the next guy. 
What is it about LBGT that gets straight people so upset? I certainly don’t get it. None of them have ever hurt me. Since they’ve been legally allowed to be married I haven’t felt that my marriage has been harmed. I don’t see where Heterosexuals have a lock on a happy marriage since the divorce rate is over 50%. LGBT people seem to be what would be referred to as “Normal” to me.
I know there is a Religious argument in here and I’ve said many times in this blog I am not a very religious person. Apparently, there is a passage in the Bible that condemns Homosexuality. Again, what the passage or verse is I couldn’t tell you, but there is also a passage in the Bible that says that God made man in his own image. Nowhere in the Bible, I’d be willing to bet, does it say that someone else created the homosexuals. Does this not mean that God made homosexuals too? Since the New Testament talks more about love than retribution. Does this not seem incongruous for those who claim to be religious, that we should not love someone just because they are different? Does God not want us to love one another? Instead in some alternate Universe he wishes us to kill others that we don’t care about? Nowhere in my wildest imagination can I see a World where someone’s God would want anyone to enter a nightclub and kill 49 homosexuals.
These are 2 of the issues I’ve been thinking about. Now about my PTSD. Because of my disaffection for War and killing, I am so saddened by this mass murder and every mass murder inclusively. Muhammed Ali said it clearly when he refused to go and fight in Vietnam. He said something like, “I refuse to go to some foreign land and kill dark skinned people just because my Country orders it”. Honestly, looking back on it I wish I could have mustered up the courage to have resisted the draft too.
I am against hate and violence and have attempted to always look for a possible peaceful solution instead of the opposite. I hate candidates who are constantly playing on the frailties of people to stir them up with rhetoric that is so divisive. “Build a wall, Ban all Muslims, Too many immigrants, Women are Pigs”. I just am against Hate. Are we not the UNITED States of America? Doesn’t the Constitution say ALL MEN are created equal? The Statue of Liberty proclaims, “Give us your Tired and poor and huddled masses yearning to be free”. Is this just a saying or do we believe it? Do these solid rocks on which have created this wonderful Country only apply to the certain ones that someone decides are deserving? Or is it like George Orwell said, “All men are created equal it’s just that some are more equal than others.”
I received a post from an old High School pal who said, “I’m 75 years old and I only want to sit back and let the young people figure it out and frankly you should too”. I’m sorry for his position, I’m really saddened by it. I refuse to allow things to happen around me that I disagree with and choose to sit it out and let others make the choices for me. Our voices must be heard. Being silent is sometimes a tacit agreement. Whoever said that we “should never speak about Religion or Politics” was not speaking to me. I know I’ll be criticized for talking Politics at this site and “what does this have to do with PTSD?” My answer is that this current situation, where everything is divisive, stirs up my PTSD. I don’t want to hate everyone who disagrees with me. I don’t want everything to be Hate, Hate, Hate. We should be able to disagree and still be friends.

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