48 Hours In Iraq
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PTSD and the rest of the war vets

The prince of narratives Andrew Sullivan fails to read a piece by Grim and turns what is a discussion amongst us to a beef. Actually Grim responded to Kat's post not she to his. Kat asked.

The best way to mitigate stigmatization of these conditions, improve acceptance, increase treatment and reduce the chances of PTS becoming "chronic" or even PTSD turning into suicidal tendencies, is to accept it ourselves.

Isn't it time we milblogs stopped worrying about "the politics" started having a real conversation?

Grim answered.

What you need to know, first and last, is that so-called PTSD is not an illness.  It is a normal condition for people who have been through what you have been through.

Grim wrote one of the best treatments of a difficult topic I can recall. Unlike Sully's single quote, taken alone, Grim did not minimize the horrors that lurk in the head of anyone who has seen combat and terror up close and personally. Quite the opposite, what he does is to normalize it. He tells our returning troops that they are not broken if they are feeling screwed up and unable to deal. I talked about the same topic here.

Now there comes a divergence here and it concerns when someone has experienced such emotional trauma that they are actually ill. We have a tendency in America to develop syndromes for the reactions people have to traumatic events and other things that affect their mental stability. The reason Grim said, and I agree, that PTSD is not a disorder or illness is that implies it is an outside agent that can be treated or medicated away. Wrong, it is your brain simply trying to make sense out of senselessness and consequently punting on the whole situation. Calling it an illness also implies that you either have it or you don't. Wrong again, anyone who returns from war has some measure of this effect, so it should more properly be looked at as a continuum based on what you experienced and how your mind dealt with it.

That was one of the main reasons for writing about it in this way. We don't want to minimize in any way at all the horror that lives in the heads of anyone. It is also vital to note that when the effect is so debilitating professional care is necessary and vital. Any lapses we have on dealing with those whose lives are at risk must be fixed. But that is not really what either of us was talking about.

Grim gave many examples of how to deal with a change that doesn't really ever change back. Essentially he was offering an alternative to therapy that was in effect it's own therapy, just one more palatable to the bulk of military folks. What do you figger the odds of me sitting in group therapy is? But if I take his suggestion and take up an avocation then I have a place to channel myself that I control and enjoy. It also deals with several of the effects that un dealt with can become PTSD, such as aimlessness, lack of discipline, and feeling alone.

The overall point we were both aiming at was that you are not different, or broken, or ill. You are experiencing any sane human's reaction to the savagery of war and terrorism. That doesn't make you feel better magically, but it should help as you figure out how to deal with it. And it serves as a reminder that everyone else is dealing with it in some way too. Isolation is one of the worst and getting involved with like-minded and experienced folks is what the therapists would recommend anyhow.

So far from minimizing the difficulty of returning vets, it is a recognition that this is not an illness that affects only a few of us. It tells all of those with pain that they are not alone. Kat makes a great reminder that we all need to keep an eye on those who aren't making it and get them professional help before they fall.

Some prior Blackfive PTSD Posts:

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