Van Beek: PTSD — Vets, law enforcement, first responders and you
We’ve all heard of post-traumatic stress disorder. What is it? Why do some people go through trauma and seem to emerge unscathed, and others are devastated by it? Does that mean they are weak or flawed? Do men and women experience trauma differently?
With the year we’ve had, many people have suffered trauma that others will never know. Here is a peek at what some may be going through. It can impact a person physically, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. While PTSD is commonly associated with those in the military, it affects people of all ages and walks of life.
One scenario: The barbecue was great. Good friends, great food, beautiful weather, amazing music … all you could want for a summer afternoon. Yet, on the way home, seemingly out of nowhere, your heart started racing, you’re finding it difficult to breathe, you can’t seem to focus (where was I going?), and an overwhelming wave of sadness engulfs your entire being.
What’s going on? Are you having a heart attack? Arriving home, you begin feeling lightheaded … then come the flashbacks. Suddenly, you’re back there again, reliving it … maybe this time, you can create a different outcome, yet, you know that’s impossible. You can’t fix it, yet you can’t seem to stop it from returning.
Traumatic events happen to everyone. It’s normal to have a reaction, but that reaction may last longer than you expect. Others will say, just get over it. Think about something else. Stay busy, so you won’t have time to think of it. Get a pet, it will take you mind off it. Go on vacation, you’ll feel better.
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The problem is that whatever you do, wherever you go, there you are … along with your memories, emotions and vivid images. You try to escape but there is none.
You begin wondering, what’s wrong with me? I need help, but if I tell anyone, they’ll think I’ve gone insane. My co-workers expect me to simply deal with it because we are all professionals. My spouse is so supportive, yet I don’t want to burden her/him with this trauma, the pain is too great. My boss expects me to suck it up and get the job done. Everyone says they want to help but I don’t know what to ask for.
Sometimes, the pain is so immense that I don’t think I can bear it another day. More frequently than I care to admit, I see only one exit door and it’s permanent. I would never admit that several times I’ve tried to go through that door, but it seems, I can’t even do that right. I’m failing at everything.
I don’t understand what’s happening to me. I long for the days when I felt “normal.” I still have those days, but increasingly, they are being encroached by this thing that arrives unexpectedly and overstays its visit.
Apparently, this thing has a name — PTSD. The initials make it sound like something cute … I have PTSD, like I was talking about a new car, yet I don’t want to own it. I’m experiencing symptoms of PTSD, is more accurate, but anyway you say it, it’s a nightmare — sudden, confusing, fear-inducing, and physically exhausting. What’s worse, I don’t know where to turn. Those I see with it are heavily medicated and that is not how I care to live my life.
This is the daily existence of someone suffering with PTSD. The initials are used so often, it has almost lost its meaning, yet for those who have it, the stress of walking that tightrope of behaving normally and feeling like you are losing your mind becomes blurred. That exit door moves closer every day.
The thing is, PTSD impacts people on multiple levels, thus, you go to the doctor with physical ailments, the psychiatrist with the mental and emotional repercussions, but sometimes there is missing another element … the spiritual one.
Whether it’s religious prayer, or a secular meditation, there needs to be a space where you can delve deeply inward, to connect the physical and emotional with the spiritual elements, to push that exit door back and eventually out of the room, to get reacquainted with the real you.
Children attempting to recover from trauma must be carefully observed because they simply don’t have the maturity or experience to articulate what is happening to them. Women, who are often more attuned to their needs and feelings, can often rely on one another because there is a common language of support, sensitivity, and intuitive instinct; women will tell you that guys just don’t seem to have it.
Men have the hardest time asking for help. Some of it is cultural conditioning, some of it is their own expectation of being the protector and provider. It is particularly strong in professions that require huge amounts of those traits, like the military, law enforcement, and first responders.
There are places for help, and while it’s an overused phrase, you truly are not alone, so please reach out.
For mental health support and potential financial aid:
Eagle Valley Behavioral Health: Their local crisis response number 24/7 is 970-306-4673 and the website is EagleValleyBH.org These are your neighbors and friends, here to help you.
Another great program, targeted to men, particularly those with military trauma, is at 4 Eagle Ranch. Mike Berry has several programs that have helped men from around the world who suffer from combat stress. The program reaches the spiritual element so necessary in recovery. There is a monthly two-day program and an annual week-long retreat. Contact Mike at 970-926-3372 or email@example.com.