Saturday, June 23, 2012

PTSD - The Invisible Wounds

I recently had a conversation with a fellow veteran on a web site.  There was a discussion about whether PTSD wounded veterans should be eligible to get the purple heart. We all pretty much said no, but perhaps we needed our own special ribbon, like a dented coconut or something.   Here was my public response:

I have service connected PTSD, and I would like a dented coconut please.  But not any purple heart. I agree that's for the brother's and sisters who lost so much more then their sanity! But there is a point to be made about the 'invisible' wounds, Those that make me duck into doorways to hide, run into the bathroom during a panic attack and try not to hyperventilate while chanting my therapist's mantra to myself "this is now, I am safe, this is now, I am safe'. I try to see the now, and not the superimposed horrors of the past.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

A nice vet wrote me privately:
First off, please allow me to thank You for Your service and welcome home.
That being said, I just wanted to tell You how much I liked what you had to say on that whole purple heart thread. And may I add, said so eloquently.
Too many times, those of us suffering the "unseen" injuries are overlooked or dismissed. Thank the Goddess that the VA isn't quite so blind.
I hope this note finds you and yours in good health and spirits.

And here was my response back to him, which I later thought 'hmmmm.. that would make a good post too!'.. so here it is:

Thank you from the depths of my heart for your kind words. I never know how something might be taken here, especially when dealing with the Brethren. We're and odd lot and we have some bizarre triggers for all sorts of things. So when someone takes the time to write, I really do appreciate it.
For myself, and many of my vet friends, from all era's, we deal with the unseen wounds. At my first Vet Center orientation, there was an 85 year old ww2 vet still diving under tables when things go boom, or certain planes go over. His Korea era vet son had brought him. Across from me was a fresh Afgan vet, whose trigger was 'the smell of hot metal'. The 3 Vietnam vets, the sound of choppers, smell of wet grass and a certain 'click' sound were a common one to send them diving for cover. We have a new combat vet in our MST group who is having a terrible time with trash on the road, and is trying to figure out how to handle Disney World with her kids, when all she really wants to go home and avoid crowds. Her husband expects that now that she is home, she is just supposed to 'get over it'. Yeah. About that... doesn't quite work that way chump.

We 'look' just fine to other folks, but at least for me, the inside of my head looks like Dali on acid sometimes I think. The hyper vigilance gets pretty old. The insomnia, watching the dark hours tick by if I am trying to sleep, before I give up and read or go online. And the flashback thing? No so fun. When it feels like an elephant is on your chest and you can't breath, but Lordy, you can't make a scene either.

Anyways.. talking always helps. and my head doc says its time to move from victim, to survivor, to advocate. I was in during 'peacetime' but it was anything but peaceful. They have no 'ribbon' for the service I was forced to give. I was part of the 'Invisible War'. So I have a sort of 'double invisibility'. My War was invisible, and most of my wounds are too. One can't 'see' infertility, or cuts covered by a uniform. One can't see the crazy head that can't be alone in a room with a strange man like most 'normal' folks can.

Thanks for understanding...

This whole 'Invisible War' term I have found so very helpful.  Just like Joan's 'Inside the wire' term.... these terms are helping me a lot to try and describe what's been buried so deep for so many years.  As their blog helped me, I hope in some way, this will help others too!

Today, I have a group of psychology students coming to interview me about how to help MST survivor's.  I asked for the questions to send out to my Sister Warriors so that if they wish to participate they can.  The list of questions is very long and quite through.  It won't be easy to answer, but I am glad I have this opportunity to help them understand us better.  As I think of all those out there now, still getting injured, and someday, one of these young students may be who they turn to for help, so I want to do all I can to assist.

I think I will work on the questionnaire and then, post it and my answer's here.  

Over and out

No comments:

Post a Comment