I am not a psychologist or a therapist. I have no medical training whatsoever. What I have done is talk to experts and read their books and reports regarding Post Traumatic Stress – whether you add the D as in Disorder or not – it sucks. And PTSD sucks for the whole family – including friends and coworkers.
To the best of my understanding of deployment, what I see from the cheap seats, is that everyone who serves comes back different. I hear this from everyone I have talked to after deployment, and also from their family members who have shared their experiences with me as well. Is this because of a label like PTSD? Is this just a normal human reaction to the abnormal experience of war? Probably a little bit of both, with some additional trauma thrown in.
I don’t know how we ever expected people to be the same, coming back after a combat experience. We change after we go to college. We change after we find religion. We change every time we experience something new. Some changes are for the better. Some changes are for the worse.
All I know is that what I hear on and off the air is that when people come back, they are different. Some differences are extreme, and some are traumatic for everyone involved. Some differences suffer in silence. I also understand, from many service members, that they are different after every deployment. I guess I can sum it up in a few words- after every deployment, everyone, including the service members and their family and friends, must adjust to a new normal.
PTSD/PTS is real, and it’s here to stay. The more we accept it as an expected, the faster I believe we can get services to the people who really need it. I believe the faster we remove the stigma from this, the faster we can raise awareness, help those affected and move forward with what we all need.
I also learned from my experiences that PTSD/PTS is much like the word cancer. It covers a huge spectrum of situations. I have also heard about treatments that span the same spectrum. They are as wide and varied as the diagnosis itself. My advice, from a completely un-medical perspective, is:
- Do what works. Use your head, but be open to new things – remember no one ever died from an open mind.
- Stop what doesn’t work or makes it worse. You served our country. You are our hero. You are valuable and we need you here.
- Keep trying until you figure out what you need to do to take care of yourself and never, never quit.