We have all been there - the anger, the hate, sorrow and depression, the frustration towards others who do not understand us, but is that fair? Who are we making responsible for our condition? Have we been left to deal with this condition ourselves, as many say? I think so, but I also think that it is often too easy to use this condition as an identifier as to what we are, not who we are.
I have been rated at 70% for PTSD as a combat vet. The following is how I see the way forward for me and I hope it will help some of you. Some of you may hate me for saying some of it, and I understand where you are coming from because I have been there too.
After a few suicide attempts (which were actually attention getting acts), I quickly realized that I am only hurting my possible future and myself if I keep wallowing in self-sorrow and hurt. I stopped looking at the photos of the past and identifying myself as a combat vet instead of Steven. I stopped hanging out only with vets who “understand me” because that was blocking my forward motion. I stopped walking around with a chip on my shoulder. But most importantly of all, I stopped blaming other people, the Army, and anything else for what I am because I knew I needed to work on who I am in order to get ahead, and that became my focus.
Don’t get me wrong, I have days where I could explode and sometimes do. I have days where getting out of bed to go to work is so painful and so pointless that I could easily just roll over and say, “screw it” but I don’t. I know that, if I did, it would be just the beginning of a long downhill spiral effect that would drive me back to where I came from. It would make it next to impossible to be productive for my family and my job, but most of all it would ruin my life. So in the end I have the choice.
I am not a doctor or a psychologist, I am only speaking my opinion but my advice to anyone fighting PTSD is the following: Never feel sorry for yourself. Anger towards others is a waste of time and energy. Looking back at what was, speaking about it every day, wearing the combat vet t-shirts - the constant reminder of “how good it was” - may make you feel better, but it makes your life a constant struggle.
Yes, civilians will never understand, but can you change that? No, so move on. You feel you got screwed over in the Army for this and that, but can you change it? No, so move on. The VA is not accepting your rating, not paying you, not believing you or whatever else, can you change it? Yes you can, but not with hate, anger, screaming or yelling.
Our society believes we are a danger. Some of us like that title – heck, some of us need that title because the military was all we may have ever had as far as an identity. We were special and now we are civilians and no one understands us, they just don’t know. That’s just it though, they don’t know, so either educate them in a meaningful manner or don’t hold it against them and move on. We won’t change anything by being angry and hurting ourselves, so let’s go and get our lives back!
As I was writing this article I actually got a call from my CEO stating that my obvious PTSD is a problem and they need to let me go. It goes without saying this shocked me, but did not surprise me. I am, therefore, positive this is simply a door that needed to close and I am looking with excitement into the future.
We dictate our own realities - no one else can or will really help us, only we can. So make the conscious decision and stand up, be that soldier, warrior and fighter you are and go for the gold. Don’t take no for an answer, accept nothing less from yourself than you expect from others. We can and will be successful, we will prevail, and not because of the stigma but despite the stigma!
Make your plan for life and follow it, set targets, goals, and benchmarks. It is time to stand up and take your life back. Don’t know where to start? Start within yourself and get the anger out. You’re not alone but remember, just complaining to another vet who tells his stories back to you is not going to help you no matter what all these “help sessions” may proclaim. If you feel it helps, then take a deep look at what exactly is being helped. It is probably the short-term frustration - you get to shout and get it out but that solves nothing. It is like getting revenge - it may make you feel better for a short time, but we all know it is wrong and you usually feel remorse afterwards.
So now how do you move forward? You want to yell at me? Write it down. You want to insult me? Go for it. Just know that I am here for you no matter what. If you truly wish to learn more about how to live with PTSD and function in society, I may be able to help. Your hate will only destroy you, not me or anyone else, so please refrain from the emotional explosions that I know all too well. I am writing this as an offer of help, in whatever way it may help, that’s it.
What are the biggest struggles you’ve faced while dealing with PTSD?
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