First, my deepest respect for all the men and women who serve in our military, both present and past. Thank you for your service.
Second, equal respect for all first responders, who answer the call for help, while others seek safety.
Third, I will touch on some little-discussed aspects of PTSD, and I want you aware that I am NOT a licensed therapist. My knowledge is basically substance abuse, mixed with additional, related studies that affect, or are affected by, addiction… including PTSD. If I bring awareness for you, I urge you to seek professional guidance. I can help you to locate that in many instances, and I encourage any professionals who happen by this article to please post relevant comments below.
Most folks have some basic idea about PTSD from hearing about our Veterans who have returned from war carrying many mental and emotional scars. These men and women have seen and done things that most of us could not even imagine, and the cost for their service is great with regards to their post-service lives, and that of their loved ones. Yes, military-related PTSD fits the original textbook definition of PTSD, and rightly so.
PTSD = Post Traumatic (following a tragic experience) Stress Disorder (mental/emotional results due to the conscious and subconscious memories of that experience). The reality is that anyone who has experienced some tragic event can have some level of PTSD. The size and intensity of that event can vary greatly, and the level of PTSD would be based on that person’s tolerance of emotions, or lack thereof, as well as physical health, economic state, or on several other criteria. However, we don’t usually think about the fact that we may have this condition, as it is rarely talked about.
Have you ever had a fender-bender car accident? Ever lose your kid for 5 minutes in a department store? How about being at work and suddenly wondering if you turned off the stove? Maybe you returned home only to find that your wallet didn’t come home with you? These may appear to be small-time events to many of us, but try to recall your feelings at the moment of awareness. That instant hollowness in your stomach, or the feeling of some kind of doom. These types of instant reactions are what the brain remembers…for a length of time.
Most people will suffer from these instant feelings for minutes, hours, days. But some will retain lasting effects. If my memory serves me correctly, official PTSD requires a carry-over exceeding one month. The parent who loses that child in the department store may actually unconsciously turn into a helicopter mom or dad, overly protective throughout the child’s life. Lost wallets or keys, stove issues and other forms of slip-ups, especially if repeated, can lead to onset of OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder). These examples are what I call low-level trauma, of course a relative statement.
In between our courageous Veterans and our absent-minded folks exist a wide array of PTSD levels. Rape and other sexual assaults, burglary, muggings, fires, shootings, murders, auto wrecks, witnessed deaths, scam losses, financial insecurity, a cheating partner, and so many other occurrences can cause minimal to massive PTSD onsets. So many go undetected and untreated.
The lasting effects of these occurrences can range from annoying to debilitating, and may cause life restrictions, some so stifling that a shut-down in personal development can occur. Lack of sleep, nightmares, anxiety, paranoia, drug use or addiction, alcohol consumption or alcoholism, distrust in oneself or others, and suicide ideology, are a few of the possible results, and we may not even be aware of these handicaps.
Shutting down of life due to a fear of repetition can cause many problems. Restrictions on social interaction lead to isolation and loneliness. Again, this may occur so slowly that one doesn’t even notice it. Friends and relatives may see it first, and may chalk it off as natural change.
My purpose of writing about this is not to instill fear, but to simply raise an awareness to any possibilities of the existence of any post traumatic effects. Our current global situation in the form of COVID-19, plus the great political divide here in the US, leads to life restrictions that can be a platform for an increase in the effects of PTSD. Unemployment, financial stressors, quarantine and global shut-downs provide a perfect storm for exacerbated conditions. Friendships and family support are restricted, as are other social connections. Availability of services has decreased. PTSD is not dependent on these current problems, but they sure don’t help.
Working on these issues can begin a new adventure into ourselves. Through my work as a substance abuse counselor, I have found that many cases of PTSD are fairly easy to identify, and even to repair. The process begins with awareness, identification, and a plan, followed by a few actions…some simple and some may be more complex. I cannot stress enough the value of a therapist in working through PTSD issues, especially when life-threatening concerns are present. If you are feeling suicidal, please immediately call 911, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.
I am available if you need to talk about any of this, and I would be happy to spend some time with you to begin the process, and to help you find additional resources.
We cannot change the past, but we can make adjustments today, opening a path to a freer and more productive future.
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Thank you for caring,