PTSD and TBI claim too many lives each day. Here are enough ways to help each other and yourself.
PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) kills an average of 22 veterans a day. Mission 22 is a collaborative effort of vets and organizations to help save veteran lives.
The best service you could do to help your fellow vets is to treat your own PTSD. They need you to be the leader and show them the way through the shadows of the dark forests, across the emotional rivers and disheartened swamps, through the loneliest deserts, over the defeating mountains and into a Promised Land of feeling human again.
For military veterans, two primary types of trauma exist: Combat and Rape; however, so many factors can cause PTSD like childhood abuse and even a car accident. Common PTSD symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, sleeping disorders, short term memory loss, and difficulty keeping track of time, and untreated, it can lead to hallucinations, psychosis and other disorders. Emotional PTSD symptoms include depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and obsessions.
Transform reliving the trauma to relieving the trauma. You may not be able to stop the ghosts of the past from haunting you. You can’t kill ghosts. They are already dead. But you can make peace with them, over time, if you try.
The self-drives toward the direction you are looking. Stop looking behind you and look in front of you. Focus not on the problem, but instead, the solution. Keep trying things. Keep moving forward.
Here are 22 ideas to help you on your journey forward—one idea for each veteran who committed suicide today.
Find a wingman
Find a friend or family member you trust to call and check on you on a regular basis. They need to know what to look for and what to do if you start going backward. They may also help track doctor appointments and take you to them.
Get a psychiatrist and a therapist
You may not be able to control the things that happen to you, but you can control how you react. Most of your disabling PTSD symptoms can be treated with medication, and most of the roots of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can be altered in therapy. Mission 22 offers resources to help you find a doctor that’s right for you.
Don’t talk about it unless you want to
Psychology dictates that talking about things is great for grief, not so much with trauma. Reliving it is best done in a controlled environment with a trained professional at hand when you are emotionally ready for it. However, if you need to get things off your chest, then get it off your chest.
Get a good night’s sleep
Most of the irrational psychosis-like PTSD symptoms are caused by sleeping disorders. There is nothing rational about a dream, and sleep deprivation will cause dreams to happen in your wake state. Make sure you sleep, regularly. Get prescribed a good sleep aid, and make it a top priority to find one that works. You want to hit both REM state (dreaming), and NREM state (deep sleep) in your sleep cycle. If you are not getting both, you are not getting sleep.
Talk to a spiritual counselor
PTSD is both a mental health disorder and a spiritual battle. Many religions and churches offer spiritual guidance and friendly support, and many are trained in other fields like Psychology. They can offer great advice and words of wisdom as well as prayers of protection.
Prayer and Spirituality
Studies show that people who pray to a forgiving God fare better in mental health all the way around than people who pray to a judgmental, critical God. Find a safe place, a sanctuary of some sort, where hymns and sermons can uplift your spirit through the week. Get closer to a forgiving God through a healthy avenue, and this may mean trying out different churches and religions. It’s not a matter of finding a God who is right for you, but finding who your God is through what you think is right.
A lot of people have found some fabric of inner peace amidst the chaos through meditation, but be careful opening yourself up to the spirit world. You only want to let in spirits of the light who focus on love, peace and self-forgiveness. Avoid letting in the darkness of power, self-hate, and doubts. Breathe in light. Breathe out darkness. Breathe in love, breathe out hate. Breathe in courage, breathe out fear. Breathe in confidence, breathe out insecurity. Breathe in forgiveness, breathe out the judgment.
Shower in Holy Water
After murdering the king, Lady Macbeth couldn’t wash the blood from her hands, no matter how hard she scrubbed. Rape and War leaves us feeling unclean, and many times haunted by demons we swear we created. Get your shower head blessed by a religious counselor, and every time you shower, imagine the water cleansing your soul just like the water cleanses your body. Also imagine the shower as a refuge from the hauntings of your past. It’s more rejuvenating than infused blends of bathroom products.
People with PTSD often don’t like to be touched too much; however, touch is really important to the human component. Don’t deny yourself that need. If you don’t want people hugging you, then hug them instead when you are in the mood for it, when you can handle it.
Get a regular massage
Seeing a massage therapist on the regular can help reduce overall tension and anxiety. Also, after one of those bad days, in some strange sense, the relaxing touch from a loved one (like your spouse), whether massage or rubbing fingers through the hair, is the happy ending that can reassure you that everything is going to be ok. Your loved one can rub you down as you fall asleep, or in front of a good movie, or just by the fireplace with light-hearted conversation.
A daily goal, even simple ones like, “brush your teeth,” helps keep you focused in the present and on the world you CAN touch. Longer term goals give you a dream and motivation to achieve. You can also track where you are in therapy by looking at your goals: the more complex they are, the healthier you are getting.
Arts and crafts time
Adult coloring is a new trend that has been proven to be very therapeutic, but any hobby you can get lost in is helpful, whether you fix up old cars or play guitar. The purpose is to find something you are passionate about and tinker.
Go back to college
Part of rebuilding includes retraining. Even if you are not in a position to work right now, when you get better, you will want to work and already have the training part covered. Pick a passion to pursue. The important thing is to do something that forces you to get out of your house, talk to people, and get lost in learning topics you love.
Sign up with VA
You won’t seek help if you can’t afford it, and VA Healthcare (as difficult as it is to get into) can offer more options. Even if you have insurance, getting into the system might help cover things the insurance won’t. In addition, sign up for the disability. Not only will the monthly check be helpful with finances (it’s more expensive to live with PTSD than without it), but the service connection offers a lot of benefits and healthcare you wouldn’t get otherwise.
Get rid of your guns and get a dog
Owning a gun increases the risk of suicide in the home. The gun might not kill people as people kill people, but staring at that thing will make you think about killing yourself. You don’t need a gun. If you are worried about protection, any cop will tell you to lock your doors and get a dog. In fact, get a dog trained to be an emotional support animal. Every god in history has a beast to protect him and welcome him home. Plus, you’ll never find any better loyalty than a dog.
Feels good. Real good. Good for you. Good for me…. Moving around is a great way to reduce stress and help combat depression, plus combining exercise with a good nutrition program can produce a healthier body, which contributes to a healthier mind. Get a membership at a gym, or randomly drop and give yourself 20 pushups. Take hikes and meditate or pick up kickboxing and release. If anything, try to increase active tasks in the day like scrub the shower and wax a car.
Find a safe way to risk
Engaging in risk-taking behavior is very common in PTSD, such as driving at 120 mph. In some ways, the act is almost necessary, something that needs to be released. Find a safe way to release that feeling, like skydiving, rock climbing, skiing, or motorsports.
Don’t wait until you are so desperate for escape that you take off for days without telling anyone where you are, without any planning, and without enough funds. In the military, they tell you to use your 3-day weekends to travel because it’s so therapeutic. Keep that up. Take the family with you sometimes, and other times, go somewhere alone. You can also consider some of those healthy retreats, whether psychological or spa-like. Avoid gambling.
Volunteer to help veterans with PTSD
Vets helping vets is one of the best therapies out there. You can help indirectly by writing about it or raising money, but you can also get face to face with Veterans with PTSD. What do they need? A wingman. The Grunts 11 Bravo page on Facebook have been known to spend nights on the phone with a fellow vet considering suicide and starting fundraisers to help a vet in need. The act of helping veterans has you saying the words you need to hear, increases human interaction, helps you find someone who understands and realize you are not alone.
Watch movies and read books
Sometimes you might not want to deal with reality. That’s fine. But don’t escape in your nightmares. Escape in someone else’s alternate reality. Pick movies or books that make you feel good (not things that will enable negative thoughts and emotions). Decrease the weight of your thoughts with a light-hearted comedy. If you catch yourself thinking about your past, pick up a book and start reading, even if it doesn’t make sense, it will most likely eventually make sense if you keep reading.
Utilize self-help tools
Psychology may seem silly when they have you filling out worksheets and journals of your thoughts and feelings and then doing exercises, especially to the alpha-male military veteran. But really, what does it hurt to try? You never know, it might actually help the way it was intended, but even if it doesn’t help like that, going through the process is still worthwhile. In complaining about how stupid something is while you are doing it, your brain starts to think about what would work instead, and eureka, you know what you need to do that WILL actually help you.
You are who you say you are
Write the biography of the person you want to be, and then decide that’s who you are. Our self is a choice we make, and letting things change who you are without your consent isn’t even fair. Take the power back and be who you want to be. Once you decide that’s who you are, tell yourself to do the steps to get there BECAUSE that’s who you are. Be patient with yourself. If you wish you’d work out more, then tell yourself that’s who you are, a gym buff, and that’s why you should go to the gym.
One reason why you should hope
The one reason why you should do everything you can, even if it seems stupid, the reason you should at least try it anyway is your loved ones.
They need you.
PTSD has no magic pill to make everything go away, but with a series of lifestyle adjustments tackling every possible variable and PTSD symptom, one can at least control one’s PTSD instead of letting PTSD control them.
22 Veterans just died today.
Let’s show tomorrow’s 22 Veterans how to survive.