Friday, January 11, 2013

The Catch 22 that is PTSD

Not a day goes by that my Twitter or Facebook feed is not bombarded by news related to PTSD.  I have heard a lot of people from Navy SEALs to Infantry privates committing suicide, and the rate somehow seems to be getting worse than ever before.  Despite the fact that everyone is trying to say there is no stigma around seeking treatment there still is.  Even admitting I was diagnosed with PTSD at one point, to anyone and the looks I'm given are different.  I've seen PTSD used as an excuse for crime, and for bad behavior, I have seen it used as an excuse to ostracize veterans. 

Even mentioning you are a veteran it is assumed that you have PTSD.  It's a stigma that hangs over you.  If you didn't feel isolated before, letting people see that you have PTSD will make you even more so.  You're either a victim, or a savage who was a willing participant.  Any mention of the War will bring up debates that you just don't want to have, always invariably leading to the question of how many people you killed.  I am asked to tell my tales, then when they are either more gruesome than they had been lead to believe, or don't match the political narrative, I am interrupted, or the person asking just wants to change the subject, not understanding the personal toll that even recounting the price recounting the story cost. 

My treatment options are also the classic Catch 22.  I can either sit there and talk about how watching young men turned into hamburger makes me feel (bad) or how I feel being about the ignorance of the "Call of Duty" crowd (pissed off).  Or I could sit there and take a ton of medications that make me feel like I'm living my life in a weird purgatory like dream.  Even the "alternative" method of Yoga and meditation does me no good, because I do not have the patients for such things.  I'd like to say that I've found my own way, and it has a lot to do with how I use social networks to keep in touch with fellow veterans, but even that has its limits.  You can not go and have a beer with facebook when the world makes no sense.

It doesn't help that on rare occasions crimes are committed and the national media outlets laser in on the fact that the perpetrator was a veteran.  Three times in mass shooting incidents, the media reported prematurely that the shooter was a veteran, or in the military.  Turns out that in only one of those cases they were correct, doesn't matter, the idea that veterans might be the ones to do these things, is embedded.  Even the words "military-style" when describing the actions, clothes etc. is erroneous, and lays the seeds of the idea that all veterans are a danger. 

PTSD is a Damned if you Do Damned if you Don't, a classic circular argument that is impossible to deal with when all the options and talk about it are bad.  People only care so long as They don't have to get involved directly.  I could tell them what I feel, and it might tug at their heart strings for a time, but could they really manage to care?  If I told you that there are nights I wake up sweating because I heard something that sounded like an RPG wizing through the night, would you really care if you didn't know the same feeling?  Would you really care about me if you knew how petty you seem when you complain about trivial things?  When you gossip, when you talk about celebrities who are hallow and vapid, I try hard not to think of young men and women who have lived a life of consequence that are far more deserving of adoration. 

So I keep my mouth shut.  I don't seek treatment.  I find my own way.  I don't like talking about my issues with the uninformed or the unknowing because I know they'll treat me exactly how I don't want to be treated.  I keep silent as much as possible because I know that no one will care, no one that is but my fellow veterans.  This is my Catch 22.  I'm damned to suffer no matter what I do, and there's no real way to avoid that.  This is one of the hidden costs American freedoms have. 


Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blogs for a while now and even tho I've never met you, you have found a place in my heart. You have changed the way I see the world and the people in it. I haven't been thru anything even remotely close to what you have and I'm so sorry that after everything you have done and gone thru for us and this country that this is the thanks you get in return. I may never understand how you're feeling but please don't ever believe that no one cares. I don't know you but I care more for you than most of the people I do know. You are an inspiration and you are genuine, those are rare qualities to find in people these days. Stay strong, not silent.

Chris Muir said...

Some see the overarching theme of veterans as PTSD
casualties.What they miss is that without those veterans putting themselves between those who would harm us, MOST of the population here would have PTSD from direct experience.