Military Struggling with PTSD

Survivor3

MyPTSD Pro
Hi @Ashamed99, welcome to the site. I'm sorry for the reasons that your here. I can relate to everything you said. For years (decades) I knew I was really unwell but wore a mask and would constantly say that I was "alright" if someone asked how I was. Telling people the truth about how I was feeling, emotionally and psychologically was just to scary and dangerous. I was also drinking and smoking heavily.

I was deeply traumatised and like you, would have terrible anxiety attacks and would isolate myself. It was very painful. I think that the road to recovery starts when we can find people that are safe and we can trust and say "hey, I'm not alright, I don't feel well and it's because of this and this and I need help"

there are many supportive people here on this site, take your time and keep posting your thoughts and feelings it will help, best wishes. 🙂
 

scout86

MyPTSD Pro
Another "welcome to the forum".

It sounds like you're in research mode. One of my personal favorite books on PTSD is "Once a Warrior Always a Warrior" by Dr. Charles Hoge. He's retired military and has done a lot of research, now is in private practice, I think. He's also got a TED talk out there and maybe stuff on Youtube as well. The book did a pretty good job of explaining "how things work" in a "just the facts" way I found helpful. There's also some stuff included specifically on how the deal with the systems within the military you're having to deal with. (And, would you believe, they actually had the book in my local library, although I bought a copy so I can reread stuff whenever I want.)

I'm glad you're working on this. Something my therapist said, before he WAS my therapist that has really stuck with me, "If what you're dealing with is PTSD, it won't go away on it's own and you can't sort it out by yourself." My first thought was "yeah, right". But it turns out he knows what he's talking about. There is no way to have the perspective to sort stuff out from the inside. You can develop more awareness as you go along, but it really helps to have someone you can count on to say, "No, actually that's NOT the way it works." from time to time.
 

Ashamed99

New Here
@Ashamed99 . I feel as if I could have written your post. I had to be extended past my MRD to finish my med board.

Brief synopsis, early 2019 I was diagnosed with medboardable life time disorder. U started going to therapy to deal with that. That opened up a few compartments that I wish stayed closed. In July of 19 I went to an intensive outpatient program. When I told CSM he gave a double take, and said get the help you need.

Army didn't want to do the board....finally got it started in nov 19. The army just classified me with major depressive disorder and anxiety. VA diagnosed the PTSD. Jan 20 was my MRD. They fastracked my board. In early March my results came back. Due to my time in service the meb came back and declined the medical retirement. I was in patient at the time (voluntary) went to the ER I was close to crossing the I don't want to live turning into I want to die line.

Finally med retired in fall 2020. VA rated my PTSD at 50, I just went through my reeval they bumped it to 70.

I know you asked for ideas outside of therapy. Try group therapy. Look for reboot recovery REBOOT Recovery - Overcoming Trauma Together it's faith based, unfortunately I never got to finish that program due to COVID.

I'm doing a couples therapy with the va CBT- CT it's been hard but I've also opened more compartments.

I still get angry at myself when my motivation is lacking. I try to turn it around and look inside for the why.

I have been told to:
Find a new hobby
Make new friends
That's hard when the symptoms are strong.

Bluff, don't be ashamed, you are not alone with your symptoms, they are common. It takes time to heal/manage your symptoms.

I have changed meds so many times, let your med provider know if you don't think they are working.

I feel like I'm rambling and not staying on topic, one of my symptoms, in addition to anger, anxiety and most of what you listed, and memory issues too.

Welcome to forum
Thanks for sharing. I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one and someone else can relate.

welcome!




This is totally normal, especially in the military and first responder world. I'm from both - did the military thing and then 911 dispatch and yes. You do have to keep quiet about it because, well, it's the culture. Failure is not an option and ptsd is still considered a failure

But.
It's NOT OK that we are put in the position of having to lie about how we feel.
Read that again
ITS NOT OK that we are put in the position of having to lie about how we feel.

One of the new things coming out of ptsd research is that it's not the event that causes ptsd. It's what happens next. Take two people in the same situation. One has support afterwards, from employer, bosses, friends, family. They are given the opportunity to talk about what happened.

The other? Has to shut up and stand up and pretend they are ok.
Guess which one gets the pstd diagnosis?
Yep - the one who had to deal on their own.
That's us.


Yep. This is normal too
As you go thru therapy you will start working to sort this out - the whole "it's my fault" thing. I'm still working on it, but it has gotten easier with time (and a shit ton of therapy! 😁)

That's why this place is so amazing. It's filled with people who get it. Most every thing you can come up with someone here can relate to.

You're not alone
I feel so bad that so many of us feel as though we have to lie about how we are feeling and I appreciate your post letting me know that my experiences are normal for people with PTSD. Everyone in this group has given great support, insight and resources to help me!! Thank you!!

Hi @Ashamed99, welcome to the site. I'm sorry for the reasons that your here. I can relate to everything you said. For years (decades) I knew I was really unwell but wore a mask and would constantly say that I was "alright" if someone asked how I was. Telling people the truth about how I was feeling, emotionally and psychologically was just to scary and dangerous. I was also drinking and smoking heavily.

I was deeply traumatised and like you, would have terrible anxiety attacks and would isolate myself. It was very painful. I think that the road to recovery starts when we can find people that are safe and we can trust and say "hey, I'm not alright, I don't feel well and it's because of this and this and I need help"

there are many supportive people here on this site, take your time and keep posting your thoughts and feelings it will help, best wishes. 🙂
You are correct. The supportive people on this site make posting your feelings that have been scared to tell anyone, much better. This is a great group.

Another "welcome to the forum".

It sounds like you're in research mode. One of my personal favorite books on PTSD is "Once a Warrior Always a Warrior" by Dr. Charles Hoge. He's retired military and has done a lot of research, now is in private practice, I think. He's also got a TED talk out there and maybe stuff on Youtube as well. The book did a pretty good job of explaining "how things work" in a "just the facts" way I found helpful. There's also some stuff included specifically on how the deal with the systems within the military you're having to deal with. (And, would you believe, they actually had the book in my local library, although I bought a copy so I can reread stuff whenever I want.)

I'm glad you're working on this. Something my therapist said, before he WAS my therapist that has really stuck with me, "If what you're dealing with is PTSD, it won't go away on it's own and you can't sort it out by yourself." My first thought was "yeah, right". But it turns out he knows what he's talking about. There is no way to have the perspective to sort stuff out from the inside. You can develop more awareness as you go along, but it really helps to have someone you can count on to say, "No, actually that's NOT the way it works." from time to time.
@scout86 I will take a look at that book and the YouTube videos because you are right, I’m in the research and learn mode of dealing with my PTSD. I‘m hoping with enough knowledge, support and professional help, I can win this constant battle. Thank you so much!
 

Friday

Moderator
Welcome aboard! One of Uncle Sam’s misguided children, here. Once upon a time, anyhow. 😉

First off… the Stress Cup is hands down THE best piece of knowledge I’ve ever come across. It’s just f*cking useful.
sneaking off and isolating myself in places like the restroom or my vehicle to deal with my anxiety, panic episodes, depression, and fears.
Secondly…. When it hits hard enough you just have to ride it? Yeah. Ride it out. But burning it off? Putting all of those go-chemicals in my bloodstream to good use? Ties directly back into the StressCup, & it’s way better than riding it out, especially if I can do it in advance so I don’t even know I’m bein hit hard, because the blow just rolls off. Next best, the blow hits, but I can roll with it. When I’m at my best that means fun/interesting PT every single day (burning off stress in advance), plus a few explosive backups to take care unexpected stress. Plus a few other things I’ll talk about in a minute. It means I am seriously f*cked when I’m sick or injured -or old and fat- (all 4 have been the case for the past few years; a flu trashed my lungs, couldn’t even walk across a room for months, but I’m coming back from it. Good lord willing and the creek don’t rise. I’m trying to view the past few years as a preview to 20 years from now, so sort shit out now). There are ways & means to sort my shit if I’ve gone and broke myself, but they’re a pain in the ass & not that effective. So hit me up for some ideas if you’re gimping about. Otherwise? There is hands down nothing better than the physical to soften mental/emotional blows that have already landed. Past or present. There’s science as to why, that you’ll probably read about. The important thing, though? Is to know it works. No matter how stupid it seems. It just f*cking works. <<< Also why sooooo many vets get gutted when they discharge out, or retire, or take up a desk. The RELEASE of built up stress no longer has a consistent vent out. Builds up. Blows.

f*ck it. Fight it. Get f*cked up. Make it go Faster… also works. But with some rather hefty consequences attached. If you’ve been active duty for longer than a minute and a half I’m sure you’ve seen those consequences up close and personal. Tread lightly. Be smart. Adrenaline junkies don’t live long, or marry well, as a rule. But there ARE ways to downshift natural tendencies from the “Oh Shit” consequence side of things, to healthy coping mechanisms all pulling together to form a seriously badass life. The trick, IME, is not to lean too hard into any one area… but be using LOTS of little things, pieced together, for the end result.

***

OKAY… I meant to say more in less words, days ago… but I’m in a bit of a place right now, dealing with some stuff. Will hit back later.
 

Ashamed99

New Here
Welcome aboard! One of Uncle Sam’s misguided children, here. Once upon a time, anyhow. 😉

First off… the Stress Cup is hands down THE best piece of knowledge I’ve ever come across. It’s just f*cking useful.

Secondly…. When it hits hard enough you just have to ride it? Yeah. Ride it out. But burning it off? Putting all of those go-chemicals in my bloodstream to good use? Ties directly back into the StressCup, & it’s way better than riding it out, especially if I can do it in advance so I don’t even know I’m bein hit hard, because the blow just rolls off. Next best, the blow hits, but I can roll with it. When I’m at my best that means fun/interesting PT every single day (burning off stress in advance), plus a few explosive backups to take care unexpected stress. Plus a few other things I’ll talk about in a minute. It means I am seriously f*cked when I’m sick or injured -or old and fat- (all 4 have been the case for the past few years; a flu trashed my lungs, couldn’t even walk across a room for months, but I’m coming back from it. Good lord willing and the creek don’t rise. I’m trying to view the past few years as a preview to 20 years from now, so sort shit out now). There are ways & means to sort my shit if I’ve gone and broke myself, but they’re a pain in the ass & not that effective. So hit me up for some ideas if you’re gimping about. Otherwise? There is hands down nothing better than the physical to soften mental/emotional blows that have already landed. Past or present. There’s science as to why, that you’ll probably read about. The important thing, though? Is to know it works. No matter how stupid it seems. It just f*cking works. <<< Also why sooooo many vets get gutted when they discharge out, or retire, or take up a desk. The RELEASE of built up stress no longer has a consistent vent out. Builds up. Blows.

f*ck it. Fight it. Get f*cked up. Make it go Faster… also works. But with some rather hefty consequences attached. If you’ve been active duty for longer than a minute and a half I’m sure you’ve seen those consequences up close and personal. Tread lightly. Be smart. Adrenaline junkies don’t live long, or marry well, as a rule. But there ARE ways to downshift natural tendencies from the “Oh Shit” consequence side of things, to healthy coping mechanisms all pulling together to form a seriously badass life. The trick, IME, is not to lean too hard into any one area… but be using LOTS of little things, pieced together, for the end result.

***

OKAY… I meant to say more in less words, days ago… but I’m in a bit of a place right now, dealing with some stuff. Will hit back later.
@Friday All great stuff and I appreciate you taking the time out to share your perspective and things that have worked for you in the past. I also enjoy working out and releasing some steam. In the past years that has been my coping mechanism but recently my depression, anxieties, and work environment have caused me to lose my motivation. I used to be able to take the time out in the gym to detach and workout but now I’m overwhelmed with my thoughts, feelings and fears to the point that I can’t even focus on my workout. I often go to the gym but leave shortly after arriving because of my anxiety and feelings.

If I can get away from my current work environment and into a place with less or no triggers, I think that I will be able to establish a routine that allows me to focus on my recovery. I think that I will be able to ensure that I insert those useful workouts, in addition to my current therapy sessions, and this great forum as part of my recovery. I also agree that the Stress Cup was THE best piece of knowledge that I‘ve read to date. It really fills in some holes in my search for knowledge.

I’ve been in the military 23 years now and I have no intentions on crossing any lines that would not be aligned with the values that I’ve tried to uphold during my career. I’m trying to seek out ways to control my symptoms and this site has been a great tool so far.
 

Friday

Moderator
I’m trying to seek out ways to control my symptoms and this site has been a great tool so far.
Coping strategies are an artform… fully processing the shit that didn’t form into normal memories/grief/etc. but got stuck in the present? Doesn’t nix the need for stress management, but it yanks out most of the symptoms by the root. Which is always nice 😉


Word to the wise.. a badass trauma therapist / EMDR / etc. can speed that process up in some ways, and slow things down before rhey spiral out in others. VetCenters (if you’re in the US) don’t report back to the VA or your chain of command… if you want to keep things under the radar.
 
It's good you are seeking therapy for your PTSD.

Your knowledge of the military gives you a unique insight into how psychological problems are interpreted. For those of us outside the confines of military service there appears to be an impression that emotions need to be kept under strict control. It does seriously raise an important issue regarding the mental health of many former/current military service personnel....What happens during/after leaving active (front line) service? What real care is there available?

It's fair to admit you are not in the most ideal of environments when it comes to what you are dealing with. At present, you have begun the journey of counselling/therapy. This is a big, positive step towards that long road to recovery. Dealing with the PTSD is just a part of your journey. There seems to be a conflict with the shame and that's something you need to address as well. The shame associated with the PTSD will only encourage you to keep on trying to hide the fact that you are struggling and thus lead to more anxiety.

The depression, flashbacks and nightmares. There's a lot going on here.

From what you have written, you experienced traumatic events whilst serving in your military role. You were in charge when these events happened, therefore heightening your feelings of responsibility for any mistakes, creating further feelings of guilt. You appear to have gone on to question your capabilities which can mean that your self-confidence has been affected as well.

The shame of wanting to ask for help can make things worse, especially when working in a military/forces environment.

The depression you experience when entering your place of work can be a warning sign of how unhappy you are. It may be an opportunity to perform your own 'self-check'....Is the stress/depression/PTSD worse when you are at work?....How do you feel when you have a day off?....Or a week off? Everyone is different. Some people feel happier when they 'clock off' and are able to forget about work until the next shift. For others, it's a case of 'taking their work home'.....Some people are very deeply affected by their work - as can happen as a consequence of working in the emergency/trauma services like you do.

You hold a senior position which means you ask the question. Should you be feeling this way....?

The feelings of failure can be ingrained into us from the start of our careers and - for some - as early as pre-school. Many high achievers can go through their educational and working lives with a constant feeling of not having achieved enough and need to do more. This may stem from family, teachers, managers and so forth.....In a way, it's as though the fear of failing can be a driving force.....Second is not enough. Everyone has high expectations.....

There are advantages of course. Nothing wrong with success. However. When things begin to go wrong, the stress becomes overwhelming. From experience, admitting to your colleagues that you are suffering with mental health issues hasn't been a comfortable, sensitive process. Presumably, the military environment is still all about being strong and courageous. Keep those emotions under control at all times. Colleagues ask how you are....Ask if you are OK....It's difficult for them to ask. Difficult for you to answer. Easier to say that you are just fine, let your colleagues feel satisfied with a simple answer and then everyone feels less awkward.

How do we ask? How do we answer? It's a hard one.

When someone genuinely shows some compassion.....What do we do? Panic at the thought of feeling exposed and vulnerable because someone has genuinely recognised that there is a problem. Leading us to protect ourselves from that exposure by 'playing it down' and saying that we are fine. We are OK.

You've learned to hide the symptoms of your PTSD, yet it gets harder the longer you fight it.

A difficult question....Can you continue with your work? Your job is the aggravating factor in your psychological dilemma. The Post Traumatic Stress originated from your military duties. Or at least it was certain events in your career that stimulated the PTSD. Bare in mind that the origins of any mental health issues can be due to other life circumstances. This is why the counselling is important. The struggle with mental health (such as PTSD) can have it's origins, yet be made worse due to other life events.

What do you do? You undertake a position of responsibility, are in a career in which mistakes can cost lives and a high achiever. A combination resulting in considerable pressure to live up to the expectations of others. There are positive aspects to your success and it must feel very rewarding at times. However. As with everything in this life, there are downsides, such as questioning your abilities and feeling as though you could do better.

Moving away from the PTSD and the therapy - there's the question of how you are going to deal the other aspects of your life. Your job. Even with therapy, it's not going to be easy to carry on as you are. If anything, the therapy may leave you feeling more emotionally fragile. The job you do is very demanding, responsible and associated with keeping those emotions under control. It's a very hard decision for you to make as there's a strong sense of pride and belonging in what you do. The question still seriously remains.....Can you perform your role, given your circumstances?

As you have written, the job is taking a toll on your mental and physical health - so it's time to evaluate what you really feel must come first. The job has seriously contributed to your health/psychological problems. Not to mention that your health records were 'leaked' to other colleagues. You work for the Military Services, so this means any breach of confidentiality can (and should) be taken very seriously. This could be an opportunity for financial compensation. Do take some legal/financial advice.

It is your choice as to whether you want to reduce your overall job responsibilities, take some time off for illness/recovery leave.....It's fair to be honest.

From the various episodes - such as the panic attacks, anxiety and so forth - and how your working day is being affected, something is telling you to make changes. It's the psychological equivalent of handling a hot coal. Your mind/body is telling you to let go. Perhaps for now, you don't want to tell anybody about your problems (as you've managed so far anyway) but at least try to dedicate as much time as possible for the counselling/therapy to tackle your Post Traumatic Stress. All the anger, irritability, lack of sleep, concentration and the rest.....Are all to do with the stress of your circumstances and - underneath - wanting to secretly avoid the cause....Your work.

There's a difficult decision to make with regards to continuing with your work.

Your main concern is getting your PTSD under control and although you are worried about your career and family life - it's essential to think first about yourself. By focusing on yourself and the PTSD treatment, this will in turn help you to re-integrate back into your work (if that is what you want) and - very importantly - to give focus on your own health, mental well-being, home and family life.
 
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LuckiLee

MyPTSD Pro
Hi @Ashamed99 . You mentioned you are married and have a supportive family. That's awesome! As a supporter the more information and knowledge I gained about PTSD the more I could understand what my veteran was going through. And therefore I didn't take things so personally anymore.

Share what you can with your wife. And share The Stress Cup analogy with her. Whenever I learn something here I share it with my guy. We have incorporated so many ideas that I have found here into our own lives and I couldn't be more grateful for myptsd family. Any questions, this is the place to ask them.

J (my guy) and I are glad you're here. And seriously impressed that you're reaching out. ✌️
 

Defaultxlovee

Confident
Welcome. Thank you for serving.

I'm sure you are very uncomfortable. Thankfully you are on the right track.

What I would say is:
1. Do not, do not, blame yourself.
2. Befriend yourself, again. Maybe you never identified a separation but trauma has a way of causing us to turn on ourselves. At least for me it was COMPLETELY unknowingly. Then that enters turning on family, especially spouse.
3. Ask your spouse to seek support as well.
4. Accept that this is how you've responded to the trauma.
5. Focus on self. This is not a time to extend self unless of course volunteering brings you joy or something like that. As an example your employer has adjusted your duties. Stress has a heavy impact. (I almost died a few times from trauma related illnesses).
6. Be patient. This isn't a head cold.
7. Self care self care self care. This was painful for me to start. Because I was mad at myself. But #2 up there don't turn on yourself. If you already have. Assess. Adapt.

I hope these help somewhat somehow.
 
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