According to Sam and Jim Commenting on things that irk us off, make us laugh out loud or just seem too weird too believe According to Sam and Jim: Can You Relate To PTSD?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Can You Relate To PTSD?

Do you have an annoying disease? You know, COPD, incontinence, warts, flatulence, arthritis, fibromyalgia; there’s a pill for that if you believe all the drug commercials on TV. Every time I watch one of those commercials I feel like I have the symptoms of a disease and I’m tempted to say, “I’ve got that!”

Now, I think I might have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) - Sam’s looking at me strangely - but seriously. I’ve been researching the Vietnam War for my next book and came across an article yesterday describing PTSD in Vietnam veterans, which has really made me think about my own deep psychological state of mind - even though I’m not a veteran.

Unfortunately for those who fought the Vietnam War the article says, “The role of combatant versus survivor, as well as the many ambiguous and conflicting values associated with these roles, led to the many subsequent problems that followed for the young veterans.”

Interesting. Family life in my home when I was growing up was pretty dysfunctional and combative. Oftentimes the battles became violent. Occasionally there was a display of guns and threats to shoot, although I don’t know that I feel guilty about surviving.

A huge problem for Vietnam vets, according to the article, was the lack of opportunity to adequately grieve the loss of fellow combatants.

“Due to circumstances of war, extended grieving on the battlefield is very unproductive and could become a liability. Hence, grief was handled as quickly as possible, allowing little or no time for the grieving process. Many men reported feeling numb when this happened. When asked how they are now dealing with the deaths of their buddies in Vietnam, they invariable answer that they are not. They feel depressed.”

I can relate to the loss thing because my mother divorced my real father when I was only two years old, then because my stepfather worked in the lumber industry, our family was uprooted every couple of years to relocate where there was more work. We had to move from town to town many times and I became pretty numb to that. Even as an adult I have moved too much. I still grieve moving out of Cottage Grove, Ore., Fortuna, Calif. and Bellingham, WA. Having to leave friends behind is devastating; better to become numb to that too. A wise preacher friend remarked one time on how much loss I’ve experienced, but until he pointed that out I’d been pretty numb to it.

Unfortunately, you can numb yourself to loss too much: “Veterans of combat go through life with an impaired capacity to love and care for others.”

I wonder sometimes if I have an impaired capacity to love. Do you? Because of my life combat, I divorced my first wife and left two precious daughters behind to cope with life without their daddy.

A huge loss for me was losing my high school sweetheart. After our high school graduation her family moved out of town. Two years of going steady and daydreaming about marriage, life and a future together evaporated in the strains of Pomp & Circumstance.

To make matters worse for myself, I became a police officer at the tender age of 22 and learned how to command people, and how to distrust them. Even though I haven’t been a cop more than 30 years now, I’m eternally suspicious of other people’s motives. When I go someplace public, like a restaurant, I prefer to sit with my back against a wall so I can observe everyone coming and going in case I need to beat a hasty retreat. As a policeman, I and my fellow officers dehumanized other people, calling them creeps (anyone out after midnight) and things like crispy critters (people burned to death in vehicle accidents).

“Vietnamese were not to be labeled as people but as “gooks, dinks, slopes, zipperheads and slants.” When the veterans finally arrived in the battle zone, it was much easier to kill a “gook” or “dink” than another human being.”

Accompanying the depression (of Vietnam Vets) is a very well developed sense of helplessness about one’s condition. Vietnam-style combat held no final resolution of conflict for anyone. Regardless of how one might respond, the overall outcome seemed to be just an endless production of casualties with no perceivable goals attained. Regardless of how well one worked, sweated, bled and even died, the outcome was the same. They felt helpless. Why even bother anymore?"

Well, maybe I’ve got a strain of PTSD. But I know my life is not hopeless. I just hold on to God these days. That’s a heckuva lot better than suicide by an AK-47. Three bags of poop on PTSD!

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