All I mean by that is that PTSD is different for everyone who suffers from it. There isn’t a PTSD cookie cutter that makes it easily identifiable or treatable. My therapists tell me that all of the time. Each approach is different.
I did two tours in Iraq. The first in early 2003 to mid 2004 and the second from 2007 to 2008. About 30 months total. My first tour I did my job. I was a combat engineer. Think infantry with explosives. We did spend an inordinate amount of time in trucks though. My second tour was all volunteer. We were a security forces company made up of Soldiers from every unit in the State. That’s perhaps enough detail.
My first tour was much more combat oriented than my second. My squad and I were in several engagements. I dealt with it. I was trained for that. I did my job. There were things going on that were building issues within me but I suppressed them. Just like most people do. I was fine. I had nightmares. Headaches. I was on edge. Who cared?
My second tour was interesting. Convoy security. Missions of our size and scope were usually led by officers. The other convoy security companies were all led by officers. We had a lot of responsibility. Missions were generally dull. Unfortunately we had toxic leadership. The culture in our unit was screwed up. Games were played. Even I find myself apologizing to my Soldiers for that time. Things happened. It opened the flood gates.
My first therapist explained that we all have a mental cup and it can only hold so much. We all have the ability to deal with life’s challenges, as long as it stays within our cup. My second tour overflowed my cup. Once it starts overflowing, it doesn’t matter if there were things you could previously handle. Now you can’t.
So here I am. I have PTSD. I have serious anger issues. Depression. Anxiety. I isolate myself. I don’t trust people. I can be violent. I can go on and on. Each sufferer is different. As I mentioned previously, I’ve been to a few Wounded Warrior Project trips. I have a hard time with these. Therapists say that vets like to hang out with their own kind because they understand. Nope. I typically hate being around other vets. I absolutely hate hearing their BS stories. I shut down. We go to meetings and they think I’m a dick. I’m the ornery guy in the corner. It takes awhile to crack that shell and even then, it’s on my terms.
On my last WWP outing, the guy leading the discussion had the audacity to mention that PTSD isn’t permanent. Really? So please tell me why the VA rates my PTSD as “permanent and total”. Their exact rating. I’m so far gone that there isn’t any hope. Yes, for all those therapists out there, I’m talking in absolutes. That’s a big no no. I unfortunately understand the nuances of therapy, I’ve been doing it long enough. I know all of the buttons to push.
My rational brain knows that I can be fixed. That there may still be time. My PTSD brain overrides all of that. That’s probably the biggest symptom. You give up. There’s no hope. You only see and feel negative. Why try? And of course these are the thoughts that compound each other until the only way out is suicide. Everything can be perfect but I don’t see it. I can’t. I have these thoughts daily. Yep. Daily. Some days are worse than others.
I am desperate to make it stop.