What if PTS was regarded NOT as a mental disorder, but as a natural and inevitable effect of having been at war?
What if PTSD was NOT regarded as a shameful sign of weakness, hidden for many years and not talked about?
You slept with a gun under your pillow for years after your return from Viet Nam. Maybe you still do. Of course.
You plunged into deep sadness and depression for years after Somalia, or Korea, or the first Gulf War, or WWII. And at times you have come very close to suicide to escape the suffering. Of course.
You have experienced anger that goes from frustration and irritation to rage in a heartbeat since your return from action in Panama, or OIF/OEF. Of course.
You still scan your environment for threats since being downrange. Yep.
You have struggled with intrusive memories, thoughts, flashbacks, and even panic attacks since you have been back. Uh huh.
You have had difficulty with relationships, especially the most intimate ones. Yeah.
You feel separate and different from other people, and lots of times you intentionally isolate yourself. Yep.
And the nightmares, the feelings of helplessness and the fear of even going to sleep. Oh yeah.
And the numbness, not really feeling anything. Yes.
And you have felt the crushing weight of survivor’s guilt, ever since returning alive. Sigh.
And you don’t want to talk about it, “No one understands this”, “No one wants to hear it”, “No one else can stand the pain of hearing it”. So you retreat into yourself, or throw yourself into work, into your career, or just get into your car and drive all night. Done it all.
And maybe you’ve tried drinking and drugging all of this away and it’s still here. Yes.
And you don’t know who you are anymore. Sigh.
And the struggle to forget, avoid and to keep all this under control almost consumes you at times. Yes.
And sometimes it feels like you just got back last night.
You have been at war.
These are signs of the “diagnosis” of anxiety and stress “disorders”, now known as Post-Traumatic Stress and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In years past it was called battle fatigue, war neurosis, shell shock, or Soldier’s Heart.
You may have a few or a lot of these signs of PTS and PTSD.
But look beyond this medical textbook description and you discover that these are indicators of POST TERROR SOUL DISTRESS*. For many it is a natural and inevitable result of having been to war. Most Vets can pinpoint the exact moment they felt a “split” within them. The identity wound. The soul wound. The soul in distress.
You are not crazy, sick, broken or weak. You have been in war, and the things you have seen, heard, done and felt are far outside what most human beings normally experience.
And there is healing. Over time and with determination you can learn to let go of the struggle, to accept, to find forgiveness and reconciliation, to find peace.
You can become a Warrior At Peace, no longer being the wound.
Able to see the mark left by the wound as just a scar that records part of your story.
*see page 100 of War and The Soul