22 A DAY… 22 Veterans commit suicide every day. Despite all that we have tried to do to bring this number down, it remains. The question is Why? Afterall, enough awareness has been created that it now has it’s own day. Perhaps it is the type of awareness that we need to look at? I know my veteran friends will understand this, because many of us live this life. Sadly though, the public doesn’t and I believe that is because of the media.
The media portrays those with PTSD as ticking time bombs waiting to go on a killing spree. Every time there is a mass shooting and the shooter happens to be a veteran they are quick to blame his actions on PTSD. When American Hero Chris Kyle was murdered by a fellow veteran, uninformed people said it was because he had PTSD. No, that lunatic likely had other serious mental health issues that had been left un-diagnosed. Perhaps he had done drugs which caused paranoia and hallucinations? Perhaps the crazy voices in his head told him to do it? One thing I know for sure is PTSD did NOT cause him to murder two men that day that were trying to help him.
Those of us who do have PTSD understand that it doesn’t make you want to go on killing rampages or seek revenge. We know better and we wouldn’t want to bring that sort of dishonor to those who have sacrificed so much and live with it each day.
The only person an individual with PTSD wants to hurt is themselves. Why? Because the pain that comes from the thoughts and emotions in the brain make life unbearable. The injuries to our brains be it from physical trauma or emotional trauma throw off our chemicals making it difficult to enjoy life and think rationally.
Many don’t believe PTSD is real, I used to be one of those people. Little did I know I had it and when I was faced with the demons that reached from the grave to pull me down, I went into complete denial. I refused to admit I had a problem. I blamed my issues on everything from hormones, stress, heartbreak, you name it. But I was NOT willing to admit I had PTSD because of the stigma that is attached to it. I was convinced I would lose my job and have to start all over at the age of 47.
I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t pick myself up and keep going like I had so many times before. The physical pain deep inside was crippling and all sense of rational thinking was gone. All I could think about was how bad I wanted to be out of pain.
THANK GOD I reached out for help to that ONE person I truly trusted. I will spend the rest of my life grateful to him for helping me believe I could get better if I asked for help and convincing me there was a way to get help privately so my employer wouldn’t find out.
This past week I had a friend join the ranks of 22 and I can’t stop thinking about him. It had only been a month since we spoke and I deeply regret that. He was doing great the last time I spoke with him and we had plans to meet for dinner when things settled down on the home front.
Then a few days ago I got a strange text from his phone. It was his brother reaching out to me because I was one of the last people he had been talking to. His brother told me what had happened and I was devastated. My friend suffered from PTSD, just like so many other similar warriors. He and a friend were the only two to survive an attack about 10 years ago and that friend joined the ranks of the 22 about 2 weeks ago. When my friend got the news of his brother in arms taking his life, it broke him and he couldn’t take the guilt anymore. He had just lost everything in a divorce, although I speculate he didn’t fight very hard and just gave everything to her.
Before he took his life, he cashed in everything he had and paid off his ex-wife’s home and the home of a friend’s mom who had been good to him. My friend was a really really good man with a really really good heart. This shouldn’t have happened.
So why didn’t he get help? Why didn’t he feel comfortable calling the Crisis Line or a friend he could trust? Based on my experience and in talking to so many others, it’s trust. Veterans don’t trust the system. They fear the judgement because of the stigmas. They don’t like meeting new people and going through the labor of trying to trust someone so they can open up.
So today I’d like to ask each person reading this post, when you hear the term PTSD, don’t believe the media or buy into the fears so many believe. I know COUNTLESS people who are every day heroes who walk among us with PTSD and you would never even know it. They are Veterans, Cops and Firefighters. They can be children who’ve been abused or abused spouses or sexual assault victims.
PTSD is real and it sucks. But I can tell you that it doesn’t have to break you if you learn to live with it. That takes time and help. No one can do it alone so don’t even try. If you get a counselor and you don’t like them, find another one. There are some real loony counselors out there, but there are also some kick ass ones.
Lastly, if you know someone who suffers from PTSD and has been going through a tough time, don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to them. You don’t have to be a counselor, you just have to be a friend and a good listener. Don’t worry about being the person who has to take on the responsibility for their well being, that is on them. Just let them know you appreciate them and you support them. Most importantly, don’t judge them and make sure they know that. Help them find resources that can help them so it doesn’t get to the point where their worst fear is imagined… being hauled off in a pair of handcuffs because someone called the police. That should always be the last resort because of what it does to them. Find help before it gets that bad.
If you have questions or need help finding resources for someone you care about, contact SAMHSA’s website and search for PTSD support or click on this link https://store.samhsa.gov/?ptsd. You can also reach them at 800-662-HELP (4357)
God Bless and Thank you for taking the time to read this.