|The Ghost in the Orange Closet|
|Post Traumatic Stress Disorder|
May 2012 issue of Army Magazine
Troops and PTSD
Post Traumatic Stress is not a mental disorder! It is a physical injury caused by the chemical changes in the brain. There are numerous discussions about Army Sgt. Robert Bales and the killing of 17 Afghans. (“Troops with PTSD fighting” Caller Times Saturday, March 24, 2012) I believe we are all horrified of such actions by our soldiers.
As a Vietnam Veteran, it brings back the March 18, 1968 My Lai Massacre where our soldiers went on a rampage killing innocent Vietnamese villagers. The nation could not understand our soldiers acting in such a manner any better back then than it is understood now. In 1968 no one knew anything about the invisible wound suffered by those who are in combat and have seen their buddies blown to pieces.
I was in Vietnam in 1969 and heard about that event. We all discussed it and agreed something must have gone seriously wrong, because we in uniform would never do anything like that. We excused it as “the leaders of the massacre must have been nuts at the time.”
Today, things are different because we are now beginning to see research which proves PTSD exists and is shown in MRIs. (“Neuroscientists Say Brain Scans Can Spot PTSD” By Katie Drummond, January 22, 2010).
What we have learned is Post Traumatic Stress affects the neurons in the brain by injecting chemicals. This is a natural occurrence we all experience. When we are in a stressful…dangerous situation our brain reacts and puts us in a “fight or flight” mode. The chemistry changes back to normal when the event is over. For those with PTSD, the chemistry does not completely go back to normal which causes the symptoms of this condition. The more stress the more these chemicals stay and the result is this injury.
Harvard Medical has published several featured articles showing MRI scans confirming there is a chemical change, which makes the person feel off balance and completely out of sync. A recent article in the Washington Post, (Nov. 10, 2009, “Scanning invisible damage of PTSD, brain blasts”) the article states, “Powerful scans are letting doctors watch just how the brain changes in veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and concussion-like brain injuries — signature damage of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.”
When I speak to veterans about PTSD, I tell them it should not be called Disorder…it should be called Post Traumatic Stress Injury! It has absolutely nothing to do with a person’s supposed mental weakness or flaw in their character.
I am always amazed at the reaction of those who have this ailment. They almost immediately feel much more comfortable about having the injury. They also begin to see, because it is a physical wound, a cure is possible.
Whether you are a veteran or have family members who served, you have to recognize Post Traumatic Stress is a physical wound… not any different than being shot. It must be treated and talked about as a wound of the flesh and help must be suggested on the same basis as a wound that bleeds
I know in my case, having been diagnosed with delayed PTSD, I would not have claimed this ailment because I would not have wanted to let my comrades down or left them to face danger without me being there. The bond that is built during combat is difficult to explain but it lasts a lifetime. Many feel the honor to serve is above any personal feelings and you want to continue. It is a very difficult situation for soldiers who are trained to be aggressive and ready to face danger, to then understand how it might affect them in the future. You can’t build an army without this training.
Our soldiers today are volunteers and they take great pride in what they do. That pride, at times, interferes with today’s analysis of combat stress and the answers given during evaluation may not be their true feeling. The only ways to truly diagnose our soldiers for this ailment is through MRIs. Unfortunately, that is not logistically possible at this time.
We all can help by educating ourselves on this issue so we can intelligently discuss the stress our soldiers have gone through. We also must understand those relatives who have gone off to war will not return the same people when they come home. It is now up to us to assist our current returning heroes and make certain they understand Post Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) and that there is hope in the future.
Tom Criser served with the 1st Cavalry in 1969/1970 in Vietnam, is a disabled Veteran with PTSI and has authored books and many articles on the subject. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org