Looking back to the time of my diagnosis ...
It's a difficult thing to walk into a stranger's office and ask for help when you don't know how to voice the pain being held in check inside of you ... especially when you don't know the extent of the damage within yourself. How do you try to voice the effects of a condition that can affect your life in so many different ways - depending on the circumstances or the environment that you find yourself in.
How do you explain to a stranger why seeing something on the box or at the movies triggers a sort of pain that goes to the core of you and drives down even deeper into realms of consciousness that you didn't even know existed? Or how a song or a smell can instantly take you away somewhere in your unguarded moments?
More and more Veterans are coming to notice because of PTSD, yet it still seems that their referral and diagnosis takes place because of some other incident. Rare is the Veteran that walks in and says, 'Please help me - something's wrong with me because of my military service'.
I've been asking about the hurdles faced by current Veterans returning from service and there's no difference to the core issues. We're programmed from basic training to survive and carry on doing what we have to do, regardless off the difficulties that we find ourselves in. I would say that that is the overlying reason why so many Veterans won't come forward for support and treatment. Perhaps people will think less of them if they come asking for help. These people that stood and fought in difficult situations, that were relied upon to do their utmost in achieving their objectives ... find it hard to go and ask for the help they need.
Some elements of the system throw hurdles in their path as well though. Some times they're spoken to in ways that strip away any shred of dignity that they have left ... or worse ... they're spoken to in ways that trigger their condition - turning them into walking time bombs ready to explode.
Seeking help is hard work - to lower your defences enough to allow someone a glimpse of your pain is a risk ... but a necessary one.
I still remember the first time that I went to 'Combat Stress' for treatment. I was sat in my car outside the big metal gates ... and there was a battle going on inside of me. Part of me wanted to get the hell away from the place while another part of me wanted the help. Luckily the staff there are used to dealing with people like us.
When I started my therapy (which wasn't either CBT or EMDR as I'd already had those from the NHS locally), I couldn't talk to my therapist there. I couldn't sit in an office with her. I remember this big tree that had a little hollow in the trunk on the grounds and I would leave her office and head straight for the tree and just curl up in there ... unable to voice my feelings. My therapist and her colleagues were gentle and patient with me though and allowed me the space and time that I needed to open up. It took a few short visits to be able to talk about my experiences ...but it was worth it.
In my particular case, I know that recovery isn't possible ... but I have learned to live with it. If learning to live with PTSD is your worst case scenario ... isn't it better than suffering in silence, alone? And what if there's the option of recovery for you? Isn't it worth trying if you could find your way back to your family and loved ones?
Nowadays, there are Veterans involved with many health service providers, engaging with them to help them to understand why Veterans' needs are so different in certain ways. We're all reaching out in the hope that you'll be able to walk forward and get the help that you want or need ... because no one will understand the pain that you are going through better than someone that's been there.
The door's opening - please walk through it.
Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu