Combat veterans with PTSD have various reactions. Some symptoms can be more severe in some people or at some times than others.
Police officers can also suffer from these various traumatic experiences. I was fortunate enough to give two presentations on Reintegrating the Returning Warrior to law enforcement professionals and warrior advocates at this year's ILEETA conference. Everything from emotional numbing to aggression and from sleeping problems to apathy shows the sign of PTSD at work, whether the officer has been deployed in a military combat situation or not.
Whether you're a family member of a warrior or a warrior yourself, these two truths are paramount. Knowledge is power, and when it comes to post traumatic stress, ignorance isn't bliss.
Learn about it. Talk about it. Get help for it. Too many marriages are troubled and too many lives are in jeopardy because of the stigma surrounding combat PTSD. Too many people just don't understand and have blaring misconceptions about combat PTSD. Sadly, even a few mental health professionals misconstrue the facts regarding what a soldier will or will not do after returning from war.
If we honor our soldiers and pray for our troops today, while they're in uniform, why do we attempt to throw them to the proverbial wolves once they return home and receive an honorable discharge? If we give our young men weapons of destruction, teach them to destroy lives, send them off to war and then fail to reintegrate them into society of non-warriors, does the fault lie with them? I think not.
We owe it to our warrior class to let them know we appreciate every horrible and terrible thing they've encountered. We may not want to know what they've done, what they think, what they're capable of or what they've witnessed. We may not want them to think or behave a certain way, but just as any of us, our experiences shape who we are, how we think and how we act. We need to let warriors know what they experience is part of what every warrior throughout the ages experiences, in one way or another. It's the bane of war, combat and up-close confrontations. As a society and a people, we should never glory in war, killing or brutality. Yet we do.
The irony of our society is that millions of American citizens possess an anxious zeal for watching TV shows and Hollywood movies about gun-wielding cops and rugged military personnel, and millions more love to play violent video games, all glorifying and revering the warrior archetype, but the perception is severely skewed. This alarming misconception of what a warrior is and what a warrior does and how he/she feels has a grave impact to our culture.
First, it puts into the minds of those who view or play such violent actions that violence is good. This could not be further from the truth. This also has a tendency to create in the minds of those who view such sordid scenes or play these first-person style violent games the idea that killing is pleasing to the senses. This can truly warp the senses. While most of us can differentiate between what is right, honorable and good, and what is evil, twisted and wrong, constant repetition from negative images and impressions, nevertheless, neutralizes us morally; it turns off the perception valve of humanity. A leak in the moral code of human dangerousness can open up flood gates to both the civil-minded as well as the mentally deranged or those who already possess a propensity for great criminal violence. In short, these are moral poisons that are slowly given in doses, eventually injuring our spiritually sensitive natures. The latter is especially true considering the growing tide of media that spawns amoral behavior as totally acceptable and justifiable. Examples could be given, but I will refrain and let you consider that for yourselves.
Secondly, watching or participating in such violence in the media distorts reality by showing that the hero will never get severely injured as one would in reality. These media mediums further show, erroneously of course, that the pains caused by violence, war and loss of friends, including any physical, emotional or spiritual soul wound, can all be over when the show ends or when the video game is turned off. Of course, in reality it isn't that easy.
Moreover, by watching these extremely myopic views of such tragedies, it gives viewers a perception that to cry or to be humane somehow isn't heroic. In other words, these films and other inventions show a false image of what a real man is. These instruments of deception jeopardize the very nature of human emotional stability by falsely depicting what a hero or heroine should or should not do, or how a man or a woman should or should not behave. In turn, this establishes an identity crisis within the real warrior -- the one who experiences the real pains and sorrows of war.
Years of idealizing and idolizing the warrior archetype, even if unconsciously, by constant views of what someone should be, could tear a man or a woman to pieces emotionally when experiencing the real thing. Young men may have fixed in their minds what war is to be, but the expectation of what war is, who he really is, and how he reacts to combat can be damaging to the core.
Perhaps he may, even tacitly, hope to behave like Hollywood's war heroes and not be affected for more than the length of a feature film. After a few months in the war zone, he realizes that's not possible. Perhaps he may impress societies' expectations upon him. After all, a combat soldier is revered by all of society and only the purely vocal pacifists oppose the honor of the military uniform, but those are few and they are largely shunned and ostracized. No, society has a fixed idea of calling our military men heroes, honoring them with parades and ribbons. Interestingly, the war veteran may very well not feel like a hero at all, instead there can be feelings of great guilt, remorse and sorrow. Plaudits of praise might only aggravate any feelings of shame or meaninglessness after the war experience. These praises, of course, are not meant to be offensive; and the citizen who has never served may not know what else to say or do. Recognition for war veterans can, however, be deeply rewarding when done in certain ways, the which will not be defined at this point.
Of course, these war pains of identity wounds have been a part of societies far before any media inventions like the TV, so this no specific diagnosis to this complex issue of identity wounds, but media certainly plays an incremental role in the shaping of our identities. This phenomenon may be best compared to the youthful boy who is told that boy's shouldn't cry; that he must wipe away his tears, dust off his boots and drive on. When that boy becomes a man, now he may feel that real men shouldn't cry and if he cries because of deep, troubling emotional pain, that he's somehow not measuring up. Tears can be therapeutic though, and real men do cry. Real men cry tears that no Hollywood actor could ever reproduce. No show could ever capture the real pain of real soldiers.
Alas, it's been said that only warriors can help warriors. One reason is because they "get it". Those who've experienced traumas can offer help unlike those who just don't understand. Traumas that are not combat related are terrible, and there are those who can lend a listening ear, but they still may never truly understand. On the flip side, there are some warriors who experience things that other warriors will never know or comprehend. Nevertheless, their trauma is at least still in the same genre, so to speak.
I believe that all members of the warrior class have experienced troubles for which emotional assistance is warranted. This applies to law enforcement personnel, who've been on the job for a few years, veterans of war, as well as some in the private security profession. Not everyone has problems, but more often than not, these warriors do face personal demons. They either try to avoid or ignore their problems (typically with alcohol), or they think everyone else has a problem but them. Symptoms of PTSD is the nature of the beast -- it's the bane that comes in the wake of warring experiences. And, unfortunately, society at large will simply never understand. On one hand, that's a really good thing; on the other hand, it's too bad the only thing they think they know about war and warriors is from what they see on TV or in the movies.
To read the real stories of real warriors, check out the forthcoming book named after this blog: Warrior SOS -- Interviews, Insights & Inspiration, due out in ebook, available through Amazon, real soon. Watch for it.
To read amazing interviews with warriors, check out Warrior SOS: Interviews, Insights and Inspiration, the book on Amazon.com. Here's the link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00D3WO7VK