Wednesday, June 19, 2013

PTSD Awareness Month

I don't know why, but I am still so surprised by the misconceptions about PTSD, even within the military community.  I'm always so surprised when people reach out to me and want to talk to me about PTSD and then I discover how much they don't understand.

I suppose it's easy to misunderstand.

There is the media portrayal of what PTSD is in the movies and on TV.  A bunch of drug users and alcoholics beating their wives.  There's what the military community views it as, which is most often as a weakness that makes you less than your counterparts and then there is what it really is.  And even what it really is so varied and so vastly different from one person to the next.

My husband doesn't "flashback," he disconnects.  It's not the same thing really.  He is no longer present in the moment, but isn't acting out some scenario that is only playing in his head either.  And he is mean, and a bully, but he doesn't hit me and never has.  And he drinks more than he used to, but it by no means an alcoholic.

But I know those who have spouses who do have flashbacks and violent outbursts and then there are those who suffer memory lapses, or memory loss.  There are those who are sensitive to sound, where my husband has a hard time in crowds because of the people VS the noise.  There are about a million different combinations of symptoms that can manifest.

But what my husband is not is weak.  He might be the strongest man I know.  And what he is not is broken.  He has a fracture in his mind, that is true, but it doesn't make him incapable.  And our life is not perfect.  In fact, I know I have days where I feel like we are living in a private hell.  But we are doing the best we can.

June is PTSD awareness month and I encourage you to think long and hard about what you know about PTSD and whether or not you have actually learned it as fact or if it's what you saw on TV or at the movies.  Even the news sensationalizes what is a very real, very hard life for service members and their families.  Be educated.

Do not ask service members if they have killed someone.
Do not tell them they deserve whatever comes to them.
Do not assume every military person has PTSD.
Do not assume anything about the ones that do.
Do not tell them they are just fine or over reacting.
Do not tell them or their families that they just have to try harder.

An average of 22 service members commit suicide every day in this country.  Many of them have never seen combat.  But all of their lives should be mourned, and if any part of understanding PTSD can help, I hope that our nation can work together to foster a better community of support.  And I hope that people will choose to get educated.

I have a list of resources on my site, there are more out there.  Please educate yourself about PTSD.  You never know if your spouse is going to be the one that comes home with it.  And you never know when you will be the first one to notice symptoms in a friend or colleague and that might be what saves their life and gets them to seek help.


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