Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone, In a one bedroom house made of plaster & stone. I had come down the chimney with presents to give And to see just who in this home did live.
I looked all about a strange sight I did see, No tinsel, no presents, not even a tree. No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand, On the wall hung pictures of far distant lands.
With medals and badges, awards of all kind A sober thought came through my mind. For this house was different, so dark and dreary, I knew I had found the home of a soldier, once I could see clearly.
I heard stories about them, I had to see more So I walked down the hall and pushed open the door. And there he lay sleeping silent alone, Curled up on the floor in his one bedroom home.
His face so gentle, his room in such disorder, Not how I pictured a United States soldier. Was this the hero of whom I’d just read? Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?
His head was clean shaven, his weathered face tan, I soon understood this was more than a man. For I realized the families that I saw that night Owed their lives to these men who were willing to fight.
Soon ‘round the world, the children would play, And grownups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day. They all enjoyed freedom each month of the year, Because of soldiers like this one lying here.
I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone On a cold Christmas Eve in a land far from home. Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye, I dropped to my knees and started to cry.
The soldier awakened and I heard a rough voice, “Santa don’t cry, this life is my choice; I fight for freedom, I don’t ask for more, my life is my God, my country, my Corps.”
With that he rolled over and drifted off into sleep, I couldn’t control it, I continued to weep. I watched him for hours, so silent and still, I noticed he shivered from the cold night’s chill.
So I took off my jacket, the one made of red, And I covered this Soldier from his toes to his head. And I put on his T-shirt of gray and black, With an eagle and an Army patch embroidered on back.
And although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride, And for a shining moment, I was United States Army deep inside. I didn’t want to leave him on that cold dark night, This guardian of honor so willing to fight.
Then the soldier rolled over, whispered with a voice so clean and pure, “Carry on Santa, it’s Christmas Day, all is secure.” One look at my watch, and I knew he was right, Merry Christmas my friend, and to all a good night!
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that's triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
Most people who go through traumatic events may have temporary difficulty adjusting and coping, but with time and good self-care, they usually get better. If the symptoms get worse, last for months or even years, and interfere with your day-to-day functioning, you may have PTSD.
Getting effective treatment after PTSD symptoms develop can be critical to reduce symptoms and improve function.
Symptoms of PTSD
PTSD is diagnosed after a person experiences symptoms for at least one month following a traumatic event. However symptoms may not appear until several months or even years later. The disorder is characterized by three main types of symptoms:
- Re-experiencing the trauma through intrusive distressing recollections of the event, flashbacks, and nightmares.
- Emotional numbness and avoidance of places, people, and activities that are reminders of the trauma.
- Increased arousal such as difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling jumpy, and being easily irritated and angered.
Diagnosis criteria that apply to adults, adolescents, and children older than six include those below. Read more details here.
Exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violation:
- directly experiencing the traumatic events
- witnessing, in person, the traumatic events
- learning that the traumatic events occurred to a close family member or close friend; cases of actual or threatened death must have been violent or accidental
- experiencing repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic events (Examples are first responders collecting human remains; police officers repeatedly exposed to details of child abuse). Note: This does not apply to exposure through electronic media, television, movies, or pictures, unless exposure is work-related.
The presence of one or more of the following:
- spontaneous or cued recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive distressing memories of the traumatic events (Note: In children repetitive play may occur in which themes or aspects of the traumatic events are expressed.)
- recurrent distressing dreams in which the content or affect (i.e. feeling) of the dream is related to the events (Note: In children there may be frightening dreams without recognizable content.)
- flashbacks or other dissociative reactions in which the individual feels or acts as if the traumatic events are recurring (Note: In children trauma-specific reenactment may occur in play.)
- intense or prolonged psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic events
- physiological reactions to reminders of the traumatic events
Persistent avoidance of distressing memories, thoughts, or feelings about or closely associated with the traumatic events or of external reminders (i.e., people, places, conversations, activities, objects, situations)
Two or more of the following:
- inability to remember an important aspect of the traumatic events (not due to head injury, alcohol, or drugs)
- persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs or expectations about oneself, others, or the world (e.g., “I am bad,” “No one can be trusted,” "The world is completely dangerous").
- persistent, distorted blame of self or others about the cause or consequences of the traumatic events
- persistent fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame
- markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
- feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
- persistent inability to experience positive emotions
Two or more of the following marked changes in arousal and reactivity:
- irritable or aggressive behavior
- reckless or self-destructive behavior
- exaggerated startle response
- problems with concentration
- difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep
What Is PTSD?
PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.
It's normal to have upsetting memories, feel on edge, or have trouble sleeping after this type of event. At first, it may be hard to do normal daily activities, like go to work, go to school, or spend time with people you care about. But most people start to feel better after a few weeks or months.
If it's been longer than a few months and you're still having symptoms, you may have PTSD. For some people, PTSD symptoms may start later on, or they may come and go over time.
Independence Day: A Navy SEAL's 4th of July wish By Patrick Bisher Published July 02, 2017
With our nation’s Independence Day upon us, there is a devastating reality out there marring the celebratory reverie typical of this joyous time. Specifically, that we are losing a tragic number of those entrusted with protecting our great country to suicide. According to NPR, a staggering twenty veterans who risked their lives for us are now taking those same lives every day. The factors behind this cruel irony are many and varied. The causes may be debatable, but the effects are not. Numbers don’t lie. I served my country as a Navy SEAL but, prior to deploying, looked my own demons in the eye close enough to recognize them in the faces of others who were not as fortunate as I. They came home traumatized, putting on a brave face to mask the inner torment they were experiencing that, ultimately, left them without hope or, in their minds, anything to live for. They’d lost their sense of connection, nothing to replace the camaraderie that dominated their lives when the mission was everything. They, like me, were serving something bigger than themselves, a greater purpose that defined their self-worth. They felt as if they were in control because the mission before them was always clear, with markers that delineated success and victory, benchmarks they would do anything to achieve. As warriors, they protected the freedoms of this land; have been through blasts, explosions, firefights, and their brains bear the scars even if they managed to emerge with their bodies intact. Related Image Patrick Bisher book Expand / Collapse I know about this all too well. You mask your pain and you mask your problems, because that’s what you’re called to do to complete the mission. Until you get home. Then the mission isn’t there anymore, but the problems still are and you can’t mask them anymore. In that moment, the world feels dark and empty, riddled with a cold that can permeate even a beautiful July 4th day. You don’t know what’s coming next and the prospects of whatever it might be terrifies you. Almost like what SEALs refer to as the “black silhouette;” when you have someone in your scope but can’t get a clear focus. That’s life dominated by pain and ripped of clarity. You don’t understand what you’re missing, even as you’re convinced no one’s going to miss you. As a young boy, I was told I’d probably never walk again due to degenerative hip condition. But I overcame that and convinced myself I could overcome anything. Then I ruined the same hip in a parachuting accident while preparing to deploy. I wallowed in self-pity, seeking answers from within myself that weren’t to be found. They gave me drugs that turned me into a zombie, one of The Walking Dead. When I took them, I couldn’t feel much except a dull pain, and life was just cloudy. I didn’t care what I was doing to my wife or my friends or my family. I wanted the pain to be gone. And the more it was gone, the more I wanted to take the drugs so it wouldn’t come back. The specialists, doctors, and therapists all agreed: I could either reclassify or leave the Navy entirely. My SEAL career was finished. That’s when I gave up on myself, that’s when I hit rock bottom. And maybe that’s what I needed to force me to look in a different direction for help. In my case, that meant toward God. If I wanted to get better, if I wanted my life to change, I knew I needed help I couldn’t get from medicine, physical therapy, or even from my SEAL brothers. I needed God. And not just God Himself, but trusting that God had a perfect plan for me. Because I couldn’t find the answers I needed inside me. And if they weren’t there, it stood to reason that only by surrendering to a greater truth, that there is something bigger and better for me, would I find hope again. This wasn’t an easy thing for me to do, because I had never truly surrendered my life, my dreams, my goals, my future, or my desires to anyone at any time, celestial or otherwise. I had always done things my way and if others didn’t agree with me, I’d ignore their wisdom and move on. This was different. I had tried everything to heal, to make my body right and whole. Having failed physically, I had to look elsewhere; inward, toward my soul. If I couldn’t heal myself from the outside in, maybe I could heal myself from the inside out. It was my soul that had to change, especially if I wanted my body to as well, after undergoing hip replacement surgery that was my only chance to remain a SEAL. In giving myself up to Jesus, I found purpose, community, and hope. Though my outer self was wasting away, my inner self was being renewed day by day. I was no longer chained to whatever past I’d been dragging along with me, and I fully believe that the twenty veterans we lose to suicide every day can be saved from the turmoil into which they’ve sunk by finding a personal relationship with Jesus, just as I did. Our soldiers’ minds have slipped into the darkness, much like our country has slipped, and turned away from their Father. Our founding fathers, great leaders and God fearing men that they were, made sure we remembered the need for this by putting “in God we trust” on our coins and “One nation, under God” in our pledge to the flag our soldiers fight to make sure waves strong and proud. Do not let our brothers and sisters turn to emptiness, but go and be the light that they need. Serve them as they chose to serve our nation, putting you before themselves to protect this land, protect our freedoms, protect the very spirit that we celebrate on the 4th of July. Now it is our turn on the home front to pay it back to them, because we understand that freedom is not free; it comes at the highest cost our heroes are now paying. They need our help today and every day after. From organizations where soldiers can get help like Mission and the Navy SEAL Foundation. From you and me. Let us show them there is hope, that we the people are one nation and one body, together fighting the good fight. Because my wish for this and every 4th of July is simple: That the day comes when the number twenty dwindles to zero.
Patrick Bisher is a decorated Navy SEAL for his service in Iraq and the author of "No Surrender: Faith, Family, and Finding Your Way", published by Post Hill Press out July 4th.
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Posted by:military with ptsd, PTSD, PTSD and The Brain, veterans experience with PTSD | Categories: Blog, NewsTags:
It’s very frustrating for us living with PTSD. PTSD involves rocketing into extreme states of stress re-activity ( in the form of terror, rage, and uncontrollable impulses) and plunging into equally extreme states of being shut-down (exhaustion, emotional numbing, despair, and dissociation).
From this vantage point, PTSD clearly is about much more than fear and anxiety, involving the full range of emotions and undermining our body’s health, our ability to think clearly, to set and achieve goals, and to fully participate in and benefit from relationships.
All we know is we are safe, we are alive. It becomes all about the loss of self-regulation that occurs when survival dominates how we think, feel, and behave in every area of our life.
PTSD replaces the “me” who was still growing, learning, and becoming a unique person before the trauma(s), leaving only a desperate survivor who may have no clear sense of identity and who may even hate or loathe herself or himself.
But because our thinking kept us safe kept us alive, we honestly do not think we have a problem. To us we aren’t acting nuts, we are acting exactly how we trained. We are military, it’s who we are. Our training, the military way kept us alive. We have to be able to respond to threat with minimal time pondering choices and we don’t use kid gloves. No we go on full attack. So how can our thinking and actions be wrong now?
In our mind we don’t have the problem, the problem is the spouse who cries, who pushes, who nags, who says we need help (which in military world that translates to we are weak). We really think you as the spouse are our problem and the cause for pushing us till our anger explodes. But hey we are military, that is a perfectly acceptable emotion and reaction to have.
I’ve made a list of things I’ve learned over the years or realized from my experience. Many veterans I speak to have expressed to me this list is pretty well right on although it may not be everyone’s experience.
1. We use video games to escape and feel in control of something, that is normal. Don’t fight us on this it will only make things worse. We don’t need a mom telling what to do or trying to punish us by taking it away. Instead try playing a game with us. The point is find something, anything, to get involved with us, and get some communication going. Spending time together even over a video game helps rebuild trust.
2. Lack of intimacy normal due to being numb. Do you have any idea what it’s like to look at your family and not be able to feel anything? It is not about you, it is about us and trying to figure out what the hell is going on. It also could probably be contributed to the next point.
3. Anger, yelling, cussing, and reacting before thinking (i.e overreacting or doing stupid things on impulse) The trauma we endure caused physical changes in our brain. The amygdala which controls flight or fight is now always on. We can go from 0-60 in a nanosecond. It is what kept us alive. Every situation is an emergency. We just came back from a place that everyone wanted to kill us and our brothers and sisters are dying right in front of us. Our amygdala can’t tell the difference between Iraq and home. We will not fight with kid gloves on. We are now playing by a different set of rules. (We have to relearn to control it which takes time.)
4. Spending money. Again most of us have this problem. Due to lack of impulse control because of changes in our brain, and well, what’s the point of saving for a future that may never come. Death is in us, we saw our buddies laughing and joking one minute and dead the next.
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Post traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Reacting to a Traumatic Event
It’s not unusual for people who have experienced traumatic events to have flashbacks, nightmares, or intrusive memories when something terrible happens — like the 9/11 terrorist attacks and those in cities around the world (Orlando and Paris, for example) or the bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon, or active combat.
Be tolerant of your nervous system: It’s having a normal reaction. Try not to get hooked to news reports, which may seem particularly compelling. Spend time with loved ones in favorite activities or outside in nature, and avoid alcohol.
Learn more below, including how to help children.
Posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a serious potentially debilitating condition that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist incident, sudden death of a loved one, war, violent personal assault such as rape, or other life-threatening events. Research has recently shown that PTSD among military personnel may be a physical brain injury, specifically of damaged tissue, caused by blasts during combat. (Research Traces Link Between Combat Blasts and PTSD)
Most people who experience such events recover from them, but people with PTSD continue to be severely depressed and anxious for months or even years following the event. Learn about PTSD symptoms.
Women are twice as likely to develop posttraumatic stress disorder as men, and children can also develop it. PTSD often occurs with depression, substance abuse, or other anxiety disorders.
Relationships, Trauma, and PTSD
Trauma survivors who have PTSD may have trouble with their close family relationships or friendships. Their symptoms can cause problems with trust, closeness, communication, and problem solving, which may affect the way the survivor acts with others. In turn, the way a loved one responds to him or her affects the trauma survivor. A circular pattern may develop that could harm relationships. Read more from the National Center for PTSD.
- 7.7 million Americans age 18 and older have PTSD.
- 67 percent of people exposed to mass violence have been shown to develop PTSD, a higher rate than those exposed to natural disasters or other types of traumatic events.
- People who have experienced previous traumatic events run a higher risk of developing PTSD.
- PTSD can also affect children and members of the military: Watch a video about Staff Sgt. Stacy Pearsall, a combat photographer who experienced PTSD. See how she got help.