Ignorance of PTSD might be dangerous: Part 1 of 2

Charlene Sakoda writing for Odd News reported that James Glaser, a retired Air Force veteran, who served in Iraq, was forced to leave a restaurant with his service dog trained to help him keep his PTSD under control.

Glaser called the police and the officer who responded to the call failed to convince the owner of the restaurant that the dog was legitimate. Russell Ireland, the owner of the restaurant, said, “Get that fake service dog out of my restaurant.”

When the police officer said the papers the vet carried on him proved the dog was not fake, Ireland said, “I don’t give a [expletive]”.

Ireland was an ignorant and biased fool. It seems that even Dr. Phil is one of those ignorant fools [watch the following video to see what I mean].

CNN reported that violence is a growing problem among vets with PTSD. “Study after study has highlighted the struggles faced by troops returning home, including substance abuse, relationship problems, aggression or depression…”

And a PTSD service dog is trained to deal with and disarm a PTSD reaction to a situation.

My combat induced PTSD was rated at 30% by the VA, and that was decided after a number of sessions with a VA counselor and Q&A sessions with other VA counselors and shrinks. And I’ve met a vet with a 100% PTSD disability who suffered much worse in Vietnam. Just the sound of a helicopter flying overhead caused him to suffer an awake flashback in daylight [click on A Prisoner of War for Life to discover more].

Suffering from a PTSD flashback does not mean vets turn into a mass of quivering cowardly jello. In fact, the opposite may happen. I’ll explain in Part 2.

Continued on September 24, 2013 in Ignorance of PTSD might be dangerous: Part 2

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning suspense-thriller Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was fighting for the other side.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

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21 thoughts on “Ignorance of PTSD might be dangerous: Part 1 of 2

  1. 100% Permanent http://www.229thavbn.com/jimwilson/

    They watched TV and ordered Pizza, We delivered boys to the Med pad.
    They spit on us when we came home. Not knowing we turned and watched the caskets roll out from the same Freedom Bird that brought us home. Ignorance has been there along time. 42 clusters on my Air Medal
    10 1/2 months

    • I remember.

      The ignorance is still there.

      There will always be ignorant, biased people who think they know everything when they know little to nothing for just about every war and issue under the sun, stars and moon.

    • Thank you (both) for your service. Allow me, please, to offer my sincere apologies for the shameful manner in which America treated returning Viet Nam vets – and how so many of you are [mis]treated still. You deserve so much better.

      It seems, as Lloyd says in his response to your comment, that there will always be ignorant people – and those who seem empathy deficient. I hope that my comment might allow you to know that there are also those who DO empathize, although only those who walked in your shoes could every truly understand.

      I am a multi-generation service brat, a Boomer, and like many who were in High School and college at the time, did not support that particular war — but I ALWAYS supported and respected those who were sent to fight it. I mourned those who did not return and weep still for those who returned broken in so many ways.

      Thank you, Lloyd for the bravery of this blog. I believe it is important work to allow those who are suffering to know that they are not alone, and that, with help, it is possible to “recover” to the point where life remains worth living. I also know from personal experience that it is healing for those of us who are struggling to reach out our hands to others who need support.

      FYI: I am currently researching C-PTSD for a Series I am writing about PTSD for Awareness Month, and clicked here from an amazingly caring and descriptive comment Lloyd left on the blog of a woman suffering from C-PTSD as the result of a gang rape. I will be linking this post as Related Content, and will ping you when it goes live.

      xx,
      mgh
      (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
      – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
      “It takes a village to transform a world!”

      • Thank you. I explored C-PTSD on one of my other Blogs that focuses on China and the Chinese, because I think there is enough evidence to support the fact that Mao had it and that might help explain why he made many of the decisions he did as China’s leader for 27 years. Of course, this doesn’t excuse him for the horrors to all of China that were caused by the Cultural Revolution that he set in motion, but I think it helps explain why he did what he did and why he got worse as he aged becoming recursive and distrusting of just about everyone around him.

        If you are interested, here’s the link: https://ilookchina.net/2013/12/03/the-influence-of-complex-ptsd-on-mao-as-chinas-leader-part-1-of-2/

      • Fascinating idea – I’ll go take a look shortly.

        Are you aware of Alice Miller’s books on Poisonous Pedagogy and her exploration of Hitler’s childhood? She has also claimed that at least part of the reason that “the good Germans” went along with Hitler in such numbers was due to the horrendous child-rearing policies of that country at that time (claiming that it was not uncommon for children to be beaten simply “to toughen them up.”)

        Although she doesn’t use the term C-PTSD, of course (or that an entire nation suffered from it), that thought occurred to me as I read your reply to my comment.

        It is often said that violence begets violence – increasingly, as C-PTSD is further explored, it seems that violence in childhood has lasting effects we ignore at our peril – and that the violence doesn’t have to be physical to leave welts.

        I wish somebody would explore the childhood experiences of a few of our current politicians (and their campaign managers). ::only partially in jest::
        xx,
        mgh

      • I think early childhood violence does play a role in who children grow up to become. Where I was a teacher for thirty years, street gang violence was common, and children exposed to that violence who belonged to the gangs thought the same as combat trained military, that the best way to solve a problem is to destroy the source of the problem.

        Even though I was born into a family living in poverty and did not grow up around street gangs and their violence, the training I went through as a U.S. Marine and then my experiences in combat led to me thinking simliar thoughts, and I’m not alone. I attend peer group meetings at the VA and all the combat vets I’ve met think the same way. They might be willing to try diplopia first but if that fails, shoot, knife or blow up the problem and if the problem is a suspected or known terrorist, torture them first. When I’m around combat vets, what we talk about sometimes would probably cause baldness, blindness and deafness in anyone who has ever been exposed to violence and/or been trained to be a lethal killing weapon.

        For instance, when I was teaching in a high school for the last 16 years I was a public school teacher, at least one gang member in one of my classes would ask me almost every year what I’d do if they jumped me. My answer was always the same. “I’d kill as many as I could before I died.” This shocked even the gang members. “You can’t do that, Mr. Lofthouse.”

        “Look,” I’d reply. “The Marines didn’t train me to fight. They trained me to kill and to do it without thinking and taking the time to decide if it is wrong or right. In combat, trained Marines don’t have time to think. To survive, we have to react without thought and our training made it an automatic process.”

        Just because we are former Marines and combat vets doesn’t mean we left that training behind. If someone broke into my house while I was there, I’d shoot first and then shoot again to make sure the intruder was dead. I’d never ask any questions. That’s stupid because it gives away your location. I might say something to the dead intruder after making sure the intruder was dead and no one else was there with them. You will have to use your imagination to figure out what I’d say to the corpse — it would include a lot of profanity.

      • You sound a bit like my late father – test and fighter pilot, then military scientist, followed by Congressional liaison (during the Nam years) until retirement, defense industry consultant following. His “dealing with intruder threats” advice always ended with “make sure you drag them into the house before you call the police.” He wasn’t kidding, btw.

        It was ingrained in all of my father’s children that you NEVER point a gun at anyone you are not prepared to kill – and that you NEVER even touch a gun, should you trip across one (um, like snooping around the house, perhaps?)

        I, on the other hand, was not trained to kill – unless you consider my mouth a lethal weapon. 😉 That’s one of the reasons I’d never own a gun. My hesitation would give my attacker time to disarm me.

        The “killer instinct” doesn’t seem to be an instinct at all – it needs to be carefully conditioned. I would imagine that hypervigilence of a different sort begins upon returning home from war – even from Boot Camp. Sitting on that conditioning must be brutal!

        btw- Studies are few and inconclusive, but there also seems to be a link between [unhealed] exposure to violence in childhood and C-PTSD vulnerability (partially explaining why everyone exposed to the same trauma does not develop PTSD to the same degree).
        xx,
        mgh

      • I do not think I was physically abused as a child, and I was also not exposed to street gang violence. But Marine boot camp instilled in us recruits constant vigilance at all times. In combat, we were always alert and always heavily armed. My unit was on the perimeter of the 1st Marine Division in Chu Lai and on the other side of the wire no matter what direction you looked was where death lurked and was watching us inside the wire waiting for someone to slip up and make a mistake they could take advantage of. We were hit often enough that the Marines on guard in the parameter bunkers had itchy .50 caliber fingers to the point that it was even dangerous for our own night patrols when we were on our way in before first first light. We had to always stop outside .50 caliber range and use the radio to make sure they knew we were coming in, except for the one patrol I was on where all the batteries for my radio, I was the operator, were dead and we couldn’t call ahead. To make a long story short, we ended up flat half submersed in a shallow stream as the rounds from our own battalion CP’s 50 calibers were filling the air inches above our heads.

        I came under fire from snipers a number of times and one round came close enough to brush my left ear lobe. At night our CP was often hit with rockets, mortar rounds, sniper rounds and was even infiltrated once. I still remember the night I watched as shrapnel from mortar rounds ripped opening in the canvas of the large tent I was trying to sleep in while the rain came down in a torrent outside. We had dug foxholes near our tents to use when we were hit like this but that night the rain had filled all the foxholes and there was no place to go except the bunkers along the peremiter, and they were getting hit with rockets and sniper fire.

        4th of July fireworks shows tend to trigger my PTSD so I avoid them on Independence Day and prefer a quiet evening at home.

      • I can’t even imagine how my own nervous system would have responded to the experiences you describe. War is hell doesn’t BEGIN to describe it – and “friendly fire,” though understandable, is anything BUT.

        btw- My research indicates that childhood abuse is not a pre-req for C-PTSD, simply postulated to increase one’s vulnerability to same (although most studies haven’t rigorously separated out participants with and without, so science hasn’t “proven” it yet). The anecdotal is compelling, however.

        I’m so sorry that fireworks are forever ruined for you. Since my muggers didn’t fire the gun, I doubt that they will trigger same for me. I hope not, anyway, since the ooh-ahh beauty of fireworks has always been one of my favorite things (tho’ I’ve *never* liked the noisy ones and startle a bit at the muffled boom of the pretties.).

        Many years ago I had a Shih Tzu for whom the weeks leading up to and following July 4th were terrifying, as the neighborhood kids lit bootlegged strings of the kind that were ONLY noisy. Even at my computer in an interior room I had to “baby carrier” her close to my heart – which broke for the poor little thing.

        She was also my early storm warning alert dog – began quivering even before I could see or hear evidence of the approach of a storm.

        The only thing I could surmise was that she was flown as baggage during a thunderstorm as a little tiny – because she was never shown anything but love and comfort once she came to live with me.

        ALL trauma leaves tracks, huh?
        xx,
        mgh

      • Yes, trauma leaves it marks. We are the sum total of our environment and lifestyle, our friends, our family, our neighbors, our teachers, what we watch on TV, the books we read, the music we like; our DNA.

      • I think PTSD affects people differently. How combat vets react to the PTSD is probably different than a rape victim or someone who grew up as an abused child, etc.

        For instance, combat vets with PTSD are usually hyper vigilant, always looking for danger and/or a threat of danger. I know that when I’m walking down a street my eyes are always busy assessing each person walking toward me while checking out the street one or two blocks from my position for any potentially dangerous situation. I also often glance behind me.

        I don’t like crowds. If a restaurant is crowded, I’ll go back home and eat there. Whenever I go to see a film at the theater, I’ll ask how many seats are empty before I buy the ticket. If half or more are sold out, I turn around and walk away.

      • I’m sorry that you have to live that way – and I’m sure you are correct that PTSD/C-PTSD symptoms are individual as well as type-specific.

        Even walking my puppy, I’m hypervigilant if I’m out after dark, for example, but I actually feel safer in crowds. I do tend to be more relaxed in most restaurants if I have my back to a wall – which never crossed my mind before I was mugged at gunpoint by a gang of teens (on the street right in front of my house – after dark).

        I have what I would call “mild” flashbacks, but its interesting that I have no memory of their faces and could not ID them. The scene plays back like one of those TV shows where you can barely make out what’s going on but for the costumes.

        Speaking of which – it’s getting dark and I need to walk Tink!
        xx,
        mgh

      • No doubt!

        I try not to avoid going out at night, but I am still not very comfortable with it – especially when I have to drive. There are nowhere NEAR enough parking spaces for all the tenants, and parking on the street at night is a big time trigger anymore, even with Tink.

        I also sleep better in the daylight and still have trouble falling asleep when the apartment is dark. Crazy, yes?
        xx,
        mgh

      • Not crazy. We are a products of our life experiences and how we cope with life teaches us to survive one way or the other.

        I have my own thinking on why PTSD causes us to act the way we do. If we don’t learn to manage what triggers PTSD events like flashbacks or emotional angry/violent outbursts, then the PTSD controls us. If we learn to recognize the triggers and manage them, then we have more control of the PTSD symptoms so they don’t turn us into a total mental case.

        When I cam back from Nam, I was a heavy straight-from-the-bottle drinker of whisky, Scotch, and vodka — often rotgut.

        The more I drank, the less control I had of the PTSD symptoms. When I stopped drinking fourteen years later to save my life, I discovered the reactions to the symptoms were not as traumatic because I was more aware of the triggers and learned how to avoid them by avoiding, for instance, crowds, popular events, sleeping with a loaded firearm or edged weapons (I have a lot of knives of different lengths around the house, and on my night stand I have pepper spray, a very long and extremely sharp Bowie knife – that’s on top but in a drawer is a K-Bar – and a loaded shotgun or .38 caliber Smith and Wesson. Once the sun comes up and I can see what’s outside, I usually lock up the firearm/s). Before sleep, I also turn on the perimeter alarm and do a perimeter check to make sure all the windows and doors are double and sometimes triple locked before I go to bed (I’ve added more locks to every opening). The more secure I know the perimeter of the house is, the better I sleep. I am not fooling myself that I’m safer. What I’m doing is making sure any intruders have to go to extreme lengths to get in while I’m sleeping so the noise they make wakes me up and I become the hunter I was trained to be by the Marines. I have no pity any fool who invades my home at night while I’m sleeping. I’ve had events where a noise woke me up and I went into combat mode and gone on search and destroy inside and outside of the house looking for the source of the noise so I can determine the threat level.

        During the day with windows open to cool the house and freshen the stuffy air from the night before, like right now as I write this comment, I make sure there is no noise like music or radio to interfered with my hearing anyone who might try to remove a screen and climb inside. If this were to happen I’m prepared to die in my reaction to kill the intruder. There will be no questions asked like “What are you doing in my house? Get out of here.” I am determined to attack as I was trained and one of us will end up dead.

        Several years ago, one of the counselors at the VA said I had to lock up my weapons at night because they were dangerous. Someone might get hurt. What a fool he was? I locked my weapons up and then I couldn’t sleep. I lay awake listening to every creak and noise and ended up putting my K-Bar under my pillow. This went on for days, because I did as he told me and kept those firearms locked up, but I wasn’t sleeping. I lost a lot of sleep until I returned to my old habits. I also stopped seeing him. He wasn’t a combat vet. He didn’t understand. He was just a shrink who I think was wrong headed and stupid. I think he left the VA. I haven’t seen him at the VA center I go to for along time. After a couple of years, I returned to counseling at the VA with another person who is married to a combat vet with PTSD. I think she gets it. The other guy didn’t.

        In short, I don’t fight the PTSD triggers. I’ve learned that is futile and if I struggle to overcome them, then the symptoms just get worse. I know what triggers the PTSD and elevates my alert levels, my fight or flight status, and I do what I can to alleviate the cause and effect factor. If turning my house into a fortress or avoiding events/crowds helps me relax and feel more secure, then that’s what I do. The more secure I feel, the more relaxed I become. In fact, as I renovate the house I moved into recently, I removed the hollow core door for the master bedroom and replaced it with a solid core, metal clad door that comes with a bolt lock. I also reversed it so it opens into the hall instead of into the bedroom increasing the door’s security. That put the hinges on the outside of the room, but to fix that I drilled holes in the hinges and inserted pins in those holes making it impossible to remove the hinge pin.

        I also plan to have security screens installed for the master bedroom’s two windows. The more secure my house, the better I sleep.

      • To anyone who hasn’t walked in your shoes, what you do might seem excessive. I’m sure most combat vets would understand immediately, and I’ll bet that many do essentially the same. (Your wife probably understands it as well since she is, unfortunately, a trauma victim herself.) The detail you provide above probably allows your readers to feel less alone and less “crazy” for taking the protective measures that they deem necessary.

        It makes sense, given what I know about PTSD personally and what I’ve learned researching it, that failing to take preventative measures would not be something you could allow yourself to do – any more than any parent could EVER relax knowing that the front door was wide open and the children were sleeping in the next room.

        I only became able to sleep when it was dark out after I got my puppy to alert me to the possibility of danger when anyone came *close* to either of the doors to my apartment. And I was nowhere NEAR a combat zone!

        Only when my Dad drove me to college as a freshman (from the D.C. area to Knoxville, Tn.) did I learn that he always slept with a revolver under his pillow, and drove with one under the driver’s seat. I never learned what he did to secure them otherwise, what kind of permits were required and whether he held them or not, but I have no doubt that he remained ready to kill or be killed for his entire life. And this is a man who was a pilot during WWII, only in danger on the ground when he was shot down. (He never spoke of it, but his Purple Heart had several clusters).

        For as long as we train young men (and women) to develop an automatic kill-or-be-killed reflex, *of course* they are going to feel vulnerable without weapons at the ready. How could anyone expect that level of conditioning to simply fade away on return from combat?

        The change in tactics that began with the Viet Nam conflict – and the resultant change in training to prepare soldiers for jungle warfare – means we can’t compare the PTSD struggles of those who fought in later wars to those who fought earlier. That’s just common sense!

        We ALL attempt to do whatever it takes to restore our feelings of safety and security when they have been impaired. The greater the impairment, the greater the number of safeties it takes to allow us to calm down enough to sleep. Sleep debt worsens PTSD as it creates some additional problems that weren’t there before.

        Why is that so difficult for ANY helping professional to understand?

        You think to lock the guns away when you are awake and alert. That probably would have been enough to let a trauma-trained therapist understand that – intruders excepted – you are not a danger to self and others (at least not as a result of having weapons at the ready as you sleep!)

        On my first PTSD Awareness post (I believe) I linked to the post of a therapist calling for more trauma training for helping professionals for the very reasons you cite above. Those without can’t be allowed to continue to believe that they are qualified to work with trauma victims simply because they have a degree. They are causing harm using “standard” protocols where they are clearly not appropriate and that are, at the very least, not likely to work!

        So there is at least some awareness in the therapy community of the need for change and additional training – and not just for the many vets who need help.

        You and I will probably not live to see the time when trauma technique is a required part of their curriculum. However, I’m glad to see that there is a call for change afoot – if only to alert those looking for help to ask about trauma training BEFORE they hire a shrink (and to understand that the shrink doesn’t really GET it if the answer is “no” and there is no other choice available). The question alone might prepare the therapist to re-evaluate “push-back” and reframe “resistance.” Maybe.

        I’m glad you had the good sense to jettison your counselor’s naive advice relatively quickly. I’m also glad you were healed enough to try it, but it seems from here that it was an experiment that failed. It certainly sounds to ME that you have a well-considered approach to what’s going on in your reality that seems to be working: protect yourself by knowing your triggers, avoiding as many as possible.

        It breaks my heart to hear that you – and SO many others – have to live that way. But it beats the alternative – with a stick!

        xx,
        mgh

      • “You think to lock the guns away when you are awake and alert. That probably would have been enough to let a trauma-trained therapist understand that – intruders excepted – you are not a danger to self and others (at least not as a result of having weapons at the ready as you sleep!)”

        I have been thinking recently of buying a shoulder holster so I can carry one of my automatics around with me inside the house at night when it is warm, dark out and I want to leave the windows open to let the cool breeze in. That way, my weapon will always be with me and I won’t have to carry it around in hand. With the windows and doors closed at night when I’m still up, I’m more relaxed compared to when windows are open to let a cool breeze in. When it’s dark, I don’t leave the doors open and unlocked. They are locked before night falls. When the windows are open, I find myself getting up every fifteen minutes and patrolling the house checking to see that the screens haven’t been disturbed.

      • I can’t even imagine that level of hypervigilence. It’s a wonder you can sleep at all! If a shoulder holster makes you feel calmer in your own home, nobody has any right to tell you not to buy one, IMHO – it certainly makes more sense than a weapon in hand.

        I wish I could say something – anything – that would help. My thoughts are with you.
        xx,
        mgh

  2. Complex PTSD Awareness | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

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