PTSD is an acronym thrown around quite a bit. Principally, this mental diagnosis term of posttraumatic stress disorder was assigned beginning in the early 1980s, primarily to those who had experienced traumatic events, such as war. Let’s meet PTSD and talk about the rules of engagement surrounding it and those who carry its burden.
Why I Wrote An Article
A while back I wrote an article about adult autism, an issue I’d never seen addressed in prepping literature. A perceptive reader wondered what the condition had to do with prepping. It is relevant for two reasons. First, it’s a reminder that autistic children become autistic adults. Second, it’s to remind us that all kinds of people will be present in a post-apocalyptic situation.
Some of the survivors will be what society calls “normal”, while others will be a bit different. Autism is one difference. Another difference, commonly found in the military veterans who will be so valuable in a survival situation, is PTSD. Most survival groups will be eager to have veterans, but most won’t be prepared to deal with the psychological impact war has made on the veterans’ minds and behavior.
Meet H, my husband and the all-round smartest man I’ve ever met. He can almost keep up with me. By any criteria, he’s someone you’d want in your survival group. He can take apart and put together any gun. He’s an expert with explosives and once defused a WWII mine in our den. It’s not just theory that he knows but the action and strategies of war, and he can keep his head when others are doing a Linda Blair imitation.
He’s the best shot I’ve ever seen. Like most Southern men, he’s been shooting since childhood. What Grandad didn’t teach him, Carlos Hathcock did. Yes, my man is the ideal member of any survival group. But he comes with baggage those around him must never forget: he has severe PTSD.
The Remarkable History of PTSD
If you read literature about PTSD, you’ll find something peculiar. The condition has been clearly recognized for over a century. Freud identified it in train crash victims and later studied it in soldiers from World War I. He also realized that it did not arise from childhood incidents, like many neuroses, but from adult trauma.
During WWI it was referred to as “shell shock” and given little attention. The government wanted everyone to think war was great, heroic, and really fun, because that’s how you get the populace to pay for wars and send their children off to die in them. By WWII, it had become “battle fatigue”. But physicians still gave it scant attention. Their main concern was getting the psychologically damaged soldiers back to the battlefield as soon as possible.
Never Trust the Establishment—Government or Medical
After WWII, there was nothing. During the Vietnam War and for many years after, there was no research, no recognition of the problem, and no treatment provided for veterans. A psychological condition that had been identified by the world’s foremost psychiatrist decades earlier simply vanished.
Vets who went to the VA with PTSD symptoms were curtly dismissed. H went to the VA in Nashville, where a doctor told him he was fine and to go home. Needless to say, he never went back. He was lucky, in a way. Many vets experiencing flashbacks were diagnosed as psychotic and drugged into oblivion, which did nothing to help their real problem.
Why Vets Weren’t Treated
Why weren’t vets treated? The reason is quite simple. Most of the psychologists of the 60s, 70s, and early 80s were left-wing liberals who sat out the Vietnam war in Canada or college. They considered Vietnam vets “baby killers” and thought they deserved any suffering they experienced.
I expect the upcoming crop of snowflake doctors will behave the same way. There will be little support for our current troops, unless we, the people, and the vets themselves demand it and provide it.
Deep Throat Said It Best: Follow the Money
It was only when the medical community realized that papers could be written, speeches given, and grant money obtained that PTSD began to receive any attention. There were some willing to follow the money available to those who gave PTSD some attention.
Veterans Formed Groups
A further incentive came from the vets themselves. They realized the establishment wasn’t going to help them, so they began helping themselves. Veterans formed groups across America where they met to discuss their problems and, surrounded by others who understood, to talk freely about their darkest hells. The medical establishment immediately perked up, because people can’t be allowed to heal themselves without physician and pharmaceutical assistance. That’s where the money is.
The vets soon learned that they understood each other much better than any college-educated draft dodger. I once gave H a book about PTSD, hoping it might help him, and even me, understand the condition better. He read about two pages before furiously hurling the book across the room.
He already knew the only people who understand are the ones who were there, and I realized the things I needed to know could only be learned from the same source.
Different, Yet the Same
Every vet is different in terms of the severity of PTSD symptoms and what external stimuli may precipitate symptoms. There are also differences in the degree to which PTSD interferes with daily functioning.
A Common Problem: Nightmares
Nightmares are probably the most common PTSD symptom. These episodes are harrowing for the vet, because they recall the most terrible experiences of war. They’re not a pleasure for anyone nearby either. I have heard my husband calling for his best friend as he relived being shot. I’ve heard him shout warnings when the enemy breached the perimeter. I know he’s suffering, and there’s nothing I can do to help.
Nightmares may also be related to certain times of the year when particularly bad experiences occurred. These dreams may reoccur with annual regularity.
One strategy H used to help quell the nightmares was to go as long as possible without sleeping. Sometimes he stayed awake two or three days before falling unconscious from exhaustion. In a state of total physical exhaustion, he didn’t dream.
Flashbacks, when the present slips away and the past takes its place, are another common symptom of PTSD. They are completely different from psychotic episodes in which a person sees or hears what isn’t there. A flashback usually involves mentally replaying a traumatic event so completely that visual and auditory senses are activated.
Often Triggered By Insignificant Events
I try to protect my husband from anything I think might cause a flashback. However, it’s hopeless, because they’re often triggered by insignificant events. He picked up a glass of orange juice at breakfast and a tremor went through his whole body. Later, he told me he had gone back to a time in Vietnam when he was drinking from his canteen.
He was putting things into the car and again there was the tremor. He’d relived loading a truck in DaNang. On a beautiful day we were driving through a lush countryside and a hill, green and beautiful, rose right in front of us. Too much green, I thought. His shaking confirmed what I feared. He’d been on too many jungle-green hills, and they meant death.
Today, many “professionals” advise those with PTSD to avoid things that may trigger a flashback. I assume these geniuses don’t drink orange juice or put groceries in the car.
Cinematic Flashback Triggers
TV, movies, and news reports can all bring back bad memories. It was my idea to see Hacksaw Ridge because H regularly watches WWII movies and documentaries without a problem. But the first scene of men being carried on stretchers was too real. He left the theater and only returned when he was sure that scene was over.
Many people say Full Metal Jacket is the best movie about Vietnam. I judge movies by H’s reaction. After seeing it, he emerged from the theater laughing and saying that Stanley Kubrick needed to be in a real war for a few hours. Hamburger Hill, on the other hand, brought only a few grim words. “I had to clean up something like that once,” he told me. I didn’t ask any questions.
Unexpected loud noises are common flashback triggers. If H knows a loud noise is coming, he can mentally prepare and tolerate it. But if the noise is unexpected, it will invariably cause an exaggerated startle response or a flashback. A cannon salute at an event he attended sent him running under a culvert. Fortunately, one of his vet friends was there to care for him and lead him out.
When I think about reactions to loud noises, I always remember Paul, who was part of the self-help group H helped start. I only met him a few times. The first was right before the Fourth of July. We were standing in the driveway when some early firecrackers went off. Paul hit the ground.
I saw him again not long after. He was cheerful, smiling, and said he was much better. Within months he committed suicide. There are a lot of names on the Wall that aren’t on the Wall.
- The Rules of Engagement: Meet PTSD- Part 2, by Autistic Prepper (Active on 6/8/18)
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been another entry for Round 77 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:
- A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
- A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
- DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
- Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value), and
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.
- A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
- A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
- A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
- A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
- A Three-Day Deluxe Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $190 value),
- A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
- RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances, and
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).
Round 77 ends on July 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.