Sunday, November 25, 2007

Real Soldiers Shouldn't Have PTSD

photo Associated Press

Arrested for PTSD

Ft. Campbell, Kentucky soldier 22 year-old Specialist Justin Faulkner was arrested at the VA Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, where he was being treated for PTSD. He was officially AWOL from Ft. Campbell, but insists his unit knew where he was.

After being held in jail, Faulkner was sent back to Ft. Campbell to rejoin his unit, scheduled to be deployed to Iraq. This will be Faulkner's second tour in Iraq.

PTSD is medically interesting. It triggers in so many ways. In my experience, those who don't live in it or around it, don't get it. And now we have Traumatic Brain Injury, just to make life even more fun. (Here's how it all begins.)

I have a friend, a serious combat vet, whom you have to introduce changes to, very very carefully. He has his routine, how things work for him, and a good life. But don't fuck with that. New stuff gets rejected (unless he's in charge or comes up with it himself.) He always comes up with a good reason for rejecting x. But really all his rejection of everything new, is because it's a change in his routine, and changes in his routine trigger his threat reflexes.

Ask him to do something, it can take months, or enormous pressure, because he doesn't take to new stuff easily. That's his triggering. The hard part is, he either doesn't know it, or doesn't grant permission to others to point this out to him when it's happening, so everyone dances around the issue, and it makes him hard to work with.

I can't tolerate people coming up behind me. Touching me without my permission is a serious mistake. There are certain sights and sounds which will throw me right back into the middle of a paramedic run, people dying, cops and bangers with guns, cars whizzing by two feet from me, or a Huey's blades winding up right over my head, and I drop fully into command mode. Doesn't happen often. But it happens.

Would make me hard to work with, except everyone who works with me has my full permission to point out to me if they think I'm being triggered, and I always work from the assumption that if anyone I trust says I'm being triggered, I probably am. Makes me easy to work with. Because I'll get off a position quickly.

People who haven't had PTSD, who haven't been mentally ill in some way, who haven't had chronic pain, mostly don't grasp how real these are. How much "Command Value" they have over our biology and actions. How totally they take over, and when we are triggered to them, how little in control we are. Oh, people may mouth the words of believing. But their entire way of being is, "I could so muscle through that if it were me. You must be either lazy or faking."

I even believed that myself, about mental illness, even after having been a paramedic and having treated the mentally ill for over a decade. And having had my own struggles for well over a decade at that point, with the aftermath of having been a paramedic -- waking up night after night with nightmares, flashbacks, and worse.

In spite of all that, I too, thought it was all a bunch of bullshit, till I had a series of incidents in which I ended up a chronic pain patient, suicidal, and forced to deal with all the crap from having been a medic, more or less all at the same time. I was a fool. I was wrong. And so is the Army, in a major way.

The Army still treats PTSD as something to be ashamed of.

Again, the Army still treats PTSD as something to be ashamed of.

If you self-report, you damage your career prospects. No "real-man" or woman, no Soldier, would ever come down with combat fatigue. Only wusses, people who don't have "It", who aren't man enough or woman enough for the mission, want out. It means you're lacking something, some essential fire in your belly that people who don't get PTSD have.

And so we have fuck-up's like this recent one at Ft. Campbell, where Specialist Justin Faulkner went through whatever on-base help he did, and then in desperation, turned himself over to the VA Hospital, who started doing a workup.

That isn't AWOL. Being admitted to a hospital isn't ever AWOL -- it's being admitted to a hospital. Unless of course, you have a mental illness which is service connected, in which case you're just a coward and should be arrested.

PTSD triggers people in different ways. But one thing is for sure...

PTSD keeps triggering the Army the same way: Real soldiers shouldn't have it.

h/t Americablog