Part 6. (Final)
PTSD. My journey with posttraumatic stress disorder.
In my rehab they set strategies and discussed topics such as an exercise program, relaxation methods, relationship skills where my wife would join me, sleep management and living skills. I also participated in a PTSD Therapy Group with other veterans. I found this very benefit as we discussed key issues relative to PTSD such as trust, self-esteem, identity, loss, bereavement, mortality, view of the future and relativity between trauma and current symptoms.
With PTSD not only it fractures personal lives, but it fractures their families lives as well. I am one of the lucky veterans to successfully maintain a close relationship with my family. My wife, daughter and son have all suffered because of my PTSD. I feel for them given what they have had to endure with my nightmares, depression, anger outbursts, and mood swings. I am aware how overprotective I was with my children growing up. Because of my own exposure to dangers in Vietnam, I became suspicious and overly conscious of their safety. A parent out of control with my own emotions, I took control of their lives without understanding their emotions and feelings. I brought them up in a world of military discipline, drill, drill and drill in study and education. After both graduated from University and left home, they both struggled with life in the big wide world and both became confused and angry as a result of their upbringing, the boundaries l had created. The stress of war affects the majority of War veteran’s children. Both my children have been diagnosed with derivative form of PTSD, have dealt with their challenges and now have successful lives. My wife had to put up with my nit-picking for years. I would pick on small issues such as dirty marks on fridge doors, crumbs on the table, chairs left out from the table, strict dietary regimes and strict time schedules on trips away. This all originated in my military training. Thankfully my wife is a patient, understanding, loving person and is the backbone of our family. Most of my Vietnam mates have been married and divorced at least a couple of times.
A Vietnam mate visited me in 2007 and suggested I should write a book on my experiences. This what I did. My first book got published in 2010 by a Sydney Publishing Firm. It’s about my debilitating struggle with PTSD that sparked an obsession to escape the bonds of a normal lifestyle and embark on a journey to Antarctica, an experience that would change my life forever. My second book got published in 2014 by the same Publishing Firm. It’s about my Vietnam War and It focuses on my time as a soldier and my return psychologically exhausted to a divided nation. It also includes seven of my Vietnam mate’s short stories. With my books being published, I found a new meaning and purpose to my life by sharing my knowledge of the effects of PTSD with veterans young and old, with schools and community groups. All up I’ve done 67 talks around the country since 2010.
In 2013, Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation and RSL (Qld) commenced an ambitious undertaking for the good of our veterans. The Vietnam Veteran Study was a world-first research project investigating both the long term physical and psychological toll of PTSD in Vietnam veterans. Nearly 300 Vietnam veterans including me participated in the study which included 25 medical and psychological assessments.
In 2015 I joined Mate4Mates. They support current and ex-serving Australian Defence Force members (and their families) who are wounded, injured or ill as a result of their service. They offer a range of physical rehabilitation and wellbeing services such as the Equine Therapy Program. In 2015 my wife and I participated where you interact and engage with horses. For rehab adventure challenges in 2016 I walked and completed the Kokoda Track and last year I canoed the Dawson River in Central Queensland. I participated both challenges with young and older veterans.
Veterans and military personnel are not the only people who suffer from PTSD. First responders, emergency service personnel, and anyone who has witnessed or experienced a traumatic event is at risk of developing PTSD.
Note…Please if you have any of these PTSD symptoms or any depression, go and get help and don’t be like me and think you can solve it yourself.
Re-living trauma: Constant recurring and unwanted memories in the form of vivid images or nightmares, causing sweating or panic
Being overly alert or wound up: Causes sleeping difficulties, irritability and lack of concentration
Avoiding reminders of the event: Deliberating avoiding places, activities, people or thoughts associated with traumatic event
Feeling emotionally numb: Losing interest in day-to-day activities, feeling cut off and detached from friends and family
Note my nightmares have decreased since I was diagnosed with PTSD in 2004. Before this I was experiencing 3 to 4 nightmares a week which equaled above 150 nightmares a year. With medication and regular counselling sessions my nightmares have decreased over the last 4 years. 2014…86 nightmares, 2015…77 nightmares, 2016…68 nightmares 2017…40 nightmares and this year so far, 7 nightmares. I am required to keep a sleep journal.