After reading this post on Rod Deaton's Blog, I am deeply disturbed. I am going to tackle each one of the articles in his post one at a time:
Steroid Injection May Prevent PTSD:
Wow. All I can say is medically irresponsible. I can just imagine that the military is using active duty folks to see if this holds any water. Can you just imagine? Forget about the devastating potential physical side effects of steroids for a minute. One of the most pervasive side effects from using steroids is heightened anger response. And that's not the part of the article that really disturbs me. The studies are being performed by supposed experts that are asserting that this works. They never stop to think that giving someone a shot of steroids is more likely analogous to putting a band-aid on a sucking chest wound. Thousands of people with PTSD didn't have symptoms until years (and in some cases, decades) later. So unless this study plans on tracking their human guinea pigs for the next 20 years to be sure, their claims hold no merit and their research premise is extremely faulty.
Troops Today Have Better Prospects For PTSD Recovery An Expert Says:
This expert doesn't get it. He goes on to comment part way through the article that the rate of occurrence of PTSD much higher in veterans and so is the rate of suicide. Um....DUH!?!?! I'm not an expert and I can put two and two together on this one. Active Duty and deployed for the fourth time - trauma is compartmentalized. Veteran is home and safe - trauma has no reason to stay compartmentalized. Gee, I wonder what comes next. I would really love to know where they find these 'experts'. The one factor they don't take into account: Current conflict veterans don't want to come forward for treatment because of the stigma attached to it!
[Video] Military Matters: A Search For A PTSD Cure
This is just disturbing. Our government gave 35 million tax dollars to this joker? He is a psychiatrist, right? I am dumbstruck by this. Anyone who has even the slightest inkling of what a 'disorder' is knows a psychological disorder can not be 'cured'. The symptoms can be managed to the point where, over time and a lot of hard work, a person is able to control the effects of the disorder and live life mostly symptom free from day to day. Oh, and General Odierno, I just lost all respect for you as a person and as a leader. You are a prime example of what is wrong with the military leadership. I wonder how many of these guys you sent back over after they were 'cured' will end up being a statistic due to your utter failure to protect them. How DARE you.
So Now, I Am Drawing A Line In The Sand:
I will not stand by and allow this to happen. I will not stand idly by while our comrades in arms are subjected to this dangerous trend in 'treatment'. For those of you out there with PTSD, it's time to take a stand. 35 million of our tax dollars are going to this hack. This doc in the video is confident he can cure PTSD. We all know this is a disorder that can be managed, but never cured. You can't take away the scars that have been left on our souls. Ask any doctor who has been around the disorder for a few decades and they will tell you the same. We need to demand better oversight to protect ourselves from this type of dangerous thinking. It is exactly this kind of propaganda that leads to people like General Barry McCaffrey saying, "PTSD can be cured within a year".
No more. The government needs to know we can advocate for ourselves. I, for one, am willing to stand up and say, "No More!". Are you?
I'm going to starve. That's the first thing that went through my head this morning as I looked around the kitchen and realized we had practically nothing that I was allowed to eat. I'm on overload. The sensory overload. The allergies, the sleep apnea, the asthma, the massive amounts of daily medications, possible surgery to fix my deviated septum, having to change my eating habits. It's too much to process all at once. Too much change all at once.
I have to go get HEPA air filters today as well. I just feel like everything is closing in on me. I am allergic to everything outside right now. So much so that I have to turn my home into an 'allergy safe house'. Where do I go from here? I know that all of this stuff is supposed to improve my health and my physical quality of life, but what about my psychological quality of life?
Needless to say, I am in super hyper-vigilance mode. I can't get the jitters to stop. The medication isn't helping. I just got up and I am already tired from keeping the catastrophic thinking under control...
Deep Breaths, Max. Deep Breaths. Do what you do best. Learn about all of the changes that you are going to have to make. Your allergist's brother is in the service. You know she's going out of her way to make sure you get all of the treatment you need. Just take it slow. One hour at a time. One minute at a time if necessary. I can do this.
Recently, I have been talking to a lot of folks online and off about the struggle of getting veterans with PTSD to come forward and start getting help. The major struggle is that many can't even leave their home. So how do you reach people that only really interact with others online?
For those of you who may fit this category but don't feet comfortable talking unless you know you are anonymous, I want to educate you on what I offer in this blog and on my website.
I cannot express to you enough how important this is. We need to afford people the opportunity to come forward for help anonymously and without the fear of recriminations from family, friends, or employers. My goal is to be the life preserver you need and the rope that draws you to shore. Start taking control of your PTSD and start living with it, not in it!
OK, so today I went to see the allergist and here's what I am very allergic to: Animal Dander, Feather, Mold, Dust Mites, Cockroaches, Trees, Grasses, Ragweed, Weeds, and Wheat. In essence, my environment. I have to completely change my diet, stop burning candles and other fresheners, keep the windows closed at all times...Change my life around completely to improve my long-term health and wellness and bring my asthma (that is what I have, the allergist says) under control. Just when I was starting to feel some semblance of stability and regularity in my home life, I have to change everything all at once.
This is just about the worst thing a person with PTSD can do. Needing to change everything at once erodes my sense of security and stability. If I am not careful, I am concerned that I will regress. So most important things first. We closed the windows and turned on the central air. We are no longer burning candles. Now I have to figure out how to eat and be satisfied without eat food with wheat in it...good good. This is a lot harder than people realize. I have to completely change my diet. No pasta. No cereal unless it is 100% corn. No bread. The list just keeps on going. That's the next big hurdle. On the bright side, I won't be able to eat all the junk food I love. I won't feel like eating much either. It won't be nearly as satisfying.
I have to stay focused and be there for my wife through all of this too. This is going to completely change her habits as well. My daughter is the only one who seems to be unaffected by all of this. Smiles and hugs all around.
I still don't like the feeling. I feel like I am snorkeling away from shore and am looking over the shallow shelf and the bottom of the ocean is dropping away. It gives you a sense of vertigo. So how does a person recover and maintain their equilibrium? I guess I will have to find out...
I decided it's time to start getting involved at the local level. After seeing where the breakdown is from a top-down perspective, it's time bring that knowledge to our local community. I have reached out to a local non-profit, Lehigh Valley Military Affairs Council. One of the directors for the organization is an acquaintance I met through my father. They have a meeting tomorrow and I am going to try to be there to learn more about their initiatives. I know that the goal of the organization is to collect all of the local resources into one group, one strategic partnership - the pooling of resources. It is the kind of thinking that could get the attention of groups like Volunteers of America, the VFW, American Legion, Blue Star Families and others. This could be an interesting experiment. I have done a lot of looking online and I don't see any other local organizations that have the same approach - local efforts elsewhere are disparate and disorganized.
I have a vision of where this could lead but I need to see if the organization is just another bureaucracy or an organization focused on results. I know that some other states organize veterans services a lot more effectively than we do in PA. It is time that best practices get adopted - create a template for success that can be recreated anywhere. I intend to leverage my online influence to make things happen locally. It will not be easy, but I am optimistic. I will fill you all in on the details after the meeting tomorrow if I am able to attend (allergy testing in the morning). If not, I will be meeting with a member of the board one on one.
As things develop, I will keep you all posted!
My sister had her convocation ceremony for her Ph.D yesterday at Columbia University. When I finally got home, I was utterly exhausted. I still am. Here's how the day went:
It was a very long day. I had forgotten how dirty and loud the subways in New York really are. It was a very stressful ride. I was hoping that there would be standing room at the ceremony that would allow me to put a little distance between me and the crowds. That didn't happen. I finally reached critical mass during the reception. I told my Mom that I needed to get out of there. We left as soon as was possible to collect everyone up. The anxiety really started getting to me at this point. I started getting snippy with everyone. It was not pretty, but everyone just kind of ignored it and carried on with their day. By the time I got back on the bus, I was exhausted from my experience.
That will be the last time I visit New York for a long while. That city is like anxiety overload. It is way to easy to have intrusive recollections there. A lot of the sidewalks were in worse condition than in some areas in Iraq. Then there was the air quality. For a little while, I thought I was having an anxiety attack. Then I realized it was the air quality that was making my lungs so tight. Ratchet up the anxiety a little more.
Today, I am spending inside away from people and getting myself recentered. While I wouldn't have missed the convocation yesterday, I can't do that again for a long time. Regardless, I am very proud that I made it through the day without having a major breakdown. I finally got to meet two of my sister's close friends that I had never met and dinner was delicious.
Now it's time for recovery.
Tomorrow is Mother's Day and I won't have time to write this in the morning, so I am getting it written now. I am fortunate to have three mothers in my life whose love and support have meant the world to me over the past year.
OK, I had to get that out. It's time they really know, the mothers in my life, how much they mean to me. Don't pass tomorrow by without telling the mothers in your lives. We have a tendency to take it for granted that they will always be there.
I have been getting really good sleep recently. When I went in for the sleep study, they discovered that I never entered REM sleep while I was there. Not once. The apnea was so disruptive that I was never actually able to fall asleep fully. It didn't come as a surprise to me that my CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) Machine kept me from having any apnea events.
I figured this was coming. The CPAP machine has allowed me to enter REM again. Why wouldn't I get nightmares? These happened to be some of the most vivid I have experienced in a number of years. I couldn't just smell the blood of the wounded, I could taste it. I woke up from the nightmares a little after 0200 and it took me almost an hour to calm back down enough to try to get more sleep. I really disrupted my night.
Here's the weird part. I don't feel the emotional aftereffects that I have felt previously. I am not overly tired and I feel emotional stable. Is getting recuperative sleep just a few nights in a row all I needed to start feeling more stable? I guess time will tell. My sister receives her Ph.D tomorrow at Columbia University. I am a little concerned that there may just be a delayed fallout from this latest round of nightmares. I will not miss this once in a lifetime event. My sister has worked so hard for this moment. Besides, it's Mother's Day tomorrow. What better gift could my Mom ask for than the whole family together for a day?
Recently, I have gained a lot of weight. When I went into the hospital for respiratory distress back in March, I learned that allergens (pollen) had caused the reaction. After I got out of the hospital, I have been afraid to go outside, fearful of the consequences. This is not a good thing for a veteran with PTSD. The last thing we need is more motivation to cloister ourselves away from the world and hide in our homes, bereft of contact with other people. So what did I start doing when I was bored? I ate. And ate. And ate.
Now it's time to undo the damage. Yesterday, I decided to confront my fear of doing things outside. I went for a jog with my wife and daughter at the park across the street. It felt wonderful. A little cold - the wind was ridiculous - but wonderful. My lungs felt great. I kept on wondering when my lung were going to rebel. They didn't. At all.
So this is what freedom feels like. I didn't realize how much I had been allowing my fears to imprison me in my home. I don't even recognize the fat-ass in the mirror. I never thought I could let my body go this far...
Today, I resolved to do something about this. I have a new goal. I want my body back. I want to be able to run without my body getting sore before I get tired. I want to be proud to see what is staring back at me in the mirror. It's time to take this to the next level. I am going to talk with my wife and set goals. Maybe I can find an advocacy 5k or 10K later this summer. I don't know. So, PTSD, I have a question. Is it Okay for me to go outside?
Dear Gen. McCaffrey,
First, sir, let me preface my remarks by telling you I have the utmost respect for you and your continued service to our country. You are a no nonsense leader. You aren't afraid to speak your mind, no matter how difficult the position you take. Your advocacy efforts on the part of service members and veterans everywhere are laudable. That being said, I do have a major point of contention that I need to address: The recent view you expressed on PTSD.
During the 'After the Uniform' Panel Discussion on May 8 at the National Press Club, you asserted that, in most cases, PTSD can be cured within a year. By stating this, I feel you demonstrate a disturbing lack of understanding of the issues facing veterans and service members who suffer from PTSD. In the public arena, you are perceived as a material expert on military and veterans' issues. What you say informs many people's opinions on pivotal issues like PTSD. I am concerned that the view you recently expressed on PTSD is dangerously outdated and uninformed. These kinds of comments could have the potential to do a lot of damage to PTSD advocacy in the military and in the country at large, which is why I am reaching out to see if you would be willing to clarify your stance on this issue.
I do not intend to sound alarmist, but I felt the need to impress upon you the importance of this issue. As a combat veteran with PTSD, blogger, and PTSD advocate, I hear every day about the struggles facing our veterans, many of whom still suffer in silence. I hear the discouragement and the disillusionment in the establishment. The negative stigma and public misgivings about PTSD keep many men and women from pursuing treatment for a serious and potentially life-threatening disorder.
My first impression of you at the panel indicated that you are a man who values directness and productive discourse. It is a sign of a strong leader to surround himself with people who will challenge his opinions and positions on issues. I hope you understand that I am taking the time to write this letter because I am confident you are the type of man who will recognize this criticism as an opportunity to learn and grow. I invite you to contact me directly so that we can candidly discuss this issue and work together to better advocate for those who suffer in silence, before they become a statistic.
*NOTE: This is the body of the letter that was sent directly to General McCaffrey via email. The full document can be found below.*
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.