PTSD

PTSD…Can You Really be Cured?

PTSD…Can You Really be Cured?

This was a question I received in my email a few days ago.

Then, another question immediately followed…”Are you really better or is this just an image you project?”

I stared at that last question, but I was still processing the first, I dunno, I thought. Am I cured of PTSD?

I did some research. I did some thinking…and as usual, thinking meant a whole lot more thinking, scanning, and self-evaluation.

An answer to the first leads me to the next question. So here we go…

Are you ever cured of PTSD?

Almost every professional in the mental health industry says…No. There is no cure for mental illness and, at best, it’s manageable, so they say, and this includes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

And, after personally interacting with many who have PTSD—cops to combat vets—to those who claim they have PTSD; and after struggling with some significant symptoms on my own, I tend to agree.

I mean, I still have nightmares from time to time; yet they’re not as vivid nor disturbing as they once were.

There are still things that trigger a thought, an ugly image, or sometimes, like the other day, there is no known trigger—

I sat at dinner with my significant other, Kirsten, and for no reason at all, my brain switched on some random video in my head about a bad call I had gone to years ago as a cop, that I had pretty much forgotten.

For a few moments, while slowly chewing dinner, I completely zoned out; this random thought played through my head. It was if I time traveled to that particular situation.

Although, I’m much quicker these days to recognize this intrusion.

Almost without any effort, I breathed a chuckle to myself, refocused my attention to the moment and continued on with eating a great dinner and having great conversation. Kristen didn’t even notice the hiccup.

Then there’s the grocery store…

A certain aisle contains a certain food that is associated with a certain hideous call I rolled up on early in my cop career. For years, I could not walk down this certain aisle without having anxiety go screaming off the charts to about choke off my air supply.

Today, I can walk down that certain aisle, look at that certain product and no problems. Not even a bump in the BPM now.

For me, this road to healing has been a lot like a scab on a deep wound. As long as I worked on healing this wound, things got better.

But, the moment I picked at it, dug at it, or kept it buried thinking it’d just go away with time, it would flare up with a vengeance which was like experiencing hell all over again.

And when that happened, I compounded the problem by questioning my own sanity.

So am I cured? Based on the fact I still have some minor issues from time to time, I’d have to say No. But I’m not so sure if ‘cured’ is the correct term here.

Cure relates to a medical condition. It means to relieve a person of the symptoms of a disease or condition.

Some professionals have begun to question the term Disorder. There’s talk of changing PTSD to PTSI; Post-Traumatic Stress Injury.

So maybe you can be a cured.

I think injury works better than disorder.

Even a severed limb will heal with the right treatment, it just leaves you with one heck of a scar.

So, onto the next question…Am I really better or is this just some sort of show?

I replied with, Great question and Thank You for asking.

Yes, I am much better these days. I recently mentioned to a friend that this is the best place I’ve ever been in my life in relation to peace, living intentionally, and just being happy.

I have my days though where I don’t fire on all cylinders. Sometimes I don’t get enough sleep, or I don’t eat right, or life happens and things don’t go as expected. It’s life, some days are better than others.

Yet, good or bad days, it’s those daily habits I’ve incorporated into my life through this healing journey that helps me to quickly regain balance.

Those daily habits are what helped me heal. I didn’t start each one all at once, it was a slow build until I discovered I was doing all of these every day…

I take care of my emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual health:

Every day, I start off with prayer and meditation.

Then somewhere during the day I’ll get out and move, whether it’s a run, or a walk, or a bike ride, or jumping jacks and some pushups; I’m doing something physical…moving is living.

I do an idea and a grateful list every day to exercise my mind and to refocus my thoughts.

I write in my journal every day, again to refocus my thoughts and help sort out what is important in life.

AND!!! People who constantly gossip, complain, and are generally negative about everything under the sun, must be cut out—you can’t heal if your environment is toxic.

Which brings me to the fact that I needed to change my environment if I had any chance to heal.

Injured people are taken to a hospital, or to a doctor.

The idea here is that injured folks are taken out of the environment that injured them and put in a place where they can get help, be nurtured, and strengthened so they can function once again.

Yet, for some reason, when it comes to this sort of injury, the PTS part, we have a tendency to think we’ll be okay because it’s like, Hey, I’m not gushing arterial blood here, so I’m cool.

Wrong. I wasn’t bleeding on the outside but on the inside.

And, it’s easy to ignore because NO ONE sees us inside.

We mask ourselves with a smile and everyone thinks all is good; yet we are dying and suffocating from the pressure and tension on the inside.

The nightmares won’t stop, the anxiety won’t go away, and the constant barrage of negativity simply won’t end.

I didn’t want to become a hollowed out shell of a man. Hence, I walked away, retired, left, whatever you want to call it, it was time to get away from the toxic environment that invariably creates such an injury.

This doesn’t mean you must retire or change careers, but perhaps it might.

The very least, maybe a leave of absence to help refocus your priorities, catch your breath and heal up a bit. You might find that during that time away, dedicated to healing, you’ll be able to think clearer as to what it is you truly want to do with the few precious days left here on this planet.

BUT, that’s just a thought, an idea, and not telling you what you should do with your life.

It’s your life to live, no one else’s. So don’t allow the expectations of others dictate how, where, or what you should do with your life.

Can we be cured? Yes, I think so.

Is this for real? Heck yeah!


Photo by Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash

Posted by Christian Martin Jr. in Burnout, Life Hack, Living Better, PTSD, Reinvention, Self-Improvement
<em>Live a Lot Differently</em>

Live a Lot Differently

I wrote this article over a year ago and shared it with a few people then. It was at the end of 2016 which was a dark year for me fraught with horrible detours and paralyzing emotional pain.

At the time, I had already lost my Dad to cancer, divorced, retired from law enforcement, and attempted to start new at life and reinvent myself.

And…nothing I set out to do worked out in my time frame.

Yet, I am grateful for where I am at in life now and for all the ugly detours I encountered because through it all I learned much about myself; who I am and who I’m not, and the things that matter most in life.

What matters most in life can become lost in the haze of work, bills, schedules, gossip, drama, meetings, and crappy people taking advantage of you or those trying to keep you corralled through fear and guilt.

Rarely do we come up for air, take a breath, and look around at the landscape of our lives to take honest inventory until our mortality knocks.

So, here is a post I want to share and I pray it touches you as it did me when I wrote it…


Bill Watterson, I hope you don’t mind me using your comic to make a point. It just fits. Fits the dimensions for the cover photo. Fits with what has kept me up all night.

It’s 2 am right now. Arrrgh. I can’t sleep.

Hard to train a night owl to be an early bird. I’m trying to change…a lot of things. I hope you’re more successful at change than I am. I fall short of my goals sometimes. It can be frustrating.

I’m house sitting for my friends right now. Beautiful house. Laying in bed, I can gaze out at the stars and wonder. Probably too much wondering that leads to too much wandering through the space between my ears.

My mind thinks of random things like this comic. Then, it thinks of some other things…

***

I was a cop for a long time. Two different departments, same human nature. I worked a lot of night shifts.

One night, my partner and I got a frantic 9-1-1 call. Two roommates arguing, in the middle of the night…of course, it’s in the middle of the night.

Well, one decided he had enough of the arguing, pulled out a large handgun, shoved it into his roommate’s head and said, “I’m going blow your fucking head off!”

Terrorized roommate managed to escape with his head intact.

Now standing on the street in the snow and ice, cold as whatever; he stood in his shorts and waited. He was standing there when we arrived.

My partner was speaking to him on the roadway. I had my rifle out, loaded, and pointed at the house. I’d been through the drill a hundred times before: we will either go in to confront this dude, or he’ll come out to us.

He decided to come out…

Mad, cursing, and waving his hands, he began to stomp right toward us. I shouted for him to stop. Then I saw his left hand.

The red and blue lights from our vehicles danced off of everything. Red and blue sparkles on the trees, the house, the snow, his face…and, his left hand, which held a large, black object.

I screamed, “Drop it, or I’ll shoot!”

He cursed some more as he flung his arms around. He kept walking, now toward me.

You know what’s scary? The power. Society handed me the power to take this man’s life if need be.

I’m a trained professional, honestly, my rifle didn’t waver once. Steady as a rock, I took another deep breath, this was it. One more step and I’m gonna drop this guy.

One more desperate plea. I shouted, but it came out more like a growl. I used a lot of adult language with the added measure of what I was about to do to him without a bump in my pulse. Yes, I was that dead inside.

Amazing…he stopped. He finally dropped…his very large, black cell phone from his left hand.

That man and I would see each other occasionally after that encounter. He never addressed me by my name. He called me sergeant Godzilla. I’m a little guy; probably because I growled at him.

He thanked me several times for not shooting him that night. I am thankful I didn’t either.

Funny, in a mixed-up sort of way, I had the power to take, and give life at that moment.

***

I sit here at 3 am now, watching the waning moon rise over the mountains. Reminds me of another call at the beginning of my career…

A small boy, who hung himself, a suicide. I have no idea what was going on in a ten-year-old’s mind that would cause him to wrap a belt around his neck from his bunk bed. It still baffles me.

I did CPR on that little boy for thirty-two minutes. When you’re a sheriff’s deputy in a rural area, an ambulance can seem to take forever. Your backup can take forever.

For twenty minutes, the mother jumped up and down, beating my back with her fists and screaming, “You’re not doing enough to save my baby!” until my partner arrived on scene and wrapped her up in a bear hug.

I don’t blame her.

I was sore for a few days after that. To this day I still can’t eat certain foods because of that call, heck I didn’t eat much for a week afterward.

Some say I have PTSD, who knows, maybe. I don’t know for sure.

I remember a paramedic pulling me off the boy. I didn’t want him to die. I thought I could save him. I couldn’t.

***

I’ve seen some die…who should have lived. I’ve seen some live…who should have died.

I truly pray you never have to see or experience anything like that…ever!

I wonder, watching the stars tonight, that if we pondered how short of a time we have here if we would live differently.

I know we have bills to pay, food to buy, and all of that. But what is important to you?

Does work come before someone we love? What are our priorities? When is the last time we’ve considered such a question?

We, you, me, and those we love; are all here for a very short time. We just don’t know when that last breath will come. So till then, till that time, please do me a favor?

Call the one you love and tell them you love them. Carve out some time, out of your day, your evening, your life, and give it to the ones you love.

Hug your One and look them in the eyes and tell them, “I love you.”

Kiss them. Make passionate love to them.

If you find yourself alone. Hug yourself, tell yourself you’re worth it. Tell yourself, “I love you.” And someday very soon, you’ll find someone to love…who will honor you, and adore you.

I believe this.

It’s time for bed now. I’m gonna give myself a hug. Tell myself, “I love you.”

And gaze out at the stars and pray that none of us miss another opportunity to love.


Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Posted by Christian Martin Jr. in Life Hack, Living Better, PTSD, Reinvention, Self-Improvement