Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Step By Step, Day By Day

I have been really struggling lately.
The nightmares, the flashbacks, the anger... It's all been so much worse lately than it ever has been.
I always used to have nightmares on repeat- mostly the recurring memories of my traumas, sometimes with alternate "what if" endings, but, more often than not, it ended worse, instead of better. Lately, though, the nightmares have been new, vivid and very, very violent. Chainsaws, blood and many people involved in various situations, depending on the dream. I don't understand them. I've always been able to interpret my non-memory dreams, but these ones... they're just pain.
I've lost my temper and control of my emotions more times than I can count recently- on fellow Soldiers, family, even my wonderful boyfriend. More often than not, these people didn't deserve my wrath. Fortunately, the physical side has managed to stay under wraps, and I have not inflicted physical abuse on anyone.
I had a flashback driving down the highway one night. I was the designated driver that night, and the only one even remotely sober (I quit drinking over 2 years ago now, the first time my PTSD got out of my control) and barely managed to keep my cool. I'm proud of myself for handling it, but I'm terrified it might happen again because I, for the first time, can't figure out what triggered it.
The last few days, I have managed to focus all my energies on me, though. It's miraculous managing that in the Army, in case you're wondering.
I've decided I'm no longer dealing with soldiers or rank, just people. I've been treated poorly as of late, and I disagree with a lot of what the people I'm immediately working with have done. The Army as a whole is not broken- but there are people within it's systems who do not follow the rules or treat others as perhaps they should. This is all only my opinion based off my experience, mind you, I am NOT any sort of official spokesperson.
I've started doing yoga on my own (cheesy, right?) to teach myself to slow down a little bit, and, hopefully to help me relax and focus some. I'm scared of how out of control I feel so much of the time, so I decided I would start focusing on things that would allow me to take control of some part of my life. I'm also planning on going back to being a vegetarian, because it gives me a feeling of discipline and positively affecting the world around me. I'm not saying it's for everyone, but it's what works for me. It's going to be a gradual process, but I have to start somewhere.
As for the yoga, I showed my boyfriend some of the poses I found on a yoga app yesterday (yes, there's more than one app for that) and the look on his face was entertaining to say the least. I don't even pretend I want to know what was going through his mind! He had a ball watching me try to do Warrior III stance- which looks a lot like a badly done Superman pose. I am not graceful.
I have been talking to a couple of friends who have gone through the Army PTSD chapter process. For those of you not in the military, a "chapter" is a process of getting out of the Army, generally for medical or psychological issues, though behavioral and other issues may be termed the same way. I really want to tell you I know someone who has had good experiences with the process, but, unfortunately, I don't. There are a lot of people who don't understand Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a ton of misconceptions about it, and, within the Army, there is little but stigma attached to it. PTSD is not a rite of passage for those who have been in combat, it is not considered normal or expected, and it is not accepted. Seeking help is, more often than not, seen as a way of getting out of something. A chain of command who is fully supportive of Soldiers seeking help for this issue is unheard of- there will, without question and possibly without exception, be someone in a Soldier's chain of command who questions a Soldier's intentions for seeking help. I've heard more people talk about someone checking themselves in to the mental/behavioral health ward "to get out of deployment" or "to avoid that training exercise" than I have heard people express pride in their fellow Soldier for seeking help. I'm not going to say there aren't people who abuse the system, there always will be, but they are expected to be the rule and not the exception. Considering the amount of stigma attached to such things, I can't even begin to fathom why people expect that anyone seeking help is simply trying to get out of something. After having been told I should specify what caused my PTSD by and to certain people in my chain of command (hint: there are laws against them forcing me to, and I didn't.) and being treated like less of a Soldier for having non-combat related PTSD rather than good ol' shell-shock, well, I just don't know why anyone would want to fake this.
As I said, I'm doing better this week. After more than three months of trying to get an appointment (there's a shortage of behavioral health care providers in the military as a whole), I will finally have my first scheduled appointment with a shrink of some sort on Friday. I am also going to "safety" groups now, because someone in this process was worried enough about my state that they felt it necessary to ensure I'm seen by someone who can check in with me twice a week. In all honesty, I'm okay with that. I'm relieved to know that, even if things get out of control, I will be able to speak to someone about it and have help dealing with all of this. This is a frigging terrifying thing to feel like you're alone with.

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