Hidden Casualties Of War; PTSD Is Coming Home To All Of Us


So. I was just reading the newspaper and an article about the mental health of returning war veterans caught my eye. The article stated that 20% of those vets are suffering some form of mental illness and most of that is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

What that means is that 400,000 vets will come home needing acute psycho therapy care from an already overwhelmed VA Hospital system. With a mental health program already taxed beyond reason, Congress made budget cuts to the VA Hospitals. And now, providers like The Reckmonster will see their clinics overrun with additional homecoming heroes in need of good care.

Those facts a scary. Sad and scary it is, and it breaks my heart.

But there is, at least to me, a hidden sadness and danger to all of these PTSD sufferers returning stateside. PTSD, unlike most other mental illnesses, has no pre-onset symptoms or histories that demonstrate the illness. Schizophrenics, Bi-polarized persons, ADHD and ADDers, and Obsessively Compulsed are have early onset and future predictors of erratic behaviors.

Not so with PTSD. PTSD is an event-caused malady—an illness that has a specific cause. Families have no early warning and get no chance to prepare ahead. Persons suffering from PTSD can have been the happiest, most well adjusted people prior to the event. And then, “Boom!” A roadside bomb blows their best friend to unidentifiable parts, or they endure a 3-day fire fight while huddled in the rocks of fucking Afghanistan.

Regular crazy people, like me, have been crazy our entire lives, or we have demonstrated the propensity to be crazy for years. Anyone choosing to have a relationship with me knows the risks going in. Not so with PTSD. Many of these people led normal and healthy lives with families and good jobs and productive existences before they left to war.

They return zombies, or zombies-in-waiting, as they endure suffering through repeated and sometimes constant reliving of the traumatic event/events that caused their disorder. PTSD symptoms include: flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, depression, suicidal and homicidal thoughts, dissociation, detachment, sleep problems and anger. There’s more symptoms, but it depresses me to have written that many.

The hidden sadness of PTSD is the unsuspecting family, friends and loved ones PTSD sufferers return home to, and all of that collateral damage. How many murders and murder suicides, how many divorces, how many children with their own future problems, how much family and economic loss is headed the way of these veterans and their families?

After reading the article at the breakfast table, I remarked about it and expressed my unhappiness. Gram had a mouthful of oatmeal, but she held her finger up to say “Wait a minute” and we all stopped to wait for her to swallow.

“That’s like tha Jones boy from down to church. Family man with them three girls and his pretty wife. Ever thing’s fine afore he left and he came back all parlor-boiled and scrappy freakneckked,” Gram told us.

“I don’t think he’s a paranoid schizophrenic, Gram, I think he got the PTSD,” I told her.

She gave me the evil eye and said to me, she said, “Bobby Jones is a good Christian boy, Mooner. He didn’t come home with no VD. He got his self all shell shockered. Man’s a mess.”

Shell shocked. For thousands of years of war we called PTSD “shell shocked” and we looked at shell-shocked men as weaklings, and cowards. How many times have I watched the movie Patton and wanted to reach onto the screen and strangle George C. Scott when he belittles the shell-shocked soldier? I love that movie and choose to see it as anti-war.

Fucking war.

I also worry for the people I know who work with vets, like Dr. Sam I. Am-Johnson and the Reckmonster. PTSD is a tough one for too many reasons. Shame and embarrassment to have PTSD is another aspect that makes it bad. People don’t want to admit they have it and ignore whatever treatment options they have.

How frustrating must their caregivers feel to have so few resources available for treatment?

Ugh. I’m drinking a toast to all the returning vets. Here’s a Carta Blanca beer to all of you.

Manana, y’all.

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5 Responses to “Hidden Casualties Of War; PTSD Is Coming Home To All Of Us”

  1. bj says:

    My own personal experience from my sojourn through beautiful downtown southeast asia left me with a few ‘twitches’ as well. While on Firebase Linda, which at that time had a 360 degree free fire zone we found out on a Wednesday that we would be DEROSing on Friday. We spent Friday night at Camp Alpha (i had a steak, got a haircut and a manicure, and spent $20 MPC at the ‘Steam ‘n Cream’) and flew out of Tan Son Nhut for ‘Frisco Saturday afternoon. Picked up a day on the way back (international date line) and landed in San Francisco International airport on Monday …. to protesters screaming ‘Baby-Killer’ at us. I found a Delta flight leaving for Dallas-Atlanta-Columbia, SC with less than an hour layover and consequently less than four days after being in an area where I could shoot any …. ANY … thing that moved …. with no ‘decompression’ time …. no ‘De-Briefing’ … I was back in the bosom of my family and friends… and BOY! we’re THEY all fucked up! I had a chip on my shoulder big as a 2X4 and I couldn’t talk to anybody about anything. ‘Course …. all my friends wanted to know how it really was (well, the ones that I saw ….. some didn’t want anything to do with a murderer and I still haven’t seen them since. Fuck ’em) and I just shrugged and told them ” Wasn’t too bad.”. That 30 day leave was the longest month of my life and I didn’t even START feeling normal again until I got to Ft. Swill, OK and back with my fellow assassins. Took awhile before I was “Safe For Humans” again and to this day (s’not as bad as it once was and gets better every year) if a Helicopter flies over while I’m outside …. I feel the overwhelming urge to step into a tree line or under a tree …. and still do. heh Dunno if ya’ call that shell shocked or not. But …. if there is a God…. and a judgment day? I will indeed be “In A Werld Of SHIT”!

  2. BJ. Thanks for sharing and for your service. One of the Federal agencies did some terrorist training here in Austin a few years ago. The bulk of the exercise seemed to be flying the biggest fucking helicopters ever made in ever-shrinking circles around town. Six big fuckers at just a couple hundred feet, all “Whoomp-whoomp-woomping” the air.

    There were wild-eyed men hunkering under desks at work, under beds at home and a thousand homeless vets were hiding anyplace they could find.

    I was in the oral surgeon’s chair to have a broken tooth pulled when the first copter of the day came rattling from somewhere near UT. It was super low and almost as soon as we heard it, it’s image filled the big windows in the doc’s office. He dropped to the floor and crawled to crouch under the window frame and looked at me with eyes the size of dinner plates.

    BJ, he was shaking and sweating and scared to death. We rescheduled my tooth extraction and went for beers. Turns out he was a Marine medic over there with you, and the whoomp of helicopter blades has special meaning to him.

    I din’t go to Nam and I protested the war, but not the warriors. Had I not gotten a medical deferment I likely would be speaking Canadian. Black Mollies might have saved my life. As I look back I cannot honestly say if I was too opposed to go, or maybe too scared.

    A buddy of mine came home from over there, and in three weeks’ time, he did to himself what the Cong couldn’t do in two years of trying. The suicides bother me the most.

    As far as your frying in hell, don’t worry. If there is a God, he’s dropping the bastards who sent you there in His name.

    “Warm enough fer ya Mister McNamera?”

  3. Squatlo says:

    Mooner, BJ doesn’t dive under couches when copters go over, but he might stroll back up under a shade tree ’til it’s gone…

    I can’t imagine going through any of that and then dealing with any of this. Hats off to all of the men and women who take on the job, willingly or by luck of the draw.

  4. Mooner, let’s just get the so-called “facts” straight – 20 % of returning combat vets suffer from some kind of mental illness??? That right there is pure and utter bull-mother-fucking-shit. I LOVE how these grossly inaccurate “facts” get released (by the military/DoD/gub’ment/Uncle Sam…) and then reported by the media. 20% is NOT accurate, nor is it a fact. It’s just a convenient little delusion the government likes to promote. Not that I’m blaming you for reporting what was reported – it’s just not true. That is a grossly understated “estimation” – if I had my ‘druthers, and they were forced to report the TRUTH – it would probably reflect more like AT LEAST 75% of all returning combat vets suffer from some sort of mental illness. And if you really want to dissect it further, to truthfully reflect what constitutes “mental illness” as defined in the DSM-IV – more like 100% of all returning combat vets suffer from some sort of mental illness, because just BEING in a combat zone would qualify you for some kind of “adjustment disorder” diagnosis. But I digress…(did I catch that from you??? Is it communicable?!)

    I’m actually working on a frothy post right now that talks about this VERY topic. I went to a staff meeting last week…and I am HOT. As in ready to stab eyeballs HOT. Needless to say…I’ll be going off in my post…stay tuned.

  5. admin says:

    Squat. BJ has found a way to deal with it and remain in a managble relationship with life, as many have done. I’ve got a big, juicy kiis for him when I get up there.

    Reck. I should have known the numbers were underestimated. I get freaked out when I see a bad car wreck, so I can only imagine what a day of war would do to me. I’m looking forward to your post.

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