I thought it might be helpful if I explained how I brought my life back
from the deep
pit of PTSD. I was unable to go to group therapy sessions because hearing the sad
stories of each veteran coming around the circle towards me would so seriously
increase my depression that I would have to leave. In fact, just going to the VA
Hospital for appointments would increase my symptoms so much that I would
often have to turn around and go home because I couldn't even enter the building.
However, when I was fighting for my service-connected PTSD compensation, I would
have to be hospitalized for thirty days at a time, which really backed up my healing
process. So I had to figure out something on my own.
I started writing things down that I couldn't even talk about to my wife
and we had
been married for nineteen years at that time. To my surprise, my writing always came
out in poetry form, but the most amazing thing was that I would feel some measure of
relief just by getting my Nam experiences down on paper. I had no idea this would
lead to a full blown career, but that's another story. At any rate, writing is where
my healing began.
However, every day of my life was still controlled by my PTSD. So I tried
the old sixties method of going inside your own head and trying to fix things, but this
nearly resulted in my head exploding! I don't know where it came from or when
it hit me, but one day I said, "Sarge, look around you and see how many people
could use help worse than you," so I quit thinking of myself and started helping
others. This is when my healing really began to advance.
When I found out how good it made me feel to hand a few dollars to a homeless
person, often a veteran themselves, I began to realize what the basic problem of
PTSD is and that is a shattered self-image. Because I carried the M-79 grenade
launcher in Nam, I found that most of the terrible names people called us when
we got home were true about me. When I realized that I was suffering from a badly
shattered self-image from all of the things I'd done in the line of duty in Nam, but
that I could rebuild my self- image by helping others, I got creative and thought
of a lot of different ways to help those folks who were in worse shape than me.
My wife and I did things like take big pots of food along with our TV,
generator to the homeless parks in Phoenix and feed the folks while showing them
funny movies. A few years in a row we did this for the homeless to watch the Super
Bowl, too. I even made a parachute jump called, "Sarge's Free Fall For Charity"
which raised money for the homeless and was covered by the local TV news to show
that everyone can help those in need and that it can be fun. When a local air base
closed they donated military wool blankets for me to hand out to the homeless on the
streets of Phoenix. By using creativity, it made it possible for me to give much more
than I could afford on my own. So don't think that you have to have a lot to be able
to give, just get creative and you'll find ways to help yourself by helping others. This
has helped me in the advancement of my healing from PTSD more than anything
else I can think of because it's helping me put my self-image back together
piece-by-piece. I hope it can be of help to you as well.
One more thing I'd like to pass on that has helped me gain control of
of my life, rather than having PTSD control my life, is this -- Somewhere along the
way, I realized that the tortured life I was leading was ripping off my brothers on the
Wall because they gave up their lives and I was throwing mine away. It was then
it hit me that if I were to spend my entire after-Nam life torturing myself, feeling
bad about myself, and making life miserable for the ones I love, I am dishonoring
my brothers on the Wall. So think of how you'll feel when you tell them all about
the life you had after Nam, because that's the first thing they're going to want to
know about when we see them again. They're going to want to hear that we all had
happy, wonderful lives, just like the life they had imagined having if they had made
it home and, I for one, am going to have a hell of a fun story to tell them.
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