What is Your Reality…
Warrior Mindset or Popular Characterization?
Let’s dispel some myths.
This generation is weak and self-pitying. It seems like everyone has “PTSD” today. We were much stronger back then… Really? In the Civil War, it was called “soldier's heart”. In WWI, shell shock, combat fatigue or war neurosis. In WWII, gross stress reaction. In Korea, combat exhaustion. In the 60's, post-Vietnam syndrome, and stress response syndrome. In the ‘80s, it picked up the name Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and now, some are lobbying to remove the “Disorder” from PTSD, making it plain old Post Traumatic Stress. This has been around and documented at least as far back as the Book of Job, the Mahabharata, and the Greek historian Herotodus.
You weren’t a combat soldier, so you can’t have PTSD. First…not all military servicemembers or veterans are “soldiers”…a REAL pet peeve of mine. Army – and ONLY Army personnel are soldiers. Marines, sailors, airmen, coastguardsmen, etc., etc., are also military servicemembers that can be (and are) involved in combat (and most of us do not like being called “soldiers”).
Secondly, PTSD is a reaction to a stress inducing and/or traumatic experience. Anyone who has experienced a car wreck, rape, violent act, and any number of other situations can have PTSD. For the purposes of my writing, I’m focusing on people who may have a traumatic experience due to their job – i.e., military (servicemembers and veterans), field intelligence operators, first responders (law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical personnel), and emergency room medical personnel (nurses, doctors, and other hands-on staff).
Most importantly, if you have PTSD, you are disabled, possibly mentally or emotionally unstable, a “victim” of your circumstance, and should be taken care of, pitied, or feared. Horse pucky! Read my lips…I AM NOT A VICTIM. Do NOT coddle or pity me.
General James Mattis, a recently retired combat Marine really lays it out in his recent opinion piece about “The Meaning of Their Service”, “the clarifying effect of combat experience, the poison of cynicism and how veterans can help revive American optimism”, where he talks about “post-traumatic “growth”” among other things. He goes on to talk about coming “home stronger and more compassionate, not characterized as damaged, or with disorders, or with syndromes or other disease labels. Not labeled dependent on the government…”.
People are affected by many events, especially in traumatic circumstances. Some may break a bone, some may receive other injuries or lose limbs, suffer traumatic brain injuries, etc. Many of these people go on to mitigate, deal with or even overcome the symptoms and “limitations” of their injuries. We’ve all been inspired by these stories. PTS“D” is the same as any other combat or traumatic event injury. We need to recognize that as a fact. As a good friend (Exec. Director of Veterans 360) has often said, “PTSD is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation”, and it needs to be de-stigmatized.
It may seem trite, but one of my favorite quotes embodies the spirit of many who choose this way of life: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Friedrich Nietzsche
Yes, there are effects, but PTSD is a treatable condition, something that can generally be dealt with, managed, and even overcome. The stigma of the “Vietnam Vet” being lost, dangerous, unstable…was and is just as false (and disgraceful) as the current one of all the deranged, wandering souls and disaffected vets from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
Gen. Mattis goes on to say “For whatever trauma came with service in tough circumstances, we should take what we learned—take our post-traumatic growth—and, like past generations coming home, bring our sharpened strengths to bear, bring our attitude of gratitude to bear. And, most important, we should deny cynicism a role in our view of the world.
We know that in tough times cynicism is just another way to give up, and in the military we consider cynicism or giving up simply as forms of cowardice. No matter how bad any situation, cynicism has no positive impact. Watching the news, you might notice that cynicism and victimhood often seem to go hand-in-hand, but not for veterans. People who have faced no harsh trials seem to fall into that mode, unaware of what it indicates when taking refuge from responsibility for their actions. This is an area where your example can help our society rediscover its courage and its optimism.”
All those who have been injured (physically, psychologically, spiritually, etc.) in the line of duty – regardless if it was in the military or other public service – are stronger for their experiences, and for the commitment to overcome any limitations stemming from those injuries. They deserve to be respected and honored for their dedication to helping others and protecting our country and its citizens, even at the risk of their own life and personal safety.
I am NOT a VICTIM. The next time you see a wounded or disabled person, or meet someone who is dealing with the effects of PTSD, don’t look away. Don’t fawn over them, pity them, thank them profusely to the point of embarrassment, or treat them differently. Look them in the eye and treat them with the dignity and respect you would want if you were in their situation. Trust me, we’re a lot stronger than you think…