PTSD & TBI
Post Traumatic/Post Combat Stress Disorder & Traumatic Brain Injury
Even though it has not been long, I’ve come to visit you once again. I love to see you suffer mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually. My visit will again make you anxious and irritable so everything and everybody will cause you to feel uncomfortable and disoriented. I want you to be confused and depressed so that you can’t think clearly and you’ll hate everybody else, especially yourself.
I want you to feel guilty and remorseful for things in your past. I want to keep you angry and hateful towards the world and the way you are. I want you to feel sorry for yourself and blame everyone but me for your predicament. I want you to stay fearful and paranoid for no reason at all. I want to live inside your dreams so you wake up sweating and be unable to go back to sleep.
I thank you for the countless jobs you gave up for me and for the fine friends that you sacrificed so you and I could be together. I’m happy that you were able to pass me on to your (ex) wife and children when they tried to stand by you. Thanks for devoting your life to me.
But, do not despair because I will not desert you as others have. For as you continue to surrender things others have, I will become an even greater part of your life. You can depend on me to keep you in an internal hell. I will be your only friend.
Forever yours with affection,
P.T.S.D. Defined and Explained.
A Perspective and Opinion by Tom Walinski
PTSD stands for "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" - a set of emotional problems that can occur after someone has experienced a terrible, stressful life event. In the case of military people in combat, it is properly referred to as "Post Combat Stress Disorder." What I want to focus on is Post Combat Stress Disorder.
Do you have PTSD/PCSD? Check off those below that are true for you.
1. You survived a trauma; an event outside your control in which you experienced combat in war.
2. Your response to the trauma was intense horror, fear or helplessness.
3. After the trauma you suffered each of the following problems for over a month:
Intrusion: The trauma comes back into mind even when you don't want it to; as in nightmares, flashbacks, or images.
Avoidance: Numbing, feeling detached, avoiding any reminders of the trauma.
Arousal: Feeling "hyped up" (easily startled, sleep problems, anger).
Lower Functioning: Problems with relationships, work, or other major areas of life.
Note: You have PTSD/PCSD if you checked off all of the items above.
Until 1980 PTSD/PCSD was not recognized by the psychiatric community as a disorder. It is considered an anxiety disorder because it is marked by an overwhelming feeling of anxiety during or after the trauma. It is a psychiatric illness, but it is definitely possible to heal from it.
Your PCSD symptoms are normal after what you have been through. You are not crazy, weak or bad! That is why PCSD has been called "a normal reaction to abnormal events." As I write this, I am saying this to myself. For over forty years I denied that PCSD affected me. I did some really asinine things in my life and made some terrible decisions. I ruined family relationships. I drank heavily. I made excuses for just about everything that went wrong in my life. All the time I was haunted by intrusive thoughts, flashbacks and nightmares of my Vietnam experience. In particular, June 7, 1966 stands out in my memory. On that night I was wounded when "B" Btry was attacked (I was the FDC Chief) by a reinforced infantry battalion of the 24th NVA Regiment. We, along with "A" Co. 1/501st Infantry and elements of "A" Co. 326th Engineers fought the bastards off. Sgt. Clarence Best won the Silver Star that night. This was during Operation Hawthorne. You can read about it in the history books on the Vietnam War.
The whole Vietnam experience changed me forever, as I'm sure it did many others. This incident, however, changed me so dramatically that I still have not recovered even forty-plus years later. It has taken me this long to be able to even talk about the way it has affected me in oh so many ways that I would not even acknowledge until now. Meanwhile, I've suffered, my family has suffered, my friends abandoned me many times over. I isolated myself and withdrew from society for many years. My health declined because I did not care to take care of myself. I became clinically depressed and didn't even know it. What a miserable person I must have been to be around! Is it any wonder I drank away so many dollars? Is it any wonder I chased away good family and friends?
Well, the good news is that I finally got help. I got it where it was available and where I thought people like me might be going for help. So there might be some people like me there. What I discovered was that, not only were there people like me there, but they came in male and female, as young as twenty-six, as old as seventy-six, from every walk of life, some still on active duty in the US Army, from every education, ethnic and religious background. Some were Vietnam vets, some from Korea, the Gulf War and Iraq. Everyone had the same problems. They had been in a direct combat situation. Some had been wounded. All were reliving the trauma they had experienced over and over again and it was negatively affecting their lives. The effect on their lives was such that they, their therapist, their spouse or perhaps a friend, minister or rabbi had convinced them that they needed help. With me, it was my beautiful bride, Perry. It was at the Veterans Administration that I found help.
For the past two years I have had one to one counseling with a psychologist at my local VA Outpatient Clinic and medication management with a psychiatrist at the same clinic.
From June 10, 2008 through July 25, 2008, I attended a seven week inpatient PTSD/PCSD treatment program at Bay Pines VA Medical Center, St. Petersburg, FL. This program has allowed me to deal with problems associated with trauma that happened in 1966 which ultimately affected most every phase of my behavior since. This same treatment program is available at many of the VA facilities across the USA. I urge anyone who even suspects they may have PTSD/PCSD symptoms (read the "Dear Friend" letter from PTSD again) to contact their VA clinic or hospital and be checked out. It is not a macho thing to keep it to yourself and hide it. It only hurts you and everyone who loves and cares about you. I speak from first hand knowledge and experience. Getting help helps you and everyone you know and care about.
After getting the "Dear Friend" letter from PTSD during the course of my inpatient stay at Bay Pines, I felt compelled to write back to PTSD. I wrote back toward the end of my confinement at the hospital. I had a better understanding of PTSD/PCSD then and I now have a plan in place to work at beating it. As you read my response, remember that this is me; my personal story. It isn't made up. It has taken me over forty years to face this. I received, and continue to receive, treatment for PTSD/PCSD. First and foremost, I had to acknowledge that it was a problem affecting me deeply.
If you, or anyone you know has any PTSD/PCSD symptoms PLEASE GET HELP NOW!
Screw you! How dare you address me as “Friend”! You are my worst enemy! You have antagonized and attacked me for more than forty-two years of my life; years of family enjoyment, of seeing my daughters grow through childhood, of school years and everything a father is supposed to get to give to his girls: genuine, unconditional, parental love and guidance. And now you continue to take my life from me through estrangement from my grandchildren! Screw you!
So you like to see me suffer, huh? And I suppose this anguish you give me, whether mental, emotional, physical, or social, and, yes, sometimes even spiritual, is your stupid ass way to drive me nuts! Why do you perform with such a random pattern? Don’t you see how it confuses and frustrates me? I want to take care of my body and I try. I want to keep my self-destructive emotions in check and I want to be able to express loving emotion at the appropriate time. I used to like socializing. But you tie me in knots and make me hurt! You make me hide in a corner and avoid making friends. You are like a Cornucopia filled with all the hurts I can barely endure. You pour them out at the most inopportune times! Get the hell out of my life now and don’t show your rancid personality here again!
How dare you mention “Affection” in your letter to me! You are about as affectionate as a bucket of broken Buttholes!
You took business prosperity away from me and made me into a drunken fool! Oh how much more I could have provided my family and myself if you were not always spending my emotions, my brain cells and my money in such destructive ways. You’ve caused me to make so many stupid mistakes and you've gotten me into business relationships from which I could not recover. And, you arrogant bastard, you laughed at me and told me you were smarter than anyone else and could solve all my problems by running away with you and hiding.
You want me to feel guilty and remorseful about things in the past? How about this: I have been down that road a thousand times and you know it. That dog just don’t hunt anymore! Get over it. I am guilty. I’ve felt remorseful and I’ve asked for forgiveness. You know that the people I’ve asked to forgive me have their own decision to make in that regard. If they don’t want to forgive me that is their decision! I don’t like it, but I have to live with it. So, PTSD, get your upper case initials, abbreviated name out of my face about this.
You’ve even stolen the beauty of restful sleep from me! What no-account, unconscionable, rotten son of a bitch would do that? My dreams in youth were of baseball, cars, girls and fun. You write new dreams on my sleep, when you give it to me, dreams of blood, killing, screams, explosions, buddies dying, limbs missing, sucking chest wounds, napalm bombs, helicopters crashing, and oh so many other sights, sounds and smells and odors of war. And you’ve had the gall to steal my sleep night after night, year after year. Go to Hell, PTSD!
I caught you somehow. You are a nasty disease to cure. I’m not even sure that you can be cured. I’d like to take your savagely attacking attitude outside of me and shoot you dead. The problem is how do I get you outside of me? Can you tell me? Can I be the Author of a new “from here forward” life for me instead of letting you be the Executioner you are now? If I can, that will be great. But if I am not fully prepared to do that now, then screw you. You are in for the fight of your life. This may be Round 1 and I don’t know how many rounds are in this fight. You have been beating me for so long. You are like acid on steel. You have been eating away at me for such a damn long time that you have corroded me to a point of brokenness almost beyond repair. But, I am not going to let you win.
Don’t you ever call me “friend” again. I have no affection for you in any way, shape, or form. I don’t care how you disguise yourself. I have friends spying on you now and you aren’t going to get away with the atrocities you could in the past. They, and I, will report your every move to my conscious and sub-conscious self and together we will eliminate you, or at the very least, disable you to where you become ineffectual as my adversary.
Starve to death, PTSD. I am finished feeding you, you leaching bastard!
Go screw yourself!
For more information on Post Combat Stress Disorder visit