Guest Contributor Posting to Combat Veterans with PTSD

As a guest contributor to Combat Veterans with PTSD, http://combatveteranswithptsd.blogspot.com/, my posting follows.

The following question from a member of the above blog prompted me to address the bigger picture and extended process of healing from symptoms attributed to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Question from Member:

“I come here because nobody understands what is going on and they all make snap judgments about everything. I know that jumping on them and telling them to shut it isn’t going to get me anywhere and only make things worse, so, any suggestions on how to handle this?”

There is no expert who understands you and can offer a specific answer or a set of solutions.  Healing is all about you and your own process of self-discovery and developing a level of awareness that allows you to be in charge and take ownership.  Please read the Epilogue from my book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, which may give you a kick-start to your own self-discovery process.  My story captures the full impact of how the process of self-discovery becomes a journey of increased awareness of my family’s circumstances living in a post WWII toxic family culture.  Healing can be considered a journey of developing a sense of wholeness of self and of others.  My book is just the beginning of the journey of wholeness allowing for realignment of relationships to both self in terms of personal values, moral injury, and in reconnecting with others.  My book becomes part of the process.  The self-discovery model is a possible starting point for the process of developing wholeness.

Following is an excerpt from Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, by Steve Sparks

EPILOGUE

Path to Self-Discovery – Author’s Learning Perspective

In writing this story it became apparent that my own writing style, acquired over the years as a professional, came into play in a most significant way.  “Needs Assessment” and “Situation Analysis” has always been a cornerstone of problem solving in terms of leading an organization and in finding solutions to customer needs as well as problem solving.  For the purposes of this story and as a useful tool for readers, following is a practical process of self-discovery and finding a personal path forward to mitigate mental health challenges and in improving personal or family relationships.

Background

How can you become better prepared for objective and productive consultations with a mental health professional?  I have visited with many mental health professionals over the years to little or no avail.  Many thousands of dollars and heart ache, including damaged relationships went without solutions because I was either in denial, could not remember, or could not honestly articulate my needs.  My discussions and interactions have been about symptoms, not the real problems.  We often do this at a professional level, and can more easily find the real problems to solve because of a team environment and focus on quantifiable goals and objectives in the business.  You as an individual do not have a team to work with.  You are alone trying to figure out complex and subjective issues and pay lots money to seek professional help to find solutions.  There are three steps you can take to be better prepared once sitting across from a professional or medical doctor you are just getting to know.

 I.  Write down your own personal story:

Many of the mental health issues start early on in childhood from personal experiences, especially when there is a traumatic event like physical or mental abuse.  There could also be a more recent traumatic event, much easier to recognize and identify, creating the symptoms of PTSD as in the case of combat veterans who were typical before going to war and become a different person when returning home.  In either case, write all of it down on paper or on your computer.  Interview others in your life, including loved ones and friends to sort out experiences when they happened.  No matter how painful, revisit these incidents or events and make a record.  Find the “hot buttons” that seem to surface as you revisit the past.  Don’t worry about your writing ability or the “spell-check” stuff.  Do a brain dump and then go back and read it again to make revisions and fine tune the experience.

II.   Personal Assessment:

With all this information, sorted out and fine-tuned, think about your own feelings and behavior.  Start writing down how you feel and how the event(s) or experiences affected your behavior.  Do you feel scared?  Do you feel self-doubt?  Do you feel defensive?  Do you feel shame?  What kind of experiences do you have now that cause you to react in certain ways that could be considered negative in your own gut or what others say or how others react to you.  Write all of this stuff down.  Take a break and come back later and repeat this thinking process, and write some more.  Take your time.  Talk to loved ones and friends about this process and get their input.  Write down all the input and thoughts from others.  Go through this step over and over until you feel you have exhausted all the ideas and input.

 III.   Lessons Learned:

In the final step, what have you learned from this exercise and process of self-discovery?  Write down short statements of what you learned or new awareness or discoveries about yourself that are concrete and objective.  Take a break and come back later, and do this 3rd step until you feel all avenues of learning have been explored.

Now, see if you can identify some potential actions or solutions that might be helpful.  If you can come up with just one action or solution this process is a win, win, win.  Even if you don’t realize the results right away, healing started with the first step of this process.  It is very subtle but real.  You are now ready to take action for on-going healing either on your own or with the assistance of professionals.  Start engaging with loved ones and friends to share your findings.  Reaching out is a key to success in healing. 

The long term challenge of healing is the follow through and execution of self-discovery actions.  This is really where professionals can be the most help.  But you have to do your homework to help someone professional to help you.  You know the old saying, “help me help you.”