Archive for: ptsd
In the past few months, I’ve had the honor to work closely with remarkable Veterans and civilian leaders who fully committed to creating a permanent Veterans Family Center here in Maine. It was the vision of Staff Sergeant, Travis Mills, one of only five surviving quadruple amputees from the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan, to have a permanent, handicap accessible camp for Veterans and their families to relax, rehabilitate and rejuvenate among fellow Veterans. This week, Travis retired from his military service and will be moving his family to begin a new life away from the familiarity of 19 months in rehabilitation at Walter Reed, his unit, squadron and fellow veterans. Like many veterans and their families, change can bring exciting opportunities but it can also trigger stress and anxiety especially for those dealing with PTSD.
As teenagers go, I was a pretty good kid. I stayed active in sports, was the editor of my yearbook, acted in theater productions, stayed on the honor role, and was always home by curfew. But, like all good kids, when you fall, you sometimes fall hard. A day after graduation, I told a little lie in order to attend a dinner and a play in the city. By midnight, we had crashed the car in the median after the driver feel asleep behind the wheel. I ended up in the hospital with a severely broken wrist and hand. Beyond my mother’s wrath, I also suffered terrible flashbacks. For years, I couldn’t get into a car without tremendous anxiety and the sound of a gravel road would completely freak me out. It is remarkable how traumatic experiences affect our physical and emotional state and I can only imagine how difficult it must be for our military and veterans. While I won’t presume any fool-proof solutions for the physical and emotional complexities of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), there are some helpful healthy choices that are easy to incorporate right now that may help alleviate some factors that aggravate PTSD.
PTSD is a very real and often misunderstood event. It’s not like a missing limb or deep cut. You can’t always see obvious physical signs. However, the wounds are very well and just like shrapnel, need to be discovered and removed before real healing can begin.
When a soldier returns from combat or other traumatic event — part of who they once were may be left in the field. The statistics about the difficulties of resuming a “normal” life state-side are staggering.
However…the more that family, friends, and the military learn about PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder, the better it can be recognized and dealt with. Rather than thinking — he’s just pissed, or she’s just depressed — we can get to the heart of the matter.
Military Bootcamp – it’s all about pushing your body physically to the limit and a bunch of mental challenges that keep you going and responding under extreme conditions and fatigue. Push-ups, pull-ups, and miles of running in combat boots humping your pack uphill.
When you workout, the results from the physical side of military life is easy to see. You do dumbbell curls and your bicep grows; you bench press and your pecs grow; you run enough and it starts to get easier. After a while you feel physically fit for deployment.
But how do you prepare for the mental side of deployment?
This isn’t just about being dropped on foreign soil miles from family and homemade apple pie. This is about the unexpected smells, sights and sounds of war.
Are you ready for the smell of death, burning flesh, or watching the guys you trained with be caught in the line of fire?
Every soldier, every war, has its own name for this.
“There’s a condition in combat, most people know about it. It’s when a fighting person’s nervous system has been stressed to its absolute peak and maximum, can’t take any more input, the nervous system has either snapped or is about to snap. In the First World War that condition was called Shell Shock. Simple, honest direct language…In the Second World War the same condition was called Battle Fatigue…Fatigue is a nicer word than shock…then in Korea it was called Operational Exhaustion…then Vietnam War the very same condition was called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder… ” ~George Carlin
This is how the comedian George Carlin explained the evolution of language to describe a very real condition experienced by war-time soldiers. And…it’s becoming clear that PTSD can be triggered in even non-civilians who are overly stressed.
A new national program called “Racquetball Rehabilitation Clinics (RRC) sponsored by The Military Racquetball Federation has many chapters across the country and recently hosted a big clinic at Arizona State in Phoenix on February 15 — 16 to help wounded soldiers and amputees get back into the game. The event, sponsored by Tempe, AZ-based prosthetic manufacturer called Ability Dynamics drew many local wounded vets, some of whom played the game using prosthetics.
Service members, especially amputees, are getting their strength and confidence back through the use of racquetball as rehabilitation for both the physical and mental challenges suffered from combat. Using a special technique for disabled vets, the RRC uses racquetball as a way to improve eye/hand coordination, reduce stress and build confidence. Vets use prosthetic to play and the game help to build agility, flexibility and most of all….hope. RRC is made possible, in part, with a sizeable grant from the US Olympic Committee.
Playing a game you love or serving your country with pride can put you in danger of physical injury. You know that going in, right? We do our best to protect ourselves from preventable injuries by wearing armour and helmets. But what about the fall out to our brains from head traumas that cannot be totally avoided?
In sports it’s repeated blows to the head most often associated with football players and boxers; for soldiers it’s the unexpected IUD or other blasts from the field of combat. Sure the helmets will protect you from shrapnel, but what protects you from the initial shock wave and secondary “blast wind” of an IUD?
When you decided to enter the military, you prepared, right? You started running to build cardiovascular health, you started paying attention to what you ate, you started taking dietary supplements to build lean muscle and strengthen your immune system, and you started studying so you could pass the required exams. All of this is good and definitely stacked things in your favor to get into the military.
But the end of military bootcamp is just the beginning of becoming a soldier.
When you’re a soldier you are given many opportunities. You are also exposed to many environmental and occupational threats that the normal population will never face. For this reason you need to take your nutritional health more seriously than the “average” population. You also need to fortify all systems of your body, including your brain, to meet the demands of combat.
“Common knowledge” and mainstream media define high levels of cortisol (the hormone that is released when you’re faced with danger) as bad. By their definition cortisol should be avoided unless you want health problems and weight gain. Sounds simple, right? But really that partial understanding is kind of simplistic.
Lack of cortisol and stress do not equal nirvana and good health. Instead, properly managing your stress and fortifying your body so that it can handle the inevitable stress of military training, military life, and combat by releasing protective hormones: cortisol, testosterone, and insulin at the right time and in the right quantities are what bring good health and optimal performance under pressure for a soldier. And, a higher baseline level of cortisol and DHEA may just give you the edge for special ops or Navy Seal Training.
If you’re in a “present” panic , I thought it would be fun to share with you some innovative products and inspiring organizations that may be a perfect fit for your gift list. It is also a great way to celebrate entrepreneurship by supporting Made in the USA products and U.S. companies. The following gifts, gadgets, and giving opportunities are my salute to ingenuity. These organizations and companies are either founded by veterans or have a great track record of supporting our military community. Happy shopping and be sure to stay tuned for Part II and III.