One of the first things I did when I woke this morning was check my phone for messages. A fairly mundane task that most of you can probably relate to. Waiting for me was a message about the death of friend. Not a great way to start the day, I’ll be honest with you. Another brother in arms lost the battle with his demons last night, and is with us no more.
That brings the total to seven.
Seven ex-servicemen that I know personally that have survived the war, only to succumb to their wounds once they came home. Wounds that can't be seen but that are real none the less. It’s a depressing number. What is more depressing is that while it hit me for six initially, it’s the kind of thing that has become so commonplace that its almost mundane.
Another one dead. .......Better get the lunches packed before the kids go to school.......... At least I’ll get to wear my new suit…..
It scares me how normal it feels.
But it shouldn’t be so common its normal. So, in memory of my fallen brother, I’m going to write a little more about PTSD today. Hopefully by doing so I might be able to do what little I can stop another from following his path.
At the bottom of this link is a YouTube video that explains PTSD. It breaks down in some detail the way a modern military prepares its soldiers for war, and the unintended consequences of some of these things. Preparing a soldier to thrive in combat often has a serious impact on his or her ability to thrive in normal life after the war is over.
As with all things related to mental illness, what works for one may not work for another, but I found this video extremely powerful. I’ll go so far as to say that I didn’t truly understand what PTSD was until I had watched it. It is just one man’s interpretation of PTSD and it’s a particularly Australian one at that, but I found it extremely useful.
The presenter starts with a discussion of his experience serving in Vietnam and talks about writing letters home. The more traumatic his experiences became, the less he wrote, and the more mundane were the details that he described. This corresponds very closely to my own experiences in Afghanistan. I kept a detailed diary of my experiences for the first few months, and then about 2 and 1/2 months in, I stopped writing and never started again.
I have never opened that diary to this day.
Its strange, and fascinating in a morbid kind of way, the manner in which the brain processes traumatic experiences. Originally recorded to assist Vietnam veterans, its as relevant today as it was 20 years ago.
If you are a veteran, or are close to one, then I can strongly recommend this as a great resource. Similarly, if you would like to know more about this topic, just out of general interest, then you may also find it interesting.
Content warning! This is a very old video and it shows its age. Its also a little slow to start with. For the first minute or so I encourage you to enjoy the throwback 90's fashions, and the quaint technology used in the presentation. Bear with the scratchy production values however as the content is truly worth your time.
To finish where, I started I'd like to dedicate this post to my friend Jude. A nicer and more genuine guy you will never meet. I’m sorry brother, for sinking the white ball in the final of our squadron pool competition. You pretended you didn’t care, but I’ve got a feeling you never really forgave me for that. Wherever you are tonight I hope you are resting in peace.
You're Not In The Forces Now