Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Veterans with PTSD - Heroes or Monsters? My thoughts...

In a time when hundreds of thousands of heroes and families are living with “invisible injuries,” injuries that cannot be seen, but have a very real impact on their daily lives, the Dr. Phil show had an opportunity on Thursday to make a difference.  It had the chance to educate the general public about the wide range of stories that live behind the mask of post-traumatic stress disorder.  It had the responsibility to help and not hurt.  But, it missed the mark… by miles.

I am the wife of a Combat Infantry Veteran who has PTSD among other injuries.  I am also an advocate that often spends 20 hours a day working with families like ours while caring for my own dear hero.  I know their stories, their challenges, their fears.  I also know that our heroes are not monsters.

Many families I know were approached by the Dr. Phil show to be part of Thursday’s show, and each one refused because of the tone of the producers.  Spouses who were trying to talk about how their family was coping, about tools and support they’d found to help, were interrupted with endless questions about whether their husband was hitting them, about how often he was taken over by rage,  about how horrible their lives were and how bad things “really” were.  Those orchestrating the show were not looking for hope… they were looking for sensationalism.

So now, I feel a responsibility… a responsibility to try to tell the rest of the story… to fight against the stigma of PTSD that many warriors and those who love them face every day.  It’s a stigma that was sadly strengthened on Thursday because of a drive for ratings.  And thanks to that sensationalistic tactic, the jobs of advocates and spouses nationwide just got harder.

Why are our jobs harder?  Because our veterans already sometimes feel like society views them as monsters.  They are injured, they are living in broken places, and the majority of news coverage about PTSD covers the worst-case scenarios - the situations where heroes go too long without care, where their symptoms and struggles are ignored, where their family does not have the help and support it needs, where those in their support network are not educated with real-world information about this injury.  While these stories grab headlines, they leave out the huge number of heroes and families who are coping, even when days are difficult, and building a new life with PTSD.  This sort of coverage (which includes Dr. Phil’s episode entitled “From Heroes to Monsters?”) only serves to widen the gap between those who have served our country and those who benefit from that service but have little understanding about what post-traumatic stress disorder “looks” like in the average household.

That kind of coverage makes Veterans nervous about seeking treatment and getting “labeled” with a PTSD diagnosis.  That kind of coverage makes potential employers less likely to hire current and prior servicemembers who have PTSD (the current unemployment rate for Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan is at 12.1%).  That kind of coverage makes it much harder for families dealing with the injury to reach out and find support.  That kind of coverage makes the children in our Veteran community less likely to share their story (and thus find needed peer support) with friends.  Basically, that kind of coverage is exactly what we don’t need.

What do we need?  We need people to understand that while our families may be broken, we are not giving up.  We need society to comprehend that PTSD does not automatically mean that the heroes we love are violent.  We need healthcare providers to step in before our stories become headlines and help orchestrate proper, thorough care.  We need people who are willing to use their platforms to showcase the resolve, determination, and unbridled stubbornness within our community to pull ourselves up and persevere in the face of PTSD.  We need to spread hope and information about successfully coping… not spread panic and alarm.

I will not say life with post-traumatic stress disorder is easy.  Our family has been living with it for almost six years.  Many days are a struggle in our household… a battle between this invisible thing that attempts suck us dry and the life we’re building post-combat.  But, we continue… and so do hundreds of thousands of other heroes and families.

So, Dr. Phil, I can’t begin to tell you how disappointed I was by Thursday’s episode.  And, I challenge you to offer a second look… a look at the heroes and loved ones who now spend their days educating themselves, pushing for treatment at all costs, finding ways to cope, and often helping others like them to do the same.  I challenge you to showcase the families who are, slowly but surely, pushing forward.  I challenge you to highlight the heroes and spouses who have faced domestic violence as a result of PTSD and have found their way back.  I challenge you to tell the non-sensational stories… the stories that may not garner huge ratings… but will actually help foster hope and understanding.  I challenge you to make a difference in the lives of those who have laid themselves down for you.

Sincerely,

Brannan Vines
Proud wife of an OIF Veteran
Founder of FamilyOfaVet.com - an organization dedicated to helping heroes and their loved ones survive and thrive after combat with real world info about PTSD, TBI, and Life After Combat!

8 comments:

  1. Very well said brannan. The whole title of the show was a big turn off from the jump. I will never look at my son as a monster or any other soldier.

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  2. Kudos Brannan for being able to put into words the thoughts and feelings of so many of us Combat spouses. None of us will deny that the ugly side of PTSD is a very real thing but just once it would be nice to see someone who holds the attention of the masses tell OUR stories. Tell about the lives we and our Heroes work so hard to maintain as we navigate this life and work at raising our families in a loving and happy environment and helping our Heroes find their place in this world that they sometimes have difficulty navigating on their own.

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  3. I didnt' realise they had approached others. I guess I find myself wanting the truth to be told. I found myself watching thinking wow I felt that or saw that. But what I didn't like was there wasn't any real solutions. Or the fact that our military and our Government aren't doing anything. Or that there are many succsess stories. I also found myself upset for the young Sgt that is in prison right now and they didn't address his needs. It was a veteran that came to me to watch this. You gave thought to your words and you helped me to understand. Thank you so much for all you do. Like I always say. Say it from the heart, your heart spoke beautifully. Tammy :)

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  4. I blogged about this on Friday and in my anger it didn't sound quite as nicely put as yours. I sent the same exact letter to the "DR" Phil show and have yet to hear a response from them. It makes me even more irritated now that I know that they approached others with the same attempt of sensationalizing the show. I am with you on this one. I have spent countless hours trying to help those with PTSD around me, I am a psych major gaining my specialty in PTSD. I live with this everyday (must husband is a WW with TBI and PTSD) and I hate that all of the work that I have done within my own circles feels pointless now. Shame on him!!!

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  5. How do you deal with the PTSD the anger the violence? How do you not view your hero as a monster? You've been doing this for 6 years and I only have 3 under my belt. Therapy, meds, psych wards, prayer, church you've name it we've tried it and it is still a battle zone. Cops always at our house because of the blood curddling screaming that comes from his mouth because of something I said to upset him. Tell me how you do it. How you sit there while being called every name in the book and feeling his spit hit your face because he is that close to you and not think what a monster? I'm not trying to start drama or conflict but I honestly want to know how you women do it. I am at the end of my rope, I feel completely numb to him and his outburst but I can not let my 2 year old live like this anymore. So any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


    Thanks

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    Replies
    1. Lisa l_gaw@hotmail.comMay 23, 2012 at 6:33 AM

      Just want to let you know you are NOT alone. We understand what you're going through. It was about the 3rd year for us too that I thought I'd never make it. But hang in there! It takes a strong woman to get through this, and you are doing a great job! Encourage your husband to get a treatment plan started and become real
      Good friends with everyone involved in his treatment. It WILL get better. Takes some hard work, but there is light at the end of your tunnel. My husband has been in psych wards and many medication adjustments over the last 3 years, but it really has helped. It's frustrating sometimes, but you CAN overcome this.

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  6. Anonymous -

    That 3 year mark was one of the hardest in our household, too. And I know it doesn't "fix" it... but I hope it helps you to know that it is a common time for *A LOT* of PTSD households to really struggle. The way we got through it was taking a hard look (and jumping up and down with my hubby's treatment team) to get better treatment in place, more often follow up, switched meds, I got in counseling, he was doing "double duty" in counseling (group and individual) with a inpatient treatment program also, etc. But I *GET* where you are and how incredibly, monumentally difficult/miserable/hell on earth it can be. If you'd like to talk some more, please feel free to send me an e-mail (info-at-familyofavet.com) and I'd be glad to see if we can work on a strategy together.

    ((HUGS)),
    Brannan

    Brannan Vines
    Proud wife of an OIF Veteran
    Founder of FamilyOfaVet.com - an organization dedicated to helping heroes and their loved ones survive and thrive after combat with real world info about PTSD, TBI, and Life After Combat!

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  7. Dr. Phil is an obvious quack who has abused his degree for sensationalism. I have been fighting PTSD for over a decade after my tour led to lots of damage to my body and mind. I have never abused my past girlfriends or my wife. I have had a tough struggle, but I keep fighting. Of course I guess you will never hear of that truth from Dr. Phil about us who may be messed up but we avoid violence because we have seen more than a life times worth of it. Shame on Dr. Phil and his sick Hollywood handlers.

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