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Memorial Day can bring about mixed feelings in veterans and their families. While it is meant to honor those lost, it brings about a lot of flashbacks to past pain and friends and relatives that lost their lives.
Today I am reposting this article I wrote discussing my father’s PTSD and how these actions and habits can be passed down. My Dad raised me with no mother in the house so I picked up some of the actions of someone like him. Perhaps this post can help you or a loved one find some ways to heal a little bit and realize that you are not alone in your battle with PTSD.
Most of the time when people think of PTSD they either assume it is just something that happens to war veterans or they don’t know what it is at all.
The truth is that while war is one of the more common causes of PTSD, it can happen as a result of any traumatic event.
My experience with PTSD has been lifelong. My father was in heavy jungle combat during Vietnam. They lost him without food for five days once. Where you were positioned and who you were made a difference during that conflict. Those in heavy jungle combat had a different experience than those that worked in the back or had more frequent breaks from being out in the bush.
No matter how hard a person you are, killing another human being or even an animal is going to affect you. The way it does has a lot to do with who you are as a person. Some people can separate themselves from the actions they would choose and what they feel they are forced to do while others cannot disassociate as well.
PTSD habits get passed down
I am 35 but I suffer from PTSD from the Vietnam War during 67-68, and I know I am not alone. Here is a list of fun facts about Samantha Biggers that can be attributed to Vietnam.
Insomnia and waking up at the least noise.
I have a hard time sleeping. If I hear a slight noise, I am instantly alert. I like to think that at least part of this is from farming, but it is because since I didn’t have a mother, my dad was the one there for me on those nights when a toddler needs a parent. Guess who learned to wake up in an instant. It is just a guess, but I bet the kids that have parents coming back from overseas and co-sleep are affected by this type of thing.
Ever wonder how I can write this stuff? Well, I have to say that while I have always enjoyed living off the land and being prepared, at least some of that behavior, especially that concerning man-made events, is influenced by a distinct paranoia, fear, and loathing of how things are going in the world today. I cannot trust a lot of people after what happened to my Dad at 18.
I don’t like leaving my property for more than an afternoon.
Part of the issue is that my husband and I have worked hard to make this a place we want to be. I also just have a lot of work to do and when I leave, things get put on the back burner.
Going out to dinner or a show is expensive, and it means leaving my property with less protection. I also have a lot of animals to consider if I cannot get back within a day. At the same time, I have to admit this all goes back to paranoia. I have had a lot of trouble with ignorant people over the years, and it doesn’t help the paranoia.
Thrift and indulgence
I like saving money and supplies for when needed, but I also like a lot of luxury when I can get it because you never know how much time you got left or how hard times may get due to circumstances beyond my control.
I am extremely defensive if anyone makes a threat towards me, my close family, or my animals.
If someone or something acts aggressive or threatening, I am immediately on the defensive in a major way. I bring it all to the table. Part of this is just from being forced to be around a lot of people that are not the best and having to watch my back as I grew up. I also figured that if I were on the defensive, then it would be harder for someone to get the jump on me.
I don’t like enclosed spaces, and I make sure to know where the exits are.
When I was younger, my dad had to go to places like the mall with me. I learned early on that if I suggested setting in some places that it was just not okay because we would not be able to get out if a situation arose. We needed to sit near a getaway path and preferably with something behind us or something that would make good cover.
Honestly it is not a bad way to look at things in some cases but when you can’t set down comfortably without running through scenarios, it can get to be a bit tiring when everyone else seems so much more at ease and wonders what on earth is going on in your brain or perhaps they would rather not know!
Someone can cope with PTSD and learned behaviors from a PTSD suffering parent or caregiver, but no one that is directly or indirectly suffering from PTSD really gets over it.
Life events shape you, and there is not a lot that you can do about that. Coping is one thing but don’t think that you or someone you care about is going to get up one day and with hard work, it will leave you. You cannot unsee or undo an experience unless you have true memory loss/amnesia.
Advice for families, loved ones, and friends of
Do your best to remind yourself that it is not you that is causing the behavior. Of course, if you purposely do something that you know will push a button that is different. People get hurt and say things. You need to be able to deal with it if someone with PTSD says something hurtful. Don’t say something equally awful or worse back. The person that said it to you is hurt and lashing out.
In a SHTF situation, people are going to have to deal with things. How much you shield someone from terrible events is up to you. Some people decide that they will shield children or those that have mental sensitivities from things that are going on. One thing this can lead to is a few people seeing a lot and then others nothing or very little. So you can get an adult that has PTSD and a child that fully recovers or sees little.
At the same time, a child or younger person seeing something may not do any good at all except that it might teach them some about life and how hard things are or may become. People are largely sheltered now. There was a time when kids saw some gory and traumatic things, but it was part of life back then. Now all too many have never even seen a deer carcass hanging let along a gunshot wound or bad break in a leg or worse.
Shellshock versus PTSD
When someone’s mind was not all there during WWII and other major wars they were sometimes said to be suffering from shellshock. This happens when your head gets rattled by a big explosion. Your wits are just not there, and you may stare off into the distance “the thousand yard stare” it was called in Vietnam. This is not quite the same thing, but it can be related to PTSD.
My grandfather drove a tank in WWII and I found out when going through some old family stuff that he got a small check and had been treated for nervousness. This was a common term for PTSD or shellshock. After hearing a story about him talking about being close to a shell that hit, it was clear that his head had been rattled but they didn’t have a lot of ways to treat it or even understand head injuries back then. In his tank suffered such an indirect hit that the manhole for getting out of the tank was below the surface so that they had to dig some to get out.
Someone can easily be suffering from both. Just remember to treat someone for the head injury as well. Even a mild concussion is not good. Over time a few concussions here and there can cause major health issues or even death. Look at what happens to football players and other athletes that experience a lot of impacts.
PTSD happens to men and women
One of the tragedies of the Vietnam War was truly how the nurses and medical personnel that were not directly in the field were left to their own minds both during and after the conflict. My father says he does not know how the nurses handled it at all in Vietnam. Despite the fact that he was in the field and saw a lot of atrocities the nurses saw it all and had to deal with it. He remembers one day when casualties were high, a nurse just walked in and then suddenly just started screaming and would not stop. She had reached the breaking point. That point is different for everyone, but everyone has it.
While situations can get tough, try not to be too hard on others.
I know that the situation may call for you or others having to make some major judgment calls and not all of those are going to be decisions that do not lead to some pain and suffering. Sometimes it is a matter of where the pain is going to be centered or out of pure fear. I am guilty of being hard on people. I have unfortunately had to be a very hard person over the years if I didn’t want to end up like so many.
If you are told you are hard or just know that about yourself, then use it to your advantage and not your disadvantage. If you are a team leader, your goal is to get everyone through a situation alive and as comfortable as you can not as comfortable as they would like but you do need to realize the limitations of others and use that to inspire them to do better than they thought they could. Know their weaknesses so that you can offer them strength.
Avoid triggers and stressors
While in some cases it may be impossible to rid yourself of triggers for PTSD episodes if there is anything you can do to lessen exposure you should do it. Loud noises are a common trigger for panic or other behaviors. Screaming and yelling is another example that can make someone act differently.
Human psychology is a funny thing, and I make no claims based on any legitimacy of degree. I have never taken a psychology class, but I have attempted to observe and also learn a little from those that have taken classes. I just think I should be clear that what I say is just Samantha Biggers writer, housewife, and fellow vineyard field hand.
Lack of medications for treating PTSD during SHTF will be a problem for some.
This is a very tough issue and given the broad spectrum of things people take it is difficult to answer about what to do about medications for PTSD. You may simply have to substitute or go without. If possible always keep a 90 day supply on hand. There may be some medicines where this is not allowed due to drug laws, but it is worth it to check. Explain to your doctor that you want an emergency supply. Usually, doctors don’t have a problem issuing long scripts if they are confident you need to continuously use the substance, and it is legal for them to do so.
Explore natural anxiety relief
There are some substances that can help with anxiety. These are all entirely legal, and they are better than nothing if you cannot get what you take right now. There is also the whole issue that if you can treat your PTSD naturally, you should consider it. I know that big pharmaceuticals can do great things for those suffering, but I also believe more people could be treated naturally.
I cannot tell you if you are one of these people.
I do know that I had to put my foot down at the Veterans Hospital in Seattle when they gave my father some weird drug. It caused him severe anxiety, and he would exhibit symptoms like coming to find me when I was with friends. He just got worried too fast. He had a decent handle on things before they gave him those pills, but they dangle that stuff in everyone’s face to the point of obscenity. I set him down and told him how he was acting, and he listened thankfully. I was just a teenager, and he didn’t have too, but he stopped taking whatever that was.
Here are some natural methods and treatments for PTSD
- Exercise and other outdoor activities. Getting some physical activity has long been known to help with anxiety and other mental issues.
- Staying busy. Moping around the house or avoiding any interactions, work, or hobbies, is not good for you and can make PTSD symptoms worse.
- Volunteering. Helping others and expanding your social network can help keep you busy while improving the lives of those around you which can be a good feeling
- Support groups. Your local social services or a doctor may be able to suggest some support groups to help get you or someone you know some help and support.
PTSD is so common and not adequately addressed
I believe PTSD from past conflicts combined with the aftermath of anything that occurs during a major event means that PTSD prevention and treatment should be a part of the survival plan for anyone, especially those in group situations.
Anyone that has been working for years in a medical setting likely has some minor symptoms of PTSD. The longer the career the more likely that it is Here are a few others that are common manifestations.
- Moderate to Severe Depression
- Insomnia or Sleeping Abnormalities
- Anxiety and Paranoia
Prevention is key but things happen.
I will not lie and say that not putting yourself in any position to experience trauma is realistic. Who wakes up and thinks they will face trauma? Things happen that are beyond our control but there are also a lot of situations that can be avoided with a bit of thinking and planning.
During a long-term emergency, you may want to keep your distance, but long-term detachment from contact with others is not necessarily a good thing. While my article on “Avoiding Rescue Situations” doesn’t address PTSD it does talk a lot about what you can do to avoid getting in a situation that might be extremely traumatic and lead to PTSD.
Reaching Out In An Emergency
Perhaps you are like me and have family members that suffer from PTSD, or maybe you do yourself? Well during an emergency there may be others around you that could use some support even if it is just advice and friendship. Sometimes the old vets just take a little bit to get to talk. I remember when I was working as a market events coordinator that I could get along with the guy that was known for being hard to deal with and part of that is because I think I understood him a little bit due to the trauma that he experienced and he looked a lot like my father, to be honest with you. Just don’t try to push them around much or you might run into trouble.
Dealing With Severe PTSD During SHTF
I have thought about how I would deal with a scenario where someone was experiencing major PTSD and possible shock. First of all hydration with electrolytes like Emergenc-E is key to getting someone through a situation where dehydration may occur. You may want to isolate yet observe the person for some time. Sometimes people just need a minute to process it all and they “come back.” I think removing someone from potential stressors is very important. If you have anything soothing at your disposal then now is the time to use it but pay attention to how the person responds.
PTSD in Children
Kids have special needs. Trauma during the formative years is going to affect a child. There is not much way around this. You can pay special attention, but at the same time, there is little that can erase some things. The most you can do is offer good support over the years and feed them well. Kids can overcome amazing things, they truly can, but that doesn’t mean events are not going to shape the way they see the world. If something bad happens then give kids some extra time to process and deal. It’s a tough world but easing them into that is probably best.
Better Times Ahead?
I know that everyone talks about what dire times we live in and I tend to agree that we are facing some major issues and paying the debts of our forefathers. Expenses are on the rise as we try to play catch up for past mistakes. An example of this that comes to mine is the extra $364 each year to clean up a landfill I never used in my life, and there is no timeline for when that is “paid for”. That is a small rise in cost compared to some but my point is that costs for practically everything are higher than they were and rising.
Jobs are hard to find that pay for a good standard of living for anyone with a family or that doesn’t live terribly sparse.
But in some areas, things are looking up a bit. There is some definite realization that a college education doesn’t necessarily prepare you for the real world. I went to a work college and to tell you the truth what I do now is closer to what I did on my work crew than my degree in some regards. Skills matter and while I believe in higher education and learning the skills needed today; I do not think a 4-year degree is necessary to do some things. An apprenticeship makes a lot more sense for a lot of occupations.
This realization has been painful, but I think we might be in for a correction that could result in better times. Remembering what really matters while still preparing is a good approach to take, Thanks for listening to my rambling about PTSD and how it has affected my life.
Getting help for PTSD
If you need help dealing with PTSD, there are places that can help. Here are a few listings. If you are a veteran, then the closest VA medical center is where you should go. They can assist you in getting you there if you lack transportation, The whole process can take some time, so make sure to let them know your needs in advance. Unfortunately, the system is stressed due to how many veterans need services.
Samantha Biggers can be reached at [email protected]