Wednesday, December 16, 2015

What does it feel like to have PTSD? Describe what PTSD feels like to you.

Today I would like to write about PTSD and how it effects me in my daily life. I write this post in the hope that others with PTSD will recognize similar things going on in their lives. If you feel like you could have PTSD, I encourage you to try and get help. I am not cured, in some ways I am worse but the medicine helps and talking to other veterans really helps. What makes PTSD so difficult to treat is the avoidant and isolationist activity. When we shelter ourselves from the disorder and the world, we lose our connection to those that can help us. Our family, our friends, our clinicians all get cut off from the chance to help us. If you are a veteran, know that you are not alone, even though it feels like you are.

If you need to talk to someone, I encourage you to reach out to the Veterans crisis line. Their number is: 1-800-273-8255
They are also available by chat, which I prefer.

I was part of the very first combat deployment to Afghanistan and got to participate in various covert and overt combat activity. I was injured and evacuated from Stan during the fall of Khandahar. Before deployment I suffered a mild TBI that caused me to lose conciousness after my rocket launcher misfired and fragmented on my shoulder. I was an assaultman, a counter-terrorist. My specialty was rockets and demolition. I received conventional warfare training as well as special operations training.

So that is cool part of my story. Being a Marine was badass and I loved kicking ass.

The sad part of the story begins here. Being a veteran with PTSD is awful. My life feels meaningless now. I have no job and suffer from flashbacks, agitation, arousal, anxiety and depression. I have been out since 2002. My life has been chaotic in varying degrees. I have complex PTSD, TBI comorbid with depression and panic disorder. I have been hospitalized numerous times for suicidal ideation, weird seizure like episodes, and hostility. I have been unable to hold a job or finish college. My relationships always end dramatically. I avoid everyone that knows me and I lash out at those that "threaten me." (The threat is misperceived)

All I want to do is smoke weed, hide from the world, listen to Metallica in the dark and obsess about war, violence and feeling pumped. I love the fucking adrenaline. I get so keyed up from PTSD that thirteen years after honorabe discharge, that I feel like I am at war. I feel like I am still on LP/OP missions. It is not a delusion, it is very physical. PTSD effects the release of adrenaline like compounds that make you feel jacked up. Feeling the pump makes me feel strong and capable which is the inverse to the way I typically feel; sad, broken and worthless. I deal with suicidal thinking near daily. I have been hospitalized four times!

I have been in treatment for over a decade. Sometimes I do a little better with life, sometimes not so much. My life is pretty much out of control. I have to depend on others and that hurts my self esteem. I have no idea where my life is heading because I don't know if I can keep myself alive.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Medical Marijuana for PTSD bill fails in Illinois

Sadly, the initiative to add PTSD to a list of qualifying ailments in the state of Illinois has failed. Efforts were made to add the diagnosis and the push gained momentum through the Illinois House and Senate. When the bill landed on the governor's desk he failed to sign it into law citing a lack of research that medical marijuana helps those with post traumatic stress disorder. Hopefully, there will be some sort of reorginatization and appeal effort by the activists pushing for PTSD patients.
I am a patient with PTSD. I have been hospitalized four times as an inpatient for my condition. I have found that medical marijuana helps me cope with my condition and its effects upon my life. I feel the prime benefits of medical marijuana for post traumatic stress disorder are:

  • Lifting of depression
  • enchanced sleep
  • increased appetite 
  • lower anxiety 
  • greater sense of well being

My condition consists of insomnia, hypervigellance, depression and panic attacks. I experience flashbacks often. Sometimes I just get zoned into to the military past. Cannabis helps me detach from that. While I am disappointed that the medical marijuana initiative failed, I think in the near future it will be of little consequence as our nation slowly moves towards legalization. With legalization, more research will come to see of what benefit medical marijuana has on PTSD.Different strains of cannabis can provide different therapeutic effects for patients. Some strains are depression lifting, while others can be anxiety reducing. Some strains will put you to sleep gently. The effects that cannabis has on cancer cannot be understated. It seems as if CBDs and THC help kill cancer cells.

Do any of you use cannabis for PTSD?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

I have PTSD and I have been hospitalized four times.

Post traumatic stress disorder has destroyed my life. I have been suffering from the diagnosis since getting out of the Marine Corps in 2002. I had to see a therapist shortly after my discharge from the Marines because I began experiencing depression. I can best describe how I felt upon discharge as disconnected from the world and numb. I remember returning from my deployment in Afghanistan back in March of 2002. When I arrived home I felt like I was walking in a dream. I felt like my mind had a little fog to it. My sleep wasn't good and I began to experience sadness connected to my military service. My military career was cut short by injury and I received a whopping two hundred dollars a month for my injury. It upset me that I was now what is considered as a "broken marine." I couldn't deploy, I was getting depressed and it was time to get my head checked out by the VA. In short time I was put on antidepressants and eventually hospitalized after having a bad reaction to the meds. During my hopsitalization intake, I was drugged with benzo type medicine to calm my nerves. I then proceeded to tell the VA psychologist everything that happened to my in the Marines. Before long I received a diagnosis of PTSD with general anxiety disorder and depression. I keep having these moments where I get spooked and just want to run. Sometimes I do. Just last month I was on a two month disappearing act in another state. It is difficult for me to keep my cool and I am constantly under pressure. I experience stress differently than the normal person would. For me any level of stress can feel like life or death type of situational stress. As a result I find it very difficult to let my guard down and I trust nobody. I am slightly paranoid, I would say. I am always watching my back. This sort of thinking comes from having to survive multiple life or death situations in the Marines. If you experience any of these things that I am talking about then please comment on this post but get help first. There is help out there if you ask for it. Build the strength inside you to ask for help when you need it.

My experience with Traumatic Brain Injury - Personal Account

It has been quite a month. I have been in contact with some of my Marines and learned of deaths within the platoon that i had not known about. I have also completed nearly one year of emdr therapy. This type of therapy can be highly effective for veterans with PTSD. I plan to write about my experiences with EMDR in the future. What I want to focus on specificially though, is the occurance of TBI with the veteran population.

I have had a few injuries during my service as an active duty infantry Marine. My MOS in the Marine Corps was 0351. The number 0351 represents the title "Assaultman." Assaultmen have a primary weapons mastery of the MK153 assault rocket launcher. This weapon system is shoulder launched, has mutiple target applications such as armored vechicles, main battle tanks, machine gun bunkers and can even destroy an entire building. There are various munitions for this rocket launcher that are best suited for the type of target to be eliminated. In my course of service, I have fired hundreds of these ballastic rockets.

I operated the MK-153 83mm SMAW rocket launcher system

It is important to note the dangers of launching rockets from one's shoulder. The primary danger involves a backblast area of 90 meters that extends in a 90 degree angle from the back of the weapon system. If friendlies are within 50 meters of that danger zone, they could be vaporized into pink mist. The blast kicks up sand and gravel that likey flies right into the gunner's face. More so, is the sound and explosive pressure that this rocket launcher creates. The MK153 SMAW rocket launcher is the loudest organic weapon on the battlefield. Organic means that it can be carried and deployed by one Marine. The meaured sound level is approximately 100 decibles, Loud enough to blow the ear drum out of an ear canal.

I received a what is called a moderate TBI or traumatic brain injury while firing this rocket system in 1999. During launch the weapon malfunctioned due to overpressure within the breach of the launch tube. The weapon fragmented on my shoulder while my eye was still pressed firmly into the scope. My eye was barely saved by way of its position but my right eye suffered from concussion blast eye fractures. I lost conciousness and woke up with burnin hot shrapnel in my face and the back of my head. I had a large bump on the back off my head that had superficial gas burns and more slivers of metal and fiberglass in it.

Some of the symptoms I have been dealing with over the past 20 years are:

  • Unequal pupil size dilation (though not constant) Blurred vision, spots of color, floaters, dark spots.
  • Disorientation: Where am I, how did i get there.
  • Seizures: I see spots of light during times of stress, lose control of my right arm, numbness..tingling on the the right side of my body. Fits and twitches.
  • Nasuea and difficulty with motor coordination
  • Speech problems, which have been address by a speech therapy program.
  • Cognitive difficulty; I have moderate difficulty with memory, attention and just basic thinking. Reading comprehension has been difficult because I can't focus and retain knowledge like I used to. I also have difficulty finding the appropriate to say in conversation which makes thinking on the fly difficult. My speech is often slurred, or not understandable. I have to repeat things two to three times quite often.

I am also being treated for PTSD related to this and other life threatning events such as a helicopter crash, war, and participating in special operations missions before the start of Operation Enduring Freedom. Having a duel diagnosis of PTSD/TBI is frustrating. I take Lexapro and Klonopin as a medical treatment. For the most part the medication and EMDR therapy helps. 

I would strongly encourage any veteran experiencing these things to get checked out by a doctor. I have been living in a nightmare for 15 years. You don't have to. Medicine and a good therapist make all the difference. It is important for us all to live comfortable lives after sacrificing all that we could.

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