It's not easy, but it is impossible
if you don't try.
about healing cancer since 1991. We’ve received a lot of letters on
the subject of cancer. When we published our article on Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder we were inundated with letters. Once a
week we get a letter thanking us for our site. Once or twice a month
we get a letter with a correction (thank you!) or possible a harsh
criticism (oh well), but concerning the PTSD article, we get a
letter a day, and sometimes more.
probably the most poignant letter I’ve ever received, was from a
fellow Vietnam vet. Since he did not give me permission to republish
his letter, and it was awfully personal, I will just paraphrase it
He told me he’d
been up all night madly surfing the web. He had a pistol sitting
next to his mouse. He was looking for a reason not to blow his
brains out. He came across a site featuring top Vietnam sites. He
clicked, by accident, on our PTSD page. He’d meant to click on the
one above ours. Having arrived there, he said he felt that he really
didn’t want to read any more clinical crap on this, but from just a
short shrift of the article, he’d started to realize that it hadn’t
been written by some PhD living on another planet; that it was the
personal story of a fellow Nam vet.
He wanted me to
know that our page had saved his life. He saw himself in a few of
the things I’d been through, and as he continued reading through the
list of symptoms, he continually saw himself and his situation. He
told me that suddenly he knew he was not alone. He knew that if
someone who had been as bad off as he was could heal enough to write
this article, he would be okay.
Most of the
letters we’ve received have been from women who had been in abusive
relationships or had come from abusive homes. That is until we
mail box was stuffed with letters from wives, mothers, and soldiers.
I gave a few of the soldiers my address on AOL so we could chat thru
AIM. One guy I remember well was extremely whacked out (I hope I
don’t get too technical for you) and he IMed me every night. He had
been put on a list and had to wait two months to see someone. He
told me he didn’t think he could make it that long. I told him that
he needed to get to the VA and tell them EXACTLY that. I reminded
him that if a vet is dangerous to himself or others, the standing
rule at the VA was very clear: he gets immediate help. They MUST
take him in for observation.
After one month
of frustration, his mail stopped, he stopped IMing me. I’m not sure
how it ended. His account is closed. His email comes back.
Please note that
this page is aimed at soldiers returning from Iraq. If you are not a
soldier, much of this can still apply to you; however, I am going to
talk directly to our returning troops because they are doing what
every trooper has done since the beginning of our country: They are
following orders. They’ve been stretched so far they’re about to
crack. PTSD is epidemic among the returning troops. They’ve all got
a touch of it and many have it badly.
We had more
cases of PTSD from Vietnam than from any other war. Iraq will beat
that record. These men and women have been pushed beyond human
limits. They are not getting enough rest in between deployments.
These young men and women have seen things no one should ever have
to witness. I’ve not met one Iraqi War Vet who has not been
affected; who is not hurting.
dedicated to my little brothers and sisters who have maintained a
tradition of service that built this country into a very strong
democracy. Yes, the war itself, the extraordinary rendition, the
extirpation of human rights and habeas corpus, the bungled planning
or lack thereof that has led to a horrendous occupation and puts
each and every soldier’s life in jeopardy, and the torture and
inhumane treatment of prisoners of war and innocent victims alike
have ripped a terrible hole in this country and has made us
everything that we have despised in the past. I have not supported
this war from the beginning, but our soldiers joined to protect and
serve America and are not responsible for starting wars. They should
stand proud of their service; it is our leaders who designed this
mess who must be held accountable for their actions.
will again become a beacon of light to the rest of the world
starving for freedom; but for now, let’s help our soldiers heal.
Get it Out
You have to
start talking it out. You have to sit down and tell your story. You
cannot hold it in because it will only eat at you. You can find a
support group at your local VA where you can talk it out. Listening
to other vets will also help you because you won’t feel alone, and
oftentimes someone else will voice something that you cannot, but
that you have felt for a long time. Once it has a voice, once it’s
out in the open, then, and only then can you deal with it.
Now some of you
have done things that you feel you just cannot tell anyone. You
can’t tell your wife, your brother, or even an uncle who was in
Vietnam. I know what that is like. However, you can tell a fellow
veteran. I don’t care if you violated international law, you still
have to get it out. Confession is good for the soul. And the rule at
the VA is what is said there, stays there. Your therapist cannot
violate patient confidentiality. Only if you are currently a
danger to yourself or someone else will your therapist report you.
Oh, and one more thing, if you admit to sexually molesting a minor
in your family, then your therapist must also file a report.
support groups I can tell you that I’ve heard it all. No matter what
you’ve done, you’re not going shock anyone in the group. No matter
what you’ve done, you have to get it out, or it will eat you away,
and like myself and other vets who stuffed it all so long ago, one
day it will whack you upside the head and you won’t be as messed up
as you are now, you will be ten times more messed up with the added
complications that you won’t know where it’s coming from. Get to a
support group, listen to your fellow vets, and then when it’s your
turn, let it all out and don’t hold back a thing.
IF YOU HAVE A WEAK
STOMACH, YOU’LL WANT TO SKIP THIS NEXT PARAGRAPH.
violating anyone’s confidentiality, I can tell you that I’ve heard
it all. One very close friend opened up during one meeting that he’d
raped a prisoner and then stuck a knife into her heart as he
climaxed. Another friend who was a sharpshooter, who had the lead
shot in an ambush (meaning he was with a group of sharpshooters and
they could fire only after he’d taken the first shot; each one
choosing separate targets) waited till just the right moment to take
his shot. A group of women and a few young men were moving mortar
shells, RPG ammunition, and a variety of weapons along a trail. He
waited for just the right moment to fire. One woman who carried two
shells in each arm had a baby on her back. She turned her back
toward this soldier and he fired, killing her through her baby. He’d
stuffed the event away 30 years ago, found himself in jail,
drinking, fighting, and not ever knowing why. He’d lost his job and
wound up at the VA hospital. And then one day, his repressed memory
came back and it tore him to shreds. He said that if he had been at
home he would have blown his head off without a thought. Later, he
admitted, he felt good getting it out, but, like most of us, he
regretted not getting it out sooner.
Get it out. Lay
it out there for all to see. No one will judge you. Let the tears
flow. Nobody is there to judge you. Let it out and feel it. This is
your first step to healing. You’re not going anywhere else till you
perform this first step.
The VA has a
great system of inpatient programs that last about six weeks. They
are tough and painful, but I’ve never seen one person go completely
through one of these who has regretted it. Most feel it was the best
thing they’d ever done. There is a long line to all of them, so if
you’re interested now, it’s best to sign up now. Here in Minnesota
we used to send our vets to Oklahoma, but now we’ve started our own
inpatient program in St Cloud, MN.
are intensive, and there have been vets who dropped out after a few
days. All of them eventually went back to finish, at least that’s
what I’ve heard.
doctors will want to put you on all sorts of antidepressants,
antipsychotics and, who knows, even an acid blocker or cholesterol
lowering drug, your doctor knows nothing about proper nutrition. At
the VA the food just plain sucks. The vegetables have all the
nutrients cooked out; you don’t even need teeth to chew them. They
serve you margarine instead of butter. I was asked by a therapist
one time, “Oh is butter better than margarine?” I replied “Tar is
better than margarine.”
There is a cycle
of depression that few acknowledge. It goes like this: you feel bad,
you don’t take care of yourself, you start to feel worse, you stop
taking care of yourself, and you feel even worse. It can only get
worse. You won’t pull yourself out.
Drugs are a
temporary solution, but again, your doctor doesn’t know that 95% of
your serotonin (the happy chemicals that protect us from chronic
depression) is created maintained in your gut. In fact, there is a
theory that our digestive tract is a part of a “second
brain.” Not only do few in modern medicine know of any
connection between nutrition and mental health, most call it a myth.
Yet 9 out of 10 patients of psychiatrists have some kind of
digestive disorder. Coincidence?
The rules can be
simple: whole raw foods are best. Get rid of everything white in
your home: white bread, white sugar, white salt, white flour. Do not
drink pop of any sort. Never use Aspartame®. Keep alcohol to a
minimum, since it just depresses you more. A few glasses of wine a
week or a couple of beers, till you’re out of the woods, should be
your limit. You’ll need B-12, omega-3 essential fatty acids (with
DHA and EPA), and Celtic Sea Salt Brand. Instead of going into more
depth here, you can read the article I wrote some time ago called
Depression and Nutrition.
alcohol; if you are drinking too much, get into AA or a dual
diagnosis program at the VA. You are committing a slow suicide.
You can’t care
for dis-ease if you don’t recognize your dis-ease. Symptom
Management classes are imperative. They will teach you to see signs
of trouble brewing.
It was during a
series of Symptom Management classes that I learned what a true
Flashback was. I told my therapists that I’d never had a flashback,
because I wallowed under the misconception that flashbacks were like
the things Hollywood portrayed in movies like
The War at Home.
In Hollywood, a
flashback occurs when you find yourself suddenly back in the fray of
the battle. The VC are armed and all around you, shooting at you.
You’re not in your car, but rather a tank and shooting at an
onslaught of enemy. You’re back in the battle and the enemy is all
This is NOT a
flashback. This is an hallucination. If you are having these, you
are schizophrenic. Schizophrenia is when you see things that are not
enough, one physician, Abram Hoffer, discovered a high amount of
schizophrenia in returning POWs after WWII. He assumed that because
many had been starved that the schizophrenia was probably the result
of nutritional deficiencies. Long story short, patients began
recovering from schizophrenia taking three grams of Niacin daily.
For more information, you can find the book Common Questions on
Schizophrenia- And Their Answers by Hoffer, Abram, MD, PhD or
take a look at
flashback consists of emotions that hit
you from out of nowhere. They are emotions that you do not “own” but
which are suddenly heaped on your shoulders. Feelings of guilt,
inadequacy, paranoia, and low self esteem hit you from nowhere.
exactly nowhere. The simplest event can trigger these in a person
with PTSD. Everyone is different. A fight with your spouse; your
boss tells you you’ve made a mistake; you get a phone call from a
pushy salesperson; you drop a pen and step on it and break it;
little things like this can trigger flashbacks.
that when this happens, I have to take inventory. I look at the
emotions and then try to discern why they are hitting me now. Am I
guilty of something? Am I really inadequate? And after a little
search, I’ll find the trigger, and they can be as silly as
misplacing my car keys, or forgetting something in the car, or even
burning a piece of toast.
Each person is
as different from another as snowflakes are different from each
other. You need to learn your symptoms and the triggers that set
them off. Once this happens you can be a little ahead of yourself
and you’ll have the tools needed to “right” yourself should you
begin to tip.
Desensitization and Reprogramming. This is one of the weirdest
therapies to come down the pike in a long time. It was accidentally
discovered by a therapist, Francine Shapiro, who had had a traumatic
event that she had been thinking about as she walked through a park.
Something caught her eyes and she quickly darted her eyes back and
forth to looking up and to the side, to see what it was. She
suddenly noticed that the trauma no longer had the emotional pain
attached to it. It was still in her memory, but she was no longer
emotionally connected to it.
then conducted a case study and a controlled study to test the
effectiveness of EMD. In the controlled study, she randomly assigned
22 individuals with traumatic memories to two conditions: half
received EMD, and half received the same therapeutic procedure with
imagery and detailed description replacing the eye movements. She
reported that EMD resulted in significant decreases in ratings of
subjective distress and significant increases in ratings of
confidence in a positive belief. Participants in the EMD condition
reported significantly larger changes than those in the imagery
Shapiro has been
erroneously quoted as saying that EMDR can cure PTSD (in one
session). EMDR cannot cure PTSD, but it can desensitize the patient
to anxiety. It can help disassociate the traumatic event from the
emotions you suffer.
EMDR has been
tested widely in the VA system. I was in the study, but I was one of
the control group and I got nothing but a few visits to the VA to
fill out a questionnaire.
EMDR has its
critics. Many call it pseudo science while others simply claim that
the data is being misinterpreted. [http://www.emdr.com/history.htm]
(Emotional Freedom Technique)
EFT is a very
easy, painless, and effective method to conquer fears, and alleviate
symptoms of anxiety, depression, and even reduce cravings and
compulsions. For those suffering from PTSD, EFT can break the
emotional connection between the person with PTSD and the trauma
acupressure. One taps specific points while “tuning in” on the
Both EMDR and
EFT have been called quackery by modern medicine, however, so were
washing ones hands before surgery and antibiotics.
EMDR and EFT have reported great successes when there was no hope.
You can learn
all about EFT online from a woman who I was privileged to meet and
experience her techniques. Although you can do this yourself, after
working with Valerie Lis, someone who is enormously intuitive,
comparatively, my sessions done alone did not produce the results I
got with Valerie Lis.
The web site of
their videos is:
Mike Copeland EFT
I provide free EFT service to Vets with PTSD if you know any in
this area. Check out
www.emofree.com to learn more about EFT.
There is an
awful lot on EFT at the site. I found it very powerful and
I had written in
our original article on PTSD that I don’t hunt. The idea of killing
little animals just didn’t jive with my internal dialogue. Even
picking up a rifle or a shot gun left me numb for a time with
Today, I hunt
with both a bow and with a rifle. It took a long time to get to this
point. Today, hunting is therapy for me. I’m out in nature, not in
the jungles of Vietnam. I’m not shooting at human beings and they
are not shooting back. After I killed my first deer, I took time out
to thank the creator, the universe for the hunt. Nothing on that
animal went to waste. Even the hide was donated to Hides for
PTSD does not
heal itself. If you leave it alone, it will not go away, in fact, it
will just blow up steadily till it is in your face.
Getting out and
helping others is one of the best ways to take the focus off your
problems. You cannot be depressed while helping someone else.
Talk the talk
and walk the walk. Read, exercise, travel, breathe, meditate, help
someone. You have to face your fears, but you don’t have to face
them daily, nightly, or every hour on the hour. Stay on your path,
know the symptoms of straying from the path, and get back on it as
soon as you know you’ve strayed. There is no destination on this
journey. So enjoy the journey.
Welcome home, my little brothers
and sisters who have served so proudly.
Let us make sure we never again
go to war on lies and deception.
Let us always take the moral
The US should stand as a beacon
of light to the rest of the world,
and not the low road dished out
by some moron screaming from the bully-pulpit.