Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “anxiety”

The Demons of War are Persistent – Guest Post by A. W. Schade Pt. 2

This is part two of an article. The first can be found here.

I have taken on a cause through writing stories, such as this one, to reach out to young and senior Veterans to break the stigma of PTSD, and seek assistance.  Today is different from previous wars, and help and medical acknowledgement of PTSD has come a long way. 

Please ‘Take Action’ on the following suggestions; from one old warrior to others of all ages:

  • Break through the stigma of PTSD and get medical or peer-to-peer assistance now – PTSD is real!
  • Unless you are in a high-risk job, you will probably not experience the adrenaline rush and finality of your decisions as you did in combat. For me, I lived playing business games – never finding the ultimate adrenaline rush again. It is a void within me that I feel often.
  • The longer you wait for treatment, the harder it will be to handle the demons. They do not go away and can lay dormant in your soul for decades.
  • Understand it is never too late in your life to begin looking forward and achieving new objectives.
  • If you do not want to speak about PTSD with your family or friends, then hand them a brochure from the VA that explains what to look for, and why you need their support. You do not have to go into detail about the tragedies of war, but without your loved ones understanding your internal battle your thoughts can lead to divorce, loss of family relationships, destitution, or one of the rising suicide tragedies – a terrible waste of a hero.
  • Silence and solitude is not the answer! If you have PTSD you may not be able to beat it alone.
  • If you are concerned about your military or civilian job, seek help from peer resources. They have experienced what you have been through, and will help keep you living in the present, instead of the constantly looking over your shoulder to past atrocities.
  • Or call a person in a peer support group anonymously. They will not know you, but will talk for as long as you wish.
  • You cannot explain the horrors of war to someone, except maybe a PTSD psychologist, that has not experienced it – so don’t try. Seek those who peers who can help make a difference!
  • Get up off your ass and take a serious look into yourself! Accept the fact that if you have continuous nightmares, flashbacks, depression, bursts of anger, anxiety, or thoughts of suicide, you have PTSD. If so, talk to someone who can help.
  • There is financial and medical assistance through the VA; which may help you avoid living a life of destitution.

Finally, let your ego and macho image go. There are too many individuals and groups today wanting to help you [A list of many of these support groups are listed on this site], or you may find yourself alone and bitter for a lifetime. The demons are not going away, but with help, you can learn to fight them and win one battle at a time.

Semper Fi!


Alon Shalev is the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Hospitals continued (was Lawsuits…)

My last post here painted a pretty rosy picture of hospital care, at least at some hospitals. And it’s true that there have been very significant improvements in many areas. But while I was there as a visitor (for many hours over several days) I also saw that the human factor is still a crapshoot.

Many of the nurses that we dealt with were excellent. In fact, I’d even say that most of them were very good at a minimum, but it seems that there are still a few in this profession that have a bad attitude toward his or her work and/or patients.

Of course, some nurses seem weighed down with paperwork (or computer work) and this is a matter of balance between patient care and possibly the kind of verification I wrote about last time. This might not be the fault of the nurse, but an unrealistic policy set by administrators. The result, however, is patient neglect. The obvious danger in this is that something serious could be happening and fail to get attention when needed. But patients don’t always know when something is serious so even when an issue is trivial they can experience severe anxiety when the nurse just won’t come.

But the worst thing I observed on this visit (and many other times) is the “Nurse Ratched” archetype.

Nurse Ratched knows what’s required and you don’t need to know – whether you’re a patient or a family member. She (sometimes he) speaks to her patients in an inappropriately loud voice and somewhat in the manner of a drill sargeant. She doesn’t ask, she tells. She manhandles her patients in order to accomplish her tasks efficiently, doing things like rolling her patients roughly from side to side of the bed like big sacks of potatoes so that she can change the sheets.

Nurse Ratched, however, is very experienced and doesn’t make big mistakes. She knows her job well. But she might up her patients’ dose of morphine just to make them go to sleep and stop complaining. Nurse Ratched is not easy to get rid of, especially in today’s situation where nurses are in somewhat short supply.

Because nurses are in demand, the employment situation for them is the opposite of that for almost everybody else. To generalize a little bit, I’ve noticed that when U.S. unemployment has been low, it seemed I was surrounded by incompetence – people not knowing how to do their jobs or just not caring. On the other hand, when unemployment is high, lots of good, able people are either without jobs or there are architects bagging groceries or something.

If given the choice, I would choose the former rather than the latter situation. I would put up with incompetence rather than high unemployment, which can be a self-reinforcing phenomenon as businesses fail that once supplied goods and services to employed people. I sure wish we could deal with both problems.

How about this? We pay people a decent wage that actually allows them to relax a little and not feel constantly under pressure. Then, we give people mandatory vacation time. With decent pay, he or she could plan for their time off and not go broke. When the employee is on the job, he or she might not resent the situation so much and just might take the job more seriously.

My bet is that each worker’s productivity would go up dramatically, as would job satisfaction. With their time off, workers would spend their money, and spread around the prosperity. Are government policies solely responsible for societal outcomes? Of course not. But policies can help to guide these situations in the right direction. That’s part of what governments are for.

Well, this is a decent idea for many kinds of jobs, but nurses are already paid pretty well. The fact is that nurse Ratched will probably never really go away no matter what we do.

-Tom Rossi


Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

Tom also posts on thrustblog.blogspot.com


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