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.
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).