A top ten cheatsheet to make the PTSD brain feel 2% better; maybe. For me anyhow.

I’ve heard most of the claims.  Not all I’m sure, as someone will probably have a PTSD drink on the market soon.  I can just see it now.  It will be the shamwow guy telling you that with “simply taking 3 of these pills today and a shake made of kale and beetle piss, we can cure your PTSD!”.

But I’ve pretty much heard it all, including the low of the low being a doctor walking around a veteran fundraiser handing out business cards claiming that he can completely cure everybody of PTSD with 5 sessions of EMDR with him. Only him though.  I’ve heard that equine (horse) therapy is dogshit and doesn’t work, from a guy peddling a dog program.  Likewise I’ve heard that its the best thing ever from a guy running a ranch.  I’ve heard the real unbiased stories; buddies of mine coming back from a horse program with no ties to it whatsoever telling me I should go and it’s really helped him. So the take away is horses are equally useless, effective, and the best thing ever for PTSD.  Good to know.  Good thing this blog isn’t about horses.  I’ve personally had a service dog for three years and I can tell you that she is the best therapy decision I ever made.  But I’ve seen dogs placed with people at the end of their rope and these were people where the absolute worst thing was to give them more “work”.  Dogs are more work.  So the dog programs are also amazing, or shit simultaneously.  This isn’t about dogs either though.

This is about 3 things.

  1. Different strokes for different folks.
  2. Do the things to make your situation better, even if its marginal improvement.
  3. Don’t be a dickhead while suffering and do your level best to allow yourself to be helpable.

Different strokes for different folks.   When our buddies (spouses, sisters, uncles, whoever) are suffering we want them helped, fixed and sorted.  And we want it done yesterday god damn it. So when we have done something ourselves that has helped us in our path forward, we want every guy in the country suffering to phone that program, take that pill, go to that doctor, pet that dog.  “And I’m not kidding man, this shit works.”

You found something that works for you.  Fucking cheers mate.  But that does not mean it will work the same for those around you and even if it does, the degree may be different.  For the same reasons I drink delicious ales (I recommend blue buck from Phillips Brewing on the Island), and some of my friends drink piss water named Budweiser, there’s different strokes for different folks.

This is especially true with medications.  I’ll make a bold statement here.  There are no PTSD medications.  None, zero, zilch , nada. Not a one.  Now there are effective meds for some people with some conditions associated with PTSD.  Including me.  So let me explain this, as it may seem like two outrageous statements coming together in a contradiction of claims.  There are many drugs that do have a positive outcome for some patients as there are drugs for conditions associated with PTSD.  PTSD for you may come with sleep problems, and there are meds for that. And particularly with sleep, once you start sleeping better your body and mind are in a better place for other healing.  There are anti anxiety meds, which can help if anxiety symptoms (hyper-vigilance, edginess) are part of your symptoms. There’s anti depressants, anti psychotics, and pills to make you less irritable.  I’ve seen others work too but that function is normally a byproduct of the effects of the medication; not the medicine itself.  I’ve even seen drugs work that calm down the intake of stimulus around the patient because having light / noise / etc come in less makes less things to react too.  All good stuff.  But different strokes for different folks, and different results for each patient.  You’ll be best advised to let their doctor walk this path with them, and keep your advice to things from the homeopathic side.  The physical side.  The reconnection to peers side.  Those things matter.

Do the things that make your situation better.  One of the associated conditions of PTSD is depression or depression like symptoms.  One of the negative sides of suffering from this is the person can often know things that make their situation better, but feel like there’s no point.  Why bother? To what end?  Don’t tell me that I’m missing my dead friends, and going for a run / eating some soup / having sex / washing my hair / brushing my teeth / petting my dog etc makes that better.  And of course no, it doesn’t fix it but it does make the sting of the symptoms less.  Much like a five yard run on first and ten when you really need a touchdown, or a base hit when you needed a home run (gonna try and appeal to the non sports fans here) or a not-as-shitty haircut when you were really trying to get “the Rachel”. In the army, we rammed down your throat the ways to pick up your morale; and for good reason.  We risked lives to bring your mail to you in the FOB.  Why?  Are we stupid and just love risking lives, or did we know that a letter from your brother, even with the risk of it being a ‘dear john’ letter from your girlfriend, on the whole was worth it?  It’s the reason there’s three meals a day even when you aren’t hungry.  It’s why we may not have the water to give you a shower but you will get time to brush your teeth (the American army did a study in Vietnam that suggested that just brushing your teeth can raise morale by 2%.  Trust me, when life sucks that can be a precious 2%). It’s why police forces have pipe bands, it’s why Platoon Warrants shovel sand bags with the lads when they can, it’s why firemen treat their rookies with loving abuse.  Even a kale and granola distribution company will most likely have a vegan BBQ once a year. Because it’s good for morale.  You still have morale.  Yes you.  So while nothing will bring your friends back or make the memories of the childhood abuse go away you can improve your position.  And if there are ten things in life that can make you feel 2% better, who out there isn’t better off by feeling 20% better while honestly admitting that we can’t fix everything?  So here’s my ten.

  1. petting my dog
  2. listening to angry heavy metal. I recommend nothing softer than Metallica (while recognizing that you may have shitty music taste that requires adhering to, cause hey, different strokes for different folks.)
  3. Smelling cedar.  I love cedar.  Cedar means British columbia.  It means salmon is being cooked ( i also love salmon). It means BBQ time.
  4. touch, if you’re in the close close close family.  My woman and our kids only.  Other than that, don’t fucking touch me.
  5. Talking about food recipes.
  6. Sports.  Canucks good, Leafs bad.  Go lions, eat shit Stampeders.  That kind of thing
  7. Brushing my teeth
  8. Warm shower, bath, or hot tub.
  9. Getting the inside of my body to cool down.  Hands under the sink with running water, eating ice cubes, cold packs (don’t eat).
  10. Fixing / cleaning tools and equipment.  I clean guns and check carabiners and ropes and stuff.

Do the things.  Do the little things and let them add up, even if you don’t feel it.

Don’t be a dickhead while suffering and do your level best to allow yourself to be helpable.  This is directly related to the above point.  Because people love you.  And they want to help.  And they may need to be educated about your top ten list, just like I’ve posted mine here.  Just like on the pistol range, or learning new first aid techniques, or learning how to train a dog.  You must be coachable.  To advance your learning in life, no matter how much you currently know, you must be coachable.  You must be in a place and space to shut the hell up, and listen.  Same with getting healthier.  No one knows your body, your reactions, your symptoms like you do.  But you don’t know everything , even about yourself.  If you do, what the hell are you reading this for?  And you can learn, and you can be coached, and you can be helped.  But you may need to shut your cake hole and be teachable, coachable, and help-able (new word). You may need to just shut it, and despite you knowing you, let the people around you trying to help, help you with some of your top ten.  And I mean it about the top ten. There is a bag of cedar chips for smelling in my truck for exactly that reason, and yes, Kate has stuck them under my nose before .

PTSD is a bitch.  I’ll never stop saying that but it does not give you a green light to be a prick to people.  And for coping mechanisms with the intent to getting as healthy as you can, be help-able. Have PTSD.  But get as much forward progress as you can while having it.

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