Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (Christian Reformed Church)

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Veterans Resource Guide

These resources focus on PTSD as a result of combat or military exposure. Many voices are calling for the church to be a significant partner in the complex readjustment process of returning home.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur after one has been through a traumatic event. The resources on this page focus on PTSD as a result of combat or military exposure.

Recent reports indicate that one of the major consequences of all warfare is PTSD. Some studies indicate that as many as 18% of returning combat veterans struggle with some significant mental health issues. Department of Defense medical authorities now estimate that as many as 30% of returning Army Reserve and Guard members struggle with such issues four to six months after returning.

Many voices are calling for the church to be a significant partner in the complex readjustment process of returning home. Leaders now tell us that awareness of this need should be heightened, and we can prepare to more effectively walk with a veteran who is making the transition home from war. Those who understand the need advise: become informed, pay attention to what is happening, avoid judging the veteran, gently shepherd the veteran to resources available, and hold them in love.

These materials are provided to enable the church and families to be more alert to the needs of veterans and to understand how to help.

Prayer

O God, you are the one who looks way down deep inside of all of us. You see and know what no one knows, no one at all except we ourselves. And, not only do you see us and know us, but you also feel things along with us, even the very painful stuff, the deep stuff along with us, and we feel a strange kind of healing taking place. For it’s like you care and you understand…and we’re no longer left alone with our burdens.

Today, those of us who are struggling inside—who’ve been broken and hurt and still feel the tears within—we thank you for being there and sharing with us what we cannot bear alone.

– from a prayer by VA Chaplain Richard A. Lutz

Read this complete prayer and other prayers

 

https://worship.calvin.edu/resources/resource-library/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd-and-veterans-resource-guide/

Swords to Plowshares

PTSD Combat Vet: Anger

Our lonely society makes it hard to come home from war

Telling Your Trauma Story: Why You Really Should

Image result for military combat

If you are living with unresolved trauma memory, whether or not it’s posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or dissociative identity disorder (DID), you will almost surely bewilder people some of the time. We both know you want this not to happen, but, as is surely obvious to us, you have little or no choice in the matter, other than to avoid triggers to the extent that you know them and can anticipate them. The real problem here is that you can’t avoid all triggers. So, you will bewilder and maybe even frighten people a certain amount of the time.

Your Trauma Story, Triggered in Public

Triggered breakdowns in social situations can have serious consequences. One person I knew and worked with almost went to prison, because of violent defensive behaviors that were triggered by a sense of extreme threat, when she felt abandoned by an intimate. Another person I like and respect recently encountered a massive trigger, entirely unexpectedly, while out for a social evening with family. He became almost unable to function, and felt absolutely terrible because there were people present who surely had no idea what was happening.

There are many things that are truly awful about such situations, but one of the worst is the feelings of shame that seem always to follow such episodes. People tend to feel defective, and at fault. Now, we know this is entirely irrational, but the feelings are very real, and they are hard to avoid.

This is especially a problem with DID (think of it as a kind of super-PTSD), where shame issues and dynamics tend to be a Really Big Deal. I want to propose that working on resolving this secondary reaction to the primary problem of triggered functional breakdowns in the midst of life is an essential part of your healing. To make this happen you will need to correct how you think about yourself, and from that will come corrections in how you feel. A key part of this is becoming a better storyteller, as you will see.

Your Trauma Story Needs an Update

Two things have to happen, if you are to bring about this engagement and then successfully resolve your highly distressing secondary shame reaction. You must learn what actually happened to you. This basically involves your constructing a story. You should start with a very simple one – something like this:

“Some years ago, a bad thing happened to me, and I was terribly frightened and hurt by it. I have not yet recovered from this, but I’m working on it. Until I finish this work, I will have periods of time where I become gravely frightened all over again and am unable to live my life in the way I’d like to. I can usually recover from this fairly quickly, but not immediately. I need to take care of myself until I have regained my ability to function. Then I need to return to my usual life and my ongoing healing work.”

You may not realize it, but you already have a story about what happened to you. I’ve heard these stories. Here are some:

  • I’m crazy. I got crazy after my kids and husband were killed in an auto accident. There’s no hope for me. I’ll always be this way.
  • My parents hated me. I’m an awful person. If I had been a better person they would not have hurt me. But I wasn’t, and I’m not. I’m defective. I deserve my misery. It’s my fault.
  • I’m one of only two guys who survived when they blew up our truck in Iraq. I’m not any better then those guys who got killed. I should have been killed along with them. I have no reason to have been spared. I’ll never be the same. My life is just gone.

I have a couple of immediate reactions to these stories, every time I hear them:

  1. You’re not crazy, but your story sure is!
  2. You really don’t get it. You don’t understand what happened to you. That’s outrageously unfair. Someone should have helped you understand what happened in your brain, and that the change in your life – how you are now – is a perfectly normal reaction some people have to a very NON-normal event or events. We have to talk.

The correct story about what happened to you never includes the “it’s my fault” statement that so often people tell themselves initially. It DOES include a decent description of how stress-overloads can affect some people badly, and for a long time. Why not ALL people? We are still figuring this out, and don’t yet have a good answer. Lots of people fall off ladders, too, with only some of them breaking bones as a consequence. It just happens. It happened to you, and that’s what matters.

So, by whatever means it takes (usually the assistance of an experienced trauma therapist or PTSD professional) you simply MUST get the story you tell yourself straightened out. With that in hand, you’re ready for the next and final step.

Updating Your Trauma Story Prepares You To Tell Other People the Truth

This is probably the most important thing you will do with your story. You are simply not the only one with the wrong story. MOST people have the wrong story. That’s not acceptable. As part of your journey away from completely inappropriate and irrational shame about what happened to you, it is critical that you learn to simply tell the truth to other people, after you’ve learned to tell yourself the truth.

First of all, consider what that means. Think of what you do when you tell a kid about sex. Probably the most critical part of your story about sex is what you do NOT say. All you need to do is tell them what they want to know, and at least some of what they need to know – and all of it in simple, direct terms.

You need to do exactly the same thing with your family, your spouse, your relatives, your boss – or whoever, concerning your PTSD or your DID. Only two things will stop you: ignorance (which is taken care of by getting the story you tell yourself straight), and shame. And the good news about all this is that you really can do it little by little, just like kids and sex!

Start Small, and Go From There

To successfully tell other people about your situation, think hard about what they need to know, and about what they can realistically understand (Can People Without a Mental Illness Understand Us?). Think again about telling a 10 year old about sex: you’re dealing with limited interest and limited ability to understand. Your story should be simple and accessible to them. Now, transfer that idea to the people in your life who you want to understand you better.

PTSD isn’t too tough to talk about, thanks to all the media exposure it’s gotten in recent years. However, a fair amount of that exposure contains some real misinformation. So, expect to correct two common thinking myths: (a) people with PTSD are far, far more likely to be frightened and withdrawn than angry and assaultive, and (b) PTSD is highly treatable, but too often it is not treated, so people end up living with it unnecessarily.

With DID, the challenge is significantly tougher. I strongly recommend that you not attempt to actually describe DID, at least not at first. It’s tough to give a simple account of alters and switching. Few therapists can do it, so your chances aren’t good. Instead, just describe it as “complicated PTSD” (not complex PTSD [C-PTSD] – that’s different). I’ve seen (and heard) that this usually works rather well.

Remember, you’re talking to a 10 year old. They don’t need to know much! There are large payoffs for getting your story straight and then telling it to others. It will clarify and strengthen your own mind, and it will truly help those around you. When we understand what’s actually happening – even a little, we tend not to get frightened by it, and this benefits everyone.

By being an ambassador for yourself, for people like you, and for the disorder you’re working to overcome, you became a major asset to all of us. I personally think this is an opportunity you really shouldn’t pass up! But do it for yourself, first of all, for you are without doubt the most important person the story, at all points in this process. You first, then come talk to us!

https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/2013/10/telling-your-story-why-you-really-should/

Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors

Causes: Counseling, Mental Health, Military & Veterans Organizations, Veterans

Mission: TAPS is a national nonprofit organization offering comfort and care to anyone affected by the death of someone who served in the Armed Forced. We offer peer-based emotional support, crisis response and intervention, grief and trauma, casework assistance, long-term survivor wellness, and community and military education and outreach.

Results: Each year, TAPS hosts and participates in events across the country to provide support to all who are grieving the loss of a loved one who has died while in military service. Through our national and regional seminars and good grief camps, retreats, special presentations and fundraising events, TAPS is able to provide hope and healing. Our special presentations offer survivors, caregivers, military personnel, supporters and friends the opportunity to learn more about military grief and learn about the mission of TAPS.

Target demographics: families of fallen military service members heal and rebuild their lives.

Geographic areas served: the United States and around the world

Programs: TAPS is a national non-profit organization made up of, and providing services at no cost to, all those who have suffered the loss of a loved one in the Armed Forces. The heart of TAPS is its national military survivor peer support network, which brings together the families, friends and coworkers of those who are suffering a loss. TAPS, an official Veteran Service Organization, also offers bereavement counseling referral, provides case worker assistance that carries the work of the casualty assistance officers into the future, hosts the nation’s only annual National Military Survivor Seminar and Kids Camp, publishes a quarterly journal mailed at no charge to survivors and care givers, maintains a comprehensive website, and offers a toll-free crisis and information line available 24 hours daily through 1-800-959-TAPS. TAPS offers total care and support for the military family experiencing a casualty. Please call on us to help!

https://www.taps.org/

On Missing Combat

Throughout thirty-five interviews with Canadian veterans of Afghanistan and a review of several war memoirs and documentary accounts, missing combat stood out as one of the most common sentiments. …

Source: On Missing Combat