“I’m OK, I’m OK.”

“I’m OK, I’m OK.” by David D

Ever see a football player get hit hard and knocked to the ground? I’m sure you have at least once. He will get up and will be saying “I’m OK, I’m OK. I’m good to go.” That is what PTSD is like. You get wacked psychologically and you think everything is OK after the initial shock wears off. The damage is done and you have suffered a psychological wound, just as real as a physical one. It is there, but you don’t recognize it. The two also go together. If you are wounded by a bullet, explosion or other trauma you are also wounded psychologically. You can see the external wounds but not as readily the internal wound. The external wound is treated with the best that medical science has to offer. The internal wounds are not treated, in most cases, because they are invisible. Symptoms may manifest themselves a short time later or may stay hidden and gnaw at you for years. The effects of PTSD can be lifelong. The fact that they may never disappear might sound depressing and hopeless. But like all wounds, you can cope and deal with the situation and lead a normal life.

I had two Air Force tours, one flying C7A small transport aircraft, the second flying B-52s bombing Hanoi, North Vietnam, where I was shot down and taken prisoner. I noticed after my time in Vietnam that I was different, but was not quite sure how or why. I had a more negative view of the world and its people. I functioned well for many years and as I grew older I became more irritable, mistrusting and impatient. I had periods of depression, not necessarily debilitating but affecting the quality of my life. It caused my wife to walk on eggs because of my outbursts. She has suffered along with me because of my behavior. PTSD becomes a family matter because it affects the entire family. The impact of PTSD was first noticed by my wife and later by myself.

I was brought up in a loving family. My father was a tank commander in the British 8th Army during the desert campaign in North Africa. He was wounded and temporarily blinded. He also fought in Italy and Greece. He was my idea of a hero. He showed no outward signs of injury except some scars from wounds. I’m sure he suffered from PTSD but he didn’t show it to his children. I, therefore, believed you needed to suck it up and get on with your life. Big mistake with PTSD. I did just that but PTSD wouldn’t leave me alone. It kept haunting my life and affecting its quality.

I began to face up to the situation about five years ago, after several blowups with my wife. I began to realize I was the problem and I needed to do something about it. I went to the VA and for a few months received treatment, which eliminated the nightmares.  I incorrectly thought everything was fixed, which it wasn’t. I continued to be irritable, mistrusting and affected by periods of depression. After several heart-to-hearts with my wife, I realized I needed more help. In March of 2015 I found the Lakewood Vet Center, which had people who were very knowledgeable and sensitive to PTSD. This was the first time I got the big picture of what was causing the problem and what to do about it. This was eye-opening.

After admitting to myself that I had a problem, which is a very big step in getting your life back, I admitted it openly to my wife and close friends. All were understanding and allowed me to be comfortable with my recovery process, and it is a process. I then became open with my Vet friends who have their own PTSD problems. This openness gave me a lot of hope and allowed me to be honest with myself.

This process of treatment and understanding PTSD gave me a roadmap to getting my life back under control. It required great patience and understanding from my long suffering wife. I credit her with my life’s improvement. While I’m still struggling with my problems and I’m far from reaching my goal of a normal life, I have a direction and a goal. It is difficult to reach any goal until you know where you are. When you go on a trip and want to reach a destination, you can’t get there until you know your starting point.

I now know where I am, and I am on my way to my goal of being the best person I can be.