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This uphill struggle with PTSD


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I am a former United States Marine Infantryman, i served three tours of comat in Iraq losing friends and killing others. I slowly saw my world and myself fall apart every time i came back from iraq. six months after coming home i was back in iraq. my marriage was one of the first things to start to go as well as my sleep, patience, and self respect. when i got out of the Marine Corps i felt trapped by those who loved me, but never could understand me. i got addicted to pills, alcohol, and was always looking for a fight or confrontation with someone, because it was all that i knew how to do. i got tired of the anxiety attacks and not ffeling any emotions for any situation, and i got tired of listening to everyone around me tell me how horrible of a person, father, or husband i was. i knew that i had changed for the worse, but was terrified to do anything about it. i eventually left my wife and daughter because i was to the point of killing myself.

By then i had been in the Army National guard for over a year because i felt like i couldn't fit in anywhere else but in the military. While in the Army i met my current fiance; she wanted to serve her country and volunteered for a deployment to Afghanistan. i wanted to show her that i loved her more than anything and that i would do anything to be as close to her as possible, so i volunteered to go to Afghanistan where i am currently serving. She could tell that the war from iraq had been eating me alive and went to our units chaplain about my problem, and at first i felt betrayed, but soon realized that she just loved me more than anyone had ever loved me before.

I volunteered to stay at the same base as her and help her deal with the recent loss of her wonderful father, while i worked on my PTSD. I have finally stepped up to the plate and am trying to take control of my dissorder. i meet with a Combat Stress Team health care provider at least once a week, write down and repeatedly read my stories from iraq, meet and talk to my chaplain three times a week; and have signed myself up for anger and stress managements courses. for me the meaning of my life is my fiance, and it is her and only her who has ever loved me or cared for me the way that she does. right now my biggest struggle is fighting off the depression, anger, and anxiety, and have found that the only thing that holds my head above water is hearing from her throughout the day.

I feel that even though i am working and trying so very hard on this problem that i have had since 2003, i am losing the battle. i feel like i am alone in a lot of aspects of dealing with this. i will never give up, but want to so so very badly. i'm looking for people that have similar experiences with PTSD, anxiety, and depression; because i am looking for pointers and to feel that i am not the only one out there.

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Oh God no, you are definitely not the only one out there. Actually, if you are doing all the things you are saying you are doing, you are doing quite well with regard to working on your PTSD. The treatment is a variation on what is called exposure therapy. The basic idea is that with PTSD you have experienced things that are so horrific that you can't face them and work to avoid them, and that perpetuates their power over you and your emotions. So the way out is through, but in a systematic way - you tell and retell your trauma stories in as much detail as you can tolerate - in a therapeutic environment hopefully, but even if not so be it. You include as much detail across all the senses as you can. Over time, you start to habituate to the events that have tied you in knots. Memory is a one-way thing - it goes in and then stays. So there is not an option to remove the memories. Neither is it a good option to drug yourself - becuase that only makes you numb and then you cannot enjoy the good parts of life like your relationship with your fiancee. What you are looking to do is to remove the emotional charge from the memories to some extent so that when they come back to you, you don't feel the need to react in an extreme way. And one way to do that is to tell the stories in detail over and over. Listen to this podcast with Dr. Edna Foa who is a researcher of PTSD for more detail. this one with Dr. Frank Ochberg is another good one for PTSD.

It may seem like you are losing the battle, and there may be setbacks, but if you keep to this therapy path you've described, you stand the best chance you have of beating this thing.

I hope you will continue to write here and get support from people who come here. Not many here are combat vets, but many here have PTSD from other traumas such as severe abuse, and will be able to relate to you fairly well.


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Marine, you are not alone by a long shot brother. Events in Iraq haunt me as well. I do a lot of writing about it, but not so much now a days. You get wore the hell out from always going over it. You come to disrespect yourself for feeling so weak. You get to a point of being so frustrated from not simply "getting over it." After all, look at all you've done in life, all you've seen, the places you've been, the experiences you've had. Yet two or three things in particular are causing you mental anguish.

Like you, I will not give up by taking my own life. I have kids that would be badly affected by that, a loving wife that would be injured by my doing something like that. And I've had my fill of hurting anyone. I don't even own guns anymore and haven' hunted in years. I don't even like to fish any more it's so bad. But that doesn't mean I haven't laid awake in bed at night, praying for a meteor to take me out. Or something to put me out of my misery permanently.

But writing about it helps. As much as I'm frustrated by where I find myself these days, writing helps. Talking to my counselor helps as well. I've tried meds and for me, they didn't work out too well. I take some meds, but not anti-depressants.

I'm still on active duty, though just barely. I know what it's like to have your mental compass spinning all the time, never knowing what direction you need to go to get to where you need to be. But I still look for the sun each day and the North Star each night. I try to move in the right direction. Sometimes I walk in circles, sometimes I shoot a back azimuth and it always seems like I've got either swamp lands or mountains in my path. But I keep slogging along. You will too brother.

And if you need to talk, we can act like little privates and whine about our lives. You can PM me anytime and I'll give you my email. Sometimes, it really helps just knowing someone else knows. Ya know?

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