26 August 2006

Poetry and PTSD

Two Geese On The Killarney Road

They waddled as the Dutch once tromped
abreast in wooden sandals,
and our bus be damned.

We turned
into their audience.

They kept in step like fat, flat-footed, and
accredited ambassadors to courts
no longer on the map.

For all they cared we might as well
have stayed in Dublin or America.
Earlier we'd wait for a clan
of Holsteins to surrender half the road.

We trailed their swaying
udders past Tralee before
the driver gently fired
his horn.

The herd divided
into shores and let us through
like Moses all the way to Dingle.

Later it was mares -- or rather
one stray mare that needed
only to be shown how easily
the fallen fence that set her free
would let her back again.

I leave to your imagination how
we fared with lambs and one
quick fox.

They watched us
warily as creatures watch
intruders who might yet be friends.

They felt our presence say
the world was ours.

In goose
or cow or horse or lamb
or fox they answered, "What's
the fuss?
Don't push.
Don't honk.
Don't rush.
The earth is free
and public as the sky.
There's room for you.
There's room for us."

Sam Hazo

A person I know has not seen me recently comment upon his blog, and emailed to ask if everything was alright with me.

Perhaps to his surprise (or perhaps not), he recieved the reply that all is not as it should be. This poem was part of his response.

National Mental Health Association
People with PTSD also experience emotional numbness and sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety, and irritability or outbursts of anger. . . PTSD is diagnosed when symptoms last more than one month.

Check, Check, Check, Check, Check, Check, Check.

Of course, I kind of knew this was coming. I was hoping to hold it together well enough to fake normality at least until I got home. Jen doesn't need to deal with this now, while neither of us can do much about it. And I desperately wanted to wait to fall apart until I was in Texas, with support structures of friends, family, and church which could help me pick up the pieces.

Department of Veteran's Affairs, the Australian one has a good writeup on the subject.

Our VA has some stuff to say also

They give some bits of advice.

Psychological Self-Care
Make time for self-reflection
Have your own personal psychotherapy
Write in a journal
Read literature that is unrelated to work
Do something at which you are not expert or in charge
Decrease stress in your life
Notice your inner experiences -- listen to your thoughts, judgments, beliefs, attitudes, and feelings
Let others know different aspects of you
Engage your intelligence in a new area, e.g., go to an art museum, history exhibit, sports event, auction, theater performance
Practice receiving from others
Be curious
Say no to extra responsibilities sometimes

OK, so a lot of these are things that, oddly enough, are best done via the internet or blogging, given the limitations imposed on my daily routine and the circumstances here. Others, especially the last one, are right out now.

Welcome to John's Self-Therapy Sessions.

Personal admission: This ain't easy. One of the things about PTSD is a feeling of disconnection from many areas of your life, and an emotional numbness that makes it truly difficult to care about the good things in life or about things that aren't immediately urgent. Like continuing to blog, for instance. For my own part, I will attempt to post regularly even if I have very little to say on a particular day.

NB: Sympathy and pity are closely related. The difference is that the former is fine, the latter infuriating.


Blogger A Soldier's Girl said...

No pity, but a whole lot of sympathy.

I love you. Please, if you need, go to mental health, and let them help you.

We will get through this, and we'll come out the other side stronger than before.

I love you.

6:31 PM  
Blogger Tim Covington said...

As Jen said, please talk to someone (psychologist, priest (Orthodox or not) or someone you feel confident in confiding to) if you need it. God provides these avenues because he knows we need them. It is not a sign of weakness.
Believe it or not, Doonesbury has had a great ongoing story involving BD dealing with PTSD. You might want to go and read through it. Just skip the parts when he switches over to politics.

6:46 PM  
Anonymous cmad said...

You're strong, you're smart, you're courageous, and you have a lot of people who genuinely care about you.
More so than most folks around you, probably.

But everybody has their limits. Even you.

Recognize your limits, and the space you need for yourself.
Then defend them, as you would defend others you care about.
If you don't do it, nobody else will.

So, yes, "be all you can be".
But don't try to be more than you can be.

10:43 PM  
Blogger Zero Ponsdorf said...

ehhh. You will not fall apart! Don't let the label drive you crazy young Sargent. There's a 'chicken and egg' element that shouldn't be ignored.

I think you left something out of your self-diagnosis?

Check this out... it's a bit dated, but the DSM etiology is sound.

The one check mark you did not give yourself was the most critical.

12:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All things work together for the good for those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose.
I occasionally have to cling to that verse, while remembering that one of the irritating things about God is that he usually doesn't, until long after the fact, show us the benefit that springs from our present experience. I'm all in favor of immediate gratification...

2:01 AM  
Blogger Consul-At-Arms said...

Hang in there, bruddah. Lots of folks have you in their prayers.

3:50 AM  
Anonymous Montieth said...

Want me to send you some figures and paints?

4:58 AM  
Blogger sophia said...

Yep,consul is right. I wish you didn't have to go through this right now. I can't imagine what it's like to be doing what you're doing, however, I have experienced some of the symptoms you mentioned. It's awful. Prayers are definitely going up for you.

5:21 AM  
Anonymous Stardragon said...

The Ausralian military has had a more progressive attitude to the mental health of it's troops going back to the fighting in Europe in WWI. Thanks for the link.
Strength to you and yours.

9:54 PM  

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