PTSD = Pretty Tough, Sad Deal

I've had a migraine/headache for 6 days straig...

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If you read the news at all, you know that PTSD is actually Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder but what does it really mean? I don’t think the general population can truly understand, and it becomes a diagnosis, a thing that soldiers get, a Pretty Tough, Sad Deal.  We all agree we should help those suffering with it, but since we don’t get what it is, it’s hard to say just how much tax-payer money we want to invest or how many days of leave this disorder deserves.

I took my oldest to swimming lessons yesterday and was enjoying conversation when I looked at the pool.  We all keep an eye on our little ones since the instructors work with each child individually, and the waiting students don’t always stay on the step as directed, goofing off as kids will do.  I realized I had not been very attentive in the last few minutes, and looked to where my daughter was dutifully hanging on the wall.  It was then I noticed the little boy swimming in circles away from the wall.  It took me a minute, but when I realized that I was watching a child in distress, things moved quickly.

The child was quickly assisted out of the water, clearly scared, but seemed to be fine. As a precaution the mother was asked to take him directly to the doctor in case he had inhaled water, which causes dry drowning even when things seem fine.

The mother thanked me as she left the pool for being the one to spot the serious trouble, and we all left the lesson. It was our last day, and we will probably never see each other again.

Last night, as I lay watching the LED lights of my clock, I was haunted by the image of the boy. Swimming, lost, in danger. I thought about my reaction, which seemed delayed, in retrospect, given the seriousness of the situation, like a delay in a television program when the mouth moves, but the words come out later.  I worry about the boy despite knowing that he went to a doctor.  I worry about the mother, who will worry well past this day.  I worry about the swim school, comprised of an amazing group of people, and what it might mean for them.  I worried for hours, running the scenarios of what might have been if my reaction had been faster, or slower, or if the child had been mine.

I rose this morning, neither rested nor in a much better place than the night before.  It was in deliberation that I came to the conclusion that I was having post-traumatic stress.  Not the same as PTSD, but I think it gave me greater insight to what may be going on in the disorder, particularly in the case of our military.

I had done everything right, but I still felt like there was more I could do, or that I could have done things faster or better.  We ask our military to do things in the name of right, and we train them to do it better than the rest.  But does telling them they did the right thing well take away the nightmares and sleepless nights when they return home to their beds?

I do not compare my experience to theirs as equals, but simply as a moment of insight. It may not take more than a few days for my adrenalin and stress to abate, but this experience has made me more compassionate to those that have seen and done things I cannot even imagine.

There is no perfect plan for recovery. You cannot count the number of sessions it will take to restore order in a person’s life.  There is no perfect pill that exists that wipes away memories and leaves the spaces full with rich and rewarding experiences.  There should not be a limit set on how far we will go to help our returning military restore a balance in their lives. If faced with a decision to extend the military benefits, allowing for more treatment, extending coverage to families and loved ones, we should not hesitate.  PTSD is hard to understand, but it is real.

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About Blurb My Enthusiasm
40-something-yrs-old and I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. My resume reads like a food court menu: educator, dog walker, product manager, executive director, managing editor - and that's just the notable titles. I entertain all offers and consider myself up for the job until someone tells me I'm not. I've never been fired. What I lack in direction, I make up for in enthusiasm.

3 Responses to PTSD = Pretty Tough, Sad Deal

  1. mimijk says:

    There is something misleading about the way in which we think about PTSD – as you note, it is typically associated with returning military (and when my son returned from Baghdad this was uppermost in my mind). Your post is spot on – and in the therapeutic community, PTSD is recognized as a result of any number of events and/or moments in a person’s life that leaves them painfully impacted. I totally get the anxiety you felt through the night – and the worry for everyone involved. The never-ending ‘should haves’, ‘what ifs’ that truly have no answer. It feels so benign to say that I hope that all affected by the frightening episode in the pool are fine and that this becomes at worst a lousy memory…

    • Yes, PTSD can effect anyone from many different causes. I think the real difficulty lies in how we treat it. There is not one single plan/program that can help everyone, making it such a difficult hurdle.

      Sorry for the ridiculously late response! Crazy life!

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