Human beings are a herd or flock species. We have built into us the need for relationships with others of our kind, and of communicating to them both our triumphs and our tragedies. In the midst of the very physical bondage of PTSD, (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,) I would say a person is more in need of that human communication than at any other point or stress in life. Isolation seems to be a part of the sufferings of Soldier's Heart, which is what PTSD was known as during the American Revolution and the Civil War.
This condition was around even for one of the mightiest warriors of them all. King David wrote many of his psalms from a place of deep pain and suffering, obviously finding himself affected by depression. It can follow any Soldier home from the battle field.
When as human beings, we sometimes lock down our fears and try to hide them even from ourselves, when we put on our false faces, and put every effort into keeping secrets that are ripping us apart inside, it will be to our detriment. That is when a feeling of profound isolation can begin to steal into our beings. In a crowd we can experience feeling totally alone and abandoned. Even when, if they only knew, our families and friends would rush to our aid, due to some circumstance that seems to the individual insurmountable, Warriors will hide their pain, their fear, and their suffering. The feelings of total isolation that result eat at what mental health they have, causing even more problems.
If you know a Warrior, or a family member of a Warrior whom you suspect to be suffering from PTSD, please, resist the urge to ignore it in hopes that it will resolve on its' own, most likely it will not. There are many military programs in place to help those struggling, however I have observed that sometimes there exists no experience of a real human connection in these programs, rather the Warrior feels the treatment provider doesn't understand, or care either. Their "services" appear to them to be just how these individuals make their living, and the very people endeavoring to provide help leave them feeling even more alone and misunderstood. Sometimes a service person's negative feelings are grounded in accurately assessing the provider, some do only reach out in order only to get a paycheck. The needed genuine human compassion is just not there to be had. That tends to outweigh any benefits the particular treatment might actually yield, in spite of the worth of the treatment itself.
The huge government bureaucracy that we know as the Bureau of Veterans Affairs, fails some Warrior somewhere every day, actually probably it fails many each day. I can tell you from personal experience, it can be overwhelming, confusing, frustrating, and that many just give up without ever receiving the benefits owed them. All of these factors can contribute to feelings of isolation. The feeling that no one understands or cares grows, and the results of those feelings can be catastrophic.
So again I urge all of you who love a Soldier, do not hesitate to tactfully reach out, you will never regret your efforts made in compassion and gratitude for service given by these men and women. While on the other hand, there exists the possibility that in failing to act you will carry a burden the rest of your life, that might have been prevented.
In the poem which follows, I have tried to express feelings which sometimes occur, that have been described to me by those affected by PTSD. Hopelessness, and helplessness are words that are often used to describe these feelings of being disconnected from family, friends, and the world in general. So read my dark words, and perhaps get a glimpse of the place some of our 'Soldiers find themselves when they come home. They experience a loneliness we cannot understand.
The following are links that can be a start when searching for help.
- What is PTSD?
Find out about the symptoms of PTSD and how they develop.
- Frequently Asked Questions About PTSD
Basic information about PTSD and its treatment. Includes links to resources for getting help.
- Helping a Family Member Who Has PTSD
Ways you can help a loved one with PTSD and ways you can help yourself.
- How Common is PTSD?
Find out how many people have PTSD and who is most likely to develop PTSD.
- Treatment of PTSD
Describes the treatments shown to be effective for PTSD and what you can expect from your therapist.
- Understanding PTS(D): Adapt and Overcome
Read this interview of Dr. Matthew Friedman, Executive Director of NCPTSD, to understand more about returning from war.
- Understanding PTSD Treatment
View this interactive module about PTSD treatment options. A companion to Understanding PTSD, it has full color photos and videos of clinicians who provide care. It can help overcome any myths you might have about PTSD treatment.
- What Can I Do if I Think I Have PTSD?
Learn what to do and answer a questionnaire to see if you need to be assessed by a professional.