When people think about the military, they think of freedom, red, white, and blue, and dog tags. But when military kids think of it, they think of long deployments, all the moving and the hardships that come with military life. This involves Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Before my dad was diagnosed with PTSD, my family went through a rough patch. My mom and dad were having marriage problems, my dad was sleeping at the barracks and drinking too much. When he finally got diagnosed 2 years later, it made sense; all the outbursts, drinking, and fighting aligned with the symptoms.
But, I thought once he was diagnosed, he would just get better. A few weeks of therapy and inpatient and I'd get my dad back. It didn't take a few weeks, it took a few years. My dad still has outbursts, but they are less frequent. My dad doesn't drink as a solution anymore, he doesn't get mad at everything, and he has way fewer outbursts. Having a dad with PTSD has taught me more about the disorder than I knew before. Learning about the disorder helped me understand why my dad has it and what he's going through.
PTSD is another injury to deployment, even if you cannot see it. We've all had something scary happen to us, whether it was watching a horror movie, seeing a spider, or getting into a car accident. In these situations, it’s in your DNA to react. Your brain experiences fight or flight, the way your body responds to threat. This may include a fast heart beat, sweating or adrenaline. When someone experiences a traumatic event, sometimes their brain is permanently in fight or flight. This is because cortisol is continually being released. This fight or flight reaction results in invasive thoughts such as flashbacks, dreams, and avoiding reminders of the event. They can also experience physical symptoms such as sweating, a pounding heart, or nausea. Negative feelings such as fear, guilt, or anger are also very common. They can also experience irritability or trouble sleeping. This is a lot for one person. Most people can experience this all in one day. If your loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms, it would be a good idea to talk to them about seeking help.
When someone seeks help for PTSD, there are two treatment options for them, Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMPR). CBT is a type of therapy that changes a pattern of thinking. Your thoughts are connected to your emotions and behaviors. For example, let's say you have a presentation and all you are thinking is "I am going to mess up." Your immediate emotion is going to be nervous or discouraged. This may lead you to be even more nervous than you were in the first place. CBT helps you realize your thoughts before they become detrimental. EMPR uses eye movement to detach the traumatic event from the emotions and replace them with better ones. This therapy isn't a permanent solution, it could take months or even years before they start to get better. It gets worse before it gets better because your loved one is re-experiencing the events.
Some cases of PTSD do involve abuse. While it's essential to support your loved one, if it ever reaches a point where they are verbally or physically hurting you or those around you, that is never okay. If this is happening to you or someone you know, talk to an adult or authorities about the situation. Some of the symptoms of abuse include withdrawal from friends, changes in behavior, depression or anxiety, and rebellious behavior. If someone you know is experiencing these symptoms or you have a suspicion they are being abused, please reach out to authorities.
While there are many negatives to military life, there are also so many positives. Experiencing new places, meeting new people, and the wonders of the PX. When things get gloomy and dark, remember there are millions of kids experiencing the same thing and you're never alone.
If you or someone you love is experiencing any signs of PTSD or abuse, please reach out for help. If you don't know where to start, check out our Resources page for different places you or a service member you love can go to seek help. Remember, you are not alone.