PTSD: Vet­eran’s dis­ease?

The Record (Troy, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - Then + Now John Ostwald is pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of psy­chol­ogy at Hud­son Val­ley Com­mu­nity Col­lege in Troy. Email him at jrost­wald33@gmail.com.

EDI­TOR’S NOTE: Colum­nist John Ostwald sub­mit­ted daily columns for the week prior to Vet­er­ans Day. The columns cov­ered a va­ri­ety of armed forces is­sues. The in­for­ma­tion in the columns came from in­ter­views with vet­er­ans and fam­ily mem­bers, re­search and John’s per­spec­tive as an ed­u­ca­tor and vet­eran.

I was asked to be on a panel at New York Law School a few months ago. The topic was Post Trau­matic Stress Dis­or­der. When­ever I am asked to speak in pub­lic, I con­tact the or­ga­nizer of the pro­gram to try to get very spe­cific de­tails re­gard­ing what the au­di­ence might want to hear. The con­tact per­son said that he would like me to dis­cuss myths about PTSD. There are many so I de­cided to ad­dress one that has been around for many years. PTSD is of­ten called “the vet­eran’s disI was out of town when I got cal staff, and move­ment caused ease.” It is not “vet­eran’s dis­the call from the lo­cal po­lice. alarm. One day his fever spiked ease”; it can be any­one’s dis­After learn­ing that he was unat 105.4. ease. likely to sur­vive, I called the Dur­ing the early part of his

Dur­ing my pre­sen­ta­tion I lo­cal un­der­taker. On the four re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, my col­league, showed some im­ages from the hour flight home, I wrote his Dr. Ed­ward Tick, a na­tional 911, Las Ve­gas and Park­land eu­logy and planned his fu­neral PTSD ex­pert, told me that I was Florida tragedies then I menser­vice. It was ap­par­ent to the in the acute stage of the dis­ort io neda per­sonal der. ex­pe­ri­ence. other trav­el­ers that some­thing

My symp­toms of PTSD was very wrong. Dur­ing this pe­riod I had started about eigh­teen months When I ar­rived at the In­night­mares that most of­ten in­ago. I have been out of the mil­tensive Care Unit I saw my volved death rit­u­als like fu­ner­i­tary for over forty years. My son —- a life­less fig­ure ly­ing in als. Dur­ing one vivid dream I unit was In­shore Un­der­sea bed with dried blood on vari­was kiss­ing my son’s hand just War­fare Group II based in Li­tous body parts and tubes combe­fore the cof­fin was closed for tle Creek, Vir­ginia. Although I ing out of his nose, mouth, and the last time. I had flash­backs trained ex­ten­sively dur­ing the chest. An oddly shaped de­vice to the early weeks of his time in Viet­nam era, I did not serve “in was stick­ing out of the top of the In­ten­sive Care Unit. I saw coun­try.” My only time out of his head. I was told later that the tubes in his mouth, nose, the coun­try was spent in Guanit was used to mea­sure pre­sand un­der his arms. I saw the tanamo Bay, Cuba. sure on the brain. I slept in his dried blood on his head, hands

The symp­toms came on as a room for some nights fear­ing and arms. Most prom­i­nent was re­sult of wit­ness­ing the af­terthat each one would be our last the look of ter­ror and con­fu­sion math of my son’s car ac­ci­dent to­gether. in his eyes af­ter he woke up when he was six­teen years old. For a few weeks, his mother from the coma.

His ve­hi­cle flipped and he was Pat and I spent 12- 14 hours a I used to think that he and I un­der­wa­ter for about 12 min­day watch­ing and wait­ing and would be killed in a car crash. utes. His heart stopped twice cry­ing and wor­ry­ing on the I had in­ter­mit­tent sui­ci­dal and he re­mained in a coma for ICU. Every sound, change in thoughts. On some nights I a few days. fa­cial ex­pres­sion of the medi- would jump out of bed be­cause I thought I heard him call to me from his room down­stairs. I ir­ra­tionally thought that I will find him dead in his room when there was no dan­ger of that hap­pen­ing. Once in a while a pro­foundly pow­er­ful feel­ing of dread and grief swept over me and I got anx­ious and cried. I of­ten said to my­self, “There is some­thing wrong with me.”

De­spite th­ese and other symp­toms I am do­ing well. I know how to take care of my­self emo­tion­ally and the time (30 months) has helped. Jack­son is do­ing very well also as he re­cov­ers from a trau­matic brain in­jury.

Trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ences can hap­pen to any­one and they come in a va­ri­ety of ways. It is ob­vi­ously im­por­tant to pur­sue heal­ing proac­tively.

John Ostwald

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