Over spill

I have a lot of respect for the military.  I appreciate what I’ve read written for them.  It gave me a starting point and a feeling of support.  I also used several ideas from the articles I read.  PTSD Break the Silence is one of the Facebook pages I follow.  Their perspective is from the military prospective and challenges.  For this article, I am adding my comments in purple.  Not to correct or rebut, instead to add my perspective of PTSD from childhood abuse.  PTSD affects people from many walks of life.  I believe working together we can help each other.



1. Rage, Agitation, and Frustration

Rage directed at the enemy promotes survival in the war zone, but may not serve the Soldier or his/her family well on the home front. In the War in Iraq, the enemy uses covert operations, the element of surprise, and hasty retreat. The insurgency is often not recognizable from non-combatants. It becomes all too easy to bear and unload rage against an unseen enemy and to carry an unbearable burden of frustration during wartime, particularly in response to a stealth enemy. These feelings can certainly escalate with continuous and intense combat exposure and in the face of the multiple losses of life, limb, and devastating injuries. Unfortunately, hauling such pent-up wrath, agitation, and the overwhelming desire to act upon impulse back home may have dire consequences.

My enemy said, “I love you.”  Deni-ability, isolation, and distortions are some of the weapons used by my abusers.  Separating childhood experiences from adult interactions is almost impossible.  Spouses often step on the triggers left by childhood abusers especially parents.  Rage is often met with ‘You are over reacting,’ ‘its not that bad,’ and the classic, ‘they didn’t mean it, you misunderstood.’  These comments act like a trash compacter building rage up and burying it under layers of denial.  A similar situation later in life ends up in an out of proportion explosion. 

2. Dehumanizing the Enemy

Wartime training fosters a standard detachment tactic: to dehumanize the enemy and to perceive them as evil, immoral, cruel, and inhuman. Though there may be great truth to this, such an approach endorses racism and the development of negative stereotypes, mind-sets, and language (towel heads, wops, gooks, and the like) aimed at the enemy. It is much simpler to seek out and destroy an enemy for which one has developed tremendous hatred, rather than an adversary who is seen as good, honorable, and fighting for a just cause. This kind of intense loathing can lead to condemnation of those who are of differing races, creeds, religions, and ethnic heritages, poisoning and polluting attitudes over the course of a lifetime and justifying the very rationale for the war itself in the minds of the Soldiers who fought it.

Children are sometimes viewed as extensions of the parent.  Never their own person.  Sometimes the parent projects all their negative attributes to the child.  Punishments are more about the parent than the child.  Name calling is prevalent and often taken up by siblings so a child is attacked from every side. Stupid, ding-a-ling, fatty and other names reduces a child to less than anything.  Their crime is not the color of their skin, religion, creeds or anything except existing.  This type of dehumanizing may take a life time to recover if they recover at all. Dave Pelzer’s book A Child Called “It” is an example of this deliberate dehumanizing of a child.   

3. Social Isolation and Alienation

Emotional detachment is readily promoted by withdrawing from others. On the other hand, the remarkable bonds formed in times of hardship and adversity can sustain brother and sister Soldiers through what might otherwise be unendurable. This is a double-edged sword in wartime, with the overwhelming losses of fellow Soldiers occurring too frequently and in rapid succession. Time and time again, removing oneself from the nearness of human contact to avoid further agony when Soldiers are maimed or killed, becomes the mode of emotional survival. On the home front, Veterans may also become uncomfortable relating to anyone who is not a Veteran, as no one else could possibly appreciate their experiences.

Some war Veterans refuse to become involved with Veterans themselves, evade interactions and avoid any discussion of painful and disturbing memories and images.

Isolation and avoidance are survival skills.  If I stay invisible, my abuser won’t find me.  Avoiding abusers and potential abusers can be a full time job.  Dissociation is a survival tactic used by everyone to some degree.  My counselor told me that to survive many dissociate but he didn’t understand why some children dissociate so completely.  I countered, if bad things happening today, will happen tomorrow and the day after that when does it end?  Survival becomes their existence.  Like veterans some adults that were abused as children don’t believe anyone else can understand.  Other times they avoid all relationships and give up all hope of having a healthy relationship since and intimate relationship feels vulnerable and in their experience pain. 

4. Substance Abuse

Drinkin’ and druggin’ are the most commonly used means of numbing oneself out from what one prefers not to feel. Traditionally, alcohol intake is promoted in military circles, and is usually low-cost and readily available. Even in harsh and/or combat environments, Soldiers have demonstrated remarkable resourcefulness in the acquisition or manufacture of alcohol and recreational drugs. Soldiers who arrived in theater with substance abuse problems may return with even more serious problems. There is also the potential to acquire an habitual use or abuse problem in theater, seemingly as a survival strategy to escape the psychological wounds of war. Back at home, it may become all too easy to fall back on this habit pattern in times of difficulty.

Drugs, alcohol are addictions for adults of child abuse survivors along with sex, porn, food, video games, reading, anything that allows them a reprieve from relentless attacks with no place to escape….their addiction is their escape.  I was fortunate with some teachers that helped me find learning as a form of escape.  I still struggle with food to stuff emotions and coping.  

5. Risk-Taking and Thrill-Seeking

The adrenaline rush of wartime is a potent cocktail that can be physically, behaviorally, and psychologically addictive. A hankering for danger can be a hard habit to break. Though this may permit survival in combat and combat-related missions, becoming a thrill junkie may be very difficult to surrender upon return to the home front. Looking for life in the fast lane and living on the extremist edge of disaster is likely to plunge the Soldier right back into memories and emotions that characterized their wartime experiences. Like a crack addiction, there is no easy switch for shutting this off. For those not employed in high risk occupations (fire and rescue, emergency medical services, law enforcement, Special Forces, Rangers, and so on), the need to satisfy the urge for excitement may lead to devastating consequences. There have been a startling number of Iraqi War Veterans killed in single-occupant vehicle accidents upon return to CONUS. Others may try to live life on the wildest side possible, engaging in excesses of speed, food, drink, and whatever extremes are available to them. There is rarely a happy ending in such cases.

Child abuse survivors can adopt this same wild behavior….they figure they are going to Hell anyway may as well have a wild ride on the way.  What people don’t expect are the child abuse survivors that fawn, placate and become wrapped up in their abusers world trying to do the impossible and please their abuser.  This becomes very twisted when the abusers pleasure is their victims pain.  Distortions in thinking can become so extreme that living outside of the abusive relationship is intolerable.  Destructive downward spiral that has suicide beckoning from the bottom. 

Laughing about the endless horrors and chaos of war may be absurd and otherwise inappropriate, but finding amusement in the terrible, forges bonds of camaraderie and friendship in times of devastation and loss. Initially, this allow Soldiers to stop themselves from confronting genuine feelings in regard to the grisly and repulsive nature of war. This will not, however, remove associated feelings and images from the mind of the Soldier and may only serve to delay dealing with what may come back to haunt. Humor and irreverence is healthy and adaptive during challenging times in life. On the opposing side is the tendency to transport anger about what has been intolerable back to home, resulting in longstanding cynicism, rage, and the probability of derogatory, critical, and insulting remarks
in the face of mounting frustration.

More than once, I drew criticism for laughing at inappropriate times.  Laughing when recounting brutal experiences.  I tend to have a twisted sense of humor that I am learning to put in place a filter from what pops into my head shouldn’t always pop out of my mouth.  This is not about keeping secrets or changing myself but about being considerate to others that may not share my perspective.  I was fortunate that my counselor shared my twisted sense of humor and more than one session ended in laughter over the crazy twists and turns of surviving being raised in an insane asylum called home. 

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