A LETTER TO A FRIEND

I’m happy you chose to return to a session with your therapist. I know this is relatively new for you but if you will allow me, I’d like to offer my own experience after 40 years of the process. You mentioned that you’d told your problems to a therapist, you’d cried, you have real issues, what else is there? I think many folks regard therapists as the mythical television and film depictions, that they are some sort of guru or genius or Sherlock Holmes…who need only to discover a tiny clue and Voila! There’s the problem! Now you’re all well!
Not at all. Each of us has several levels of consciousness. Our waking minds create a narrative that seems logical and that becomes “our story”. Underneath, our subconscious minds are entirely devoted to survival. It dismisses anything that threatens our sanity; blocks it, stores it away. A therapists job is not to intuit what lies underneath. They must learn to listen. In therapy, WE do all the essential work. WE know all of the story, what we’re comfortable with as well as what troubles us. I’ll tell you where the genius of a therapist comes in: By asking the right questions of us. An astute therapist will listen to our narrative and ask us the questions we are unwilling to ask ourselves. And if we answer them honestly, thats when breakthrus happen. By answering the critical questions, we discover what we’ve been doing all along with our “reality”.
And once that understanding takes place, depending upon the depth and pathology of the issue, we begin to be able to put out our own fires. Every now and again, faced with new stresses or issues, we might return for a well-being session, just to see if we’re dealing with our life issues clearly, objectively, rationally. It is a wonderful process..but we must each be willing to do that hard work.
If people are following you, then you’re not paranoid in thinking that people are following you. If your life conditions suck, then that is what is so. Not a lot of value in dwelling on that reality, the effort should be to do whatever it is that YOU can do to make the situation less sucky. That may require some major decisions…but then, you are being pro-active, YOU are at Cause in your life rather than being at the Effect of it.
No victims. Life is what it is.

DON’T CURSE THE MESSENGER. CONDEMN THE MESSAGE.

Yesterday an article was posted on my Facebook page about shock jock Mark Savage, mocking PTSD and soldiers who seek treatment and compensation. Savage is a very well paid shill for the Right. He has an agenda and an opinion. Some commented, “He’s never served, he has no right to criticize.”

Civilians have a right to an opinion. As do veterans. including combat veterans. Opinions are like assholes; everybody has one. Opinions are not facts. PTSD has been recognized, comparatively recently as an enduring emotional trauma caused by combat, violent crime, accidents, any number of serious life events. Its not new, only the identification of it is. I can’t say whether patrols in Fallujah were any more stressful than Normandy or Pusan or Ia Drang Valley…but for some soldiers, it was life-altering. Period. You might walk thru an operation that will cause me nightmares for years. What’s your point?

I’ll now recount for you my journey. In 2010, I was persuaded by friends to file for PTSD. When I resisted, they told me to donate the money if that made me feel better..but the statistics were needed to justify funding. I filed. A year later I received an evaluation appointment. I requested documentation from the two therapists that had treated me, both eminent in the field. I was diagnosed and began treatment in 1988. I began medication in 2006. None of the statements had been read by my evaluator. He knew nothing of combat or my history and his manner was simply bizarre. He would repeat my responses back, distorted, purposefully misunderstood. He was curt, dismissive..and I eventually realized his entire intention was to make me lose control, to become angry. Months later my claim was denied. I then did become angry.

I filed a request for re-evaluation. More months later, I was seen by a second VA representative. He had read my history, my treatment, my evaluations. A total of 30 months passed, from start to finish, when the US Army finally acknowledged that my experiences in combat had created enduring emotional trauma in my life. THAT was really all I sought and it was personally satisfying to finally have it.

Conditions vary from veteran to veteran. For some it is a nuisance; for others it is debilitating. Impossible to keep a family together, keep a home, keep a job, sleep in peace. Mental illness is an enigma to the more fortunate. But to politicize care and treatment for damaged veterans is contemptible, beyond forgiveness and I regard my mission to advocate for treatment as a sacred calling.