Memorial Day; remembering the dead disabled and grieving

On this weekend we remember those who have sacrificed for the benefit of us all. In the last 10 years many have risked their lives to defend our country. Ninety=six percent of those injured in combat survive to face their injuries. Most of those injured suffered physical injuries. We hear more about the emotional injuries than the physical injuries. Neither type of injury is easy to live with. Then there are those whose injury is grief over the loss of a loved one. However, society benefits from the heroics of those who serve.
The societal benefit goes beyond just the feeling of security and power that comes from waging a war on foreign soil. We know there are brave people among us who would stand up to protect us in time of emergency. While we commonly see this in natural or other domestic disasters there are those who would step forward to go overseas. This next mix of heroes domestic and foreign we should thank regularly. Yet all too often in our squabbles over what we should do as a nation, police and the military get caught in the middle.
Our society gains more than just the physical security from the force of our police and military. In any conflict new technologies are tested and improved. We may debate the utility of drones, but they are finding civilian uses. The rapid treatment of injuries learned on the battlefield is now commonplace In Trauma care .The emotional toll of war is also becoming clear. We now realize that there is trauma in many common domestic situations. Witnesses to childhood traumas and the victims of childhood traumas frequently experience posttraumatic stress. Rape victims and children going to foster care also experience high rates of PTSD. For some of these groups the rate is higher than combat veterans.
We now call the emotional consequence of trauma posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD. I know a man who served in Vietnam and only recently realized he had PTSD. He now speaks openly about it and has been able to get assistance for it.
To cope with PTSD one must first recognize that it may be occurring. Anyone who reacts with major fear to reminders of a major traumatic event is likely to have PTSD. Many of them will avoid such reminders, and in time will find those triggers less alarming. Not everyone who has been exposed to a major trauma will develop PTSD. The symptoms may begin weeks to months after the event. Anyone who thinks they are experiencing PTSD should seek experienced professional medical attention.
Many of us experience some anxiety after traumatic events, but this is not PTSD. It is an acute stress reaction and can also be debilitating. After I was in an automobile collision every time I pass that place I would remember. Initially I would be anxious and worried as well. Over time it became just a memory. Sometimes I would not recall it at all.
We now know that the emotional intensity of the initial trauma is seared deeply into our brains. Thus the neural pathways affected are easily stimulated. To heal the response to various triggers need to be replaced by something less frightening. Thus refusing to react with emotion can be one such defense. Trained professional counselors will help to provide a safe place and in that safe place to introduce and monitor the response to normal events that may trigger the memory. Medications can help but they need to be used in a formal treatment program.
A life coach, friend, physician or clergy can help with minor problems. When severe or persistent symptoms exist you should be referred to trained and experienced counselors. Once a victim of PTSD has returned to a seemingly normal life a coach and other friends may help them go forward.
On this Memorial Day let us respect and give thanks to those who risk so much on our behalf. I am sure we all wish no one would have to risk PTSD. Yes I am sure some who experienced the tornado in Oklahoma this past week will suffer PTSD, also.
As All Ways, seek Joy,
Coach DR. Dave (MD disabled)

2 thoughts on “Memorial Day; remembering the dead disabled and grieving

  1. Mark,
    I hope you were not too affected by the recent tornados. Those who were will need some counseling or coaching. You might want to comment on my post about Memorial Day.

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