PTSD - General discussion, experiences etc.

"An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behaviour." - Concentration-camp survivor Viktor Frankl
I am starting two threads on PTSD. The other thread is a quick reference guide for those who feel they may need help.

This thread is for general discussion regarding PTSD and related issues.

Please post;

Any experiences you feel you wish to share as someone suffering with PTSD.
Which treatments helped you, which didn't and any thoughts you may have on why they did or didn't work.
Concerns you may have in coming forward to obtain help.
Advice for those who are having problems.
Signs to watch out for in others if you feel they may be suffering.
Links to useful sites or books.
If you feel you need to log as a new user to post on this thread, please do so.
Previous threads on this subject have had to be deleted due to the abusive nature of some posts. Please keep all posts constructive and on topic. This is a serious issue and one which will leave people feeling very vulnerable when talking about there experiences. Please, please, please show some consideration and thought when posting. (which I know applies to me also!)

Edited to add link to other thread.
I am a civvie (looking at joining the TA). I am ‘sensitive’ to the issue following an incident last year (06). I should also say that I believe I am ‘over’ the incident which gave me issues.

What I went through was nothing like what many service personnel have gone through and continue to go through, but I believe it has given me some small insight into the PTSD issue. I am not saying I had PTSD, I was not assessed for it. However I did go through a very stressful ‘incident’ took some time to get over and I feel that my experiences may be relevant. I am posting it as there may be some small chance it will help others.

A bit about the incident.

I apologise for not giving more detail, but I do not want to give enough away that the incident can be identified. (PERSEC and all that!)

On a business trip (I work in the automotive industry) last year to south-east Asia I had ‘a bit of bother’. The main even went on for approx seven hours but there was a three day lead up to it. We (Myself, a two other engineers) had been identified by a particular group. This group decided they didn’t want us around. They organised literally hundreds of people to ‘protest’ outside the building we were working in, while a number of them turned up with large metal bats and proceeded to smash the ground floor windows in. Long story short, we were trapped in the building, facing the very real possibility of being beaten to death for approx 5 hours, eventually got out and back to our hotel (located in the local red-light district). The guys with the bats followed us! The police explicitly refused to send anyone to help us! (The words of the police inspector “I have spoken with the leader of the group, he says everything is ok.”!) After being stuck in the hotel for 2 ish hours we left for the capital city and safety.

I have had no military training and had not been in any situation like it before, so I was totally ill-prepared to deal with it and due to my personal history I was well aware of how bad the situation could get. That said, I believe I handled myself well in the situation, generally keeping a cool head (except for yelling down the phone at a police inspector who was refusing to help us!) and through my actions I believe we got out of the situation much more quickly and in greater safety than would otherwise have been the case. I don’t mean to sound like I am bragging; I believe that to be an accurate assessment and relevant to a point raised later.

I was aware that so-called ‘decompression’ is useful, and as we were travelling away from the ‘incident’ I used the pretext of something other related circumstance to arrange for the flights back to be delayed, giving the three of us three days in a western hotel in the capital to go through it together. I would say this was VERY helpful. Knowing that you are not alone in having the dreams, the lack of sleep, continually going over the incident in your mind (‘living in the moment’ as my brother put it) and the wave of adrenalin as you try to talk about it.
We obviously needed to write up what had happened. We agreed that we would all write our own accounts and then combine them to paint a full picture. I remember sitting at the desk in the hotel room trying to write down what had happened. That was probably the worst I have ever felt in my life, a truly awful feeling. The sickness, the adrenalin, its hard to describe the feelings. I would not wish that on anyone. We eventually wrote the report together, as none of us felt willing to put ourselves through doing it alone for the sake of the company we work for. (Myself and one other were contractors, with the other guy a member of the companies’ staff.)

Post incident.

After 3ish weeks being back in the UK and back at work I was having trouble getting over the incident. Basically the company had done nothing for me or the others who were involved. I remember sitting at my desk, in a quiet rage most of the time, (obviously with the associated mood swings!) on occasion holding (white knuckles) on onto my desk with a very strong images of, either throwing my computer out of the window or hoping that my boss would say the wrong thing so I had an excuse to beat him to a pulp. (My boss was a w@nker anyway) I am normally a very placid guy, for example I have not been in a fight since primary school, so this is most atypical. My bosses boss eventually realised I was having issues when I declined a trip abroad (I like travelling). I suspect that I may have been giving off other signals as well as I remember some aspects of the conversation which tipped him off quite clearly. Standing there, talking to him, stomach tightening, everything going quite, mouth dry and using much of my focus to keep myself in check. So the company got someone in to talk with us, (which they most certainly should have done much sooner). The person they got in obviously had some training and experience. This helped a lot. It certainly speeded up the very slow increase in my nightly sleeping duration. Part of my anger at the time was how little support I was given by the company. I remember thinking, “do these people have NO idea what that was like??!!” and “how can they possibly just say, “Ok, back to work”?!!??”. So having them actually get someone in was a big step forward. Another aspect to the problem with coming to terms with the incident was, as a civvie, there are very few people around who have any chance of relating to what I went through. It’s like describing colour to someone blind from birth I suppose. My brother who served in Bosnia with the TA and a mate, who used to be a screw doing riot control and armed escort of prisoners, were the only two that I felt in any way comfortable talking with. I guess that the TA guys who come off ops have the same issues. How do you explain the feelings to people, they just start with, “oh, I would have handled that differently” (my boss), or some other crap.
The fact that ‘the company’ had recognised the magnitude of the event went some way to calming me, and over the following weeks I settled back down. The other two guys had a little easier time dealing with it than I did (although I suspect one was hiding a lot of it)

To the present day,

I would say that the ‘wound’ has healed but a scar remains. One of the guys I sat next to in the office (who is paralysed from the waist down due to a climbing accident, so I guess he is another who understands a little about dealing with traumatic events) mentioned more than once that I wasn’t the same after the incident. I think that is a fair assessment. I am now much less likely to take ‘crap’ from anyone in good humour. I am much more alert than I used to be. I used to wander around in my own little world with barely a thought about my surroundings. I am now aware of who is around me, and often active in looking for ‘threats’. This isn’t to any significant degree, I certainly do not feel threatened when I am out and about, I just am more aware. (I’m not sure that makes sense, even to me!)
The attitude change I had after the incident has caused me to lose my job. Now that is not as bad as it sounds as I am a self-employed engineering consultant. Basically, I went on another business trip for the same company for 3 months, on my return there was no job for me. My boss (the w@nker) is used to pushing people around. As I no longer responded to his low level abuse, he really got the arrse! Even to the point of going through my private emails, to dig up dirt, while I was away on company business! I think I am correct in saying that that is a breach of the data protection act, but never mind eh! He emailed my private comments to others to engineer my departure. So, despite being a good engineer (my (now ex) bosses opinion prior to my ill-fated trip), honest, hard-working, able to think during a crisis and the company knowing my issues were due to a trip I took for them, I was still effectively binned due to this incident. As I was only sub-contracted to the company, I cannot do anything about this.

The reason I mention this is, if this has happened to me, a civvie in a civvie job, how the bloody hell are the TA or ex-reg guys supposed to cope in civvie street, if they have ‘issues’? hmm, I need to make a donation to combat stress!

My lessons learned.

Any injury requires time and help to heal.
Talking about it really helps.
It does get better if you get the right help.
My ex-boss is a w@nker.

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