I finally did it! After eleven long years, I finally attended a fireworks display with my kids! Guess what?! I survived not only the fireworks, but navigating the crowds with three little ones…by myself!
All in all, I actually enjoyed myself! The girls were able to play on the bouncy houses, get their face painted, and even stood in line for patriotically over-priced snow cones! The girls were able to get those twisted balloon things that end up being made into all kinds of things (one had an alien that rode on her shoulders, one had a sword, and one had a flower). Granted, none of the balloon characters made it home, but they were free, so I wasn’t terribly heart broken (especially since I’m allergic to the stupid things).
I had originally decided to attend because my teen invited me. I figured with her there, I’d be able to get through the fireworks. Well, she went AWOL with her friends and I only saw her once the entire evening. Thankfully, my best friend and her family showed up just minutes before the show started. Between her and Chauncey, they got me through. I purposely sat far enough away that I couldn’t hear them launching, and I enjoyed all but the absolutely largest shells. Those were the ones that I could feel the repercussion of their explosion in my chest and that would trigger me, but as I said, my service dog Chauncey (who did amazingly well with the fireworks) and my best friend saw me through.
I definitely think we will do it again next year. Perhaps I will be able to convince a couple of my fellow veterans to attend with me. Just showing up was a huge step for me and I hope I can share that with others next year.
Moral of this story: don’t be afraid to face your fears…you may be pleasantly surprised at the results. If they aren’t what you expected them to be, you will at least know that you tried. Perform an after action and see if there is anything you could do differently next time to improve the outcome!
So it seems there is a public hearing in Philadelphia today to discuss changing PTSD to PTSI. They are pondering whether changing it from ‘disorder’ to ‘injury’ will remove some of the stigma and open soldiers up to getting treatment. While this is a valiant effort to persuade more soldiers get the help they need, Shakespeare’s quote comes to mind, “A rose, by any other name…”.
Changing the name of PTSD is not going to get soldiers to seek treatment. Far too many soldiers already avoid going to sick call (the military’s version of an urgent care, same day appointments for medical treatment) because they fear being labeled as malingering or somehow not as worthy a soldier as their peers. Too often they wait to seek treatment until what was a minor problem has become a major issue. Even when they do seek treatment, more often than not they are met with nothing more than a prescription to treat the symptoms rather than exploration of the cause.
Rather than changing the name, what needs to occur is a change in mentality among the military’s leadership. You hear far too many stories of soldiers who suddenly went from super-troop to rag-bag in the eyes of their commanders simply because of they chose to seek treatment and were diagnosed with PTSD and that is where the stigma originates.
For those of us with PTSD, it is not something we chose. We are not automatically weaker than our brothers and sisters. Is it an injury? Yes. Studies have shown that PTSD causes physiological changes in our brains. We process things differently than we did before this came into our lives. Our command wouldn’t treat a soldier differently who was physically injured in combat but could still perform his job, so why are we being treated like lepers simply because of what is essentially a brain ‘injury’ which in and of itself causes a ‘disorder’.
Over the past century, the military has had to integrate several demographics into their ranks; first african americans, then women, and most recently openly gay soldiers. The integrations were never smooth, they were often met with personal bias and bigotry. Perhaps what these people need to figure out is how to force the military to accept and treat equally those service members with unseen disabilities. Those who suffer the effects of PTSD and/or TBI. That is the true way to remove the stigma of seeking treatment for PTSD, not simply changing the name.
Do you think changing the name from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to Post Traumatic Stress Injury will make a difference? If not, what would help encourage soldiers to seek treatment?