PTSD can affect war vets 30 years after a war, or 40, or 50 years
The bush war was over long ago, why not let sleeping dogs lie? How can things like PTSD years after a war possibly be an issue?
Research has indicated that middle age is a critical time for PTSD or related conditions like anxiety, Moral Injury & other conditions to surface.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, I have had no medical training. If you feel you need help, consult a professional right away. This article is about trauma, so if you would prefer not to read it, don’t.
As our children leave home, & our working days get shorter due to retirement or promotion, we all have a bit more time on our hands. We are getting older, & don’t really feel all that much wiser.
PTSD years after a war
Mature people reach a stage in life where they look back & evaluate their life. We are all, by now, very aware of how short life is. We have lost loved ones that we assumed would outlive us, & the uncertainty of what lies ahead can be daunting. We might have the added stress of loneliness following the loss of a spouse or best buddy, or we might be dealing with financial insecurity.
The average life span for humans has not just increased, we are healthier & fitter than people our age used to be. There might well be a lot of life in the old dog yet …. But the body does age, & needs a bit more care than it once did.
This situation or life stage could be the perfect storm for ex-serviceman.
The combination of more leisure (thinking) time, some old aches that can be traced back to even relatively minor service injuries, & the GP’s instructions to cut down on the drinking/eating or to get more exercise can be a trigger. The pain, taking up old hobbies or not being able to drown emotions can take people right back to times of old trauma, long forgotten or buried.
PTSD is as individual as the person. You do not have to have been involved in combat to get it, it can affect anyone. It’s caused by a combination of chemistry, environment, genes, level of life skills, our experiences & generally how well we have been taught to handle the pressures of living. It is seldom a disorder as such, but for most people, it is a totally rational & normal reaction to having been through some insane situations. If it is affecting or limiting your quality of life, it needs working on.
For some guys (& girls), the PTSD symptoms might have been severe for sometime after coming home to civvie street, & then settled down. Others may have been suffering all their life without anyone knowing, & some might honestly not have given it much thought over the years, & kept the feelings at bay with work, sport, hobbies, drinking or anything that has kept them busy or numb.
All of these people are now at risk as they now reach this time of life when they are forced to slow down, & the crutches that worked all these years are taken away.
The feelings might be mixed up, & I have spoken to some who have told me that they believe they have no right to indulge themselves with feeling bad because others went through so much more than they did.
No Uninjured Soldier
There is truth in the saying that there is no such thing as an uninjured soldier, & there is no measure that decides who gets PTSD & how severely it affects their life. African wars are often forgotten.
Whether your child ran & hid from you when you came home because she never knew who you were, or whether you were badly wounded, escaped death, killed someone, turned someone over to search them & saw how young their face seemed, or observed someone you trained with abused or hurt, you have the right to feel.
You might have lost contact with someone & heard they passed away, or seen someone who was once fit & huge & is now homeless or ruined by drink or drugs, you have the right to feel.
You survived a war, & you will survive this. However, the first thing to recognise is that some of your thoughts, feelings or beliefs might come from a time when you went to war as little more than a child. How you deal with this will affect not just you, but your family, your friends & everybody you come into contact with.
There is help out there if you want it, you just need to know where to look. Right now though, it’s time to consider whether you might be struggling with some demons that can’t be shot, or fought head-on. Nasty things that are shapeless, faceless & make you jump at unexpected noises, or go from 1-100 in 2 seconds if someone cuts in front of you on the highway.
It takes a big man to admit that he is not okay. The road to recovery is as individual as the nature of your personal thoughts, feelings & reactions. What works for one person doesn’t work for another, but I am writing these notes in the hope that they are of some to help someone.
Please let me know, anonymously or otherwise, if you have a point to share, a tale to tell, or anything that you would like noted either because it shouldn’t be forgotten or because it might help someone else.