Monday, March 18, 2013

Walking Point out of PTSD darkness

Walking Point out of PTSD darkness
by Kathie Costos
Wounded Times Blog
March 18, 2013

At most gatherings I am asked, "What is a Chaplain?" I tell them I am like a pastor without a church. My "church" is wherever I am, talking to whoever is there in need. I am a guide for the churchless because my job is to help everyone in need. I am not trying to get people into one branch over another but to get them over one hard time after another.

Christians have gotten a bad name lately and rightfully so since the hotheads are getting the attention of the press and "normal" Christians have sat back and let them talk. People have the wrong idea of what Christianity is all about, so that makes my job even harder. Denominations of Christians are competing for converts, so when they hear about a group of non-denominational Christians in Point Man Ministries helping veterans heal, they shut their doors. Few support the work being done even though with their support we are able to save lives, heal troubled veterans and open their hearts to becoming a member of the faith again. If the leaders are proving to the veterans they are really loving, then the veteran is more likely to join their church but if they believe the church is only interested in their membership and not them, then they are more likely to stay away.

This is one of those days when my job is especially difficult. Working on the military suicide book, The Warrior SAW, Suicides After War, that should have been done in January, has caused much heartache. As I read the research compiled over the last year, since it was the deadliest on record, my heart is breaking. Every time I think I have a chapter complete, research for the next chapter has me rediscovering something else that should have been in the previous chapter.

What has made this harder is reading more suicide reports from this year. So I decided I am not waiting to give the roadmap to healing any longer. I know what you're thinking. If I just keep giving things away, I won't make any money but that was never my goal in the first place, so if you think what I am going to give freely is of value, please donate and pass it on. Grab yourself a cup of coffee because this is going to be a long one.

First, no matter if you are a churchgoer or churchless, put everything you think you know about Christianity out of your head. This is based on the Bible and not what has divided Christians for centuries. It is based on what is reported to have come from the words of Christ and not some idea of what God wanted. You have to remember that everyone in the Bible, used by God for greatness, screwed up along the way. Some want to think the Bible was dictated by God word for word, but last I heard God didn't make mistakes and since the Bible is full of them, we have to assume the words came from flawed humans just like the rest of us but God used them in miraculous ways.

Point Man
A soldier who is assigned to a position some distance ahead of a patrol as a lookout.
A man who has a crucial, often hazardous role in the forefront of an enterprise: "[He] has traditionally been the administration's point man on affirmative-action issues, making frequent public appearances to present and clarify the administration's views" (Christian Science Monitor).

I am not a veteran. I never wore a uniform. Yet for 30 years it has been my duty and honor to walk point for veterans and their families, leading the way out of darkness and into the light of healing. I have been there in the hardest days but what keeps me going in the joy of getting an email from a veteran whose life has been turned around. When they have gone from wanting to take their own life to using their lives to help others heal. While I have supported the work being done by Point Man, it was not until 2010 I officially joined their efforts.

Follow me as I walk you through the steps to healing.

If you start here, the rest will be easier to understand.
Jeremiah 29:11
New International Version (NIV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

2 Timothy 3:16-17
New International Version (NIV)
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

God did not decide to start a war. That is man's job. God did not send troops into Vietnam, Kuwait, Afghanistan or Iraq. Presidents and congress did just as it has happened since the beginning of this country and all other nations before this one. It has been recorded throughout the Bible and often left many confused with the 5th Commandment, Thou Shall Not Kill. What is forgotten is before God created man, He created an archangel name Michael, the Warrior Angel. St. Michael is one of the principal angels; his name was the war-cry of the good angels in the battle fought in heaven against the enemy and his followers.

Because of freewill, God knew there would have to be defenders of the good against those who would do evil.

When you were young, did you feel a tug at your heart to go into the military? If so, then that tug came from your soul and you did what you were supposed to do. You were not tugged by your heart to kill, but to save others, serve for others and to do it, God equipped you with whatever you would need. From your courage and dedication all the way up to healing, it was all there when God sent your soul into your imperfect body.

The reasons men decide to start wars was not up to you but the choice to follow your soul or not was. Even Christ Himself had the right to finish the job He was sent to do or not. Luke:22 39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

Christ could have walked away but He made the choice to do what He was supposed to do. He did it out of love.

While wars are about man's choice to start, your job was part of being there for those you were with. That was all that was in your control. You were willing to risk your own life for their sake and that is why many of the wounded suffer when they can no longer be with their "brothers" and helping them.

When you see how you began, the rest will come easier now.

If you killed a member of the opposition, it is easier to justify it than if you killed a civilian. That is very hard but all too often it happens in war especially when the opposition forces are appearing with civilians, looking just like them, using them to hide behind and purposely putting them in danger because they know you are good and do not want to target civilians. They hope you will be too concerned with innocent life to take a chance. What they do not understand is, you have more of a connection to the men you are with and you are fully aware of the fact one of them could die if you decide wrong or hesitate too long.

What was in your soul? Was it evil-based? If so, then you need to ask for forgiveness and you will be forgiven just as Christ forgave the hands that nailed Him to the Cross. You also need to forgive those who caused you to change your thoughts from saving to killing. It was their tactics that twisted you up inside. The good you had within you is still there and that is why you are grieving. You can make peace with yourself and make up your mind to use that to help others grieving the way you are.

If it was not evil-based, then take comfort in knowing that the goodness is alive and well within your soul and that is why you feel so much pain. You need to forgive yourself and you do that by remembering despite what you saw, what you were up against, what the opposition was doing, you still managed to care about others even though they were not concerned with their own people and planted bombs in the roads they also traveled on.

If you grieve for others then know you are not selfish. Selfish people will grieve only for themselves, their own pain and what was done to them.

Take the outcome that is tearing you apart and go back to the beginning of why you wanted to serve. Then look at what was going on around you. There are many things you are not able to see because the outcome has been frozen in your memory so strongly it will not allow everything else to be remembered easily.

A National Guardsman could only remember the faces of the family he killed on a dark road in Iraq. He was not able to remember what he did to try to prevent it or what he was thinking in the second before he opened fire. The driver made a choice to follow the convoy and would not stop no matter what he did. All he thought about was the men he was with and how suicide car bombers were blowing up soldiers. He had to make a choice, just as the driver did with his wife and children in the car no matter how many warnings he was given to stay far back from convoys.

The Guardsman was sure he had become evil but once he was able to take a look at what happened and what was in his soul, he was able to forgive himself and forgive the Dad for what he did.

If you see only what was bad while you were deployed, you miss what was good. You cannot see that even surrounded by so much evil, good was there as well. If one you were with reached out to help someone, shed a tear or cried out in anguish, God was there. Whenever there was one person doing something unselfish, God was there. He was even there just in your ability to care.

He is still there. He is not making you suffer. He has placed what you need to heal within you and it is the job of members of Point Man to help you find the path toward it.

When you believe you are evil, you push people away from you out of fear they will see something within you that you don't want them to see. You act out as if you are "bad" but under the act is a man in pain. If you push them away then you will get worse. You will begin to believe how bad you are because no one will be able to find the good that is still inside of you. You will become more and more consumed by what you think you have become and less of the original "you" survives.

You treat the pain inside of your soul as punishment, so you try to numb it with drugs and alcohol instead of understand it so you can defeat it. Twisted thinking is the "goodness" within you trying to defeat the "evil" you think has become you. That battle spreads out to every part of your life and harms the people who love you.

If you believe they will not like what you think you have become, then you have forgotten they loved you before and that part of you is still inside but trapped under a lot of pain. That is a weight you cannot lift on your own. You need help to get it off and stop it from crushing you to death.

If you think they will not understand, you need to know they don't have to know what you did or what you went through in detail. It is the job of professionals to listen to that. All they have to know is you are in pain and what you are are dealing with. It will shock you just how understanding they can be. Yet you also need to remember that people are all different. Some will walk away from you while others run to you to help. That is when you know who your true friends are. Don't give up because most veterans are going through the same things even though at different levels.

Sometimes they want to help but don't know how, so they say the wrong things and give the wrong advice. If they do, then know they at least care enough to try. Help them get educated about what PTSD is so they can learn how to help you because most of them will really want to. They just don't know how and that can leave them feeling helpless and frustrated.

As you believe you were forgiven by God and managed to forgive yourself, you need to forgive the people in your life that hurt you because they didn't understand. If they stood by you but you know you hurt them, then ask for their forgiveness. As hard as this is on you, it is a lot tougher than you think on them.

Most of the families I talk to after their veteran committed suicide said they wish they knew how to help but no one told them. No one told them what PTSD was or why they acted the way they did. Don't leave them because they will blame themselves. Help them to help you. Help them understand. If you come from a family that has not been close, then talk to your friends or the buddies you served with. Don't give up if they don't understand at first any more than you would have given up on watching their backs in combat.

If you reach the point where you are healing, you have a new mission. That soul God equipped you with is not finished yet just because you are no longer in the military. He still wants you to be there for others. Be there to help them heal the way you did because they feel just as lost and alone as you felt.

Above all of this make sure you know PTSD is not God's judgment.

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