Wednesday, April 25, 2012

ANZAC & PTSD: Acronyms that go together in my world

There are some things I don't handle very well. ANZAC Day is one of them. I've been in a pretty bad place lately (hence the rather quiet blog), and having this day fall right when I'm at a low point is doing my head in. It's panic attack central here and I've spent five hours in bed today trying to avoid the world. It didn't really work, when I got up the world was right there waiting for me. Bastard.

The internet, television and newspapers are full of stories today - of the men and women who fought for our country, of those that never came back, and those that waited at home for them, thinking every time the phone rang it was going to be that call.

What you don't hear too much of, is the stories of after the war. What happens to those highly trained soldiers who have seen battle when they come back home and try to fit in to a society that doesn't always understand them? What happens to their family? Their kids?

For me, ANZAC Day is a giant flag, waved in front of my face to mock me, to remind me how fucked up the children of soldiers can be, how hard life as the daughter of a soldier who served in the Vietnam War was and still is.

I'm not trying to over generalize, but it's a widely known fact that a lot of soldiers tend to come home rather damaged. Really, how could you not? Fighting on the front lines, seeing limbs blown off, holding your friend as he takes his last breath. That damages. Right to the core. Often beyond repair.

I was part of a counseling group specifically for children of Vietnam Veterans a few years back and even though we were from such varied backgrounds; different socioeconomic groups, different religions, different ages... we all had identical stories.

From the shoes so highly polished you could see your reflection in them to the nightmares and the trauma.

From the school shirts ironed to within an inch of their life to the constant yelling, violence and alcoholism.

From the regimented schedule to the constant walking on eggshells, unsure of what was going to happen next.

Growing up like that? That damages. Right to the core. Often beyond repair

We were all the same. We were all living in dysfunctional households and we were all fucked up because of it, having all been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from living under such conditions for so long.

You can leave certain things behind when you leave your parents' house; dolls, posters of teenage crushes, school reports and the like. You can't leave your PTSD behind though. That shit comes with you everywhere.

So here I sit, many years later, with PTSD still slumping my shoulders and dictating my daily life, watching the footage of our war heroes. I thank them for their service, for all they did... and then I cry for their kids... and, I'm loath to admit, I cry a little bit for myself, too.


Do you wish you could leave behind something when you left home?

I feel I should add that in the last few years my Dad, who was spat at on his return from the Vietnam War, where he fought on behalf of all of us in a war nobody supported, has healed immensely and we now, thankfully, have a very good relationship. However, it doesn't detract from the fact that for the first 28 years of my life I lived in constant fear of him. I love him, more than words can say. He is, by far, Tricky's favourite person and I firmly believe kids have excellent judgement.

52 comments:

  1. Good on you for pressing publish. Sorry this day intensifies things for you. Be kind to yourself during this time x

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  2. I'd never thought of the impact on the kids of soldiers. I'm sad for your pain. For your fathers pain. Which might havd been lessened with better support and acknowledgement from the government. Yes I have things I should have left at home. I too was scared of my father until I was around 28. But in comparison I think I had it easy. I hope tomorrow is a better day for you x

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  3. Right now I just want to reach through my computer screen and give you a great big hug. I knew something was going on with you and that you'd been quiet recently. I should've spoken up, tweeted, sent an email - something! - to ask if you were okay. 
    I know that feeling of walking on eggshells, of living in a state of constant fear. My dad sounds similar to your dad. But he never served in the armed forces. He was just nasty and cruel and violent because he could be. Husband believes I live with PTSD (undiagnosed though). I tried to kill myself when I was 10 due to my dad's temper and violence and I still can't stand the sound of raised voices or slamming doors. I can't watch violent films that have hand-to-hand fighting (like boxing films). Those things can give me panic attacks. I know you weren't sure whether to post this or not, but I think you've done the right thing. You have nothing to be afraid of here, in this space. You're among friends. xxx

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  4. War is ugly.  It ravages all that it touches.  Glow, I am so sorry that it touched you.
    Huge hugs girl and hopes that the darkness you are feeling right now soon turns softer and lighter. 

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  5. I wish I could have left behind the feeling of having to be the strong one and the pressure of having to always be there for everyone.
    When my parents divorced and I was the eldest, not only was I expected to be the support for my brother and sister but also the support for my mum and my dad.I never got the chance to grieve at the loss of my family or to lean on anyone.Never got to fall in a heap and be picked up and cuddled and told its ok Im here for you.
    Even to this day so many years later, I am expected to never crumble.When I feel depressed or sad, I am alone because if I express my feelings it is brushed aside and Im told to get over it and ill be ok.Like its nothing.Yet they all come to me when they need to unload.Knowing I will be there for them no matter what because I love them.
    Yep I wish it was all left behind when I left home.But wishing wont make it happen.I am not Dorothy and I dont own any magic red slippers.
    Thankyou for this opportunity to unload.I am sorry you are going through a rough time at the moment but I hope writing and knowing you have support here is of some comfort to you.Big warm understanding hugs xx

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  6. PTSD is raising its ugly head around the tracks it seems. For those of us that live with it, for different reasons. But the way your body reacts is still the same, regardless of the cause.

    I'm so glad you pressed publish. Because on the other side of the country I now feel a little less alone, because today has been a hard day for me too. And while my reasons are different to yours, my body has been feeling the same. I woke from an intensely horrid nightmare, my partner actually had to wake me up. And something happened that has happened in a long time, and never with him. I wanted to push him away, I didn't want him to touch me. my skin was crawling. and getting back into my body in the here and now was hard.

    This has been building... I can see that now. For weeks. Back to the counsellor I go, to figure out why my body has reverted to its primal flight/freeze response... At least now I can recognise it, before it consumes me completely. So I guess that is progress... isn't it?

    Thank you glow. Your brave and beautiful. and not alone. xxx

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  7. I'm really glad you published and also that things have improved so much for your dad in recent years. I haven't given enough thought to the families of the men and women who served in war. It's sobering to think of soldiers sharing their trauma with their children. It's very sad.

    My dad was an angry man, although he never fought a war (except the one in his own head) To this day, I feel intimidated by most men. That's something I could really have done without.

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  8. sending you much love my sweet friend. this is your space, your place, where people who love you unconditionally come to offer support & love - so you should never worry about hitting publish about anything here.

    ~x~

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  9. am glad you decided to publish this. thank you for sharing. you are as brave as him in my eyes. xx

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  10. Jenn @ mountains and musingsApril 26, 2012 at 4:52 AM

    Well done for hitting 'go'.
    What an amazing thing blogs are... I've never once considered what it must be like for the children of returned service men and women. Thank you for opening my eyes. I've never been more wrong about a first impression of a post title- I felt sure it was going to be full of stories about your dad's PTSD being worse on ANZAC day. Thank you for squashing my assumption (there we go making assumptions again) and sharing a fragile piece of you with us. I'm do glad things are better now, I just wish the past hurt and fear could be erased.

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  11. Deb_BrightandPreciousApril 26, 2012 at 5:39 AM

    I feel for you. You have every reason to cry for yourself. All that grief is valid. You had a childhood that no child deserved. Huge respect for you for pressing publish. You have done so well. Sending love. x 

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  12. Thinking of you, Glow. You wrote this in such a well articulated, honest and true way. PTSD is crue. Cry, cry all you need and just know any time you need to take a break, we wiill all still be here when you're back x

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  13. I think you are a very brave person Glow. There are so many different victims of war.

    I am glad you father is now in a better position to establish a relationship with yourself and Tricky.

    Take care.

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  14. Donna @ NappyDazeApril 26, 2012 at 7:00 AM

    You know, I have never thought of it that way. Thanks for being brave enough to share and so glad your relationship with your Dad is healing x

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  15. *hug* my gorgeous girl.

    Brave, you are. 

    One day my relationship with my fathher may improve. He's not a vetran, but a lot of that rings true.

    *hug*

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  16. I remember reading an article in a weekend newspaper magazine, about the return of soldiers in Afganistan (USA Soliders)  we so often hear of the casualties, but I think the injured - mentally / physically are over looked.  reading their stories broke my heart and I'll never ever forget that article.  I can't even begin to imagine.

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  17. I love you.  And I wish I could sit with you while you hide from the world and sing Soft Kitty.

    x

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  18. TheAccidentalHousewifeApril 26, 2012 at 7:27 PM

    We are an army family, two serving members with three deployments and two daughters between us, and this is something we struggle with every day.

    So far we're doing ok, but only because we're hyper aware.

    I'm glad that the relationship between you and your dad is improving.

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  19. Such a courageous post, Glow. Really raw, but very measured as well. Applause. It's a good service you have done here. Much love to you and your dad, and now I am thinking of the soldiers' children too. Thank you xxx

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  20. It's the baggage we don't want that we always seem to leave home with. Glad to hear you are doing things like support groups - I would think it'd be next to impossible to work through that stuff on your own. I've sought lots of help over the years - thank god I've had the means to access it. You've shed light on a very important topic, and made ANZAC day more meaningful to me. Thanks Glowless.  x

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  21. There are just some parts of our ANZAC story that do not get enough recognition and support. 

    It must be so difficult living in that situation for such a long time and I'm so glad you shared this part of your story. 

    xx

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  22. Wow Glow, amazing post. We often don't think that children carry the scars as well. 

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  23. Wow, Glow, what an awesome post. You are right, so little is said about what happens  after the fight, the battle, the war.  How far and wide reaching the effects are.  I didn't know about this about Vietnam Vets, but now that I think about it, of course it makes sense, considering what they went through. And it keeps happening.  War, after war, after war....  

    I'm glad your dad has found some healing.  I hope you can find it too...

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  24. Oh, Debyl1, you sound just like me. Never allowed to fall apart, while both my parents tore each other to shreds and destroyed my sanity.  Even now I'm not allowed to fall apart and they wonder why I'm not there for them when they do...

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  25. Written with such amazing power and depth. Sending you big hugs xxx

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  26. I was thinking a little about this side of the war on Anzac Day. We remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and never returned but what of those who did return? What of their journey, and as you have so eloquently and sensitively put, the journey of those closest to them. I hope you find your healing in fullness one day very soon.

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  27. I was worried about it reflecting badly on my Dad, didn't mind if it made me look bad. He's worked very hard to get where he is today, even though it took him a long time to even realize he was doing anything wrong.

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  28. Thank you, Susan. It's amazing just how much living in fear can affect every aspect of your life xxx

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  29. In my completely non-psychologist opinion that sounds exactly like PTSD to me. Raised voices, slamming doors, even people in authority - scare the crap out of me and make me panic.

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  30. Thanks, Jenn. If only pushing it all down and ignoring it was a valid coping mechanism... I'm really good at that :P

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  31. Magic red slippers would be perfect. Thank you for sharing a little bit of your story with me xxx

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  32. Thank you for sharing Vicky. That primal survival urge is so strong and hard to work against sometimes but you are so right that recognizing it is progress xxx

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  33. Sometimes I think the war inside their heads can be worse xxx

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  34. Thanks, Jen. He doesn't talk about his PTSD so I don't know too much about it.... but I used to hear him waking from his nightmares and I had no idea what was happening, just that he was screaming in the middle of the night.

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  35. Thank you Ms Mandie. The time off has done me well - now to push myself back in to it!

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  36. I'm astonished by his turn around and I believe it's all because of Tricky :)

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  37. Thanks, Donna. I'm so happy he is in a better mindset these days x

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  38. As is the case with veterans, so is the case with (some of) the families... it's the wounds you can't see that hurt the most.

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  39. I'm glad you're doing OK. It's that hyper awareness that can wear you down though. Be gentle with yourself and thank you for sharing x

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  40. Thanks, Kirrily, and thank you for sending love to him too - I was so worried people would think badly of him when that wasn't my intention.

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  41. Thanks, Rachel. I can't imagine where I'd be without those support groups! It was like looking at a mirror and so amazing to not feel alone any more.

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  42. Luckily there is so much more support for returned service men and women these days - though it doesn't get rid of the horrors they've seen, it definitely helps to process them.

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  43. Thanks, Al. It's a strange juxtaposition of being so proud of him and all he did, and then being so scared of him. That in itself is hard to get my head around at times!

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  44. It does keep happening... we never learn :( x

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  45. I have spent a lot of time with many veterans (all from the Vietnam War) and so many of them have said they wished they never came back. So sad.

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  46. Oh. That IS really so sad. I cannot imagine their horror and pain. I have been told my maternal grandfather and great uncles who fought and were POWs in WWII were never the same after. And that did impact everyone else.

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