James W.D. Stewart

James W.D. Stewart

Embrace "The Suck"


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I was talking to one of my recently new friends and she'd expressed a discomfort in approaching me during an event.  She wanted to respect my space, but didn't know a comfortable way in which to approach me with respect to my PTSD symptoms within a group setting.  It made me start to think about the intense air that I must emote for her to question when and how to approach me.  I like talking to people — that is, except for the ignorant and/or stupid, as I have a zero-tolerance for ignorance and stupidity — it's where I get some of my greatest inspirations.  However, at times, my condition may not permit me to interact on a desired level and/or in an expected way.

/blog/2017/05/21/approaching-a-combat-veteran/

https://forces.army/blog/2017/05/21/approaching-a-combat-veteran/

Approaching a Combat Veteran

Count Words — Reading Time
by James Stewart
Published: 
Updated:    Grammar
Location:  Rainbow Centre, 40 Elm St., Sudbury, Ontario, P3C 1S8, Canada
 

 

I was talking to one of my recently new friends and she'd expressed a discomfort in approaching me during an event.  She wanted to respect my space, but didn't know a comfortable way in which to approach me with respect to my PTSD symptoms within a group setting.  It made me start to think about the intense air that I must emote for her to question when and how to approach me.  I like talking to people — that is, except for the ignorant and/or stupid, as I have a zero-tolerance for ignorance and stupidity — it's where I get some of my greatest inspirations.  However, at times, my condition may not permit me to interact on a desired level and/or in an expected way.

The PTSD mind sees all of the interactions and people as a possible threat — even loved ones and friends that we've known for our entire lives.  In-between events and workshops, I was concentrating heavily on trying to talk to people and maintain my anxiety level — which, gets in the way of communicating.  Internally, we may be caught-up in our inner-world and if we're wrapped-up in states of high emotion, we may be displaying body postures and facial expressions that say, "I'm not at home right now — please, don't leave a message".  Our body language may be misconstrued as offensive…  Therefore, subject to misinformation — personal biases, stereotyping, and/or stigma.  To the uninitiated in trauma, we may appear as someone to wary and/or fear.

A common aspect of our mental wound, is the defensive state of mind.  When understood, within this context, it may help to facilitate communication.  If I'm not completely zoned-out, my hyper-vigilance is zapping my energy on purely defensive matters.  Whether from fighting my delusions, rendering reality obsolete, to dodging my many triggers so that I may not hallucinate.  Our triggers are many, and some of us, hallucinate regularly.  Please, consider this and be respectful.  Balance this with knowing that we don't want to be feared and/or treated as though we're broken.  This inner-battle that we wage is against ourselves, not you.  You'd be safer, standing next to a combat veteran with PTSD, than most people.  When our symptoms manifest, try not to take it personally, and see it as a learning opportunity.  It's easier to accept the pain and discomfort of a veteran that's been wounded from a bullet or a bomb, and much more difficult to see our mental wound and difficulties in interacting, as our scars.

I've met some other combat veterans with somewhat intense stares — some, fairly recently.  But the funny thing, one of the most intense looking guys, has a wicked sense of humour and a huge heart.  No, not me…  However, I was having the same trouble as my new friend though.  How to approach an intense looking combat veteran?  I'd imagine that my new friend would also be thinking, "what do I do if he begins to share some of his burdens".  A veteran's sharing, lightens their burden, and extends a unique opportunity and honour unto the recipient.  Less than 14% of our nation has served our country in the military, and when we opt to open up, our voices should resound.  I'm starved of human interaction, due to my super-hero ability, to run off people whom have little understanding of my condition.  Sharing nurtures the healing process, soothing the mental wound, filling me with empathy.  Even though I resist talking about my experiences, at times, I feel compelled to share them anyhow.

I'm willing to expound upon on my condition and life, but many veterans don't feel comfortable discussing their experiences and wounds — mental or otherwise.  If you want to approach a veteran, and they have a flat affect — as the textbooks like to call it — assess the situation.  That's what we're doing, during those intensely long pauses — you may as well do the same.  Do we wear military fatigues, insignia, and/or medals?  Do we appear anxious, guarded, and/or rigid?  How about spring-loaded?  What's that all about?  Unresolved trauma becomes locked within the body, giving our posture the appearance of aggression and/or overly assertiveness…  Thus, reinforcing the stereotype.

If you were to notice my hearing aids, I'd be comfortable with questions on how it would be best to communicate with me, concerning my hearing.  I have a bilateral hearing loss, and being able to see the lips move, allows for better hearing.  This could be a possible segue into how I lost my hearing — which, I'd tell you was from enemy artillery.  I'm not suggesting that asking a veteran about how they got a prosthetic limb's a good idea — that may be akin to asking about their sex life.  Never, ask a veteran if they've killed someone.  You may as well say, "Hi!  I don't know you, but would you completely bare your soul to me here and now".  It's rather rude and completely disrespectful.  But, asking a warrior about a pin they're wearing though, may be a good way to see if they're open to sharing.

Many veterans are open to sharing about their military experience.  It wasn't all bad, and in many ways, was better than today.  If we're approached with respect, and treated with dignity, we may impart upon a part of our nation's living oral history.  Who knows, you may become a member of their trusted inner-circle — their squad at home.

 
Categories:  Health, Lifestyle, Medical  
Tags:  How to, MyCAF, Opinionated, Relationship, Self, The Stupid, The Suck

 
Syndicated to:

 
References:

  1. Military Experience and the Arts
    by Innominate Referenced: 

 

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Creative Commons Licence :: BY-NC-SA James W.D. Stewart by James Stewart is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.  Based on a work at https://github.com/jwds1978/jwds1978.github.io.