|Tour of Duty '71|
It's now at the end of 2002 and it's taken me several months to write this last chapter. When I first did this web site I didn't believe in P.T.S.D (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and thought, like most people that it's just a load of bull and that everyone should just "get over it!"
However, I've now found out the hard way that it's as real as anything else on this planet, and absolutely frightening because it never goes away.
Since leaving the Army back in 1975, I married - worked - had kids and did everything every normal person would do. I had a normal life and didn't have anything to do with Vietnam, medals or marches, and never spoke to anyone about it.
Around 1998 when I put this web site together I had been thinking about Vietnam constantly, This used to bother me a lot but it's not the sort of thing that I would whinge to anyone else about because, after all, it was my problem and no-one elses.
Around this time I had also found out that our Battalion was having a 30 year reunion of our Tour of Vietnam, this would be in early 2000 and I was looking forward with very mixed emotions to seeing guys who I had lived in the jungle with and hadn't seen for 30 years.
This was also a time when I had been out of work for about 18 months. I had tried a few jobs, but I simply couldn't stand the stupidity and idiocy of most people. I didn't know about PTSD and I didn't know why I couldn't stand people anymore.
One night while some friends of ours were visiting, my friend saw the pictures of my time in Vietnam that I had displayed on a wall and he had the courage to tell me that I need help and that I should go to the VVCS (Vietnam Veterans Counselling Service). It took me a week to get up enough courage to call them and it was equally as difficult to tell my wife that I was going to see them.
My wife went with me to the VVCS, while I was with this social worker who was on the phone with her back to me, I had the strangest feelings and ended up having what I now know as a "Panic Attack". I didn't hurt anyone, but I did do a lot of yelling and screaming for this woman to get me some help. The VVCS called the police but at least they had the sense to let my wife in first, after a while I calmed down and we went home.
The next day I rang to appologise to the woman social worker, but was told by the person who runs the place that I was not permitted to talk to her and that I could not go back again until I could "manage myself". Common sense says that if I could "manage myself" then I wouldn't need to go there...This was one door that was closed!
The next problem was at the Repatriation Hospital. This is a hospital especially for war veterans, or so I thought. I had seen a resident psychiatrist there and an appointment was made for me 3 months later. (No! They don't seem to care very much.) I wasn't really keen on going but I was willing to clutch at any straws. The woman I saw came across as very arrogant with a condescending attitude, I told her I didn't want to stay because I was worried the same thing would happen here as at the VVCS.
She promised me that if I stayed she would not call the police and she wouldn't even write anything down, so I stayed.
The longer I stayed the more irritated I became with her smug attitude and the end result was that I poked a pencil into her arm (it was the sharpest thing I could find), it didn't break the skin but it did wipe that smug look off her face and put some fear into her eyes.
A couple of days later on a Sunday morning she sent a Police detective knocking on my door, so much for trusting a psychiatrist...This was another door that was closed!
The next panic attack happened at my local doctors office. At this time I was not aware of what a panic attack was and didn't know what was happening to me.
I went to my doctor to ask him for something to "stop me thinking so much". I couldn't sleep at night (some nights I didn't sleep at all), I couldn't relax, I wasn't interested in anything at all and I simply didn't care! This guy was quite understanding and prescribed me some mild valium. By this time I was feeling a mite uneasy but didn't know why. I started to walk home and became more and more panicky, the cars were scaring me and I felt like someone was after me.
I was really panicky now and I started running back to the doctors office, when I got there I was red in the face, sweating and shaking. They put me in a vacant office where I believe I did a fair amount of swearing, yelling and eventually punched the wall. They were very good and kind to me, they didn't call the police and simply waited until I calmed down. They then called my wife, who came and picked me up.
The next panic attack (and the worst) happened at DVA (Department of Veterans Affairs). I had previously gone in there, as I had been told to apply for a pension (I didn't know anything about pensions or what to ask for) and the goon who I saw gave me a heap of forms and told me to go home and fill them out. I asked him if he would help me but he said I would need to take them home.
A few days later after becoming more and more stressed out because I didn't understand what to do with the forms, I tore them up, jumped in the car, went into DVA and asked to see the manager. We were in an office and I was explaining to him that I didn't know what to do when I started to feel extremely uneasy, panicky and restless. I felt like I had to do something but I didn't know what. He called another manager down and they helped me to the toilet (I couldn't walk by myself), where I splashed water on my face. I was so bad that I couldn't remember where I parked my car, couldn't hold a glass of water and could barely talk coherently.
These two guys understood, and I am eternally in their debt!
They filled out all the forms for me then one of them drove me home in a Government car while the other drove my car home. They arranged for me to see a psychiatrist in 3 months (that was the waiting period) he immediately assesed me with PTSD and I was put on a TPI (Totally and Permanently Incapacitated) pension.
The last bad problem only happened several weeks ago. I had been getting Valium from my local doctor (who was very understanding), he went on holidays and I had to see someone else. This moron thought he knew everything and didn't seem to think that I was capable of managing Valium all by myself. I lost the plot and we had a "physical confrontation", of course the police were called (again).
The police were fairly sympathetic and got him to give me a prescription, but unfortunately I now do not have a doctor to go and see as i was told not to come back. (Doctors always stick together!). And another door closes.
I have been TPI for just under two years now, I have attended a PTSD course run over a period of 10 weeks which included 5 other vets. I went to learn as much as I could. The people who run the course mean well, but they don't really know much at all and are stumbling in the dark as much as we are. They seem to think that someone with PTSD can change simply by making an effort, well it just doesn't work that way!! I can no more change my personality to be "normal" than any "normal" person can change to be like me!
I have tried a number of anti-depressants, including a natural one called St John's Wort, which works the same as prescription ones but without the side effects. However, I found that none of them seemed to make any difference and asking psychiatrists about them was a complete waste of time, psychiatrists work on a "suck it and see" basis.
I find Valium works the best, I don't take them regularly as they are extremely addictive, but only when things get a bit to tough. They also make me very dozy for a couple of days after, which I don't like.
30 years ago the army trained me to do one job, and that was to kill people. They sent me to a war where I was given the absolute authority to do just that, with no questions asked. At the time I didn't have what it took to kill anyone, unfortunately for me the training eventually paid off, because I know as sure as I breathe that all I need is the right reason now and I would have no hesitation whatsoever. This is what scares the shit out of me every day.
The most difficult part is trying to understand why I'm like this. I firmly believe that all mental problems are related to some physical change in our brain chemistry, something goes missing because of some traumatic psychological problem and our personality changes permanently. I think in the future, medical science will discover what this change is and then it will be a simple matter to be "normal" again.
For anyone else who has this problem, I have found that there is a substitute for Valium that is available "over the counter" and is a natural substitute without the addictivness of prescription drugs. It is not as strong as Valium but I find it can be of great help.
There is a substance that has been used for about 2000 years which is extracted from the Valerian plant. This works exactly the same way in the brain as Valium but to me does not seem to be quite as strong. In Australia it is sold by a company called Blackmores and is available in chemist shops, one is called Valerian Forte and the other is called Tranquil Night.
I have found that they work extremely well as a calming agent and to help in sleeping, the best part is that it is not neccessary to go and see any know-all arrogant doctors in order to buy it.
The biproduct of all this hyper alertness is that I now have physical symptoms caused by psychological problems. Constant chest pains (hurts when I breathe), shoulder and neck pain (stress), stomach pains, legs, arms etc.
So I can assure you that PTSD is real, and this is from someone who three years ago thought it was all put on by whiners!
Through this PTSD my personality has changed, I feel like I have three personalities. I don't mean different identities, it's more like different sets of feelings or emotions, kind of like a Jeckyll and Hyde.
Fortunately for me I don't get to see the last one very often, and as long as I stay home a lot and don't get too stressed out I can stay in the middle one and occasionally I can get a glimpse of what I used to be.
I am at the stage now where I look forward to dying, then at last there will be peace. Unfortunately for me I cannot take my own life yet, if I die then my wife would only receive a War Widows pension, which is not a lot of money, so as long as I stay alive we receive enough money to manage on and for my wife to live fairly comfortably. I am extremely grateful for the way in which the Australian government looks after us, as I know that this is not the case in many other countries. So for now, it looks as if I must keep on existing on this planet until the friendly face of death finally comes to greet me. I despise myself for being like this, but I don't know how to change and it's impossible to try to explain it to anyone else, so I don't even bother any more.
So there you have it folks, that's my story. Fortunately I have a loving wife, two loving daughters (and a new grandson!) who for reasons beyond my understanding seem to care about me. I am sure that if it wasn't for the fact that I couldn't do anything to hurt or upset my wife, I would in all probability be either dead or in jail by now. She's the only reason I exist, and I don't have the ability to tell her that!
It's the end of November 2005 and I've had a day like I never have, I can think clearly and rationally but have no idea why. So I thought I'd share a little bit of info just to give you an idea of how absolutely moronic these psychiatrists are.
A few months back my local doctor (who is an exceptional guy) spent a lot of his time in finding a psychiatrist who was supposed to be very good at treating PTSD. I made an appointment to see him and at the appointment I told him exactly what had happened to me, including everything I had done (good and bad) without exaggeration or omission.
This psychiatrist came up with the brilliant response of telling me that he thought I should have been arrested and three times he told me that if I assaulted him he would call the police. He said this despite the fact that all I had done was to tell him what had happened to me previously.
He also suggested that I should be on a drug called Serequol and he told me that I should go home and read about it on the Internet to see if I wanted it. What sort of psychiatrist tells a patient to read up on prescription medication in order to decide if they want it? I would guess a fairly stupid one!!
I did find out about the drug and it turns out that it is prescribed for schizophenia, which is something that I definitely do not have. But I did notice that on his receptionists desk there were numerous items like pens, notepads etc that had Serequol advertising on them. Which perhaps answers the question of why he would want me (and others) to take a drug that he seems to like to advertise, how about a cutback from the drug company??
My doctor showed me a letter he had received from this psychiatrist and in it he said that I caused much of my own problems because of my aggressive nature, but I wasn't aggressive until I had PTSD and everytime the police were called it was because I had gone to a medical facility to try and get some help and instead of helping me they just argued and made me worse.
He also recommended that my own doctor put me on Senequol. This wasn't very ethical as my doctor pointed out. My doctor does not believe that I am schizophrenic any more than I do and in order to put me on this drug, he would have to contact Veterans Affairs and lie to them in order to get approval for this drug which I do not need.
I would suggest anyone look up Senequol on the internet and you will find some truly horror stories about what it can do.
This moronic psychiatrist's name is Dr Peter Furze of 12 Regent St, Adelaide. S.A. and without a doubt this guy should not treating veterans as he obviously has no sympathy or understanding of the problems associated with PTSD. And what sort of medical practitioner tells his patients to go and look up medications on the internet.
Here's a poem I wrote in 2001 which describes what it's like for me. Any other vets suffering with PTSD will understand and everyone else may be able to grab a brief glimpse of what it's like every day.
If he stays home alone,
And doesn't like to hear the phone.
If he won't answer the door,
'cause he doesn't want to see anyone any more.
Try to understand...
If nightime is something to dread,
And his sleep is restless and fleeting in bed.
If he quietly gets up in the night,
So as not to disturb your pleasant respite.
Try to understand...
If he becomes nervous and jumps around,
At unexpected movement or a sudden sound.
If he sits in a restaurant with his back to a wall,
Because he can't have anyone behind him at all.
Try to understand...
If he shows no fear and wouldn't turn if he could,
That part of him has gone that says you should.
If his anger seems quick and extreme,
He's only trying to control intense emotions unseen.
Try to understand...
If he seems emotionless and indifferent some day,
And perhaps he just says "Go away!"
If he becomes depressed and may seem unkind,
He is only trying to spare you the agony in his mind.
Try to understand...
If his mood changes and alters,
And he becomes unsure and often falters.
If he becomes sad and stares into space,
He has only gone to some other place.
Try to understand...Because he doesn't...
This is a fact sheet available from the Vietnam Veterans Counselling Service in Australia concerning the Vietnam war and it's effect on returned servicemen.
But it's a real shame that the people who work there don't seem to understand their own fact sheet.
What were the main features of the Vietnam combat?
Think about this one...
When the Lord was creating Vietnam Veterans, He was into His 6th day of overtime when an angel appeared, "You're certainly doing a lot of fiddling around on this one." And God said, "Have you seen the specs on this order? A Vietnamam vet has to be able to run 5 miles through the bush with a full pack on, endure with barely any sleep for days, enter tunnels his higher ups wouldn't consider going in, and keep his weapons clean and operable. He has to be able to sit in his hole all night during an attack, hold his mates as they die, go scout in unfamiliar territory known to be VC infested, and somehow keep his senses alert for danger. He has to be in top physical condition existing on 1 man rations and very little rest. And he has to have 6 pairs of hands."
The angel shook his head slowly and said, "6 pairs of hands....no way." "It's not the hands that are causing me problems....it's the 3 pairs of eyes a Vietnam vet has to have."
"Lord, take a break, and work on this tomorrow."
The angel walked around the model and said, "Can it think?"
"This Vietnam vet also has phenomenal personal control. He can deal with ambushes from hell, comfort a fallen soldier's family, and then read in his home town paper how Vietnam vets are baby killers, psychos, addicts and killers of innocent civilians."
The Lord gazed into the future and said, "He will also endure being vilified and spat on when he returns home, rejected and crucified by the very ones he fought for."
Finally, the angel slowly ran his finger across the vet's cheek, and said, "There's a leak...I told you that you were trying to put too much into this model."
"You're a genius," said the angel, casting a gaze at the tear.
The Lord looked very sombre, as if seeing down eternity's distant shores. "No ... because I didn't put it there," he said.