How to Deal With PTSD After Leaving The Military
When your military service is over and you are diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or suspect you or a loved one has it, one of the first and best things you should do is learn more about it so you can better manage and cope with the symptoms and strategize the recovery process.
Sites and organizations with comprehensive, easy-to-understand PTSD information include www.ptsd.va.gov and www.healmyptsd.com. Two of the best veterans organizations that offer resources and information for those with PTSD are IAVA (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America), and VCS (Veterans for Common Sense). Other sites that have helpful information about PTSD include Healing Combat Trauma, PTSD Combat: Winning the War Within, and PTSD: A Soldier's Perspective. These are all active, informative blogs that speak to and from the combat PTSD experience.
Once you begin learning about PTSD facts, it's helpful to have a guide to see if PTSD fits your personal symptoms and experience. A PTSD test a good place to begin gaining more clarity. You can take a PTSD test online at the following sites:
First thing you should do is go to the VA's site, www.va.gov/PTSD_QA.pdf, which gives you the very latest updates on how to file a clai. A lot of free military resources and materials that can help you in the process of filing a PTSD claim can also be obtained from Military Onesource. Another helpful resource that will give you information on how to file a PTSD claim is the PTSD Help Network. For a listing of reputable veteran service officers (VSO), lawyers, and claims agents, who are crucial when filing a claim and getting the appropriate disability rating for PTSD and other psychological and physical wounds, see this site.
If you are looking for a therapist at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), you can find a VA PTSD program at this site or a Vet Center near you. Vet Centers, which are a part of the VA but separate entities,offer free, confidential therapy for as many sessions as needed, and include individual, group, couples, and family therapy and lots of unique programming including arts, recreation, animal, and mind/body therapies.
If you're looking for a private therapist, a good resource is the Mental Health Services Locator (SAMHSA) at 800-662-4357. These two organizations will also help you find one: www.helppro.com/ptsd, where providers can be selected based on their location, treatment specialties, education, or types of insurance accepted, among other search criteria, and Give an Hour, where you can locate therapists nationwide who actually volunteer their time for free to veterans suffering from PTSD and other psychological issues.
Popular traditional treatments for PTSD include talk therapy and virtual exposure therapy, both of which engage the conscious mind and help it to make change. Popular alternative treatments that engage the subconscious mind ("the most powerful part at 88% of your brain," says PTSD expert and survivor Michele Rosenthal) include information processing therapies, including EMDR, which I've written about before on this site, EFT, and hypnosis, just to name a few.
According to Rosenthal, who founded www.healmyptsd.com, "A really comprehensive PTSD treatment program that includes both traditional and alternative methods engages both the conscious and subconscious realms of the mind is the most effective approach. Post-traumatic stress, at the bottom line, is this: After a trauma occurs, survivors get lost in the gap between who they were pre-trauma and who they become as a result of experience. PTSD treatment requires both professional and personal methods to build up your sense of security. Suddenly, the entire world has changed. How you perceive and know yourself has shattered. Helpful support includes one-on-one coaching, support groups, and community events."
If you're in San Diego County, you can reach out to ACVOW (American Combat Veterans of War), a group of veterans who help their fellow veterans cope with PTSD and other psychological issues and can also help with disability issues and the VA. You can also call the 24/7 Veteran Combat Call Center to talk to another combat veteran at 877-927-8387 (WAR-VETS).
The path of the military PTSD caregiver and familyisn't easy. There are, however, some places to find great support, such as www.notalone.com, which has forums and programs specifically designed to support PTSD family members. Seeds of Hope also offers terrific books for military families dealing with PTSD and deployment. Other recommendations that can help military families deal with PTSD include PTSD Relationship, an excellent book for the entire family, and the Sesame Workshop, which has resources for children coping with the PTSD of a parent.
These are two acclaimed, comprehensive books on PTSD:
The Lioness is a movie on women in combat from the Iraq War that depicts how former combat troops deal with PTSD and get their life back.
Horses for Heroes offers equine therapies for combat veterans.
Yoga for Vets offers a national listing of free veteran yoga classes.