Saturday, April 21, 2012

From Heroes to Monsters...A Question not an Accusation

I originally wrote this on my other blog, Southern Girl's Stand, and decided to share it here as well...

It seems the Dr. Phil episode from yesterday, "From Heroes to Monsters?" has stirred up an increasingly crazy amount of controversy. Many have had very negative views on it, while others have seen nothing wrong. In the beginning, the title to the episode had me in a stage of anger and disappointment. It was a let down to think that Dr. Phil would stoop to a point of referring to our combat veterans as "monsters". After watching the show (and talking with a friend) I came to my senses on what was behind the phrase. He was not referring to veterans returning from combat as monsters, he was instead attempting to show that the label as "monsters" is a false label. As a friend put it, "hence the question mark. The question mark shows that was a question and not an accusation". I do, however, think the title could have been labeled as something different. Something that would not have instantly drawn so  much negative attention. Just by adding the word "monsters" to this topic has an instant negative impact.

The comment out of the whole show that disturbed me most was the one in which he stated that the service members returning from war are "damaged goods". I don't look at my husband as "damaged goods" and for anyone else to think that, refer to our veterans as that, or allow other people to believe that is purely upsetting. I would not want nor would I allow anyone in our lives that even thought for a moment that it would be okay to refer to my husband as "damaged goods", because he isn't. He enlisted in the army as an adult, a husband and father to two little girls. He left his family to fight for his country, for what he believed in, to keep those he loves and many others he has never met, safe. By enlisting, he proceeded to do one of the most selfless things a person can do. Him returning someone different, someone injured, someone with the daily battles and struggles of PTSD is NOT "damaged goods" by any means.

During another point of the show, Dr. Phil made a comment on them being healed - or something in that area. I cannot recall word for word what he said. PTSD cannot be cured. The memories and horrors cannot just be erased. What they did, lived through, witnessed will not just disappear. Everyday, every morning, every night these are wounds - many invisible - that the ones that did thankfully return will have to live with. I am not referring to something they will have to live with for a few days or months, but instead it will be something they live with everyday for the rest of their lives.

I do not feel like there was anything positive to take from this episode of Dr. Phil, which saddens me. In the world of PTSD, we often find ourselves looking for that shining light to guide us through. We want that glimpse of hope. The show did not offer that. It also portrayed the some of the worst cases, such as the veteran that caught his wives legs on fire. Was that PTSD or was there more of an underlying issue? To me that is very extreme. When Dr. Phil listed some of the signs of PTSD, he did not offer to give the ones that we as spouses and family members see everyday.

The episode and topic that was aired yesterday gave Dr. Phil and his producers the opportunity to explain PTSD and to educate not only the veterans and their families, but the general public as well. This was the chance to make society view veterans in a different manner. Instead of doing that, more fear was put into people by thinking of our veterans as nothing more than a liability. The stigma that the public has over combat veterans with PTSD has amplified since the episode aired yesterday. This should not be the case. This show did not make anything any easier for veterans and their families, instead, it may have made it much worse with the way society as a whole views veterans following an intense combat tour.

I say all of this as a wife of a wounded combat veteran, one that was married to her hero before the military came into our lives. We survived basic and AIT. We survived an uncountable amount of field probs, trainings, nights away, and deployments. I write this from the heart of a woman that sent her husband to war to have him return as a stranger. Over the past five years I have watched my world become one that I never imagined to exist, one that I never understood until faced with it. There isn't a very good way to understand it unless you live it daily.

As much as I would love for my husband to be the man that I married so long ago, I know that will not happen and I have grown to accept that. I have learned to cope and manage with the bad moments, days, and weeks. Where we are in life is simply where we are. We cannot change it. We can't reverse the PTSD, the TBI, or other injuries. I can't just bring the "old" Kevin back. Instead, I have adapted to who he is now and how our lives have changed. I have grown accustomed to checking out surroundings and thinking things through because I know there are many situations that he can no longer handle. I have changed our routine, as have our children out of the love we have for him. Do I fear him? Absolutely not. Do I fear the way he could act around others and the outbursts he could have? Often times I do. That is just part of this life that we now live. No matter how much Kevin came home changed, I am forever grateful that he came home. With so many close calls, I could have very well been that wife answering the door to the military informing me of his death, yet I wasn't. That alone makes these trying time worth it.

After watching this episode of Dr. Phil, I would give anything for others to become more educated in the life of Combat PTSD. I hope and pray for society to find a different stance when it comes to viewing our combat veterans and what their families live through. They are not monsters in any sense. They are not damaged goods. They are individuals that selflessly went to war, willing to give their lives if that's what duty called of them. Yes, they returned to us as someone different, but take the opportunity to educate yourself on why they returned differently and what PTSD really is.  Society makes veterans with PTSD out to be a threat, when in reality it's the memories, flashbacks, nightmares, sounds, smells, actions, and overall hell of war that never leaves. 

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