Grass is Greener Veterans, Regret Veterans & Depressed Veterans – What is PTSD?
This op-ed was written by Mat Best (MBest11X) for Military Minds. You may recognize Mat from his videos (How to be an Operator is still my favorite, though Perception vs. Reality runs a close second.). Military Minds is an excellent organization that some of you reading this might benefit from engaging. Note – NSFW language in places.
What is PTSD?
First a little about me, I am a 5 time combat Veteran of both OIF and OEF. My military time was spent in 2nd Ranger Battalion.
So what is PTSD? We all know it stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but aside from the media label, WHAT is it? I am in no way a medical professional, but sometimes life experience outweighs a scholarly approach. Through my life experiences I have worked with some of the toughest guys on the planet. Whether or not anyone will ever admit it, everyone is affected by war in some way. It is time that veterans who have learned how to live life happily start supporting those in need. Because I swear to God if I see one more AFN commercial about PTSD, I’m breaking my TV! I am going to break down how I view PTSD. This is merely my opinion and I am writing this to hopefully help you and others understand what is going through a veteran’s head.
The Grass is Always Greener Veteran – This could not describe me any better. Although I have fortunately dealt with war experiences very well, I still to this day have these feelings. The transition period of getting out of the military or not deploying to a combat environment can often be very difficult. Even though when you are deployed all you want to do is go home! Emotions, right? They’re a mother effer! This is the veteran who stays up at night with a bottle of Jameson looking at his cool guy pictures from his past deployments. I know for me, it was hard to be a senior team leader in Ranger Battalion delivering freedom to the world’s enemies’ faces one day, only to be some normal 23yr old the next day. My advice for this veteran (as cheesy as it sounds) is look at yourself in the mirror. Be proud of what you have accomplished, you have lived and survived fighting a war. There is a reason you succeeded in the military. Although that chapter is closed, focus your life’s direction with the same motivation that made you so great in war. Find what you love in life and be good at it. In the words I will tell my unborn children, I don’t care what you are, just be a great one. Nothing will ever satisfy the rush you got hunting the Taliban in the mountains of Afghanistan, but use those experiences to prove to society that veterans can be better than some of those wanky ass civilians who never stood up to protect the innocent.
[Note: Mat advises he doesn't put it that last sentence in such a way to impugn or denigrate civilians, particularly those who contribute to society, but rather phrased it that way because he wanted to really drive home the importance of veterans' service, in an article that was originally meant for veterans only - please don't take it out of that context. David Reeder]
The Regret Veteran – War is absolute shit. Things happen that we wish didn’t happen and those moments will plague your mind until you take control of them. This is the Veteran who saw, participated, or acted in a way that still affects him to this day. To be relevant to this veteran, I will tell you a personal story. On a mission in OIF, my platoon was ambushed during an infil route to kill or capture Mr. Bad Guy. There were about eight insurgents that engaged us. My Ranger platoon destroyed these guys within minutes. In the firefight, these guys were shooting from their houses with their kids in them. In the chaos, two little girls were killed. This is the worst part about war. Nobody ever wants to see a civilian causality, let alone beautiful little girls that should have grown up and lived life. So how do you deal with experiences like this? Get over it and don’t be a bitch right? Well it’s not that easy for a lot of people. You as a Regret Veteran need to look at yourself in the mirror and be confident with who you know you are. No matter what the scenario is that is impacting you, dig deep and know who you truly are. Know that your true moral and ethical practices that guide you day-to-day would never ever let you harm someone intentionally like this. War is shit and the outcomes are never pretty, you more than likely had no cognitive understanding of the outcome of the scenario that plagues you. In example, when I engaged the threat that night, I had absolutely no clue these a-holes would be firing AK-47s and PKMs at my platoon with their children inside. I had no control over the outcome. I have accepted this; you need to do this also. Don’t let the past guide your future. In the road of life, you pave the ground. You’re going to hit speed bumps and you will not always be proud of every moment; but it’s up to you…right now… to prove to yourself you are better than what you are defining yourself by. Turn your regret into motivation to help others. You will never be happy with what happened, but use your emotions to drive positive change in your life and prove that you are better.
The Depressed Veteran – Although this can cover the two discussed above, it can be a standalone too. This is the Veteran that has a hard time dealing with any part of his or her experiences. I will reference another personal story in hopes to relate to you. On a mission in OIF, my team leader and squad leader were both killed while we were clearing a house. I tried to render first aid, but the wounds were too bad and they both passed away. Anyone who has experienced a loss goes through a rollercoaster of emotion. You start asking so many questions. Why them? Could I have done something better? You can play the “what if” game all day long and the only place it gets you is depressed. So how can we deal with experiences like this? After loosing both of them and a very close friend soon after in a similar scenario, I sat down with myself and examined my feelings. Emotional management can be very hard, but take a step back and take control. When you are feeling depressed, do not let these feelings take control. Step back and rationally analyze the emotions you are having. The fact is you are going to miss your friends. I would cut my legs off to bring any one of them back, but they are gone. This may sound morbid, but to help deal with your emotions, metaphorically replace yourself with them in the situation that occurred. Sit down and say, what if it was me that day? How would you want your friends to act when you pass away? Would you want your friends to spiral down in depression and ruin their lives? My friends died heroes and fighting for freedom. It is my obligation to live a life of happiness and freedom because of their sacrifice. I know that they would want the same for me. They are fallen, but not forgotten. Use their memory to live a happy life the way they would want you to.
I may not have covered exactly what you are dealing with but just know that whatever you are dealing with it gets better. Just as any experience, people deal with things differently and often create coping mechanisms to deal with stress and trauma. Just like the enemy, you need to fight your issues face to face. Life is about laughter and that is what has guided me through life as a happy person. Don’t take things too seriously: be thankful for your experiences. Good or bad, they have shaped you into the strong person you are today. You are a Veteran who has brothers in arms all over that are willing to help you at the drop of a hat. Take for instance myself; I have lived through some crazy experiences. I have taken those experiences and tried to benefit others with them. Even if all I do is make stupid YouTube videos, bringing laughter to someone who needs it is worthwhile. Never feel alone. Just because you may need help does not make you weak, it makes you strong for manning-up and changing your life for the better. We have all been there.
If you’re having a bad day and none of this has helped you, just think about Afghanis [sic] trying to do jumping jacks. That shit is hilarious.
Note: the cat has its own fan page.