The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.

A SURPRISINGLY HARD TIME |

August 24, 2007

A SURPRISINGLY HARD TIME
Name: SGT Roy Batty
Posting date: 8/25/07
Returned from: Iraq
Stationed in: Germany
Hometown: Yellow Springs, Ohio
Email: sgtroybatty@yahoo.com

The truth is that I have been having a surprisingly hard time since getting to Germany, and the Army medical system seems woefully unprepared to help. I've been hearing all of these reports in the media about how the Army is on top of the PTSD problem and is starting all of these great new programs to help their returning soldiers. The reality is that, at least here in Bavaria, all of that is quite simply bullshit.

There currently is not a single psychiatrist in all of Southern Germany; the only person who can prescribe medication for PTSD is a nurse practicioner who took three weeks to get me anything. I've been seeing a very cool psychologist -- ex-Marine, Vietnam vet -- but we've done no actual therapy, and since he is a part-time civilian, he is completely uninformed on how the Army deals with and discharges PTSD soldiers. I find that for the most part, I am left to deal with the symptoms on my own.

Fortunately I'm not too bad. The worst aspect is the panic attacks -- y'know, mind racing, keyed up, ready to fight or run for the bunkers but nothing is there. That, and the really bizarre and very intense nightmares that make me wake up at five in the morning; once I do finally get to sleep. What really worries me is the thought that I could be a 19-year-old private, left alone in his barracks room with only a bottle of Jack Daniels and some seriously self-destructive shit floating around in his noggin. At least I'm a bit older and have a supportive wife, and a fair bit of knowledge on the subject.

Writing about the experiences downrange has been difficult. I've sat down a bunch of times to write the second half of My Last Day in Baghdad, but rehashing the events minute to minute just brings out a lot of very intense negative stuff, and I find that I have to put it aside. My mother, of all people, suggested simply approaching it from that angle -- i.e. trying to write about it but not being able to, which I think would help. We'll see how it goes. I appreciate the emails I've received from folks asking for the second installment; that's actually really helpful, knowing that there are concerned and supportive people out there.

Roy Batty ain't dead yet, he's just down at Tyrell Corporation for some maintenance.  :-)

Comments

Just let 'er rip, Roy -- let that intense negative stuff flow. Write it, and vent all that bile at the idiots and wimps and armchair quarterbacks. You don't have to publish it all, but it's worthwhile to get it out where you can look at it. It may be negative, but that doesn't mean it isn't true or real. Writing doesn't fix a thing, but it'll bring you some peace because it forces you to put it in concrete terms where it's easier to deal with than some amorphous mass of fury and frustration.

Maybe that very cool psychologist could put together a counseling group for those with PTSD. The group work has helped my recovery from Vietnam more than anything else. If it doesn't do another thing, it'll show you that you're not the only one feeling like you are and not the only one acting like you are. It'll help you see that you're not crazy; you're normal for someone who's experienced what you have. That's not the same normal as other people, but it's still a version of normal.

The panic attacks, the nightmares, the intrusive thoughts . . . they'll probably soften as you deal with them in the group. And it helps tremendously to help each other instead of spending so much time focused within. Reach out to some of the others -- my bet is that it'll help you heal, too.

And keep these posts coming . . .

Dear Roy, You don't owe us anything. We owe you. Write on your own schedule. You see it happens to the strong and older soldiers as well as the young and innocent ones.

Here in California, we just heard that one of the troops in the copter crash this week was from nearby. His family is mourning the death of a second son in Iraq.
Who needs this s..t.!

Take your time healing and do it right! Good luck and we are praying for you.

It'll be good to hear when/if you're ready, but take your time. Contrary to popular belief, talking about specifics of what actually happened is only therapeutic if it works for you. Others' PTSD therapy is just as successful by focusing on and managing symptoms (like the ones you've described).

I'll keep you in my prayers.

Roy, the neglect and lack of support we are offering the returning troops (esp, the PTSD folks and all the folks with head injuries and brain damage, though of course there's no point in ranking suffering), makes me madder than anything else about this shithole war. You and your comrades deserve the best help there is for dealing with the neurological and mental wounds. And you're getting yet another PR offensive instead. Just like the Katrina refugees, two years later. My heart and prayers go out to you, your comrades, and your families, Sandra in California

We all would like to know what happened. I have been concerned about how you are doing. Take your time, none of us are going anywhere.

Roy, I'm glad your wife is supportive. I agree with the guy who suggested getting a group going. My friend is a Viet Nam combat vet who still has PTSD. He goes to group and individual counseling once a week still - it helps a lot. This war brought up a LOT of memories and he has withdrawn from us, to a degree, to protect us. He was an alcohlic but has been dry for 20 years. Please don't try to hide those memories with booze, it doesn't work.

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your wife. I'll be here.

Roy, I will pray for you and your wife. God has blessed you by giving you a wonderful wife to take care of you and God has especially blessed all of us by giving us soldiers like you who are willing to fight for our country (even if we're in something we shouldn't be in). Thanks for taking watch, and letting me live free by taking the sacrifices.

Sgt,

Please keep pushing for the help you need, if not just for you, for that 19 year old private. The rest of your team is going to be back soon, and I'll bet some of them will benefit from the heads you're knocking on now.

Take care of yourself.

Liz

Your Mom is right (Moms are sometimes!) - don't push if it makes your symptoms worse. It may be a long while before you can write of those events. You write so well and have so much to say, it does not have to be the most difficult things for you to confront that see the light of day from your word processor right now.

It is very distressing that you are having the symptoms you are. More distressing still that there are so few resources to combat them. I can only say, Sgt Batty, that you have my prayers that you will come through the mine field you are in soon so that you may go on to a productive life on the other side which you so richly deserve.

Meanwhile I was glad to see your humor is still intact with the Tyrell Corporation reference! :) God bless...

"my mother of all people...?" wtf? Moms rock. Who knows your sorry ass better? It's so wrong that there is no better help for you over there however. My prayers and thoughts are with you all.

It was not Glen Helen..
it was a nightmare..
damm. Blindsided..
Took time to get there
with your good heart..
will take time to come
back. We are with you.

Have you tried Melatonin and DHEA? Melatonin takes a week or two to kick in, and the DHEA takes a couple of days. Melatonin helps you to get to sleep. DHEA takes the edge off the stress. Take Excedrin, Ibuprophen, asprin, whatever. Make sure you're not in any pain, even aches and pains, because the brain takes the pain message and associates it with the most recent memory (or the most profound -- I'm not sure which) which would likely cause you pain.

Which, in your case, would be some BA brown skinned folks in a place hotter'n Hell. All of that could turn to shit in a heartbeat. The brain, not quite sure what's going on, starts working overtime to make sense of the inside/outside stuff, and makes up a story to explain it all. If you're experiencing it, it's really scary, sucks balls, and makes you doubt your sanity.

Which is where us old timers come in. Sure, yours' is different. But it's more the same when you get used to what's happening. OK, bad shit happens to good people. Look back; you did your duty, you responded to crazy shit all around you, and one day, you acted in a non-PC way. In other words, you responded appropriately to insanity. Mebbe even got a little on ya, but you'll clean up pretty good. Really, you will. For right now, sleep loss (I still wake up several times a night, but i'm safe, and I'm OK), intrusive thoughts, rememberances, vivid as all Hell, of Hell, will be a big part of it.

But hey, except for the sundown flag lowering (THAT used to be real amusing. Some grunt would come back to NS San Diego, The cannon would go off at sunset for the flag lowering, and we'd watch to see who jumped or dived for the bushes. It was funny because we did it the first day -- hell first few days -- we got back. If you wanted to be a really sadistic asshole, you could yell , "INCOMING!" after the cannon salute. The FNG would come over, call you an SOB and bum a smoke. Ah, the innocent merriment of it all.

There won't be any cannon fire or mortars, and I doubt the PX holds any real dangers. Figure it's all a brain TV extravaganza, and you'll get tired of the re-runs and eventually switch the channels. No, really, you will. Seriously, it never goes away completely, but it gets smaller, weaker, and more proportionate. FWIW, I'd love to have you for a neighbor on my block, and if you want to get into the union, I'll recommend you for the Helments to Hardhats program.

Let me know if I can help.

I have PTSD too, but not because of any conflict I fought in. I'm sorry to hear that you aren't getting the help you deserve/need. It wouldn't be the first time the U.S. government has let it's people down. Hopefully someone will get things going like they should and things will be better for you and your fellow soldiers. peace be with you

Roy,

There are not just a few people who want to know how you are and are rooting for you. I think there may be thousands. Keep your mind open for the day that you can finally sit and write what you need to get out. It'll take time, but be patient and just let it come. Your great gift for expression will assert itself and it will flow.

Meanwhile, all the best to you and your family.

Hey Roy, I'm just a normal college kid who wanted to thank you for all you've done. I'm sorry that your not receiving any real help right now, and just thought that you should know that theirs a lot of praying going on so just hang in there. Your stories help remind us their is still a war going on, and their are real people in it. Thanks for all you've done.

Hello Roy,

I, too, want to thank you for what you have done. Please take care of yourself!

Helen

Dear Roy,

Thanks for writing in. It was good to see your name. And good that you've recognized the PTSD (as crappy as it is). I hope things start to get better soon. Take care,

Keiran

here's a bit more fun from folks who have been to Iraq - the Army Wrong website (to counter the "Army Strong" message)

www.armywrong.net

here's a bit more fun from folks who have been to Iraq - the Army Wrong website (to counter the "Army Strong" message)

www.armywrong.net

Sgt Batty,

You told me what manner of a man you are when you told us about worrying about some 19 year old private...besides your Mom and wife, there is a while invisible support structure out here pulling for you. Please use your wonderful gift even if you never write about the rest of this story. Try letting that pain out a little at at time (like a pressure cooker) or talk/write it to death as you're able. If you can do that you'll get better. There is no timetable as long as you can let all the stuff go instead of protecting it.

All of us out here are pulling for you and trying to breathe for you until you can do it again on your own. Please let us hear from you when you can.

Dear Roy,

I want to add my voice to those who are with you as you work through PTSD.

I don't care whether or not anyone is in favor or not in favor of Iraq (or Afghanistan) for that matter. Either we get serious about honoring those who fight and that means providing proper care or we get out now.

Give your mom some credit!!! We have a lot more on tap than than people realize! Tip for ptsd: treat yourself like you're getting over a major physical trauma. Do your best not to get overtired. This is really important. Get excercise, of course, but spend as much time as possible keeping a low profile, try to nap, don't short yourself on sleep. Do what you can to sleep. Eat good food, avoid junk and too much booze.
Focus on ordinary stuff you like; your wife, friends, family, the dog. This can be really sustaining.
Get outdoors. It's above politics and war, and it matters. It's where you really live.
Don't freak yourself out on your own symptoms, just be an interested, compassionate observer. Take an interest in how well you're coping, help yourself out. (This sounds weird!) This is your brain on stress.
You're returning from one war zone to that which is essentially another; assimilating and processing what you have been exposed to.
I'm glad you're still kicking.

Dear Sgt. Batty,

Thank you so much for sharing your story. Thank you, thank you, thank you for serving our country! I'm so appreciative that you're talking about the PTSD situation ....hopefully that helps to make a change for the better.

Best wishes to you and your family.

Sincerely,
Lana

I think it is great that you write about your symptoms of PTSD. I know from personal experience that not all of the vets are so eager to talk about it, or to address the problem at all. I agree that writing down your feelings and concerns will help to alleviate some of the pressure weighing on you and let you work through some of your feelings on a piece of paper as opposed to trying to cope with your feelings while all bottled up inside of you. One thing to remember is to talk. Talk to your loved ones, family and friends. When you have feelings of anger or resentment build up inside you try and find a constructive way to unleash that energy into something positive. After leaving a war zone I can only imagine that the feelings of anxiety and stress are normal and have varying degrees from person to person. I cannot attempt o judge how to fix the problem, but know that the best way to face a problem is head on and I think it is very healthy for you to share your feelings as others are probably having the same type of anxiety and it would help them to read the feelings of another soldier. Thank you for all you have done for our country and keep posting!

Welcome home, brother.

As near as I can tell, we don't get over it. Nothing makes it go away. It does fade from the front of your mind. It becomes just a good story. Still important, but just a story.

Here are a couple of things you gotta learn:

The shrinks aren't gods. (They already made a huge mistake by separating you from your men.) Shrinks are often crazier than you. Lean on them when you gotta, but your goal is to throw the crutches away.

Your greatest handicap is that official paper that says you are crazy. It is a immutable. You are not immutable. You have a very long life yet to live. Eventually that paper will be nearly meaningless. That paper must not make YOU believe you are crazy, or all is lost... for awhile.

The hardest thing to overcome is other people's expectations of you "now that you are crazy." This is a tough one because as a member of your culture, you share those expectations. Do what makes you happy, not what "they" expect.

The best thing that happened to me was reading "Battle for the Mind" written by a WW2 shrink. I recommend it. He says combat fatigue, brain washing, religious conversion, and Pavlov's dogs are all the same thing. He puts it in perspective. He says that all it means is that you are normal; that you are responding normally to extraordinary circumstances.

If you are ever near, let me buy you a root beer. We can swap lies and share dreams, then get to the important stuff like love and children and hobbies.

Welcome home, brother. You are among friends.

Art

Sgt.

Glad to see that you’re still alive and kicking, mad as hell to hear about the ptsd.

Don’t worry about writing for us, write for you. You are a very gifted writer so try writing about anything that comes to mind. Write about the funny stuff that happened back in the mound, the pranks you pulled on each other, and how stupid the military really is. Write about anything that comes to you and don’t worry about us and posting it. Do it for you.

We are all here behind you 100% and we’ll help in anyway that we can. Just know that we stand behind you and all of the others with problems from this miserable war.

My prayers are with all of you.

I am glad you are out of the sandbox, sorry the Army is again falling short on taking care of mental detox issues.
I KNOW It is no help help at all to know you are not alone in that situation....it is unjust that you got this issue taking care of issues the nation started. And now you have to deal with it more or less on your own. I am confident that you will be able to do so....and when you do, you will be able to help others who are less endowed with ability to self-help. But in the meanwhile, it sucks rocks. The Tyrell Corp. folks are a bunch of dildos, aren't they?

ME AND SKI CALLED PTSD THE "BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS"....
i still laugh when we made that joke up after we got our formal diagnosos. we were punch drunk on the mixed up meds we got from some poor army doc who clearly was not happy being sent downrange to our tiny little FOB.

from one fellow sufferer to another, stay strong. there is a light at the end of the tunnel- granted it may be backblast of an rpg, but hey, at least its a light..... ;)

Just want to say a thank you for a job well done. I have a son coming home from a second tour. He has PTSD from his first tour and I imagine this will be worse. I have learned about PTSD and how to deal with it. I know after he has an outburst that it is worse on him then the things he spewed at me. I understand. You are a very smart man and have alot going for you. Now an idea hit me. Why not just tape you story instead of writing? Just having it out is the most helpful. Having family who loves you also will be very helpful. I think you are very very brave and not nuts at all. I think you just need time to heal. I believe you will make it and be well. I shall pray for you. God bless you. You did what you needed to do as well as many others. Like I told my son shoot first ask questions later. I told him his job was to come home.

I am really sorry to hear about what you are going through...It is sickening that after everything you have done and gone through for our country that our government can not have professionals available for you and other soldiers. I am glad you have a supportive wife to help you through this. Just know we are all thinking of you and supporting you as well. Best wishes and take care.

You'll write it when you write it. In the mean time, take care of yourself, and watch out for aspiring composers in trenchcoats who talk to themselves:)

I don't have a refrain
Just a chorus

Keep up the good progress.
We all care.
Live everyday.
Love your wife.

And I wish I had a Sgt. like you when I was in.

Peace,

Mike

All great advise above...there is one simple but very important thing I do, in times of stress, overload, exhaustion, just about at the end of my rope,is the only thing I can do...breath, I know it sounds stupid,but I know I can control that one thing at that very moment of when the panic attacks hits. Breath...in thru the nose out thru your abdomin. Place your hand on your stomach take a breath in, and breath all the horseshit out. Sometimes it might be the smallest of things that help. Peace to you and your family, may you find the smallest of pleasures that are all around you that might somehow give you more enlightenment during those times.

I can’t help but empathize with those who are suffering from Physical and Mental injuries. I’m sure the military is stretched thin when it comes to health care providers because, once trained, they can make so much more money in the private sector.

I agree with Sgt. Batty with respect to his family’s frustration in obtaining the required and due assistance he is deserving of. He writes that he has taken up writing to cope with his pain. We all deal with emotional pain differently and at different levels. Some are able to simply get on with life such and other find ways of expressing that pain.

Sgt Batty writes to release his pent emotions and experiences. I did the same thing when my father past 6yrs ago. It took awhile to finish and it went no further than me but it was a way to “release” everything inside of me..

Dang sorry to hear that you couldn't get the help that you needed. Stay strong and just always be thankful that you have a supportive wife and something to keep fighting for.

After reading your comments, I go back to my father’s own experiences. He is a Vietnam Veteran- A Marine. He has a purple heart with the shrapnel still in his system as a reminder. He is still, to this day, messed up both physically and mentally. My husbands father dealt with Agent Orange and is still waiting for Cancer assistance from 12 years ago. My brother in law came home without even a psychological evaluation. In our own country, the health care system is messed up enough. Don’t you think that they would at least provide the care you all deserve! I am thankful for your dedication to our freedom and as a first-time poster, I am praying for you and everyone’s safe recovery.

Words don't do it justice but - Thank you.

Words don't do it justice but - Thank you.

Hey,

I don't have PTSD, but I do have anxiety which I have to take meds for. I really hope you get some help soon and I'm sorry for what you're going through. Please hang in there. Meds really do help anxiety a lot. There's hope.

Thanks for sharing.

I am sorry you’re not getting the help you deserve right now. Thank you for all you have done. I will be praying for you and for your wife.

I'm sorry to hear that you guys don't have many doctors available to help with therapy or medication. You were strong to do what you have done, as you will be strong enough to get through this. Thanks for posting this blog. It really helped me to understand what a lot of you guys go through. We are all so grateful. I know writing your feelings and thoughts out really help to deal with things and I'm glad you are doing just that. Stay strong, you're in my prayers.

Sgt. Roy,

you know you are in our thoughts.

to think that in a great part of those wars that dotted human history so far, those who did what you did on your last day in Baghdad (a single man standing up against enemy fire, or iron, or whatever it was) were called "heroes", and there was no finger-waving at them, no armchair disapproval -- funny how mankind's mind changed in only a few thousand years.

but you are a real hero, I believe, the real kind of hero, because you have the lucidity of calling things by their name, you face your new battle (possibly tougher than any other battle you faced so far) with your head up, you worry about that 19 years old private facing the same battle all alone and clueless on his bunk.
you'll make it, you know you have to, so that 19 years old boy can eventually find a Sarge who can show him the ropes of life after war and teach him how to fight that battle that no one, over there, seems to know how to tackle.

p.s. why don't you suggest your psychologist to start read the Doonesbury strips that feature B.D. and Elias? just to start giving him a clue...

Hang in there! Thanks for your service! We're praying for you back home.

It always saddens me to hear that a soldier that has fought for our country isn't being repaid by his country that he served. Thank you for your service. You are truely a hero. We support you here, even if it seems like your country sometimes doesn't.

It always saddens me to hear that a soldier that has fought for our country isn't being repaid by his country that he served. Thank you for your service. You are truely a hero. We support you here, even if it seems like your country sometimes doesn't.

Roy, I prescribe large doses of well deserved R&R and hope that you are back to your old self in time to thump a few Antioch hippies, there's only a year left. Time heals all wounds, unless you pick at them. Take care Sarge.

My thoughts and prayers are with you. God bless

Hey Roy, My heart and prayers goes out to you buddy! You are not the only one experiencing these problems, Please don't let the VA not help you, the way you need help. If writing about it helps temporarly, great! But you need one on one contact and input and compasssion from a professionaql that is trained to helpo guy's like yourself and so many others. If they are not giving you the services you so dearly need, then you have to take action against them, but most defianetly not by yourself! Be very brutily hohnest with your family, if you have no family, get ahold of a good friend and ask for the help to accomplish these actions. My sister helped me once I let her know what was really wrong with me. They see something isn't quite right, but they see you abusing drugs or alcohol, or they assume you are getting the help you need. Have your family or frined contact your home town church(s) or civic organization(s) and get them to help, they know the local attorneys that wil do your case pro-bono. They have the man power, connections and money to make a case against the VA and your branch of service for not properly treating your PTSD. I personnally am still haunted with PTSD, it took 20 years of Alcohol abuse and drug abuse for me to get the help I really needed, not just the many prescribed drugs to numb my brain hey threw at me as a fix. Since I served 20 years ago, I had to finnally go onto disability, I had to use my Medicare Services to get the help I needed for so many years. But the VA is paying for those services because I can not travel the 75 miles to the nearest VA Hospital/Clinic. You may not feel you are as bad off as others, the main thing is that "you" have a problem, it needs treatment before you leave active duty. Once on the outside, you will be treated like the 100's of thousands others with some sort of PTSD or other mental problem like clinical depression or even a nueralogical illness. I only received the help I much needed by enlisting my home church, others in my community and the local TV Stations. All this help made it absouloutly impossiable for the VA to sweep me and my mental health issues under the rug, which they are doing to hundreds to thousands every day. The only government that will help you is your home town area senator. Have your family help you with this problem by doing all the leg work for you. It is most true, the squeakiest wheel does get the most grease, you just have to be so loud and make such a comotion, that they provide the help you most need today, not years down the road. It's all about "public Relations and their activities to maintain a positive perception of the services being provided to our enlisted and the discharged residents in each state. If you wait, your at very, very high risk of Alcohol Abuse and/or Drug Abuse as your medicine, just to kill all the mental anguish PTSD causes. Fight harder than ever before, you personally are serving your government by providing what job(s) you were/are assigned and you have done those jobs, I am sure you did them at 150% and as well as you possiably could, so why shouldn't the VA work just as hard to help you get the professional help you most desperatly need. Good luck, you are in my heart and prayers. I hope you find the help to get you well soon! If yo don't have any luck, please write back to me and send me specific infomation so I can see what help I can find in my home state to help you.

Peace Brother! Stay safe!

I am sorry that you are having problems with getting the proper medical treatment you need. I am glad that you have family to help you through this. I hope you know that I am praying for you and all the other soldiers over seas. I am thankful that there are people like you, willing to risk your lives for our country. Thank you for everything you have done.

Sir,

Did Sebastian accidently kill the real Tyrell who was in cryo(?), and the Tyrell Baty killed was a replicant?

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