For the record I dont buy this, I have been diagonised with PTSD before, but not curently, either way I don't find this accurate.
NY Times 3/22
Link to article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/ma...imes&seid=auto
Post-Traumatic Stress’s Surprisingly Positive Flip Side
Sgt. Jeffrey Beltran pulled a heavily creased Post-it note from the pocket of his fatigues, unfolded it and looked over a list he jotted down earlier that day: pick up an order of beef lo mein, take his dress uniform to work (jacket, pants and boots), do schoolwork. Beltran’s Army-issue organizer is also filled with these reminders, and he checks them every so often to jog his memory — folding and unfolding them throughout the day. Beltran’s life is filled with sticky notes because his short-term memory is no longer reliable, a result of what the Army calls a mild traumatic brain injury that he suffered in an I.E.D. attack in Iraq in 2005.
“I have pictures,” said Beltran, who is 44, as he pulled a worn Ziploc bag from his backpack and removed a half a dozen photographs. He began laying the images on his desk. “We were turning our vehicle around when we got hit.”
The photos, taken right after the explosion, show a plowed field next to a road. A few palm trees frame the horizon. In the foreground there is a deep crater. About 20 feet away, the front half of a Humvee is turned upside down. The back half is gone — parts were later discovered hundreds of feet away. When the bomb exploded, Beltran was launched into the air and landed between the blast hole and the Humvee. When he came to, he couldn’t stand up. “I knew something was wrong,” he said. “I felt swelling inside my legs. I was hyperventilating in the heat. The dirt was starting to settle down. I called out to my guys. I couldn’t see them.”
The blast broke Beltran’s knee and leg, fractured his lower spine and buried shrapnel in his thigh; the violent jolt caused his brain injury. He suffered so many wounds that he had to pause in the retelling to make sure he hadn’t left anything out. He underwent 14 operations over the next year. “I was dealing with post-traumatic stress, anger, all the emotions, the ups and downs, the physical, emotional, psychological pain,” he told me. “I was really angry. I wanted to get healed and get back into the fight.”
By 2007, Beltran was on several medications: Clonazepam and Buspirone for anxiety, Celebrex for pain and other pills for depression. Yet the Army deployed him again, this time to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, where he coordinated with nongovernmental organizations to clear minefields. He saw a farmer blown up. A soldier he worked with closely was killed. Whenever a soldier died, a memorial service was announced over the public address system, and the base’s main road was shut down for the soldier’s final ride to the mortuary. “That wears on you,” Beltran said. “As much as you want to avoid it, death is always in front of you.”
After six months in Afghanistan, Beltran was given a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and sent home. The Army offered him a medical discharge, but he declined. Beltran’s father served 21 years in the Navy, and his grandfather survived the Bataan death march. So despite all the troubles that followed — he was even hospitalized after considering suicide — he stayed in the Army.
Slowly, though, Beltran began noticing surprising changes. Before the blast, he drifted. He spent a lot of his free time playing video games. Like many soldiers, he was more concerned with figuring out how to cope from one deployment to the next than with finding a direction. He is different now. The bombing, the P.T.S.D. and the challenges he faced changed him. And he thinks he has changed for the better. “This whole experience has helped me to be more open, more flexible,” he told me. “I am branching out to activities that I was once uncomfortable with.” Beltran has taken rigorous tests in pursuit of a promotion. He’s taking online courses toward a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He discovered a sense of spirituality, and although he and his first wife divorced, he has remarried and reconnected with his parents, from whom he distanced himself after the explosion.
Beltran spent years in therapy and read many books about people who surmounted adversity, all of which, he says, helped him change. More recently, through classes and group therapy at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, he was introduced to the science and thinking behind this psychological change. “It’s given it a name,” Beltran said, “and has enhanced my personal development.” The name for Beltran’s change is post-traumatic growth. And the classes he takes are part of a $125 million Army-wide program called Comprehensive Soldier Fitness, which is intended to help soldiers become more resilient and to help them recognize how the trauma of combat can change them for the better. For years, Beltran carried photos of the explosion to remind himself of what he overcame. Now, he says, he carries those pictures to show to others. “I want to share my experience,” he told me. “Whatever knowledge or wisdom I have.”
The idea that people grow in positive ways from hardship is so embedded in our culture that few researchers even noticed that it was there to be studied. Richard Tedeschi, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, who is both a researcher and a clinician, discovered it in a roundabout way, while he was looking for a new research project. “I thought, Who do I want to know the most about, distressed or violent or crazy people?” he told me. “Instead, I think I want to know about wise people. Perhaps I’ll learn something myself.” He and Lawrence Calhoun, who is also a psychologist at U.N.C., started their research by interviewing survivors of severe injuries. He then went on to survey older people who had lost their spouses. Person after person told them the same thing: they wished deeply that they had not lost a spouse or been paralyzed, but nonetheless, the experience changed them for the better.
Patterns began to emerge in a follow-up study of more than 600 trauma survivors. People reported positive change in five areas: they had a renewed appreciation for life; they found new possibilities for themselves; they felt more personal strength; their relationships improved; and they felt spiritually more satisfied. Tedeschi developed an inventory to track and measure the phenomenon, and in 1995, he and Calhoun coined the term “post-traumatic growth.” Experiencing growth in the wake of trauma, Tedeschi asserts, is far more common than P.T.S.D. and can even coexist with it.
Since P.T.S.D. was accepted as a legitimate condition five years after the end of the Vietnam War, the military has put vast resources into coping with it. The Department of Veterans Affairs spent more than $5 billion on mental-health services last year. Soldiers are screened for P.T.S.D. symptoms after deployment, and chaplains, social workers and psychologists are trained to spot them. The disorder combines anxiety and an inability to regulate the fear response. For some, the symptoms never completely abate. These soldiers often relive their traumatic experiences over and over. They have trouble sleeping. They are always on hyper-alert. In 2010, the Army gave a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder to 10,756 troops, up from 4,967 in 2005.
With so much attention, understandably, on the disorder, few researchers have asked soldiers about positive changes they might have experienced. The ones that did found startling results. One of the first studies, published in 1980, was conducted on aviators captured during the Vietnam War. It reported that 61 percent said they had benefited psychologically from their experience of captivity. The airmen foreshadowed the themes that would later become the foundation of Tedeschi’s work. Many said that they had stronger religious convictions and enjoyed life more. They said they appreciated others more. Those treated most harshly by their captors reported the most positive change. Perhaps it was no more than the desire to give meaning to a horrible time in their lives, but a follow-up study conducted 25 years later found that the soldiers remained convinced that the captivity had changed them for the better.
Last spring, Tedeschi was in Wilmington, N.C., to speak to about 150 veterans, military family members and social workers. He is a tall, wiry man with deep-set eyes and a soft, even voice. After his presentation, we had lunch in the student snack bar, where he explained the dynamics of post-traumatic growth. Only a seismic event — not just an upsetting experience — can lead to this kind of growth. By that Tedeschi means an event that shakes you to your core and causes you to question your fundamental assumptions about the world. Survivors of such severe trauma inevitably confront questions about existence that most of us avoid, and the potential for growth comes not from the event itself but from the struggle to make sense of it. Tedeschi calls this rumination, and he argues that it can happen alongside P.T.S.D., after P.T.S.D. or in its absence. “The challenge is to see the opportunities presented by this earthquake,” Tedeschi says. “Don’t just rebuild the same crappy building you had before. Why not build something better?”
On a late spring morning, 180 soldiers gathered in the basement of a Sheraton hotel in Philadelphia. Most were sergeants who had completed at least one combat deployment. Decked out in camouflage and desert boots, they were attending a 10-day Master Resilience Trainer course meant to help create a more psychologically fit army.
The Army’s resilience training program was shepherded by Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum. She is a physician, a pilot and a competitive horseback rider. She was also a prisoner of war. In the first gulf war, Cornum, then a flight surgeon on a Black Hawk helicopter, was shot down during a rescue mission. She woke pinned to the ground by wreckage. She had two broken arms and was held prisoner for eight days. In her book about the experience, “She Went to War,” Cornum comes off as someone with an indomitable sense of optimism.
“I was badly injured, but I knew that I would heal eventually,” she writes. “The crash had been so devastating that I should have died then, and I regarded every minute I was alive as a gift. The Iraqis could have killed us easily when they found us at the crash site, but they chose not to. Then in the circle of men a slight pressure on a single trigger would have been enough to kill us, but we had been spared. It was just good-enough luck for me to grab onto and to hold. I vowed to survive.”
When I visited Cornum, who recently retired, in Virginia, and suggested that most people would be hard-pressed to find anything resembling luck in that situation, she laughed, acknowledging the absurdity, but then she said: “It’s the only way I would think. I’ve been practicing that my whole life. If you don’t do that, why would you ever proceed with anything?”
When she returned home, people expected to hear anguished tales, but she had none to report. In fact, she could come up with only positive things to say. She now empathized more with her patients because she had been one; she became closer to her family and a more self-confident leader. In 2006 she came across an article about Tedeschi’s work, and she found a way to think about — and name — her own experience.
At the time, Cornum wanted to develop a psychological training program for the Army. In her view, today’s soldiers are in dire need of toughening up. “This is the trophy generation,” she said. “Kids are taken places to participate in carefully orchestrated activities where no one is allowed to lose or have a fight.” Those people may have trouble adjusting to the hardships and violence of war. “We have really sanitized death,” she says. “They go to Iraq and Afghanistan, and it is not sanitary anymore.”
Cornum’s efforts did not gain traction, however, until 2008, when the Army’s chief of staff, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., got behind the idea. Cornum met with Martin Seligman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, a giant in the field of positive psychology, who developed a program to help adolescents perform better in school. Cornum worked with him to set up a series of meetings with experts in resilience, positive psychology and growth. Then, largely under Seligman’s guidance, the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program came into shape.
In less than two years — without a single pilot or study — the program has been rolled out to the Army’s one million solders. Every soldier takes the General Assessment Tool, a 105-question survey, which asks soldiers to respond to statements like, “In uncertain times I usually expect the best” (Cornum would score high on this), or “If something can go wrong for me, it usually will.” Depending on how soldiers score, they are prompted to complete online training in any of the program’s five key areas: physical, emotional, social, family and spiritual (which could mean either religious faith or personal reflection). The Master Resilience Trainer program, part of this larger effort, is supposed to turn the noncommissioned officers closest to young soldiers into teachers of positive psychology.
A week into the training course at the Sheraton in Philadelphia, the soldiers were divided into groups for role-playing exercises to help develop techniques for optimistic thinking. I sat at a round table in a small basement meeting room with eight soldiers who had been given the following situation: You are the sergeant in charge of a unit, and a soldier shows up late for early-morning formation twice in a row. The group had to come up with a worst-case scenario, a best case-scenario and what was most likely to happen.
(Cotinue on next post, to many characters)