The Duality of the American Veteran


As #VeteransDay approaches we discuss the duality of the American #vet.

By: Peter Sessum Serving in the military is one of those few jobs that brand you for life. No matter what you do, you will always be a veteran. It is one of the few professions that stay with you long after you leave it. In the civilian world your current job is who you are, but once someone identifies you as being former military, you will always be a vet first in their eyes. Veteran is a title…

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I was talking to my therapist about being frustrated about the awful way my brain deal w situations and self hatred and stuff and she said,

“You don’t need to hate yourself for these things. Think about it. The way you feel and interpret and your instincts – those were how you survived. Those used to work for you because of how you were forced to live growing up. Those got you here and they got you here alive. But they don’t work anymore so you’ve got to figure out new ways to cope and think and that is going to take a lot of time and its going to be frustrating because you want to think like everyone else and fit in. But you cant kick the child in you that is voicing its needs. You’ve got to make peace with them in order to keep living.”

And i just sorta wanted 2 share that


To neurotypicals – stop telling us you can “handle” us and our disease and then changing your mind and abandoning us.

And then stop wondering why we fucking have trust issues!

There is a REASON we keep asking if you really care. If you really want to be with us. If you really love us. Because YOU have conditioned us to expect that you will leave. And, you probably will.

Don’t blame us. Look in the fuckin mirror.

Nightmare Tips


Use relaxation strategies pre-bedtime to decrease the fear and anxiety associated with the “anticipation” of nightmares/inability to sleep.

If awoken by a nightmare:

  1. Turn on a light and move to a different part of the room or bed
  2. Get out of bed if you can’t fall back asleep and read, or do some other form of self-soothing or relaxing activity.
  3. Get an ice pack or ice water and use for at least ten minutes to decrease arousal level that interferes with getting back to sleep (TIP).
  4. Use grounding materials to be mindful (i.e., cat purring, worry rock)

Imagery Re-Scripting And Rehearsal:

  • Write down a new dream that you would like to have, and then practice the new dream (making it as dreamlike as possible) twice a day for 3 minutes. Any intrusive/negative images should be stopped immediately – not rehearsed. After a couple of weeks, the nightmares will dramatically decrease in frequency.

Breathing Exercise:

  • Breathe in, saying to yourself “Mindfully breathing…”
  • Breathe out, saying, “Letting go of distressing images…”
  • Repeat this for 10 minutes or more, especially when going to sleep.

Bedtime Script: 

  • Say to yourself: I may awaken in the night feeling ____ (name of anticipated feeling, usually fear), and will be sensing in my body ____ (describe 3 or more bodily sensations) because I will be remembering ____ (‘title’ of trauma – no details). At the same time, I will look around, where I am now ____ (current location) in ___ (current year, date), and I will see ____ (describe some of the things that are present in current location around bed and room), so I will know ____ (‘title’ of trauma) is not happening now/anymore.


When awakened from a nightmare, turn on the light and:

  • Name 5 things you see, 5 things you hear, 5 things you feel
  • Name 4 things you see, 4 things you hear, 4 things you feel
  • Name 3 things you see, 3 things you hear, 3 things you feel
  • Name 2 things you see, 2 things you hear, 2 things you feel
  • Name 1 thing you see, 1 thing  you hear, 1 thing you feel
  • Repeat as many times as you’d like

Disclaimer: BB does not own the above material. It was taken from Alyssa’s personal DBT notes. The author is unknown. No copyright infringement intended.


Researchers studying ancient Assyrian texts from Mesopotamia dating between 1300 BCE and 609 BCE discovered references to ancient soldiers afflicted with symptoms that sound remarkably similar to our current understanding of PTSD. One researcher explained to the BBC “They described hearing and seeing ghosts talking to them, who would be the ghosts of people they’d killed in battle – and that’s exactly the experience of modern-day soldiers who’ve been involved in close hand-to-hand combat.”

Diagnosing diseases from ancient texts, however, is not without its difficulties—not only because our understanding and ability to describe disease is so culturally dependent, but also because, as the authors acknowledge in the paper, “it is difficult for us to exclude other explanations such as neuro-psychological signs of head injury,” today known as Traumatic Brain Injury. TBI has very similar psychological symptoms as PTSD, and in fact was only acknowledged as a psychological disorder, and not just a medical diagnosis, in the past decade. Interestingly, there is evidence that many cases of “shell shock” from World War I may not have been PTSD, as previously believed, but pressure from exploding bombs causing brain injuries and eventually TBI. So our retrospective diagnosis of soldiers in the 1910s has changed and evolved as our understanding of psychological illnesses has evolved. And the 1910s is much closer to our own time than 1300 BCE.


You know what I think is one of the most interesting things about living with PTSD? Part of what happens to you is that you feel like that veil that is a false sense of security that most people have has been ripped down, and you realize how fragile your life really is. The odd thing about this? It’s strangely freeing. Despite the fact that you live in a suspended state of fear, at the same time you’re just as likely to go ahead and confront that asshole who treated you like shit, because you’ve already stared Hell in the face and survived. You have nothing left to lose. Most people are too afraid to rock the boat, but you’re not.

I think Johanna Mason is an excellent example of this. Her “there’s no one left that I love” comment is like the very embodiment of this feeling.

This has been my experience with it, at least. Obviously experience will vary from person to person.


“It’s a brain injury,”
she told me.
The same kind you see
in prisoners of war
and hostages
and torture survivors.


I will never heal,
but I can manage.

Childhood to adulthood and the only thing that changed was the face.
The same

The damage was worse
than I thought,
and I dare someone
who thinks
they know what the fuck they’re talking about

to tell me again
that I’m exaggerating,
that I was seeking attention,
that it wasn’t as bad as I said.


two years ago i was raped by someone i considered to be a friend. it happened once before too, and i did my best to put it behind me, and it happened again. i get really bad nightmares, sometimes it’s a nightmare of the actual rape, like the exact night, every thing. other times my rapist would just show up in my dreams and i would recognize him and i would find myself trying to run away but it felt like id be running through quick sand, i could never get away from him, and i could feel his…

…hands on me and grabbing me and hurting me. my nightmares are so vivid i can smell his breath, the bathroom it was it, i can feel the texture of his shirt and the roughness of his hands on my neck. i wake up screaming, sweating, crying. my boyfriend says that i thrash around in bed and whimper in my sleep and he’ll try to wake me. recently ive found that during these nightmares, im like cooked pasta. i flip around and do what he wants, when he hurts me, i let it happen i don’t fight back…

Hi there.

I’m sorry for what happened to you and that you are struggling so much with it.  What you are describing sounds a lot like PTSD

I can tell you that it’s fairly common.  Many survivors, myself included, deal with nightmares and flashbacks and we know how much they can serve to re-traumatize you.

Sometimes the nightmares are something concrete like experiencing some or all of the sensations present during the original trauma- these include sights, sounds, smells etc.  

What is particularly interesting about PTSD nightmares is that research seems to show that they differ from run-of-the-mill nightmares.  They can occur during any of the stages of sleep, for instance, whereas other types of nightmares usually happen during REM sleep.  And, as you mentioned, PTSD nightmares are more likely to involve movement of some kind.  

So how to deal?

Well one thing I recently learned is that many survivors who experience PTSD nightmares also have irregular breathing patterns during sleep, which can actually cause or contribute to the nightmares.  Practicing breathing techniques during the day might make you more likely to naturally fall into those patterns during sleep when your mind encounters traumatic memories.

Another thing that can really help is therapy.  Dealing with the roots of your trauma can help to resolve some of the things that might otherwise just lurk around in your mind.  

IRT (image rehearsal therapy) is another option.  This is more about writing down what happens in your nightmares and working to change the outcome.  With practice, this can help your sleeping mind recognize what starts out as a traumatic dream, say “oh I know this” and finish it off in the way you’ve practiced instead of in the way that it normally would.  

I hope you are able to find some ways to address what happened to you so that it stops wrecking your sleep.  You deserve peaceful nights of rest.