Okay, so the words themselves mean the same thing in your mind. Fucked up. Pain. Shit. Issues. Doesn’t matter what you call it, right? Who cares?

What if how you think of it is keeping you stuck?

No, I’m not being “a writer” here and picking on words. On the surface, it doesn’t matter how you refer to the changes in yourself after combat. What matters are your beliefs about those changes. And your beliefs about those changes often show up in how you refer to yourself.

So, what I’m really after here is this: do you judge/blame/hate yourself for the changes in you? If so, you’re gonna stay stuck.

Why? Because as long as you judge yourself and feel like you should have been stronger, that you’re a pussy for letting anger/anxiety/distrust overtake you, that you should somehow have been able to avoid getting hurt, and be strong enough to overcome this alone now — you’re going to hold yourself away from healing.

As long as you think of yourself as fucked up, instead of wounded, you’re not going to give your heart/mind/body/spirit the acceptance and grace and support it needs to transform, heal and release you from the pain.

It comes down to what you believe. Judging/hating/blaming yourself for being wounded means you don’t really believe you should be affected by what you’ve been through in combat. You may know logically that war should change a human being, but you hold yourself to a standard that makes you feel weak or like a failure for seeing those changes in yourself. If this is you, you have a hard time not feeling ashamed for the pain and struggles you experience. Thinking about it doesn’t just hurt, it makes the cruel voices in your head start calling you names and bashing you for being “fucked up”. You think of your wounds, and your sense of self-worth plummets. The weight of feeling like a failure hurts more than the war itself. So, you try to avoid this by avoiding anything that reminds you that you’re not okay.

That keeps you from the liberating self-acceptance you need to heal.

Those of you who grew up with fathers with untreated PTSD, grew up walking on eggshells, yelled at, sometimes beaten, scolded for being soft and not stronger, disallowed to show “weak” emotions like crying, and promising yourself that you would never be like him. Some of you even joined the military subconsciously wanting to prove to yourself (and him) that you were indeed tough, that you “are a man”, that you could take it, and that you could be stronger than he’d been. The challenge wasn’t just something you craved, your sense of self-approval depended on it.

So, to see the same rage, anger, distrust, anxiety, fear of crowds, avoidance of people, strange sleep patterns, drinking, startle reflex, and insecurity now in yourself is excruciating. And you hate it. And you hate yourself for being this way, for being “weak.” For being changed.

But you don’t know what to do or how to change it. So you do your best to manage, try to not think about it, and withdraw into a world where you cut out anyone or anything that reminds you that you’re “fucked up”. Yes, you avoid the sense of failure, and you live increasingly alone in a disconnected world. Resigned to spend the rest of your life just putting up with this shit.

See what I mean by stuck?

By contrast, if you see yourself as wounded because you are a human being and war is supposed to hurt, you remove the judgment. When your wounds are not tied to your sense of worth, you do not blame yourself for your condition, and you open yourself up to the forces of healing.

Every warfighter worth his weight should come home with deep spirit wounds. If you didn’t, you haven’t truly known combat.

Being changed by war is a sign of honor. There is no weakness in it. Yes, it fucking hurts your heart. Yes, it changes your sense of self. Yes, it creates problems you never imagined you’d have to endure. Yes, it leaves you different than the civilians you now live among. But shouldn’t it?? If you took on the call of a warfighter, and you went through hell, why would you expect anything less than to come home with scars?? Scars whose very existence is because you acted with extreme courage and selflessness. The only way for you to have avoided being wounded by combat is to never have been in it.

(Our society’s attitude toward warfighters also fuels a sense that there’s something wrong with you; we should be embracing warfighters for the beauty of their scars.)

If you change how you think about your pain, and stop believing that you should have been stronger (what would that have meant anyway?) you create a place within you where you can begin to heal.

How? By accepting the fact that you are not fucked up, you are wounded. Wounds are not failures. Wounds are not to be ashamed of.

You didn’t get wounded because you were a coward or weak or failed. Quite the contrary.

It’s OKAY to be wounded.
It’s what you should be if you’ve been in combat.

There is nothing weak about you.

In reality, wounds are opportunities for growth, for transformation, for healing. Will you always be scarred? Yes. But scars are signs of growth, survival and life. Wounds can heal when you stop judging yourself by them.

You need to see yourself with compassion.

You wouldn’t judge a buddy for being in the pain you are in. You wouldn’t shame or blame or call him a pussy because he witnessed and created some of the most intense suffering in humanity and came home angry and grieving and changed. You wouldn’t write his nightmares and anxiety off as being “fucked up”, would you? No. You’d love him. You’d be there for him. You’d remind him that he’s no less the warfighter now than he was then.

This is just a different battle, guys. And it’s one you can transcend and win, when you choose acceptance and realize that only by understanding and believing that it’s okay to be wounded, can you get unstuck.

3 thoughts on “Combat PTSD: F***ed Up or Wounded?

  1. Hi, again. Wanted to say that i didn’t sleep last nite. I’m praying I will tonight. Also praying that what I write makes sense:
    I’m a member of a 12 Step Program. And, I’ve been recently learning to actually follow the suggested program of recovery as “a way of life that really works.” For most of my years not abusing exogenous chemicals, I was ashamed to admit that I used this and another12 step program to live a saner life with a true framework of ways to become a healthier person in all aspects of my life. Just as I’ve been fighting against the reality that I’m injured, physically, spirituality, psychologically, socially by the Dis-ease of denying my needs for help as a literally wounded warrior, I believed for years that the Disease of Addiction, now medically proven to be a legitimate/”real” disease, a fact many M.D. graduates still choose to ignore (maybe because it’s a disease they have so little control over and cannot make go away or “cure,” as control freaks like us)… I believed that in my life Addiction, just ss I’ve viewed my status as a wounded warrior, was a sign of weakness, or a moral problem I was to blame for, and Had To “fix” it on my own, or be proven unworthy of acceptance, Love, respect, health, freedom, kindness, goodness, fun, laughter, joy, sanity, peace in body-mind-soul-relationships-environs-life in general for just being the best version/the clearest expression of who I am, that I can seek, find, discover, honor, share, experiencece, be…
    Maybe someone else will relate to this.

    The truth is that as I’ve bn learning to accept who I am as human, and so, in need of help received rather than some being designed only to serve others, I’ve had to start dealing with my memories, and emotions past & present, related to being a wounded warrior. Only now, as in this moment, am I really making the connection between how long I dragged myself through more Hell than would’ve needed be had I been brave and enlightened enough to acknowledge that getting help to recover from Addiction one second, min., hour, day, night at a time does Not mean I am weak, bad, stupid, incompetent, wrong or otherwise inferior to anyone; and neither does being a wounded warrior in need of backup, ground support, or any other kind I need and Can get if I open myself up to allowing that help into my life, only in t hat way becoming the best form of support to others in need as I can be.
    I don’t want to live (barely) on the sidelines or further hidden away from life with all of it’s realities, Pleasant and Not.
    Living with un-happiness, un-pleasantry has become my “normal,” and I Want that to change: For That to change, I Must change. I Must face the reality that I can go on to a bitter end quickly or slowly, Or I can accept that I Need spiritual (not nec. religious) and human help, and risk having a life I can enjoy again, as a Warrior in new ways that are equally vital & Can be equally exhilarating through life enhancement without the destruction tht was prt of my Warrior identity before.
    This is something I can look forward to, with a realistic hope of re-entering society as one who Can & Can feel like I belong. I want this. My desire for it is growing stronger than my desire to stay with what’s familiar, and this is a key to opening up my entire life to one where true peace, acceptance, forgiveness, Love, healing, respect, honor, dignity, strength, kindness, compassion, teachability, the spirit of giving all of that and more while receiving it to, fr/within and around me can be parts of me and this life, as a die-hard Warrior facing down my fears of trying to successfully live just that way, with a spirit greater than I ready and willing to m protect me on every side, Never to leave me behind.
    I need to start allowing my Warrior Spirit to Live again in a very new environment with very different rules and ways of engagement that will feed my soul, healing my woundedness over time, but not alone: The Great Spirit, much like my brothers and sisters surrounding me to help make sure I get through Alive And Well, Successfully; and, with new brothers and sisters, not as replace-ments but as the specially trained family I’ll need to make it in this new way of fighting for Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness; the Right to Live in Safety, Security, with Mutually Shared and Supported, Trustworthy Acceptance and Love winning out over fear and all of the evils that stem from it every time.
    If you read this, I’m asking for your prayer and wishes that I ably accomplish what I here claim I wish to much more than I wish to stagnate or get worse over time. Afterall, scientific studies show conclusively tht prayer and well wishes help in healthy development in human and plant lives, aware of being prayed for or wished well or not. Thanks. I’ll be doing so for you!

  2. I am a warrior. I am wounded. I need help to heal. It is being in a battlefield, with equally serious wounds as those severely injured in battlefields different mainly/only(?) in external form… There is no shame in calling out for help in This battlefield. We are needed to heal as quickly as we can with all of the help we can get if we’re to be of further assistance to our fellow warriors also in need of support, right?
    Let’s wake up, and lose the selfishness that keeps us from accepting help, and so, from being able to best help others in need. Of course it’s frightening and surreal. We never imagined we’d be in need of help. But we are.
    So, what, we stop fighting to help our fellow men & women get through, just because we got hurt and we don’t like it? I’ve done that for too long, in too many ways. Thank you for his post!

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