Saturday, March 25, 2017

PTSD Veteran's Suicide Shows Love is Just Not Enough

Love is Just Not Enough
Combat PTSD Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
March 25, 2017

There is not much doubt that Benjamin Kelley loved fellow veterans. He dedicated his life toward helping them with everything he had and that is part of the problem. Wanting to help out of love is just the beginning. Knowing how to do it and being prepared for what it can do to you is vital. Not knowing can turn deadly for you and for those you seek to help.
Local benefit for veterans with PTSD goes on, despite organizer taking own life
FOX 4 News
BY DAVE D'MARKO
MARCH 24, 2017
“We may not be able help everybody but the ones we help that's 100 percent for me, I’m just sad I couldn’t help my best friend," Gunn said.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A benefit Friday night to help veterans in their fight against PTSD and depression was missing its organizer. Benjamin Kelley, 40, died by suicide March 1.

“This boot here belongs to my best friend Benjamin Kelly,” Damien Gunn said on stage at a packed No. 9 Saloon.

For the past two years Ben Kelley has taken the boot he wore while serving in the U.S. Navy and passed it around to collect money for AmVets and the Foundation for Exceptional Warriors. F.E.W. is an organization helping veterans deal with post traumatic stress disorder and depression.

“We believe the most dangerous place for a warrior right now isn’t down range in Afghanistan or Iraq or anywhere else they might be fighting in the world. It’s at home sitting on their sofa," F.E.W. Board Member Chris Wolfenbarger said.
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I wish I could say that this story is not being repeated all over the country, but wishing does not make it true. After almost 35 years, I can tell you first hand that this work comes with a price to be paid and if you are not prepared for it, it can, and all too often does, shatter your own life.

I did not get into this work for noble reasons. I did so selfishly. When I met my husband, I heard the term "shell shock" from my Dad (a Korean War Veteran) and needed to know what I was getting into before the depth of love I felt grew beyond the walking away point. I already adored him when I went to the library, pulled clinical books and a dictionary to understand the words I was reading.

That was when I learned it was called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It turned out that researchers had been studying Vietnam veterans for about a decade. My lack of knowledge on that point did not make the research less real just because I didn't know it was occurring.

After about two years of first hand experience, my own research grabbing everything I could get my hands on, I knew enough to write about it and marry it. I knew enough about PTSD and my veteran to know he was worth doing whatever I could to make his life better. I didn't think it could happen, but the more I learned about PTSD, the deeper in love I felt.

There was a time in the beginning when I thought that love would be enough to help him see what I saw in him. That reality hit me in the head like a sledgehammer. Love can make their lives less lonely but it does not help them heal. 

What is behind you is not as strong as who is beside you!

With all that comes with PTSD, you cannot fight it with just love. You have to do it with open eyes to know what you are getting into and above all else, you have to do with with the knowledge gained by dedicating your life to it with everything you've got. Working with veterans and PTSD must not be limited by what you feel like learning but must be about learning all you can.

When I read about the number being quoted by folks trying to help, I cringe. I know I slam them way too often but there are reasons for that. What you read or watch on a Facebook post may make you aware that veterans are killing themselves, but you do not know the reasons. You certainly don't learn what to do with change the outcome by accepting a headline of a report that had 59 pages of facts, figures, charts and information on it including the fact that the number of "22" came from reports from just 21 states

While there is little doubt that folks trying to help do it out of love, there is also little doubt if they quote that number, they do it without knowledge. They settled on what they learned from others basing their own efforts on a headline instead of becoming educated on how to change someone's life at the same time being prepared to help themselves be able to do it when their own heart is being ripped out on a daily basis.

When you are the one others turn to, you pay a price. You have to swallow your own ego and be willing to lead by example. Ask for help when you need it and know who to go to in order to fight for others. How can you expect someone to believe you when you say they should ask for help when you won't?

I used to think that God had an endless supply of matches because whenever I got burnt out, He'd ignite the fire in my soul all over again. It has happened so many times that I am sure he switched to a Bic Lighter and is flicking it all day long. 

This is vital work but it is also heartbreaking, especially reading stories like this one. It didn't have to turn out this way but if you are doing this work, you have to do it with the right training and arm yourself with everything you can learn. 

It is not glamorous. It has to be anonymous. It is driven by ego and you can't talk about what you do or who you do it with in pubic. It has to be up to them to talk about it, share it and pass it on or keep their experience private. You have to know who to send them to as much as you need to know why they need to go. 

You have to know what else to suggest when you can't talk them into going to the VA to take some of the stress out of their lives and at least help them to rediscover something to hope for so they can discover they are able to fight to help. In other words, you have to have many backup plans.

I am begging you! If you want to really help then you have to know that love is just not enough to change the story of their lives. It is not enough to stand by their side if you don't know how to help them out of the darkness or both of you will become lost instead of finding your way toward healing and defeating PTSD.