“She says I don’t love her anymore and thinks I’m having an affair. I just feel numb inside.”
We brought our boys up to be tough. Suck it up. Get over it. ” That’s just a scratch.” (Kid holds amputated arm up for Dad to look at). Now they’re 40 years old and have the emotional intelligence (EQ) of a rhino’s butt, holding a revolver under their chin after two decades in law enforcement there’s nothing left to give.
“I need sex to feel loved”, says he.
“I need love to feel like having sex”, says she.
So the ultimate life irony of all plays out in veteran and first responders’ marriages the world over. Add to the mix a side effect of that trauma injury is erectile dysfunction or hyper-sexuality and we have the perfect matrix for suicide and self-harm.
“I don’t feel like a man anymore. I don’t know who I am anymore. I want to be what I was before all this.”
For women who lose their libido with Post Traumatic Stress Injury, once the psychological damage is fixed (and yes, folks, it can be fixed – this is an injury not a disorder, injuries can heal) they normally return to a healthy sex life, without any lasting impact on their self-worth. In fact the reverse is often seen. Men? Not so much. The damage to their sense of worth, their masculinity and self-belief is terribly damaged. For those not in a supportive, pro-active relationship this can be doubly so. That inability to seek an intimate connection with another human being which is so imperative to our make-up, to our ability to deal with the trauma injury to our brains can be catastrophic.
I believe that we are at our core social beings, with a deep undeniable need for intimate connections. Without them we are adrift in a sea of isolation. The loss of our sense of self is complete if this aspect of our make-up is not addressed aggressively. It cannot be under-valued. It is the impetus that drives so many to drop their medications abruptly, medications that often cause erectile dysfunction and that feeling of being utterly numb to all, which in its turn leads many to die. Suicide is not a choice: it is a reflex and a path from which few can pull back from once their feet are set in that direction. That is why I fight so damn hard for all veterans and first responders to be supported properly by their services.
A wife of a law enforcement officer messaged me once, her husband (a PTSD Survivor – just) was spiralling. His service is one of the worst offenders when it comes to the Rah-Rah-Club-of-Fuck-You-Over-Police-Services; so I knew there was going to be buggar all support from either his colleagues or his service. “Strip and jump his bones.”
Needs must and all that.
She probably saved his life that day.
It is advice I give far too often to wives and girlfriends of Veterans and First Responders when they tell me their loved one is spiralling down the rabbit hole. I give that advice because it works. It kick starts their brains and gives them the happy endorphin rush they need to flip their brains back to function; it also reminds them that they are loved, needed, cherished and desired.
Imagine a world then where everything is hard, cold and lonely. Where there can be no intimate, only suspicion, hurt and misunderstandings. A deep self loathing takes over and the depression which was a dull ache is now a throbbing choking black sludge that drowns the light from the world. Who can pull them out of that?
Veterans and First Responders are never victims, not unless they choose to be.
Veterans and First Responders have flexibility and resiliency engrained in their bone marrow, it is their “Mission Critical Skills”.
Veterans and First Responders have the ability to pull each other up to standing, all it takes is to ask “How are you doing today?” and listen like their life depended on it, because in all honesty, it just might.
Only if we stand up and talk openly, honestly without the stupefying bigotry of the old man’s club of hard knocks and suck it up, can we hope to be strong and live to laugh and love again. I hope in this #PTSDChat tonight we give the vocabulary, language and understanding required to access solutions to both these issues: sexual dysfunction and hyper-sexuality which negatively impact self-worth, identity and relationships.
I would like to thank Ron Campbell (RCMP Staff Serg Alberta) and Allan Gray (Trauma Specialist, Oakville, Ontario) for guiding me through this post. Your help and advice is greatly appreciated. I’d also like to thank the brave souls that have stepped forward with their thoughts, feelings and experiences. Please join the #PTSDChat tonight, anonymously, quietly, watchfully … any which way you want .. but be part of the discussion to end STIGMA around this subject.