For civilians in Canada, there's a calm that embraces most I think. It's calming to know that we have soldiers willing to fight where some of us know we'd rather flee from any confrontation at all, let alone train as soldiers to actually carry a weapon into an actual fire-fight.
There's a peace that the general public enjoys, knowing that in the face of human tragedy there are those working for society in public safety (first responders) who are willing to run towards chaos, when for many in society chaos is something that should be avoided at whatever cost.
What is PTSD?
In short, PTSD is an outcome of traumatic stress induced brain injury, chemically induced from the inside out.
Who struggles with PTSD demographically?
Anyone can so suffer.
Soldiers who've lived through combat who've had their fight-or-flight physiology damaged by the traumatizing experiences of killing and the threat of being killed.
First Responders who witness repeated carnage in the work that traumatizes and breaks down resilience.
PTSD impacts too our leadership in these professions. It's evident in First Nations communities due to historical and intergenerational trauma. The illness impacts victims of violence in the civilian population as well.
There are many dealing with the struggle due to past lives filled with Adverse Childhood Experiences. Others who are care-givers, as in social services and in health care, represent yet another group in society who can carry the branding of PTSD upon their compassionate souls.
This traumatic stress induced injury, leading to PTSD when the experience isn't resolved in a healthy way, can result for victims of accidents and those who developed symptoms due to medical procedures or as an outcome of bearing a child.
Trauma and PTSD respects no boundaries.
We in the survivor community in the network I'm now part of share this common understanding as to how deep in society trauma issues and PTSD infiltrate:
"Heal Trauma: Heal The World."
Considered a moral injury by some, with the injury of traumatic stress often connected with human darkness in many cases, the symptoms of PTSD represent a process of entrenched, ever-expanding illness, by which we feel as though our own mind, body, and spirit are attacking the soul and the body-itself from the inside out.
This is an invisible injury. The symptoms of PTSD can not be hidden away once the illness takes root and holds us often too tight in it's own clutches. As the injury itself isn't due to a physical assault on the brain, such as concussion represents for example, the others in our lives have a difficult time understanding how stress can cause so much inner-damage.
We're not talking about typical stress we humans put ourselves through. Traumatic Stress is an entirely different animal that floods the brain and body during periods of traumatization with a cocktail of stress hormones and other body-chemistry that would make any street drug we might consume seem rather benign.
Traumatic Stress experience is the ice-pick driven in the brain that causes the damage leading to PTSD. PTSD itself is the result of the original injury (or injuries) not being managed in a way that's therapeutically helpful.
PTSD, therefore, is not actually a mental illness, even though we still rely today on the condition being represented for diagnostic purposes as an anxiety disorder, which, in part, it truly is.
In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association revised the PTSD diagnostic criteria in the fifth edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5; 1). PTSD is included in a new category in DSM-5: Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders.
The National Center for PTSD in the United States lists here the criteria required that a physician, psychiatrist, or clinical psychologist uses to diagnose PTSD in their patients and clients.
PTSD is a physiological illness that represents serious damage done to the brain and nervous system. An illness that is all about a dysfunctional human-stress-response once PTSD takes full-hold of our physiological functions in response to stress.
Which unfortunately means that we will experience a traumatic stress response that any stressful experiences might trigger once PTSD takes over, replacing the once-more-typical response to stress that we all go through from time-to-time.
This is the reality of trauma and PTSD as I've come to understand things for myself. It is this information that I share in my own efforts of advocacy on the issues of late.
There are many of us today working together in the cause of raising awareness on these issues.
Entering the informal network of awareness-raising souls is someone I've had pleasure to meet up with recently, documentary film-maker Tracey Cochrane.
I was gifted this past week with a private screening to view a documentary on PTSD in military personnel and first-responders. This is the most recent offering of film-maker Tracey Cochrane and her team:
Calm in Chaos.
Over the past bunch of years I've personally worked the cause of raising awareness about PTSD. I've watched as our own informal network of survivors has grown slowly over time to become a pretty tight, informally integrated team.
As I watched the film, my thoughts towards Tracey Cochrane as a film-maker and those who worked with her on this film were all about welcoming Tracey to this ever-growing network of those of us now committed to the cause that is PTSD'S infiltration into much of Canadian society.
Although there's been movement on the issue of PTSD in military and public safety organizations, and although Governments have started a process to address the issue nationally for public safety workers finally, the wheels of progress move along much too slowly for those of us now working together to ensure enough awareness is raised to encourage Governments and the society to generate some quality action.
Our suicide rate in both the military and in public safety remains drastically too-high. Our leadership have only within the past couple of years chosen to respond to this long-standing, unspoken reality with honour.
We've lost far too many souls for my liking.
With 2018 only two full months in, we've already reports of suicides posted as a statistic on the Tema Conter Memorial Trust Web-Site. We know there are likely near double the numbers of suicides than the statistics of reported losses in Canada since 2014 indicate.
It remains the nature of this beast (PTSD) being active inside that I along with my peers in our informal network still feel every loss like this as a personal loss.
We all state it is as though we lose family with every story of suicide we hear.
The reality is only driven that much further home for me having survived my own attempt in 2015.
Those who've developed PTSD in the military and public safety represent a mere fraction of the souls impacted by psychological trauma in Canada. Traumatic Stress Injuries and resulting PTSD impacts Canadian humanity from all walks of Canadian life.
Calm In Chaos may speak most directly about the issue of PTSD in our soldiers and first-responders. We who are part of this network all know that we aren't the only ones seeking help.
I generally shy away from taking in any graphic stories of other's trauma these days. I've found a bit of still dysfunctional sanctuary by keeping my inner-slate less-exposed to such stories of late.
For whatever reasons, as is the case with others working the cause that I continue to promote, I was drawn towards this film from the first instant that I became aware of it's completion.
Calm in Chaos was screened recently at the World Community Film Festival at Okanagan College in Kelowna.
I was unable to attend the film. My son stepped up to the plate and agreed to attend the film on our family's behalf during the festival. Thus the offer from Tracey for me to view the film as a private screening.
My son's impression of the work suggested to me that this is a quality offering to the cause of raising awareness of PTSD, acting as a gift from those souls who've most recently opened-up on the issue from the Military and First-Responder Ranks across North America.
Now having absorbed the film, his impressions were exactly right.
Again, this film may share the experience of trauma and recovery from a near-celebrated group of fellow-humans. These fellow-humans know only too well that PTSD can develop for anyone who may cross-swords with our own mortality, who are abused in life, or who witness such things happening to someone else.
As psychologist Dr. Jeff Morley points out in the film:
"It only takes one traumatizing incident for the one exposed to go on to develop PTSD."
Although we continue to experience such suicide loss in the military and public safety communities, the reality of suicide in First Nations communities and in the general population is high enough to represent that our country needs to act with urgency to raise mental health and mental health treatments to the same tier in this society as we address physical health issues.
The reality of suicide suggests that depression too often accompanies PTSD as the hideous cocktail of these co-morbid conditions continue to bring an end to far too many valuable human lives.
By virtue of vocation, given that military and public safety professionals are exposed to potentially traumatizing events in considerably higher numbers, the outcome of high-numbers of soldiers and first-responders ending our lives speaks much too tragically for itself.
It may seem to those struggling as civilians that it is we who are getting the most juice on the issue of PTSD. Please understand that as we fight to raise awareness and as we continue working to persuade our Governments to take the issues of traumatic stress injury and PTSD as seriously as they profess they might, we will leave not a soul behind.
As we seem perhaps to be fighting for ourselves:
Understand, in reality we're fighting for everyone.
Thus the still standing importance of projects like Calm in Chaos continuing to assist us all in raising awareness.
Calm in Chaos didn't impact me as negatively as I expected it could. Viewing the film generated empathy inside more than anything else. I share this as a testimony to the value of this work that Tracey and her team have so eloquently and gently prepared.
Empathy is about finding some way to walk in another human's shoes, if only for a short time. (The film's total run-time is 64 minutes).
Empathy is about hoping to understand the journey through life of another.
We survivors are mindful that it's difficult for others to draft empathy towards that which is not lived, making the actual issues rather difficult to fully get one's own spirit in touch with.
In this film we hear the testimony of many who've walked ahead in recovery from what we once thought was an actual demon in our lives.
Viewing Calm in Chaos, I was privileged to witness the stories of the many who contributed from the survivor community of military and first responders speaking up and doing their part to assist society in turning this issue around.
Their candor and messaging of hope provided this one-time paramedic another dose of healing balm.
So many of the stories rang true to my own experience.
The film is so incredibly relevant today.
What I expected to hear from those interviewed was a variety of stories of success in recovery. Or, I thought I'd take in further reflection from others about the traumatizing experiences they've lived.
Calm in Chaos isn't here to grind salt into any still raw emotional wounds. Nor is the film here to elevate military and first-responders above anyone else's experience with the illness.
The film is a testimony of resilience. All who are tackling PTSD are living today that same testimony, no matter from which tribe in society any others may come from.
Resilience is all about keeping ourselves moving forward, learning to manage our experience with PTSD for military personnel, first-responders, and civilian sufferers alike.
As a one-time helper in this world, and to continue on as one of those who are called to serve mankind in often our most vulnerable and darkest hours of human need, I was personally touched with the stories of those profiled in Tracey's film.
I heard from others making choices to do what they can, from where they are, with what they have left to give.
I think we believe as former soldiers, police-officers, fire-fighters, paramedics, emergency dispatchers, call-takers, and as corrections officers who've hit the wall as we say, that we must first be whole-again to be empowered to walk back into the world with hope of continuing to serve.
Most I know hope for full healing, for a cure for PTSD to miraculously enter our lives, and we all hope we can return to service with a bounty to share with others from our experience with trauma and PTSD.
I know I struggled with this thinking and in many ways I still do.
That's not how it works, the School of Hard-Knocks suggests.
If nothing else, recovery and experience with trauma demands humility.
We who entered the work as soldiers and first responders were called when we chose to serve by something bigger than we are.
We were called as perhaps rescuers brought up in often dysfunctional, co-dependent homes.
We were called most of all to share the deep compassion we all carry for our fellow-man.
What Calm In Chaos offered as a take-away for me is this:
We need not be whole again to continue as the helpers we were born to be, as we first made effort to live in our personal lives and in our chosen vocations.
Calm in Chaos points out this reality brilliantly:
When we are stricken as helpers, we may well lose touch with our personal identity, having draped ourselves prior in a blanket that we thought would protect us while we served.
We do not find ourselves never again willing to serve when this blanket winds up in tatters. We come to understand, however meekly, that we were born for the very purpose of such servitude.
With that insulating-self-protection no longer intact enough to shield our souls from becoming cold, there is a time when we struggle to find ourselves again willing to risk further harm.
We are in recovery from serious psychological injury, those who've served and civilian sufferers too.
We are surviving and hoping still to thrive in spite of our wounding.
Ultimately we all will be called back in some way to serve as psychologically wounded, often discarded, human souls:
Doing what we can, from where we are, raising awareness for this honorable cause.
I'll choose from here to not act as a spoiler for this film. I'll only say that from this perch:
Calm In Chaos has presented itself as a definite must-see film. Survivors of PTSD from service or civilian ranks, along with our families struggling along with us, will hear a message of hope, and will find some gentle reassurance that we are, in fact, most definitely not alone.
I encourage all who can to take this film in as Tracey and her team continue with screenings, sharing the film along the festival circuit.
Calm In Chaos tells the story of heroes without the hero's spin.
The film and those sharing their stories, along with the offerings of continued service they all so graciously today still give, represents a still strong hold that all who contributed with their stories grip-tight, as a personally held dedication to still serve and protect human life.
Giving Back From Where We Are With What We Have To Give.
If there is a blessing in the wounding, the nurturing of this mind-set represents best what that blessing actually is.
The film is a blessing from those who've stepped out of the shadows. Calm in Chaos is an offering of personal testimony that lifts-up hope for human resilience.
The film is a testimony for those who might walk towards the PTSD Journey as civilians, from the military, and first responder communities too who are coming up from behind all those who are walking the journey just slightly ahead.
All who struggle with PTSD need more than anything else a re-ignition inside that symbolizes a restored sense of hope.
I thank you Tracey Cochrane for the gift.
Calm In Chaos does precisely that.
Be Well. . .I celebrate with you all the continuation of the hopeful journey.
Calm In Chaos next screens at The Gulf Islands Film & Television School, Galiano BC.
March 16th, 2018 at 9pm as part of the Canada West Film Festival.
Follow this link for ticket prices and more information: Film Freeway.Com
Stress, Resiliency and PTSD:From Neurobiology to Treatment"Professor John Krystal introduced Tilde Cafe to specific regions of the brain that play a role in stress and resiliency, such as the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the winner of all names for the afternoon, the "bed nucleus stria terminalis"! Each of these, and other regions of the brain, are finely tuned to recognize and respond to unpleasant stimuli. But there are instances where this fine tuning can be disrupted, or is not function optimally, leading to anxiety and stress that becomes difficult to cope with. With Professor Krystal's extensive experience working with veterans in his capacity as Director of the Clinical Neuroscience Division at the VA National Center for PTSD, we had a front row perspective on the status of research being carried out to help PTSD patients. Of the many novel approaches, a fascinating one related to Neuropeptide Y, one of the neurotransmitters we heard about in the September café. Neuropeptide Y has the ability to confer resiliency and thus the ability to cope with stress, and there is active research to determine how this can be harnessed in coping with PTSD and perhaps even pre-empting it."
Disclaimer: These materials and resources are presented for educational purposes only. They are not a substitute for informed medical advice or training. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified health or mental health care provider. If you have concerns, contact your health care provider, mental health professional, or your community health centre.
Darren Gregory © 2017. All Rights Reserved
Certified: Community & Workplace Trauma Educator Traumatology Institute.
Associate Member American Academy Of Experts In Traumatic Stress.