The assessment

    Just how crazy are you? Ever wonder that? I mean to a normal service member our perspective of what is normal is very skewed. Need an example, those of you who think it is perfectly normal to scan a crowd’s hands for weapons and their faces for intent to do harm, raise your hand. That’s what I thought, just about everybody thats been over there does that sub-consciously, news-flash thats not normal. Still not getting it, OK who feels uncomfortable without some form of a weapon, be it gun, knife, or spork? Hmmm, I think I might be detecting a pattern here. Still not getting it, Who has every hair on their neck pop up and your eyes see red when you hear someone speaking in Arabic? OK, not so many but I bet there are a few, just like me. This is a self-assessment.
   Just sit there and logically think about normal habits you have in every day life that are somehow related back to being over there. For example, I scan overpasses before driving under, fast movement in a crowd attracts my attention, loud pops still make me want to take a knee, I still block for other cars when driving in traffic, I sleep hard but the slightest out of place noise and I am on my feet, I feel uncomfortable without my knife, I still walk with my fingers curled, don’t ever smack me on the back our you will pull back a nub, I have nightmares sometimes about zombies (hope I am alone on that one), I can’t sit in a restaurant without facing the door, and weirdest of all I think about where I would head if an active shooter started on campus as I walk across it. All of these are definitely not normal and are all rooted in my experience with what happened over there. So at this point you might be thinking, ok so what suck it up princess. Here is why these habits are important to notice and revalue.
     Warning- Science Content:
     Do to these habits and reactions your body will react sympathetically. That is that it releases adrenaline and cortisol. These two things even though released by the body are actually really hard on it. They are called Stress Chemicals. Now your body when you are sitting there being fat and lazy is in a state called rest and digest or para-sympathetic system, think of this as the brake on a car. When you have a PTSD reaction you hit the accelerator on the car or switch to fight or flight (sympathetic nervous system). So running with pedal to the medal in a car everywhere you go, braking hard, and generally burning some rubber is going to wear your car down, so does running in over-drive wear down your body. In fact, I have been told (not sure how true this is) that these Stress Chemicals can actually shorten your life span and kill you in later years due to heart attacks and strokes.
    So how do you fix it or at least lighten the load on the body? Reassess the habits. You have to make a conscious and dedicated effort to revalue the reactions. Give yourself the one second rule. For example, you hear a loud pop or bang, give yourself a mental 1-1000 to find the sound and verify that you are in fact safe and then carry on. This 1-1000 method works for just about all of the reactions. Another example, someone smacks you on the shoulder, during the 1-1000 time consider, who is this? why is their hand on my shoulder? Is this a threat or just an idiot? This isn’t my significant other trying to tell me to take out the trash is it? Then react. 1-1000 is plenty of time to crunch the thought process to decide how to react. At first it will be very difficult but it will get better and smoother with time.
    Another part of the revaluing is to truly revaluing the reactions. For example, the scanning of the over passes as I drive under them. This was an essential and good habit while in Iraq. It has since lost its usefulness and just causes stress. So instead of scanning the over pass and being like, all clear, in my head I should revalue that as stop that, dumb-ass there is no reason to scan that over-pass and it is a negative response to old habits. Eventually you will get better about not doing it and it will bother you less.
    As an added bonus to doing without the stress chemicals, you will actually begin to remove yourself from the mind-set that allows the deeper and more troubling reactions and memories to come in so fluidly. Give this a shot. If you have found other ways of doing something similar, speak up. Give a shout on the Facebook group or leave a comment here.

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