I was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) over 20 years ago as a result of an assault that occurred when I was 18. The attack involved being handcuffed, and resulted in fractures and contusions. I have been blessed to receive outstanding therapeutic care from professional Christian counselors, and in the last 40+ years I have only had 4 incidents that could be construed as “flashbacks.” The last one related to the traumatic event as a teenager occurred about 20 years ago, and the power of the memories has weakened greatly, thank God.
After I was diagnosed, I received a double Master’s degree in Ministries (in counseling and music,) and worked with PTSD sufferers, most of whom were women who had been assaulted. I knew when I went to Iraq that the chances would be good that I may have to face down events that were traumatic with specific regard to living in a combat zone, and was so glad that I had access to teams there who were on duty for that specific purpose. Early care is important in lessening the effects of PTSD.
I had one moderately severe incident after I returned home in 2007, and thanks to all the training and care I had received, got through it by myself. While it was intense, taking a long nap after it was over pretty much knocked it out, and I have been fine ever since.
But I will tell you, I don’t enjoy the 4th of July like I once did, and the first R and R I took after a year in Iraq I nearly broke my husband’s hand during the fireworks! The second year, my year end R and R occurred around the same time, and this time I managed to just squeeze hard.
Just recently I became aware of a modality that has been highly successful in the treatment of PTSD, and hearing the testimony of its effectiveness in the life of a ‘Nam vet (with whom I had been present when he had an episode,) inspired me to give hope to soldiers and civilian PTSD sufferers alike.
The treatment is called EMDR, which stands for Eye Movement De-sensitization and Reprocessing. The simple explanation is this: Dr. Francine Shapiro, a psychologist, noticed in dealing with her PTSD patients that when they were recalling a traumatic event and re-experiencing it to some degree, their eyes would lock into a specific pattern of darting and rotating. She discovered that if she could have them follow specific patterns of hand movements to counteract the trauma-based eye movements while she stood in front of them, the brain would be forced to “look” at the incident differently, and essentially re-wire itself. It has to do with the electrical currents that run in our brains, and making them go someplace else. This results in allowing the damaged part from the traumatic incident to heal, and the memory to no longer “take over.” The concept is simple, there are no drugs involved, and there are excellent certified EMDR practitioners here in Alabama as well as Tennessee and Georgia.
I will tell you this, I intend to “take back” the 4th of July, and “declare my independence” from wanting to dive on my stomach when an M-80 goes off in the dark at Athens High. My goal is to beat this bad boy by next year, and if you are a PTSD sufferer, just know that there is solid, scientifically proven help for you in the form of EMDR. May God bless and heal you, and if you are a veteran, thank you for your service.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner