The Velvet Hammer Podcast

PTSD - Insights and understanding

October 15, 2020 David "JAGER" Burnell Season 1 Episode 27
The Velvet Hammer Podcast
PTSD - Insights and understanding
Show Notes Transcript

PTSD is widely misunderstood and many people have it or are in relationships with friends or family who suffer from its effects. Listen to these powerful personal insights into how you can identify symptoms and have the courage to step up and get some help from the right people. If you know or work with someone who has experience TRAUMA PLEASE listen to this podcast, it could save a life.  Too many have given up and checkout out from the negative effects of serving others and paying the price. There can be JOY in the journey and the screwed vision of hard experiences can be forged into strengths and resilience! 

Speaker 1:

PTSD the mighty four letter word, you know, for those of us who have it, it's not something that you wear with any degree of pride. In fact, it's quite the opposite. It's somewhat embarrassing because we feel like we're broken. We need to be fixed or something is, is completely amiss or skewed. And the reason that is, is because my layman version and interpretation of this is that we view the world through a kaleidoscope. Do you remember those little toys where you could look through them and it fractures light and it skews your vision and it makes a beautiful , um, abstract, colorful display of what you're looking at through it. The problem is it doesn't look real. It's not reflecting the true view that is beyond the kaleidoscope. And that is exactly what it's like to suffer from PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder. And there's a lot of banter up there about whether it's a disorder or it's a condition, and I'm not really going to split hairs. I'm not interested in semantics, but this podcast is really for the veterans out there of assault of combat of nine one, one rescue recovery operations, or dealing with dead bodies and death and difficulty loss of a loved one fire EMS police work, and anybody, and everybody who has had an experience or multiple experiences where they have felt the firehose effects of trauma. So I actually had a wonderful experience in dealing with mine that was produced out of my experience in Haiti. I did a lot of stuff over there after the earthquake, as the chief of security for the Utah hospital task force ran missions for , uh , a us citizen that was abducted, did some really hard things in related to that , uh, just the nature of the , the environment itself and the mission itself and bringing medical aid to the largest natural disaster in recorded history was an Epic, emotional, and traumatic experience. But as a result of it, everything that I had done in my life, in the military and growing up in LA in a gang ridden area and especially rescue and recovery missions and operations crystallized into, I couldn't breathe , uh , the kaleidoscope wasn't happening at the time. Cause I didn't recognize it. I just thought the world looked the way it did and it was fractured. And that I was right in my view and that it, that my anger and my frustration at the simplest stupidest things , uh , for example, children don't run with a pencil or you're going to fall and it's going to enter your eye socket and be stuck there. And then someone's going to have to deal with these terrible images that I would have of, of simple to children or , um, perhaps patients with not being on time or a million other things. So my world was fractured. My vision was fractured and I didn't know it. I just knew I couldn't breathe. So yeah, after a series of things that took place in my personal life, I went to doc and I sat with him and I didn't want to, but I did. And he was really good. He was in his early seventies and he had come up with a program to help rewire the brain in a shorter period of time. And the process he used is he took me down a path of experiences that through painting a picture in my mind of walking and doing things and engaging with people and all these different aspects , uh , that was very powerful, very deep and very meaningful to me. I had seven sessions with him and then , uh, at the end of the seventh session, he said, well, Dave, you're good to go. I said, what does that mean? He goes, well, you know, you know , I think you have the tools. He gave me some tools to deal with my issues, to understand the triggers, to be aware of when I felt like I couldn't breathe what was happening and why it was happening through certain stimulus, sight sound, taste, touch, smell. That was similar to what I experienced when I was recovering burned bodies or bodies in the water or where my friend got blown up in Tunisia and all these different things, gang activity in LA, where I grew up the LA County area, all these things I was being able to , I was able to learn that there are methods to identify the physiological responses to this trauma and then apply tools to mitigate it, to relax the body, the brain, to reduce the stress that's happening. And he said to me, you're very resilient and you continue to go and do things. And because of that, I think you have a handle on being able to recover from it. But there was a couple of critical things that came out of this. When I first sat with him, he asked me, so what's going on? And I, I told him I can't breathe. And I said, there's these images that go through my mind, hundreds of them that are like this Ferris wheel going round and round. And the pitcher won't stop long enough for me to grab it and hold it and deal with it. It just moves to the next image. And he said to me, that is a classic definition. That explains what post-traumatic stress disorder looks like. So you're saying not able to really lock down and deal with the specific event because there's so many coming to you that really caused some of the challenges. The other thing he taught me and told me was that the brain is wired in a specific way to help us deal with trauma. But what happens when we experienced traumatic events is sometimes the storage, the place where the trauma goes is not exactly where it should go or that the right place, I guess he was telling me something about four parts of the four places in the brain where it's stored. And if it's not stored correctly, this carousel of visual experiences is I call it, the firehose happens. So the result of this carousel going around means that sometimes we don't see the world exactly as it really is in front of us. Like I said earlier, that the kaleidoscope experience where it's fractured and our loved ones around us, don't understand that at times. And they are the victims of our anger, our rage, our frustration, our self-destruction, our compulsive behaviors. And they suffer too. So in order for us to not check out of life and to be productive, we have to recognize that we have some challenges and that's not easy to do. In fact, every once in a while, I will go to a police departments by invitation. I've been to nine one , one agencies. I've been to dive teams, all a lot of different groups and talk about the elements of stress and trauma and my personal experience. And the reason that's effective is because I'm a six foot three, I'm a large guy, very , uh , very robust guy. And when I get up and tell people that I'm not a broken and I'm not a casualty, but I have suffered from the negative effects of trauma. And as a result, I have gotten, I've received help. And I have received tools that helped me to cope. Then it makes it easier for these hardened cops or these hardened nine 11 people that have experienced so much to really kind of look and say, you know, maybe it's okay for me to go talk to somebody. Now, what I would say is that , uh , I don't think PTSD is widely understood or well understood by many people, even many professionals that are out there. There are focused experts that people that when I say focus , experts, I mean, people who have been trained specifically for trauma in the brain and the physiological effects of that, what happens to you and how to deal with that. And those are the people that I think you need to seek out general counselors at times might have an awareness of it. They might've gone to seminars, yada, yada, but they might not have the core expertise needed to really help somebody navigate this terrain because it is a very difficult place to go and to walk through and to come out of. I want to also express that I don't believe that there is a magic cure for this, but it can get better. So as, as you have certain, I know that you can, you can get the brain wired more correctly. But for me specifically, since I have such a volume of experiences, for example, I was in Japan after the tsunami, recovering bodies, lots of imagery. There has been, you know, doing search and rescue. I did it for many years, dive rescue, recovering bodies under the ice and the water successes, failures and everything in between vehicle extrication, cutting people out of vehicles, fires , uh , burn children had to put them in a metal coffins . All these different things have created imagery being assaulted by gangs in the Los Angeles County area. When I was a young man trying to get to and from school and just live in my community to my buddy, getting blown up in Tunisia and some other experiences in and engaging in the early eighties and the mid and late eighties from central America to desert storm, the Berlin wall coming down between that, all these experiences have caused memories to be written. And sometimes we don't always get to control when they want to show up. On that point, I was actually at one of the seminars was an eight hour seminar and I was the opening speaker. And I did my hour , uh , made the cops laugh and told them some hard stories that weren't related to police work. They were related to rescue and recovery missions, which was more comforting to them because they're not in that role, but they understand trauma and difficulty. And so they could look at a trauma from a perspective that was not specifically cop to cop talk. It was a little safer because it was something unrelated to their work yet it was still tied to trauma in the brain. And then this gal guy got up named Amy and did a really phenomenal job. And she was able to really walk people through what's happening and why there was a cop sitting next to me over 20 year veteran, really great guy. And he leaned over to me while she was talking. And he said to me, he says, do you think I have this? And I said, well, how long have you been a cop? And he goes over 20 years. I said, in my opinion, yeah. How could you, you go through a 20 year career and not have stuff. And he goes, well, what do I do? Simple. I said, the things that keep you awake at night sometimes, and that you can't get out of your head or that causes you tremendous anxiety. Those are the things you just need to go talk about. And the professional like Amy will walk you through the path and help you understand the tools that will help you get your brain wired more correctly, and then give you quality of life because you'll recognize the triggers, you'll get the tools. And then you'll be a more productive father, husband, friend, and brother. He actually said to me that he had felt that he had buttoned everything up, folded it neatly and put it in a box and had kind of controlled it. And I said to him, you don't get to pick when that box opens up. It all comes out. Sometimes that happens after you retire. And from what I understand, he did go get some help. And it , it , uh , it was , uh , it was a good deal. I think it was important for him to recognize that because what happens is to people often is what happened to me after Haiti. It wasn't just Haiti that caused me to not be able to breathe. Haiti was the trigger that launched my brain from the previous 50 years almost into I can't breathe mode and I'm going to die, not so much anxiety for me, but there was a lot of anger and avoidance and frustration, and just lack of ability to breathe. So we don't always get to pick when the genie bottle opens and the genie comes out. I , you know, metaphorically speaking and says, Hey, I'm here, but I don't have three wishes for you. I actually have some nightmares. I want to keep cycling through your face until, you know, you want to just check out. So I thought that was really great that he actually went and got some help. One of the other points I wanted to make was we have a specific common characteristic with military veterans, police nine 11 professionals who have experienced with large volumes of trauma because of their chosen professions or activities. And any that therapist was the one that actually taught me this. And the thing that we share is love. We share the fact that we desire to help people don't normally become a cop or a fireman or a rescue person, or a EMS nine 11 professional, or a military person without wanting to help make a difference to make the world a better place to catch bad guys. Definitely not the money. Uh, it might be the stability of a job, but that's not enough to keep you motivated to be there, especially for a long period of time. So love is the commonality and love Amy taught is what makes us vulnerable because we care. We invest ourselves psychologically into what we do. And then when we see the hard things and we can't do anything about some of them, when we see death and trauma difficulty come to others and we do our best, but it's not always enough. It creates a real dichotomy in the brain. It affects the wiring of the brain. It affects our sense of basis of reality and what reality really looks like. And that kaleidoscope begins to develop in a way that skews our vision, even vision of normal, common, beautiful things. Sometimes it's completely in a weird way. This is why veterans of these activities stick together. This is why there's focus groups that are just veterans communities. And this is why you'll see often cops like cops, firemen , like fireman , rescue people like rescue people, et cetera, et cetera. I hope that if you do suffer from any form of trauma that has come to you, whether you've been assaulted or that you've been in deepen combat operations, or even just one combat operation, whatever it is, where you've seen blood or death, or a difficulty that you reach out to somebody who has the skills and the ability to walk you down the path that I was able to walk down. Now, now I'm , I'm still in the process of this, just so you know, I've had my episodes, but I recognize them more than I used to. And it might be, I recognize them after it's happened. And that's often the case. I'm not able to always stop them, but afterwards I'm able to recognize it, express to the person that's been involved in it, my apology for my behavior or what I might've said or done. Fortunately for me there hasn't been physical violence to people. It's always been an emotional outburst or impatience or driving beyond the Mark with this crazy superhuman, what people would call strength. But in reality, it's this stubborn will. And a lot of it might STEM from personality, but some of it might STEM from fear of failure being prepared for the thing that might come. And over-prepared , in some cases, you know, 50 caliber machine guns on the corners, Claymores on the perimeter. I got my 1911 in my lap, a couple of dogs at my feet. And I got my back to a corner. The windows are all locked. I've got alarm system on and I can sit back and watch a show. And that's hypervigilance . And that's not necessarily real because how many people are actually trying to assault the perimeter of my home and penetrate my basement and get to me in my safe room, not many, but because we have experienced things that we have, we sometimes think that the world is out to get us. And there's nothing, you know, there's I was going to say, there's nothing wrong with that. But from a normal person standpoint, when I say normal, forgive me for that. But talking to a person who hasn't experienced the things perhaps we have, they wouldn't think that's too normal, but for me, it's like, yeah, I'm prepared. So, so I have adapted and adopted to living a lifestyle where in , I am prepared. I normally have weapons around me at all times. And I check everybody who's around me all the time. And I'll engage with people verbally at times, politely and kindly to find out who they are and to maybe even affirm them as a filtering mechanism, are they friendly? Are they full ? And those are coping mechanisms that I've developed and yours might be a little bit different. So if you have any of this stuff going on, reach out, get some help, stay with us, do not check out the 22 average veterans a day, killing themselves. The cops that are killing themselves, the nine 11 professionals that are killing themselves. We need to try our best to keep them with us, to keep the experiences and the value that they have to offer us in our communities, in our families. I hope you have a beautiful day to day. And I T I really appreciate you taking the time to listen to this. There's some risk in sharing this, but you know what, it's worth it. Because if I help one person, I have done something productive and made a difference from my personal experiences. Have a great day.