Douglas Coulter: PTSD is a reaction, not an illness

Lasting Emotional Reactions to War, Rape, or Crime Are Not A Disease

A PTSD reaction is not an illness. Trauma is an event that requires adjustment of human thinking and life, moving and adapting in a survival situation. Combat, prison, rape, burns, and many other events can force us to reevaluate our boundaries and self image.

Douglas Coulter rode this rig halfway across the country to Alternatives 2011, the national mental health recovery conference. Here is his story of a PTSD reaction.

Douglas Coulter rode this rig halfway across the country to Alternatives 2011, the national mental health recovery conference. Here is his story of a PTSD reaction.

Here is my story:

“Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted…” Matthew 5:4.

I think a PTSD reaction is a failure to mourn properly and the grief continues to fester in one’s soul. In combat, you do not have time to mourn. One is too busy staying alive. Something inside of us gets broken, and we find ourselves in this endless loop as the spirit battles this wound that does not allow itself to heal.

Often we do not have the memory of just what hurt so deeply, only vague images and clear pictures of things that provoke a violent response in our inner being. Smell can bring us to our knees with a whiff of something taking us back to the trauma that remains undealt with.

My PTSD Reaction

My own PTSD reaction traces back to 1957 when my uncle, a predatory pedophile, lived with us. I have no memory of what he did to me but, over a two-year period until 1959, my childhood shattered. I began to view myself as a piece of shit that did not deserve to live among the human race. Sexual deviation from the age of 6 onward clearly displayed a very damaged kid.

When I was 14, I was arrested for breaking into homes, mostly exploring.  A Cool Hand Luke attitude in court led to a 7-year sentence for my first non-violent minor childhood crime.  The judge was insulted by my smart-ass attitude.

At 17, I had malignant melanoma, and doctors removed one pound of flesh without my consent,  I went into a long self-destructive spiral. When I was 19, while drinking with my mother, she revealed that my uncle was a child molester.  This was the first time I began to put pieces together. I started to realize I was on the path of sharing my deviant issues and becoming a pedophile myself. I will not pass on this damage, but the silence of my family on the issue for all those years was setting me up because I had no idea what the source of struggle was.

“First do no harm” — an important part of the Hippocratic Oath that every human should take.

I have spent 11 months in California state mental hospitals, been diagnosed as schizophrenic, homicidal, suicidal, sexually confused, psychopathic personality, and more — recently with schizoaffective disorder. I have none of these symptoms, but I do have serious personality problems.

Very much like Sybil, the woman famous for multi-personality in the book and movie, I changed myself after each life trauma to protect my inner child who was so vulnerable.  My many personalities were conscious choices, but I had no idea who I really was.

PTSD Reaction to Burns

In 2006, I lit myself on fire while attempting to start a car pouring gas into the intake from open container. If you have any training as a mechanic, you know how stupid this is. With 40% high second degree burns, I earned a Life Flight helicopter ride to UC Davis burn ward, and a 3-day near death experience. Of all traumas, nothing even comes close in comparison.

The Phoenix society expects a PTSD reaction as an almost automatic response for burn survivors, so I began to read up in the issue. Less than a year later, I entered a house fire and put it out, but sustained 3rd degree burns on my leg. Three  days later I was at a VA hospital with a serious PTSD reaction. including intense weeping, rage, anxiety, suicidal thoughts.

After six days in Ft. Miley’s locked psycho ward, I checked out against medical advice because locked doors were as much of a trigger as the burns were. I did even more research on the PTSD reaction.

PTSD Reaction to Jail

In 2009, a drunk man attacked me and I hurt him.  When I called 911, I was arrested for three felony assault charges. Again, the locked doors sent me into that PTSD state, and I told guards I was feeling anxious. They asked if I was suicidal and I replied, “I’m a Marine.  If I was suicidal I would be dead by now.”

I was ordered to strip naked and tossed into a sleep deprivation cell, bare concrete 12’ by 8’ with a metal grate to piss and crap into. I know what these cells are for, to break down a prisoners will.  I enter POW mindset and draw on USMC training. I am kept in this cell for 40 hours. The jail’s own published rule says 24 hours max.

My arraignment takes place without me being present as I have not even been booked yet. I do not eat or drink and sing non stop. I focus on using the very strong chemical reactions in my body to my own advantage. They give me great strength and keep me from pain. I have intense visions much like a shaman and see intense hallucinations.

One by one, I explore the drugs my body is pumping into my system and try to use their effects to advantage. 19 days are spent in isolation and I fast for 12 of them doing deep spiritual exploration, reading much of the Bible.

All felonies are dropped when I demand jury trial and I plead “no contest” to misdemeanor. This was my own laboratory experiment showing me what effects PTSD had in my life, and how I could channel them once I understood what was happening to me. Don’t fight those drugs, use them, explore them.

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