With your Host, Category5.
(Be warned, this is a short book here and not light reading. Consider it my mini dissertation on the subject. Writing it has left me depressed, withdrawn and actively avoiding. Its been written a few paragraphs at a time, followed by drinking, mindless video games and avoidance of writing. Fear not. I will recover soon enough. This I can easily deal with. There may be a break for a while till the next article. You will have to live without me for a bit)
I am a survivor of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
This article will be quite different from my usual humorous posts. I’ll have nothing cute to say this round… the subject to me is quite personal. Even sharing this will come at a high cost to me. There may be a break in posting as I predict this may fuck me up for a while.
I have been promising to do this post for 5 or 6 years now in a few places but have never been able to face it. Not just because it exposes me but because even saying the words PTSD was once a trigger. A trigger is something that causes flashbacks. I had many. UFC t-shirts, certain movies or music. The words awesome or No Regrets or its all good. It just made Me want to punch the person in the face while yelling, “Tell me that’s All Good”. (Some will notice I use the term Awesome a lot now days simply because I now can… so I am overcompensating. Awesome). Any woman that smiled was a major trigger. Mrs.C5 is a very intense person that doesn’t smile. I would not have been able to bond with her if she had. That wrote off 99% of the female population right there. Any tough young buck was a trigger. By about 2 or 3 years into PTSD I had developed an uncontrollable snarl at any perceived threat. No matter how minor or imagined. Quite literally, my lips would curl back to expose my canine teeth. A hoot like a simian or apes bark or challenge would force past my lungs. This was an involuntary response I had no control over. If I had any doubts that we had evolved from apes, that was cleared right up. I was responding from the more primitive side of the brain sometimes referred to as the lizard brain. The back of the brain near the brain stem. I felt like a a wild animal in a cage being poked each day. Trapped. Oscillating between rage and dispair. Chewing at the bars and pulling my hair out. I was also becoming a danger to others. I was near death. My blood felt like acid in my veins, the aftereffects of near perpetual adrenaline, rage and hate. My body would bruise for no observed reason. I was experiencing heart arrhythmia. I was too nauseous to eat and had no appetite. My body was, quite literally, trying to die. If not for the over-consumption of beer I might have starved. I was a danger on the road. Especially on my motorcycle. I couldn’t ride unless I had a random female passenger to keep me in the moment. I would lose my only trade as a professional driver. My main bus route was an unavoidable trigger. I had taken another stressful 3 month bus driving job but came to accept passengers were no longer safe with me so I voluntarily ended my only profession. I had no backup. I was now unemployed with no future prospects. The BC coastal terrain had also become a trigger. Cedars, ferns and moss covered rocks. The landscape itself was killing me. Healing began when Mrs.C5 took me to other side of the continent where the plants and landscape were different and there were no previous associations. Far away from anyone I might kill in retribution. Probably worse, my own home, my carefully built survival bus home was a major trigger. I couldn’t be there anymore. My entire survival system of location and means had collapsed. I gave the multiple thousand dollar vehicle away to a perfect stranger for free and walked away from it. My survival system and prepping HAD succeeded in keeping me alive. I used every mental trick I had to keep going. It had all worked. It bought me 3 to 4 years. If Mrs.C5 had not come along to carry the rest of the way, I would have been done. I had kept a brave face and kept pushing forward but in retrospect, I would have been dead in another 6 months. My body and mind couldn’t have held out.
So here I am. A survivor of PTSD. I have given you a good baseline. Some social proof. With the help of a counselor that specialized in PTSD, I can honestly say I no longer have PTSD. The uncontrolled memories and nightmares have dislodged from where they were stuck and found their way into long term memory. I have no interest in ever revisiting it. I lived there too long. I had the privilege of reliving a traumatic experience as much as 100 times a day, as if it had just happened the first time. Now that I have control, if the subject surfaces I have no interest in going back there for a visit.
But even though I survived and am free of the PTSD symptoms, I do still live with the consequences of it. My brain has fundamentally rewired. At its core, PTSD is a traumatic brain injury. Certain parts of my brain no longer function. There are missing parts of my history. My short term memory is a bit of a daily joke. I do, very much live in the moment because I don’t always remember what happened yesterday or even 10 minutes ago sometimes. One of the nasty annoyances is trying to use my Visual Memory. My brain rejects Any Memory, even if it happened yesterday, as a threat and gives me a mental Zap. Like someone had jumped out of the bushes and yelled “BOO”. Most people around me would just think I had the hiccups. A quick inhalation of the lungs. I forget the memory immediately after. It is rather annoying but fuck it. Compared to what I was living with before, day in, day out, then continuing on into my dreams at night, I can handle this just fine, thank you very much. It’s nothing. As far as I’m concerned I am healed. Hallefuckingluja. But in many ways, it’s like having a concussion. It’s important that I don’t re-injure it. I’ll always be in danger of getting PTSD again from a different event because I’m already rewired for it. That whole, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” thing is complete bullshit! I’m much weaker.
The old me was much braver. The new me is more vicious. Let’s not get those two confused. The viciousness stems from fear. I’d prefer to be brave again.
Being down here in Barbados is a good place to finally write this piece. That way, I don’t take it home with me. I brought a book down here with me that I will be borrowing heavily from.
The Disaster Diaries: How I learned to stop worrying and love the apocalypse by Sam Sheridan, 2013, Penguin.
It was an enjoyable read but certainly not life altering. It is filled with a lot of the traditional survivalist ways of doing things that I generally tell people to avoid. The usual assumptions that survivalism is about turning yourself into some type of Warrior Superhero, with the usual MMA, becoming an expert combat shooter, that you will need a bugout bag, have to become an expert in bush craft, the forest will be full of meat, you will need the sharpest knife and the usual stuff I regularly call out as BS. None of the long term preps, life change through location and lifestyle or serious food production through micro farming and community resilience.
There are some decent insights like hanging out with some LA ex-gang members, ex-convicts, drug dealers and users as well as car thieves, for survival advice, mainly on situational awareness and the long term effects on the brain. Urban survival by urban survivors. I get that. You have heard me say that before.
But the show stopper of the book is the chapter on PTSD. He touched on a lot of the issues that I had been through. Hearing that other people had experienced some of the same symptoms was useful to me in that it made me not feel alone or like some kind of freak. Things that are uncomfortable to talk about.
Sheridan interviews a Dr. Boulanger.
“A crisis changes the world, in a way, so does massive psychic trauma. The familiar is gone, and the failure to return to a familiar state is very disorienting to people. People will sometimes wonder, ‘Did I die back there? I think I am alive, but I don’t feel as if I survived.’ That’s a very disorienting feeling, you are among the walking dead.”
This is a good quote to start on for two reasons. The first is related to the world on the edge of near apocalyptic world change and an abrupt adjustment to how people will survive. With a disaster of that magnitude, almost every one around you will end up living with PTSD. You may have to live with it, as well as people around you. Your loved ones. Your neighbors. People you will have to interact with. You may have to apply mental first aid, tolerate behavior in others that would once have been unacceptable and protect your own mental health, being diligent to not re-injure yourself. Talking about it and knowing it is normal is a start. This should not be the taboo subject that it is in many circles, especially amongst first responders.
The other reason is this is very personal to me. During the worst and most dangerous phase, I did regularly think that I might be dead. That I might be a ghost or this was some type of hell or purgatory that I would keep reliving each day.
What was happening is that a part of the brain was being damaged. The part that identifies self. When you say “I”, the part that thinks of itself. This phase of the illness is when it is most dangerous. This is the period when people are most likely to commit suicide. This feeling that I might be dead, still happens to me a couple times a year, usually during a stressful event but its just easier for me to call bullshit and not allow myself to go there.
The other very personal reason, and deeply hard to talk about, especially considering family members may read this, is that though I say, I Survived PTSD, Its not quite true. The person born in this body has died. He did not make it through the experience. I am the guy that has been creeping around in his body for many years now. I share his knowledge but I am not him. Not really. This has something to do with the damage to that part of the brain that identifies as, “I”.
Dont get this confused with a multiple personality disorder. Its simply that certain parts of my brain ceased to function. I have seen scans of a healthy brain compared to the scans of a person with PTSD. In a healthy brain, nuropathways spread through the entire brain. In the PTSD brain, its more of a narrow strip of high activity while other parts are getting little activity.
Though this was deeply troubling, there has been a positive side to this change in my own story. The previous guy that used to live in this shell used to have a lot of self hatred and guilt. I, on the other hand, really like myself and am deeply proud of myself for what I have accomplished in simply not dying. I survived what kills others. I am a damn impressive human being.
Now let me start by saying, this was MY experience. Other peoples experience will be much different. Let me repeat that. My experience will be different than others. Its a mighty big brain. I also don’t want to give false hope that flashbacks will go away if you just do as C5. That would be BS. I got lucky. That is all. Its hard to call that luck.
The reason I am sharing such deeply personal stuff with you, is for those who are looking up PTSD on the internet to understand what is happening to them. If any of my experience resonates with their experience, they will know they are not alone. That it is a normal response to overwhelming stress chemicals. Your brain is trying to find a work around so that you don’t die.
“The diagnostic manual that health professionals use describe it as the result of exposure to a traumatic event, such as death or serious injury. The event is re-experienced through re-occurring, unwanted recollections, during which the person often feels that the actual even is re-occurring. The person will try to avoid anything that reminds them of the traumatic event or stimulates their recollection of it. Symptoms include diminished interest in activities, detachment from others, insomnia, hypervigilance, and exaggerated startled reactions, among others.
Imagine a healthy young man with a good job, a loving wife, and a tight group of college buddies. He experiences an extremely traumatic event during which he thinks is he going to die, but he doesn’t. Two years later, we see the same young man. He has lost his job, his wife has left him, and none of his buddies will talk to him.”
The subject I really want to talk about here is one of the symptoms. Hyper-vigilance.
Some people get Hyper Vigilance confused with PTSD. It is only a symptom, but can also be a precursor. It can also be there because of training and have nothing to do with PTSD. I have my suspicions that this kind of training can make a person more susceptible to PTSD. I trained myself to be hyper vigilant from an early age. Always being several steps ahead. Knowing what is around the next corner. Seeing what others miss. I wonder if I did this to myself.
I am jumping ahead a bit, But I think I had already had some minor PTSD from events that happened when I was young. I had a lot of the symptoms.
That said, I was young and just lived with it. I think I was more susceptible to getting full blown PTSD when it happened because I am already wired for it. Its why I have to be more cautious now. Another round might kill me.
I explained this to another friend with PTSD. We are done. There is no going back. You dont send a paramedic with PTSD back to work. A police officer with PTSD is too fucked up for public service. Retire them. A soldier with PTSD is done. Get them home. Don’t let them re enlist. Do not, under any circumstance hire them as police officers. THEY ARE DONE.
Certainly, dont let them play Tactical Tommy Survivalist. More on that later.
Back when I started looking into what was happening to me, There wasn’t much on the internet. There is more now simply because of the veterans coming back from the failed occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. People are now paying attention to PTSD. Forgive me for not getting all weepy. That said, I am not a monster. I have empathy for anyone living with it, whether they be a rape victim, someone that has experience torture, refugees, someone coming out of prison, hurricane survivors, alot of inner city African americans living in the US, first responders or disaster survivors.
I have seen several people write that they have PTSD from having PTSD. Yah. That really sums it up. The rather undramatic experience that happened to me was certainly not the worst thing that ever happened to me. It was just one event I had experience many times before. Just this time, my mind could not process it so I got to keep reliving it. It was the PTSD that would become the single worst thing that had ever happened to me. That is why writing this is going to fuck me up for a while, both writing this and after. I used to get flashbacks, triggered by simply saying or referring to PTSD. I am rather ecstatic the flashbacks have ended for me. Others will live with it for life. If anything, I feel some survivors guilt that I survived but others will not.
“There are also ancient inhibitions and ideas that distort our thinking on the subject. You should be able to just get on with your life. Suck it up, be a man, rub some dirt on the wound and get back in there! If you can’t, then something is wrong with you: you must be a coward, or lazy or weak, or malingering, or have been screwed up as a child. It wouldn’t happen to me. But think about it like this: if you broke your left and it was never set properly and healed wrong and now you limp, can you blame the leg? Are the bones malingering? Stress hormones damage the software and the hardware, too.”
“Extreme levels of stress chemicals can damage the neural pathways in the brain, which affects memory in particular. This damage has a disorienting effect, and people struggle to recognize their new selves and the new world. This disorientation leads to all the other problems associated with PTSD.”
“The military deals with this problem all the time. Is someone suffering from PTSD, or are they a coward? Society pushes this simply narrative on us. We want stories with a hero and a villain. We want happy ever after.
The problem with what society wants to hear is very much with us. CBS news reported that internal emails at the Department of Veterans Affairs proved that the VA knew that some 12,000 veterans attempt suicide each year, with over 6,000 succeeding in 2008, but the VA tried to downplay the numbers. Veterans were committing suicide at a rate four times higher than the national average. More soldiers commit suicide than die in battle.”
(I want to throw in a perspective note here. Recently, over twice as many american farmers commit suicide each year than veterans. This book puts emphasis on people living with issues of death. The real issue of PTSD is having an experience that makes you feel powerless. Completely Impotent. Without control. Unable to act or change this. That said, our society is pretty fucked up and self destructing quickly, when more farmers are committing suicide than soldiers)
“Some of the chemicals released during the traumatic experience, called endogenous opioids, can start to function like morphine. ‘Since opioids reduce the perception of physical and psychological pain, paradoxically, they lead survivors to seek out further danger as a way of coping with anxiety.’ Adrenaline junkies … maybe those soldiers who continuously re-up for more combat tours aren’t just brave, but are also addicts.”
“But when exposed to the highest levels of stress, everyone gets PTSD. Nobody gets out alive.”
This is a good place to talk about that PTSD is not just a soldiers disease. My therapist pointed out to me that about 90% of the messed up folks in Vancouver’s Lower East Side have PTSD. This was one of the reasons I learned to trust her. She knew where I was from and the players. She had served there. When I told my story, instead of being treated with suspicion, she responded, “That is absolutely horrible” and after a few seconds beat, “Why haven’t you killed yourself”, implying she would have. That was the beginning moment of healing. Simple validation that my experience was real. Not a sign of some personal weakness. She then responded, “I have met many people like you. They are all junkies. Why aren’t you a junky?” I had peaked her curiosity. I eventually told her how close I had come. By year three or four when I was at my worst, I was certainly tempted if only for one night of rest from it all. But I had been around plenty of addicts and I knew there would be no coming back. I was still fighting. That I had secluded myself in the Forrest lessened that temptation. Seclusion was a major problem though. I had removed any possible support system.
Sheridan asks, “’Is there a way to think your way out’ I asked her.”
‘I hate to be negative about it,’ she responded, ‘but you really have to form groups. You can’t do it on your own. You need someone to validate your experience, even if it is their experience too. I hate to use the cliché, but you need to witness their experience, and they need to witness yours.’
“What she is saying is that this stress and damage … this shaking of your internal world… has, first and foremost, fucked up your sense of time. Your sense of the timeframe of the traumatic event is damaged and toxic to remember. What you need to do is reestablish order … bring a narrative back. You need to talk it through, make sense of it, establish some kind of emotional control over the events, or else they will control you.
‘It’s not a bad thing to try and look forward in some ways… but you cannot deny or disavow another person’s pain, or your own pain. You will become zombielike, divorced from your own experience.’”
“’We do not believe in trying to gloss over what is uncomfortable in life, mostly because you can’t do it. You cannot erase memory. The military and society in general are often looking for a quick fix, but there aren’t any. You talk about this, you start to build a narrative and that brings all the memories. You establish reason and a sense of time, you give meaning to the experience. It’s not black and white and it’s not simple, but you can get a sense of having some control over the experience, you can detoxify it. Or you will continue to experience all the symptoms. You will dream about it and dream the same bloody thing over and over.”
There is a good point to bring up here. You wont be able to think your way out of it. Cognitive Behavior Therapy has become standard practice for treating issues like depression or anxiety. Its very effective. Changing the narrative changes body chemical response to memories. Re evaluating your internal self talk about events and de catastrophising your belief about the subject. Brilliant. Unfortunately, Cognitive Behavior Therapy has been proven to be ineffective with those experiencing PTSD. I suspect it is because the memories or flashbacks are completely involuntary. You cant shut them off, change the channel, or de catastrophise the memory.
I have seen one friend where his forced “Therapy” was aggravating his condition and making it worse. I kept telling him, your brain wants to heal, to adapt, but it is like a scab. Stop picking at it or it will get infected. Its more important to find a place of safety. Stability. No going back to work in the shit. Some of us are wired to run towards danger. This defines us. But that is done now. Its over. We can’t go back unless our intention is to die. From now on, we have to be safe and boring. We will need time to mourn for our past life but try to build a new one that is completely different. We wont be going back once we are “fixed”.
You will notice, I haven’t shared with you the events that lead to my PTSD. That is because its none of your fucking business. Even MrsC5 doesn’t know the whole story. I would save her from that. People would not see me the same way again. I could only share my experience with an outsider. A trained professional that had earned my trust. That did not judge me and was trained to encourage me to just keep talking and changing the direction if it was too much. That is because I was pretty deep into it. Too far gone.
There is First Aid for those who just experience trauma, before it becomes cemented, but that is a different subject. That will require other people. Being a solo survivalist is the complete WRONG thing to do.
“I asked her about signs to look for (in your family and yourself) in a post-apocalyptic world, in a world where we are refugees from some disaster, some catastrophe that topples government.”
“’I think you will see enormous suspiciousness, alternated with bonding attempts. Tremendous wariness – the startle reflex and hyper alertness will be on display. There is a terrible price to pay for being highly stressed for so long: the stress hormones start to destroy you. I remember seeing someone who was being an absolute hero – and I use that word cautiously – working for the Red Cross after 911. … I saw him three months later – and he looked like a ghost. It was horrifying.’ When you run on your afterburners, so to speak – when you run on stress hormones for too long – you create massive health problems for yourself, in the chemical balances of your brain.”
“’The problem is you won’t see it yourself. People withdraw and you will too, and perhaps self-medicate with liquor and drugs. It’s terribly, terribly, terribly hard for people to make the connection for themselves. I was a clinical director for a program for unemployed Vietnam veterans, and I would do evaluations, and when I told some of them, ‘you have PTSD’, some were relieved, because they had a connection between their estrangement and their experiences. But more often, people would deny it. They don’t want to make that connection, to be unheroic, or not tough. Sometimes it would take many years; much later they would reach out to me, having come to terms with the fact that they had PTSD.’”
“You’’ll see people withdraw, you’ll see the thousand yard stare. People will be short tempered, you will see numbness, a flattening of emotions. But remember, you’re talking about a post-apocalyptic world here. Even if they don’t have PTSD their going to be depressed!”
“When I asked her about what a layman could do – could we help each other by ‘witnessing’ with each other? – Dr. Boulanger became wary. ‘I find it so … hard … to advise people to take on the role of witnessing. We have to be aware of everything we are not witnessing, of all the ways we short change someone by not fully attending. The best thing would be an outsider. Someone from the outside, who can resonate with their experience. It’s not about normalcy, but rather ‘I hear what you are saying, and it is as terrible as you say.’ Listen without doubting, without denying.”
“What I would say is that if people can share their experience, it’s helpful. When they are ready. It’s very hard, because often people feel that they are too much of a burden and don’t want to impose, or that what happened to them was minor compared to what happened to others. Or too major. Both ways, they are isolated.”
“Pay attention to each other, not denying, not doubting. And also, have ongoing work to do. Plan for the future and work for the future while you talk about the past. Forward motion is important.”
This was important to me. Forward focus. You might put it into the category of first aid or management. You can say, survivalism saved my life, but not in the way you are thinking. I needed something to do. The past was too terrible. I focused all of my mind onto the future. Creating new pathways in the brain. I put my mind into studying the future. My predictive skills. My study of how societies collapse. The future I already knew was coming. Funny story of how this happened. I was living in my survival bus, off grid, far from the city.
I got a visit from a friend. Excitedly, he said, “Guess what? Neil Strauss just wrote a book on survivalists. Here. You can have my copy. I’ll get another”. Strauss is best known for for his relation with rock stars. He went on to pen “The Game” studying pick up artists only to become one. Now, he was sent out to investigate extremist groups preparing for Y2K and instead finds that he has become a survivalist. The book was called, “Emergency. This Book Will Save Your Life”. Prophetically, it did as advertised.
It was a very funny read. In many ways, it’s very similar to The Disaster Diaries I have been quoting here. Its POP Culture survivalism.
This told me that the culture was finally ready to start talking about this subject. It was no longer Taboo. More so, these two Pop culture books Humanize the subject matter. It doesn,t need to stay in the hands of dangerous paranoids and political or religious or racial extremists. They would cease to be “The Authorities” on the subject matter.
If someone that is friends with people like Marilyn Manson and Motley Crew has gone full survivalist and could poke fun of himself, this told me the world was ready to make some life changes. To face an inevitable world that is fast approaching, if not already here.
I was facing my own apocalypse at the time. Shattered. Beginning to lose everything. Knowing death was approaching. I could chose death…or i could keep fighting and do something new. I told myself I will need something to do. Something to become an expert in. Survivalism had been the most consistent theme of my life. I had alot of experience but I decided I had to bump it up to full time professional status.
And if I fail and am going to die anyway, all that is really left to do… is tell the story.
I decided to come out of the survivalist closet and start writing. If Neil Strauss can write on the subject, so can I. More so because I come with some real life experience, not theoretical. More so, I had some serious critiques of the way survivalism was being presented to new comers. And I decided to do it counter intuitive. I would make it funny and completely irreverent, and humorously insulting.
More so, I decided this solo survivalist life was a dead end. I had gone as far as I could go. I was alone in the wilderness where no one would be able to track me. It sucked. To stay alive, I would require other people. That meant I would have to risk becoming a public figure. It was the only way to find others.
And it might just save a few other people’s lives in the process.
And this decision, my dear readers, is the beginning of the story of how you find yourself reading me.
I began the process of completely focusing and emerseing my mind into the future. Finding each problem that was about to happen, economically, environmentally and energy-wise…. and solving it for myself and others. Adapting.
It was the right decision. It saved my life.
But first I would have to get back on grid…and figure out this whole intrusive computer thing. The rest is history. Oh look. Lots of other people are doing the same. They are calling it Prepping now…. and their advice… is terrible…. Lets get to work…..
“This is where the fascinating interplay of philosophy and biology lie in PTSD, a combination of chemical damage from stress hormones and some deeper damage from unwanted knowledge.”
“She calls it ‘the secret knowledge’, the space between two deaths. These people have faced annihilation, yet their biological death hasn’t happened. This ‘intimate knowledge of mortality has robbed them of their citizenship within the ranks of the living… it is never clear that the trauma has been survived. There is no going back to ignorance.”
“This coming to terms with your own mortality, that you will die, that everything will die, it’s not just the acceptance of it, but the extreme sadness of it. The horror of that suddenness, that’s the secret knowledge that people who have gone through trauma have.”
“The denial of death is essential to life”
So, lets discus some mental first aid techniques. Keeping the effects from getting cemented.
First is being able to talk about it right away with everyone involved in the incident. Witnessing. Telling the story over and over while hearing others tell their story.
You see this used by fire fighters. Debriefing after an event. Simply getting together to talk about the event. Sharing what you saw with others. Acknowledging what just happened. Of course, this requires others.
Another is Pot. I don’t know the specifics, but some military’s make marijuana available to people that have just come back from a mission. I get this. Changing the channel and immediately looking at the event from a different perspective. Using a different part of the brain. Prophylactic against it becoming a permanent trauma.
I grasp this from talking to a friend with PTSD. As a paramedic, when he arrived at an accident, his primary job was to stabilize the individual. This usually involved drugging them so thoroughly that they were out and would miss most of the trauma that was happening to them. They did not have to experience what was about to happen next to them if at all possible. This was trauma prevention.
Now days, Marijuana is used to treat the symptoms of people suffering PTSD and doctors recommend using it because there are less side effects than other psychiatric or sleep medications.
I have had Two doctors tell me to start smoking pot. I took their advice but I find it doesn’t work for me, leaving me more agitated. People have different body chemistries.
In lieu of a proper Councillor or trained therapist, I can see the advantages of talking to a priest or minister, with reservation. It depends on their personality and training. Can they “Witness” or will they just moralize, seek superstitious meaning? The good news is many clergy do some training in counseling.
I can also imagine going into some place like AA or Alcoholics Anonymous as first aid. You may not be an alcoholic… but I just don’t see them kicking you out. They are there to encourage people to talk it out without judging. You will get a “Thanks for Sharing…”. They may just be able to point you to a better support group since they deal with stuff like this all the time.
On Second Thought, I want you to Memorize That NOW!!!
Say it out loud to yourself….
…”If I find myself traumatized, C5 says to go straight to AA”.
You will find them just about every where. I suspect they will still be around even in a full collapse. Really. Just say, “I didn’t know where else to go and I need to talk”. They will get you where you need to go. Its part of their “Making amends” principal and they are all about confidentiality.
Now, I want to move on to PTSD in the Prepper and Survivalist world.
As someone who has it, I have been sensitive to seeing it in others in the prepper world… and there is a very disproportionate number. Part of that is the disproportionate number of Veterans in the prepper world, wrongly thought of as “Authorities”. In conjunction with this, Survivalism is primarily an American invention, filled with Americans, many of which are traumatized veterans. Some with deeply racist tendencies. Racism and trauma can go hand in hand because of that “Lizard Brain” de evolution, that I mentioned earlier in the post. Exaggerated primal Fear of The Other. (This deserves its own article) The other reason is people that have experience trauma trying to make sure It never happens again. Another reason is certain people that have experienced trauma, becoming paranoid as shit and resonating with other people that are paranoid a shit.
Its Paranoid As Shit Club.
It is a mine field for anyone newly looking for survival advice, having to navigate their way though many levels of Bat Shit Crazy and plain Dangerous. To find the actual Meat, you have to have a strong personality, confident enough to call bullshit, but empathetic enough to tolerate listening to crazy because even crazy people know how to do things you may not.
In my own story, I started to write a book… but was severely held back by my Off Grid lifestyle and very intentional lack of understanding computers and the internet. It would have been very original but still filled with much of the traditional survivalist thinking. It would have been very similar to Sam Sheridans, Neil Strauss or even, Max Brooks (The Zombie Survival Guide) form of Pop Survivalism. Much of the stuff I have come to reject as useless. Or, as i now start by asking, “Will this survival advice produce ACTUAL SURVIVAL”.
I’m REALLY glad I was held back. The process did give me practice in writing and story telling and reaching out to others though. No Regrets.
So, I entered the world of the internet. First thing I found was A LOT of other people doing what I was doing. I also discovered the Prepper Movement. Preppers had pretty much rejected the excesses and racism of the survivalist movement, while still Preparing for the inevitable future. It was much more inclusive in nature instead of exclusive. Anyone could prepare and share, no matter what your religious or political affiliation. Even Gay Preppers came out of the closet.
I can’t say It is as healthy today. Because I had focused my time into studying every corner of the prepper and survivalist world, I was on the scene, right at the moment when prepping became popular culture. I was there when the survivalists, quite literally said, “I guess we are preppers now…and by the way we are better than preppers”…and we are taking over now. It went to shit soon after. Like rats fleeing the post Timothy McVeigh, sinking ship. They swam onto the prepper ship and spread the plague. It soon became the ship of the damned. Inclusiveness began to be shouted out by professional trolls with a bank roll and an agenda. Now Prepping is more of a recruiting tool for violent extremist groups set on civil war or instigating race war. Thus my pointing out the non survivability of PTSD…but I am getting ahead of myself. I was there when a popular Youtube prepper, calling for a religious war, said,” I started the word prepper” (Bullshit. The first use of the word came from the Foxfire book series)He then said, “If you are not a Christian and a constitutional Republican, You are not a prepper”. Preppers like myself chimed in and said, “I guess we will have to turn in our prepper cards now” or “Badges. We dont need any stinking Badges”. He went off to pout in a narcissistic rage and changed his call sign to “___ Self Sufficiency” instead of “___ Prepper” which was just embarrassing because there was nothing “Self Sufficient” about him.
With the popularity of the TV series, Doomsday Preppers, Prepping had “Jumped The Shark”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jumping_the_shark
It went into almost instant decline. It was like an undergound dance club at 2 AM when the lights came on. It was dangerous, exotic and sexy before that moment. But once the bright lights came on, people weren’t as attractive, sort of dorky, and drunk. I call this the X-Files Moment. A lot of people used to be obsessed with UFOs. Then the X-Files came out and they felt vindicated. But without the scary underground nature of it, in the light, it was far less interesting. The scene disappeared into obscurity soon after.
Its unfortunate that this happened, right at the period if human history, when people need the info most. It may be a God Send though. It had far too much useless survival advice that could not produce Actual Survival. Chaff that needed to be blown out.
I came to the conclusion, Survivalists would actually make The Collapse, much, much, much worse. They were a problem. Not a solution.
There was something profound in watching other people doing what I was doing. The BIG insight was seeing how Dorky they were or how just plain paranoid and dangerous they were. This began my process of re evaluating my own survivalism.
But the BIGGEST insight, and the subject of this article, is that the survival advice they were promoting, was almost guaranteed to leave its participants (and their families) with PTSD. Something that was either non survivable, or would leave the participants with LESS ability to be able to ADAPT to a fundamentally changed world. Not only would people not talk about the subject, they had no knowledge OF the subject.
Someone would need to bring it Out Into The light. Unfortunately, that task has fallen to me. And now to you.
(I knew writing this article would be harmful to me. It has proved even harder than expected. After the last round of writing, I went Numb and Disassociated for about four days. No distraction had any effect or any pleasure. MrsC5, who I warned in advance of writing because I knew I would need her support and understanding. That I wouldn’t be there for her for the next few weeks, had said to me, last round, “When you have lost interest in even beer or sex, I know you are in a rough mental space”. I have dreaded coming back to writing at this point but I have just got to get it done, several days of recovery at a time, and finally be done with it.)
Part of this is to point out I knew the players as I went Full Time exploring and studying every dark corner of the prepping and survivalist world. One other VERY well known prepper, I often joke, calling him the Poster Child For Preppers with PTSD. That said, I have decided not to OUT him. Its rather evil, with a side of evil sauce, when people OUT homosexuals for personal gain. Same with people with PTSD. They will tell you IF they chose to. They might not even know.
There was A LOT of preppers showing obvious signs of PTSD.
There is also, almost NO DISCUSSION of PTSD. There have been some discussions but absolutely no thorough exploration of effects or treatment during a collapse. None.
THIS IS IT, FOLKS. This is a C5 exclusive. I CAME OUT of the PTSD Closet… for this very purpose. People will either Start Discussing It…. or They Wont. It may just go back into the closet.
Back to the subject of Bad Survival Advice in the prepper movement, or Pop Survivalism.
In Sam Sheridans book, he points out that good survivalism makes bad TV. You should not be running around and taking risks. “Why run when you can walk. Why stand when can sit”. He continues this talking to Cody Lundin.
“Cody shook his head at the needs of TV, the need for the producers to have action and excitement. ‘They always want us to kill something,’ he said. ‘Because watching people conserve calories is boring.’ It’s like anything like on TV, whether cop show or beauty pageant: what’s represented has only an oblique relationship to the truth.”
The reason I bring this up is that, new, youngsters getting interested in survival advice are often drawn because of the Excitement. They mainly want to know about guns and the application of violence. I could draw HUGE numbers if I only played to my audience. I am fairly knowledgeable on the subject of the application of violence. But I just wont do it. I WILL NOT add to the poison. Especially in consideration to my PTSD and those who might get it.
The reality, is young new comers are there because they are facing an Existential Crisis ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existential_crisis ) about their own life, culture, their place in it and their prospective life experience.
They would not be interested if they came asking me for “Training”. I would put a shovel in their hand, point to an un-tilled piece of land, and say, “Train away”, or put a saw and hammer in their hands after explaining SHTF Shelving. And they definitely would be disappointed when I explained the most important part of their training, “This is a ‘Party’. This is where you will build essential human connections and tribal identity. Repeat after me. ‘This is my beer. There are many like it but this beer is mine.’ Here have a beer. Go talk to someone.”
REAL survival will depend on socialising skills and your ability to find a community. This is PTSD First Aid and prophylactic. For this we turn to Sabastian Junger. An ex soldier living with PTSD.
And more, on identifying the problems and creating solutions
The next subject that needs to be discussed is Suicide because of PTSD.
…And this is the moment I Tap Out.
Sorry guys. I cant go any further. I spent too many years there facing the abyss. Now that I am safely away… I don’t want to go back for a visit. There is only so much the world can ask of me. I’m done here.
But I will share one last thing. How PTSD changed me…. for the better… if I survived.
I got the wopper PTSD somewhere around 2008 but I am not sure. The part of my brain that regulates my placement in time is wrecked. I have trouble with TIME now. Its somewhere within a year or two of 2008. Unlike many, I knew I had PTSD within a few days. I just didnt know what that would entail.
I was back in my bus, realizing I was about to lose everything I had worked so hard to achieve. I understood that I had just been murdered but it would take a few years years for me to die. I was in a level of shock beyond what I had ever experienced. There was a heavy snowstorm going on outside that gave the symbolism of what was to happen next.
I said too myself, “You now only have Two options. You can get pass out drunk, go lie down in the snow and go to sleep. Its hard but it will be over.”
“Your only other option is to face the snow storm. Though you have no destination to safety, no direction, and only the slimmest chance that maybe a destination is out there that you will only find by sheer luck. It will be painful and a living death. You may end up lying down in the snow anyhow. You have to make a decision right now”
I proverbially chose to walk.
In that moment, I said to myself, “Wow. I think you might be the single bravest individual I have ever met”. Any self hatred I had ended that day.
I may be a truly shattered person with alot of problems… but I really like myself. I’m proud of myself.
So, This is what I Do, in between the time of Two Deaths.
Martin Luther King Jr’s final speech comes to mind, when thinking about survival in a dark future, prepping and Adaptation.
“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind.”
“Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place.”
“But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land.”
“I may not get there with you.”
“But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord”
I would personally like to thank Sam Sheridan for breaching the subject in relation to disaster management.
Also, Sebastian Yunger for his honesty, vulnerability and work at social change.
Most importantly, I want to thank MrsC5…for tolerating my shit. Day in. Day out.
I Have now done My Part. The rest is up to you. Share this with your social networks. I have to admit here that I am terrified people will actually read this.
With this, I am announcing that I will be taking a substantial break from writing.
No idea when I will be back.
Consider this article as the end of Season One. C5 Abroad. Next season will be C5 at Home. The Adaptation…. or something like that.
If you enjoyed this series or learned something new, please give a Tip by going to the top of the page and visiting ¨Giving Just The Tip¨. All Tips go towards building material costs for future Experiments, here at the Dark Green Mountain Survival RESEARCH Centre. Its for the Research part.
You wont find information presented like this on other prepper boards.