(86) The “D” in PTSD: Depression ‘Sux’

Molly, the service dog

Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)

The letter d in PTSD, of course, stands for disorder and not depression. Depression fits, however, because the symptom looms over and dwells within every victim of trauma. While I would say depression sucks, my husband suggested “sux” is more presentable for sensitive eyes, viewing the Molly blog.

I do not believe there is any condition that sucks the life out of you faster than depression. It moves in slowly and pulls you into one ice crevice after another (as the ice crevice that froze Captain America for 60 years). Before you know it, its icy fingers trap you, leaving no strength for escape.

Molly expresses sensitivity to William’s moods and alerts both of us to his succumbing to depression. When MollyMolly helping William summons me, William denies he feels depressed but Molly knows better. She will either jump on his lap or insist on staying close by him. Sometimes she will put her face into his until she gets a response. Usually the response is unpleasant. She stirs the wrath of her Veteran but does not care that he is angry. She only cares that he snaps out of it. After an hour or two, he thaws out and escapes from the icy monster of depression.

Recently, after suffering multiple assaults on his body from falling off a ladder and other calamities, he fell into deep depression when he found out the neighbor’s house sold. The vacant house had been on the market for five years after construction. The news it finally sold left him feeling happy for the builder but sad that we were not successful selling our home last year. He expressed feelings of being trapped. Those feelings stirred up a lifetime of betrayal. Topped off with an episode of Magnum PI that showed prisoners of the Vietnam War being tortured, it made for a huge panic attack followed by a depression spell that lasted days.

When my husband hurts, I hurt. Molly does, too, although she tends to shake it off and continue doing what she does best—loving my husband. For me, depression whisks me into the frozen abyss. Fortunately, my only trigger is his feelings of helplessness and despair. I usually seek an activity such as sewing, jogging, or painting to thaw me out. It is easier for me because I do not have PTSD nor do I have the memories and scars of war.

I asked my husband how Molly best can help him.

“Just being here with me. She helps me cope.”

With his most recent bout of depression, Molly and I tried everything to help. Nothing worked. After several days, he asked me to pray with him. He prayed for God to soften his heart and not to allow his heart to harden. Just a few hours later, he told me the depression thawed and God restored the peace inside. Our household returned to normal.

Depression kills if left unchecked. The estimate of suicides in US Veterans exceeds the number of deaths from war.

There are approximately 25 million veterans in the United States, and 5 million veterans who receive care within VHA. Based on CDC data indicating suicide rates in men between the ages of 20 and 65 approximating 20 per 100,000 persons per year . . . . VHA mental health officials estimate 1,000 suicides per year among veterans receiving care within VHA and as many as 5,000 per year among all living veterans. (VA Office of Inspector General, p.1) 

If you are a Veteran, who suffers from depression, get help by calling the VA Crisis Hotline (1-800-273-8255 press 1) and consider getting a service dog. Do not delay, as depression suxs and will take everything from you if you let it. If you are a family caregiver, who suffers from depression, do not let time pass without getting help. For those caregivers covered by ChampVA (1-800-733-8387), the Magellan Health Care (1-800-424-4018) offers counseling services to help you. Most health care plans also offer mental health counseling.

Victory for Molly

I wanted to report that Molly lost 14 pounds over the past month on her special prescriptionThinner Molly dog food. The veterinarian gave Molly a hug when she weighed in. She suggested that the weight loss will likely extend her life by two years. We cannot see the difference because her fur exploded in every direction this winter. Weigh to go, Miss Molly (pun intended).

Post your Comments:

What helps you snap-out of a bout of sadness or depression? Please reply below. 

Photo credits: pculbrethgraft

Source cited:

  • VA Office of Inspector General, Healthcare Inspection Implementing VHA’s Mental Health Strategic Plan Initiatives for Suicide Prevention; http://www.va.gov/oig/54/reports/VAOIG-06-03706-126.pdf

About the blogger

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her granddaughter.