(169) Behind the Walls: The Corrosive Nature of PTSD

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Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)


Home Flipping 

William loves watching home building shows—flipping, flopping, rehabbing, and fixing. Admittedly, there is something about watching homeowners demolish the ugly with sledgehammers and crowbars that is therapeutic. Of course, in the end, a butterfly emerges from the rubble and homeowners swoon with delight.

During the course of every renovation, the experts find problems—problems that elude visual inspection. Some problems undermine the foundation, others display rot and vermin, and occasionally some require spacesuits and decontamination. While homeowners know the risks of buying a fixer-upper, they express alarm when observing the flaws inside walls and beneath concrete foundations.

PTSD Lurks Behind Walls 

My Veterans stands tall at 6’4”. His once athletic life left a legacy of strength in his shoulders and gait. Discovering he is disabled, people comment, “He looks so normal.” In fact, a family member recently commented, “I never knew he suffered any effects of war. He looked so normal when he returned home.” PTSD is like that. Especially for warriors, who are taught to continue on regardless of personal injury. Don’t show weakness. Be strong. Exude confidence and strength. Put your trauma behind you.

For our warriors returning to civilian life, the military mantra reverberates throughout life even when torn apart inside. As their lives slowly unravel from their war experiences, they deny the symptoms of PTSD. Their hurt seeps deeper out of sight, boring into their core. Without treatment, the pain festers until rupture, as an aged water pipe that bursts without provocation. In a matter of time, the foundation crumbles with damaged relationships, dysfunctional habits, uncontrolled rage, and suicidal thoughts.

Demolishing Walls 

Just as experts help homeowners with their rehab projects, the VA employs experts to work with Veterans on managing PTSD. Effective treatments help Veterans reconstruct their lives after war trauma. In fact, the sooner the expert is invited in to help the Veteran after returning from war, the sooner reconstruction begins. With early help, the less damage PTSD wreaks on Veterans and their families.

I hear from many service members being discharged from duty that the military works proactively in assessing PTSD prior to release. This change in policy speaks boldly for a military that once denied the existence of PTSD and preached “put it behind you.” It gives the Veteran a chance at a normal life after war.

Behind the Walls of the VA 

Even the VA suffers with vermin and rotting foundations, as news stories reveal. Although, from the outside things appeared normal, the past three years of events suggest differently. The agency is riddled with allegations of corruption, wrong doing, incompetence, apathy, mismanagement, and inefficiency. Despite decades of self-promotion as a bulwark of excellence, the image crumbles with reality. Full-scale demolition of the VA began two years ago. With such a large bureaucracy, how long demolition and reconstruction will take remains guesswork.

It took a long time for the VA façade to crumble and for the agency to admit its failings publicly. With that admission, we can only hope that reconstruction will be sound and effective. The lives of our warriors and their families depend on it.

What’s Behind the Walls of Miss Molly’s Façade? 

DSCN2403Inside, outside, upside, and downside, this 125-pound buttercup is nothing but a fluffy fur ball.

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What three words would you use to describe your service animal or pet? Please reply below. 

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 grandchildren.