Volunteers of America – Los Angeles, CA. Douglas Thompson, PTSD, A Gulf War Story, U.S Navy 1988 – 2001

Volunteers of America – Los Angeles, CA. Douglas Thompson, PTSD, A Gulf War Story, U.S Navy 1988 – 2001.

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Volunteers of America – Los Angeles, CA. Douglas Thompson, PTSD, A Gulf War Story, U.S Navy 1988 – 2001

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October 9, 2012
 
A Military Gulf War Veterans’ Journey- Douglas Thompson, U.S. Navy
 
My current status with the Veterans Administration of 80% service connected disability, stems from significant, traumatic, combat-related events, two back-to-back Gulf War tours that caused my diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Degenerative Disc Disorder, and Tinnitus, all service-connected injuries.
 
On December 22, 1990, off the coast of Haifa, Israel, I survived the sinking of a ferry boat. In a frantic effort to save surviving sailors and recover the dead, a massive volunteer search and rescue operation was employed, in which I was involved. Over eighty men were rescued, while twenty-one were found dead. At one point, this was the single greatest loss of American lives during the Gulf War, thus, being the single most traumatic event in my life. To date, I can only speak of this horrific event due to the successful completion of Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR Therapy), which I had believed to be a “cure all.” This particular incident in Israel was prior to the first launch attack on Iraq in an effort to liberate Kuwait. We, as a crew, had no time to grieve or allow the realization of the situation to sink in. We immediately embarked on a two-hundred thirteen day, twelve hours a day, seven days a week, combat regime of the continuous bombing of Iraq. As a member of this crew, I completed two back-to-back tours of duty of Southeast Asia, which these incidents in my military career were the ultimate catalysts in me not being able to process traumatic events, leading to denial and repressing difficult memories.
 
For years after the Gulf War, after experiencing many highs and lows, my automatic response to life situations was, “I’m fine.” In retrospect, PTSD and related symptoms such as denial and repression, started soon after this major incident during the Gulf War. My problems have been continually perpetuated by severe denial and lead to the delay in me being able to seek proper treatment for PTSD until 2007, after my best friend and fellow naval crewmember, committed suicide in 2006, suffering from his own struggles with PTSD.
 
For the first time in 2007, I sought treatment for my own battle with PTSD. However, the consequences of delay leading up to seeking proper treatment have been devastating, substance abuse, loss of my marriage, being an estranged parent from my son & daughter, an inability to manage daily stress, multiple hospitalizations, suicide attempts, trouble seeking a stable permanent home, and my inability to hold steady employment.
 
For some time, I was a leader in the military community, teaching core values and leadership courses after rapid advancement. Outside the military, I sold financial products and services, eventually becoming Vice President of a brokerage firm at the pinnacle of my career earning over $100,000.00 a year. Becoming successful not only in the military but in my civilian professional life as well was an effort, in part, to manage the painful memories that would not fade and to avoid feeling the constant sense of danger. I simply started to lose my ability to live a normal, healthy life.
 
My behavior has been and still continues to be erratic, unpredictable, episodic substance abuse with uncontrollable consequences. Feelings of being overwhelmed, accompanied by increased stress and pressure are completely debilitating to this very day, consequently leaving me unemployable. I’m currently unemployed and in desperate need of supplemental income to continue with proper treatment and to support and care for my family. Eighty-percent service-connected disability compensation is only $19,440 a year, well below the poverty level for someone needing to support a child, maintain a home, food, and transportation.
 
Currently, I’m under the care of Volunteers of America in downtown Los Angeles, California. I have been prescribed medications to manage my PTSD, panic attacks, and depression. I also have ongoing treatment/counseling sessions at the VA Hospital / Volunteers of America to help myself heal from the challenges of PTSD and substance abuse.
I tell my story to help other Veterans… Don’t give up!!!
 
I have come across a lot of people in my travels, even those closest to me, my “family,” who knew me at my best, turned their backs on me after tiring of my symptoms, not understanding unconditional support, not even a happy Veteran’s Day wish. To that I say, they have never walked one day in our shoes, served their country, risked their lives to uphold an established set of values they take for granted every single day… For those soldiers needing a friend to listen, feel free to contact me. We are a global family…
 
Douglas L. Thompson
US Navy/Gulf War Vet
1988-2001

Douglas Thompson, PTSD, A Gulf War Story, From Dexter, Maine, Served U.S Navy,

Douglas Thompson, PTSD, A Gulf War Story, From Dexter, Maine, Served U.S Navy,Posted on July 24, 2012A Military Gulf War Veterans’ Journey-Douglas Thompson, from Dexter, MaineMy current status with the Veterans Administration of 80% service connected disability, stems from significant, traumatic, combat-related events, two back-to-back Gulf War tours that caused my diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD), Bipolar 1 Disorder, Degenerative Disc Disorder, and Tinnitus, all service-connected injuries.On December 22, 1990, off the coast of Haifa, Israel, I survived the sinking of a ferry boat.  In a frantic effort to save surviving sailors and recover the dead, a massive volunteer search and rescue operation was employed, in which I was involved.  Over eighty men were rescued, while twenty-one were found dead.  At one point, this was the single greatest loss of  American lives during the Gulf War, thus, being the single most traumatic event in my life.  To date, I can only speak of this horrific event due to the successful completion of Eye Movement Desensitization

via Douglas Thompson, PTSD, A Gulf War Story, From Dexter, Maine, Served U.S Navy,.

PTSD, A Gulf War story, Douglas Thompson, from Dexter, Maine, U.S. Navy

PTSD, A Gulf War story, Douglas Thompson, from Dexter, Maine, U.S. NavyPosted on July 24, 2012My Long-term Invisibility:  A Gulf War StoryBy Douglas ThompsonA man once asked me at a business meeting in Dallas, “Doug, how do you do your work so well?” I was a guest speaker at a training conference for New York Life/NYLife Securities Company with one-hundred forty people listening to me tell them how to be successful.  I had, in my first ninety days of work, broken their new-client levels and was the first-ever recipient of New York Life’s “Career Life Producer Award” and the recipient of the “Stan Liss Living Legend Award.”I was filled with euphoria and I thought back to some of the highlights in my past.  I remembered eating lunch with the former President, George H.W. Bush, for a job well-done during the Gulf War.  I also recalled going to the Naval Academy, the White House, and being asked to hold the Naval Aviation flag as we marched in victory down Pennsylvania Avenue after the Gulf War.Now, here I stand, at this podium, with one-hundred forty people staring at me.  At that point, I felt like I was on top of the world.  A guest speaker and a top achiever, a survivor, I felt like the future was all mine.  What I didn’t know or even have a working definition of was PTSD, a disorder I now call “my invisible.” I didn’t know of the psychological epidemic and I had no clue that I had it, nor did I realize that experiencing trauma, experiencing death, and the fear of losing one’s life not only causes PTSD, but caused me to have manic symptoms that made Charlie Sheen look like Tim Tebow.After the military, I quickly soared to a six-figure income and managed hundreds of clients.  I eventually became the V.P. of Brokerage for a consulting firm at the pinnacle of my career.Denial, denial, denial… will not make trauma disappear.  Today, I honor the twenty-one sailors of my crew who died in a tragic boat sinking in the Port of Haifa, Israel in December, 1990.  After surviving that tragic night and losing twenty-one men, our remaining crew did back-to-back tours during the Gulf War and both Desert Shield and Desert Storm, losing a few more crew members before returning home.All this trauma was dormant for years, left untreated.  Events such as when an individual survives a tragic situation, experiences death, or has a prolonged fear of losing one’s life; these are the ingredients that cause Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I was oblivious to those ingredients listed above.  I had an extremely successful career, hundreds of clients, a six-figure income; everything was great!!WRONG!!I was saddled with intrusive memories, nightmares, and social impairment because I was isolating myself.  I was having “memory issues,” meaning that I was trying not to remember what happened.  My behavior changed dramatically.  I demonstrated impulsiveness or what I refer to now as the “Charlie Sheen Syndrome.” I became self-destructive; I was having insomnia, I was highly agitated, I was crying, I was in panic, and imagine not knowing what is happening.  My response to everyone was, “I’m fine.”I went with that phrase, “I’m fine,” for many years.  The psychological stress, impulsiveness, euphoria, mania, and dramatic hyper-vigilance, caused my behavior to be dramatic and unpredictable, moving to sixty different cities for no apparent reason.  I lost my six-figure income, I got divorced, I left my home which I had built, and left my newborn son.I kept saying to everyone, “I’m fine.” DENIAL, DENIAL, DENIAL…When I left the military, I had no idea what PTSD was; not a clue.  I was given no formal training on the psychological effects of trauma.In 2006, my best friend, a Navy Veteran/Gulf War Veteran, who coincidentally grew up in the same state I did, Maine, killed himself.  We often talked about our service in the military but it was surface conversation, never any details.  I never shared with him, even with all my success, that I also had survivor’s remorse and ideations.  But I didn’t act on those as he did.After Scott killed himself, I knew that I had to seek help for what was happening to me.  I called the military for the first time in 2007.  To my amazement, I learned that there is this place called the Veteran’s Hospital and also learned about PTSD.  For the first time, I wasn’t alone.  After an evaluation by the V.A., I was deemed ninety-percent service-connected disabled for PTSD and other related injuries.I tell this very private story for one reason; for those of you that feel there is something incredibly wrong and you’ve experienced a trauma, not just a military trauma.  Maybe you’ve been a victim of a violent crime, experienced physical abuse, maybe you’ve been raped, or been in an unexpected accident…  Please, use my story as a cautionary tale.  As a military veteran who is ninety-percent service-connected, my compensation is a mere $18,000.00 a year.  My career, if I had not been impacted by the effects of the Gulf War and my service to my country, I would be earning six-figures plus…  I’m grateful today for surviving when my shipmates didn’t.  I have pride in my country and my service.Again, please, use my story as a cautionary tale…Douglas Thompson

via PTSD, A Gulf War story, Douglas Thompson, from Dexter, Maine, U.S. Navy.