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Behind Closed Doors: PTSD and Fireworks


Written By: Brenda (B.K.) Walker

Behind closed doors, in the darkness, mixed in with the whistling and popping of fireworks, you can hear the moans and whimpering of what you believe must be an animal. You gently push the door open a little wider, checking the bed where you hope your husband, who recently returned from Afghanistan, is still sleeping. He's not there, the fireworks have triggered yet another PTSD episode, and you know that the both of you are in for a long night.

In the corner, you spy a shadow; but it is much too large for your sweet dog. But the whimpering continues, so you move closer. What you find is both heartbreaking and shocking. Indeed, your sweet dog is part of this shadow in the darkness, but it's not him that you hear whimpering and moaning. Instead, your sweet, adorable dog is giving comfort to your loving husband who still suffers from the traumatic memories of his multiple tours in battle.


***

These are the sights and sounds of a growing segment in our society. And, this is an all-to-familiar story heard throughout the country but who is really listening? Instead, without thought, we Americans put a great deal of planning, and money, into the process of providing an elaborate fireworks display for our holiday celebrations. Never mind the countless men, women, and children…even our own pets, that suffer during this, so-called, joyous occasion.

When your husband returned from his last tour of active duty, the doctors told you that it would be a long recovery process. After months of psychiatric care at the VA hospital, it was time for him to come home but the effects of participating in the repeated violence of battle had left the love of your life, scarred for life.


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You did your homework on PTSD, went to all the meetings and support groups you could find, in hopes that you would be able to help your beloved find peace. But peace does not come easy to the battle-scarred heroes and their families.

PTSD Statistics

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is hardly a new concept; the mental health field has been ramping up its public education announcements for decades. Still, many are surprised to learn of the statistics directly relating to this devastating disorder. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America's (ADAA) website is a great tool to learn more about PTSD, including these statistics:

  • Approximately 7.7 million Americans 18 years old and older suffer from PTSD
  • Although it is difficult to quantify the statistics, children also suffer from PTSD
  • 67-percent of people who have been exposed to "mass violence" are likely to suffer from PTSD. This percentage is higher than those who witnessed other forms of traumatic experiences, including natural disasters
  • People who are exposed repeatedly to traumatic events, such as abuse, are at a higher risk of suffering from PTSD

Statistics for Veterans: PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Depression, and Suicide

Information found through the Veterans and PTSD evidenced the following statistics:

  • A minimum of 20 percent of the veterans from the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts suffer from PTSD and/or Depression
  • Approximately 1/2 of those veterans suffering with PTSD are not receiving treatment
  • and the half that do seek treatment, according a RAND study, receive 'minimally adequate' treatment

You know better than to approach your husband during these episodes. So you turn on the music that you know he loves. You sit against the opposite wall, in the darkness, as your family pet provides the only comfort your husband is willing to accept…and you wait.

Furry Family Members

You know you're lucky that your dog manages to find comfort by soothing your husband during these difficult times. Before your battle-weary man returned home, you provided the comfort to your furry family member.


***

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals conducted a survey, stating that 1 out 5 pets goes missing each year during seasonal celebrations where fireworks are used, as well as during thunderstorms and other loud noises including gun fire. A representative from the Woodhaven-Trenton Animal Shelter, stated, "More animals are lost on the Fourth than any other day."

What This Adds Up To For Fireworks

It's well after midnight before the last of the sights, sounds, and smells of the fiery display has dissipated. But you know that this is still not the end for you or your beloved. The effects will linger well into the night.


***

As the sun begins to rise, you listen for the slowness in the breathing across the room. Exhausted from the night's events, you recognize that he has finally fallen asleep. You slowly rise from the cold floor, slip across the room, and snag your husband's favorite blanket. You gently place it over your sleeping warrior as your precious dog only moves his head enough for the blanket to fall gently across the chest of the man he keeps watch over…then he lays his head bad against the warrior's chest.

What this all adds up to for those celebrating with fireworks is pretty simple. You may enjoy them, but at what cost to those around you? It seems, each year, the world grows more and more violent. There are more mass shootings and more road-rage. We are finally bringing home our service men and women from overseas conflicts. More violence, more Veterans means more people suffering from the debilitating effects of PTSD.

As you go about planning these elaborate celebrations, think about how fireworks sounds like gunfire. While you and your family are watching those breathtaking fireworks displays, think about the individual who may be holding their breath in the closet or holding their hands over their ears in an attempt to muffle the sound. And, remember how the shadows of those beautiful lights in the sky may bring back memories of a not so beautifully lit sky in another land, at another time in that person's life.


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