PTSD FORUM: First Session with Dr. Dee Rajska


PTSD Forum PTSD FORUM

Today we begin with a contribution from Dr. Dee Rajska. Our focus on this forum is to help veterans suffering from PTSD learn 1) how to cope with this condition on their own and 2) how to guide support groups to help each other since so many veterans and serving military, RCMP as well as police and emergency response personnel have no access to the professional services they need to address trauma-based problems. BONNIE

______________

Dr. Dee Rajska, C. Psych.

Dr. Dee Rajska, C. Psych, Clinical and Rehabilitation Psychologist, focuses on the treatment of trauma in her clinical practice located in St. Catharines, Ontario. She originally received her Ph. D. from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

Hi everyone,

Nice to “meet” you!

I look forward to getting to know you through your comments and questions. I’m hoping we can have a good discussion, and I’ll do what I can to answer questions and help you heal.

I know some of the recent posts around here have focused on helping veterans to form peer support groups, and today, I’d like to start off with a quick note about that.

First, let me tell you that I’m a huge fan of peer support groups; in my private practice, I always encourage the veterans I work with to get involved in groups.

Here’s why:

As soldiers, you’re used to being part of a unit, working closely with a group of other people. That’s one of the things that makes trauma even more difficult: PTSD is such a lonely, isolating experience. You feel like you’re the only one who ever felt this way. Even worse, you feel ashamed that as a soldier, you’re supposed to be stronger than this; you shouldn’t have let it happen. You might tell yourself that you’re weak, you’re a coward, or you’re a failure. Beating up on yourself like this is part of depression – and for veterans, depression and combat stress injuries go together like peanut butter and jelly. Unfortunately, beating yourself up for things that aren’t your fault, keeps you “stuck” and gets in the way of healing.

Dealing with PTSD on your own is like trying to fight a war all by yourself, against an enemy you’ve never been trained to fight. As a therapist, my job is to help you to understand this new enemy, and to help you master the skills you need to fight back. I do this by teaching you specific skills to manage your symptoms, and by helping you to work through some of the thoughts that keep you “stuck.”

What I can’t do, as a therapist working with you one-on-one, is convince you that your reaction is not your fault; that it’s not about weakness, it’s not about failure or cowardice, but it’s about what happened to you. Don’t get me wrong. I try – I talk about it until I’m blue in the face. (No, really, I talk about it a lot. Just ask any one of my patients.)

And you know what happens? My patients groan and roll their eyes at me.

As far as they’re concerned, my job is to make them feel better, so when I start saying all that nice fluffy stuff about how it’s not their fault, they think I’m just saying it to make them feel better. It’s sort of like your Momma telling you that you’re handsome – she says it and you groan and roll your eyes – you figure she has to say that, because she’s your Momma so it’s her job, whether it’s true or not. (By the way, if you’re reading this, you really *are* handsome. And no, your Momma did not just tell me to say that).

It’s easier to win a war if you have buddies fighting alongside you; and that’s what peer support does. Getting together with a bunch of other guys who have been there and gone through it accomplishes what I can’t: You meet others who have been through the same kind of stuff and have had the same kind of reactions. And it suddenly starts to get real that the nice lady wasn’t just flattering you – really, your PTSD is not your fault. PTSD happens when you go through the kind of stuff you went through, and it happens no matter who you are. You can accept that PTSD is not your fault or your failure – it’s about what happened to you. Peer support gives you a chance to let go of the feelings of shame and guilt. And it gives you a chance to fight back as a team, which is what you’re used to doing as a soldier.

Are you convinced yet? If not, what holds you back? Leave your comments below, and I look forward to discussing this some more.

Thanks!

Dee

_________

REFERENCE:
Sylvain Chartrand CD is collecting a Bank of Articles on PTSD. For more information, please see Canadian Veterans Advocacy.
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About Bonnie Toews and John Christiansen

Bonnie's Blog Posts invite our readers and free spirits everywhere to share life's adventures with us. I talk about writing my novels, reading books, chatting with other writers and John's and my journeys around the world. We welcome your anecdotes to our experiences and discussions.
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35 Responses to PTSD FORUM: First Session with Dr. Dee Rajska

  1. Bravo this is what I have learned; that as a group we can work together, instead of alone. Dee you’ve hit the nail on the head with your column. I hope more will come to understand that as a group we can beat the beast down.

    • Dr. Dee Rajska says:

      Robert, thank you so much for your kind words; I appreciate your support!

      I certainly hope that we can combine our efforts and get the word out that no one needs to suffer alone – vets can help to support each other, and therapists can help to support you in your efforts to get better.

    • Dr. Dee Rajska says:

      Hi Ray!

      I’m glad to hear that having a sense of routine, and working on taking good care of your body is helping you feel a bit better. Keep it up – you’re worth it! 🙂

  2. Raymond, check out a website called battletap.com. If you can’t find it I have a link on my website paultvitaletti.com. I have used this technique with vets and found it extremely helpful…..

    • Dr. Dee Rajska says:

      Paul,

      Thank you for sharing this resource. It’s one of many tools that may be helpful. Just like anything else, it may not work for everyone, so if you try it and it’s not for you don’t get discouraged. But, Ray and anyone else considering it – it’s certainly one technique that’s worth a shot.

  3. I hear words of wisdom… Together we are strong…. it is the only way… and the isolation never helps…

    • This is exactly what this forum wants to relieve — the sense of isolation that so many of you feel. You are not alone. You are being heard. We may stumble along at times, but we have each other to help us regain our balance and move forward to find ways to help you heal.

      Bonnie

    • Dr. Dee Rajska says:

      Cous,

      Precisely 🙂 The isolation makes you feel like you’re the only one who feels that way, makes you feel like you’ve failed your buddies to feel this way, and makes you dig even deeper into that hole because you feel ashamed. It lifts a huge weight off to realize that, to some degree, you all feel that way. You’re not letting anybody down. Together, you can help support each other as you heal, and I’ll do what I can to help out.

  4. Hello Dee.. Good start and I hope everyone reading will soon come to realize that PTSD can be beaten if attacked as a community. Part of the stigma surrounding PTSD is from misunderstanding and misinformation about the injury and who it affects and why. I found after 1.5 years of CBT provided by the CF I was starting to feel well again but I needed something further, something was missing. I did the Outward Bound Veterans Program near Lake Louise and discovered that I wasn’t alone with my shame and isolation. I then went on to discover the Veterans Transition Program at UBC in Vancouver. This was the icing on the cake for me! It is a ten day residential program spread over 2.5 months and has 6-8 vets involved as a team. I am a grad and now work as a veteran facilitator and continue to do my own work of healing with each program delivered. If anyone is interested check out VTNCANADA.ORG for further info. It is VAC service provider qualified and the RC Legion also sponsors vets across Canada. This is free of charge to the veteran and will change your life for the better! Chris Linford

    • Dr. Dee Rajska says:

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. I’m well aware of the work done by the Veterans Transition Program, and actually was involved in helping to recruit participants for the Ontario group that ran last month. It’s one of many tools that I hope become more widely available, to help more vets heal.

  5. Chris, thank you for telling us about this. Dee will also respond, but that is something else this forum is trying to do is to reach people like you so that vets in your area have an outreach such as you suggest.

    • Dr. Dee Rajska says:

      Hi Ray.

      I’ve done a good deal of work with judges and lawyers, and you’re right – when you have PTSD, having all your dirty laundry aired out in court really, really messes you up. PTSD is bad enough to deal with when you don’t have that stuff to deal with on top of it.

      It sounds like you’re really struggling, bud… I’m glad you’re exercising, I’m glad you’re going back to the sleep lab, and I’m glad you’re here, talking to me. If you’d rather talk to me in private, you have my email.

      Are you eating? Eating and exercising won’t fix all of your problems, but you have to start somewhere. Set your sights on that goal, and start there.

      Are you drinking? Someone told me a joke yesterday, they said PTSD stands for “Put That Stuff Down”. Okay, they didn’t say “stuff” – but you get my drift. Stay away from Johnnie and Jack, Mr. Walker and Mr. Daniels are not your friends right now. You might think they help you fall asleep, but they actually disrupt deep sleep, so you’ll wake up in an hour or two, and won’t be able to get back to sleep. Booze is also what geeks like me call a depressant – so what it does to your mood is the opposite of the “happy pills” the doctor gives you. Booze brings your mood down and makes you feel even worse.

      Ray, feel free to email me – I’ll do what I can to try and help, okay, buddy? Hang in there.

    • Raymond. It sounds like you are having a hell of a time. There sems to be much you can’t control and it I likely harming you further. One of the things I discovered a couple of years ago is that in order for me to get on with life and get some important things done I needed to get well personally. I hen focused on the things I needed to do to minimize the impact of my PTSD on me and the rest might fall into place. I was right in that now that I have PTSD at bay, I have tackled other issues like veterans needs. I concentrated on my therapy for PTSD and minimized the outside influences and just got better first. In the end we must live with ourselves first and foremost so this is a great place to start. You might check out the veterans transition program at VTPCANADA.ORG and see what could be possible for you in a group context. This would be a great start along with sticking with any therapy you are doing now. I wish you luck man. Chris

      • Raymond Dionne says:

        I was extremly tired and I lust crased and slept all day ana all night and I feel better but iam going on rollycoaster and I know that I am going to have sleeping problems again because this has been going on a long a lomg tme now. This is what the lustice systym done to me. Things has to go back to court so I san get it reviewed I know that is the only avenue I hve to get better,

  6. Dr. Dee Rajska says:

    Ray – it really sounds like you’ve got a lot going on… I’m glad you’re taking positive steps with some exercise. When you’ve got this much on your plate, it will take a long time to see big changes; so be patient, and be proud of yourself for the small steps in a good direction – exercise is a good step.

    I hope that this online community can support you, and support each other in trying to cope.

    Also, please do feel free to email me if you’d like me to help you find a one-to-one therapist in your area – the offer’s still good, I’m happy to help.

  7. Dr. Dee Rajska says:

    Ray,

    I’m so sorry to hear that you’re in so much pain right now. When you say stuff like that, I get pretty worried about you, buddy. I want to help.

    It will take a long time and a lot of hard work to get better. As a community, we will certainly do what we can to try and be a support to you here. I also think it might help a lot for you to have someone to work with one-on-one. Please email me, and I’ll do what I can to help you find someone local to where you live, okay?

  8. Ray I know what you’re going through been down that path. I’ve been fighting since 1978. I’ve been dealing with VAC since July of 1980. I know you are upset and you want these people to leave you alone. They don’t understand you problems, there are many out here who do and we all want to help you. Listen to us and understand you ARE NOT alone. Stay away from booze, exercise because that burns off a lot of anger. It does for me. I’m going to give you my e-mail robthegolfnut@yahoo.ca If you are near Wallaceburg Ont I’m reaching out to you. If you are not still we have this forum and that e-mail and I as others in this forum are here to help. Remember there’s many of us out here who suffer from this wound and we are here for you pal. Reach out and grab one of our hands. Please.

  9. Ray I hear you. If they are going to use the courts way of thinking then, all who served are should to have a weapons ban.I have one myself, truth be known bud ( I personally would only use military weapons and since I’m not in the army any more I don’t need a FAC). I hear your call for help and justice. You’ve certainly have gotten the short end of the stick. I’ve a few questions for you Ray. Have you done a redress with the military? Also have you tried going through the Military Ombudsman? Also have you talked to Veterans Affairs Canada about help? These are maybe things you’ve tried in the pass I don’t know. With VAC never stop trying and I found that being nice to them helps. One big thing and I know it’s hard when it’s all going bad for you. But grit your teeth man when you are dealing with them all. I know sometimes we all feel like screaming and ripping someone’s head off at the ankles… but don’t. Remember that you are trained and you need to use that training to control yourself. You can do it. Don’t stop trying to right the wrong visited against you. I never have and I’m a much better man because, no matter what I fought for my rights and made sure to control myself so they had no mud to throw at me. It takes time but in the end you will get justice.

  10. Good I don’t do those things and never the drug part. I’ve got a question Ray were you serving when that accident happened?

  11. I am part native and proud of it. Ray it is true they treat natives different. That’s sad.
    The military part is over. If you have VAC’s number call and ask to be seen by an doctor or OSI clinic. Because you have problems which they can address. You served this country then you have many rights, which you gained once you were out of the military. The focusing and shaking are part of PTSD and they need to start treating you. I know it’s hard but try it. It doesn’t happen over night but VAC has to help you. Also talk to the service officer at the local Legion would you? You don’t have to be a member, ask when the Provincial Service Officer is coming. Please try that route Ray

    • Raymond Dionne says:

      I have also joined The War Pensioners Canada and The UN Nato peace keepers group and there just groups that Veterans that help Veterans and I participate with them a have met a great bunch of people in there and are President Colin Pick who is also a retired police officer and I’t got alot of help from and good guidance and I have alotrespect for him because he has heped me alot and I admire his loyalty and dedication to our Country. WE are on break right now with the War Pensioners for the winter and the UN Nato group is in Sudbury and I took the winter off because of the distance and now it is spring I am going to go bdack and paticipate again this sumer.

  12. Raymond Dionne says:

    I talked to my case manager just yesterday and I have been geting help with a pay check that helps me pay my debts from legal fees I am not paying back legal aid for those useless lawyers I owe A good won’t take legal aid and I found the ones they gave me were good for nothing. But the help I need that is diturbing me is not there. They pay for Dr. Deck and my transportation gut not getting to the root of the problem and I feel thats what I need for me to get better.

  13. Raymond Dionne says:

    When Colin comes back I’ll check to see if he has access to this forum I tried to talk to him about it last tear but I got no responce and he had other things on his mind and there is another Veteran in War Pensiouners Humprey who was from WW2 and he suffered for years and didn’t know what it was but he witnessed alot of trauma. In our UN Nato group there is 2 more people I can think of from Afganistan and another one from WW2 and Randal Hill is also a member of our UN Nato group but I only saw him at one cerimony and we meet in a bar in Sudbury at 6 pm on Wednesday’s at the Little Montreal on Elgin st. Not everyone attends every week I find them to be great group of people and I would like to see other Veterans come out and particpate.

  14. Can someone please contact me re the graphic you have used to advertise this.

  15. Dr. Dee Rajska says:

    Hi everyone,

    I just wanted to post a follow-up for anyone who is worried about Ray – he and I are now communicating privately. He has a lot going on, as he mentioned here. He was a bit overwhelmed when a number of different people started trying to help, it was a lot of suggestions flying at him all at the same time. It’s a little less overwhelming to have just one “voice” to talk to. I’m hoping he’ll be back when he’s ready.

  16. Ray keep fighting for your kids. I’m glad you and Dee are talking privately. Please understand we’re not mocking you, but we are trying to help you my friend. We’ve had to ask questions and offer possible solutions. I’m hoping personally all turns out good for you and your kids in the end. You have my e-mail if you ever want to talk privately.

  17. Pingback: PTSD FORUM with Dr. Dee Rajska | Homecoming Vets at the Crossroads of Humanity

  18. Pingback: Series: A Veteran’s Point of View on PTSD or OSI. Part 3 | Homecoming Vets at the Crossroads of Humanity

  19. Susanv says:

    I am an LCSW working with US combat vets returning from Afghanistan. There are some additional good APS for SM/SW that can be downloaded free from iTunes – Tactical Breathing is one and Breathe2relax is the other. They are good because they can be used in the moment and as far as anyone else is concerned the person is checking for messages. In addition, the web site AfterDeployment.org has a lot of very good information and self help suggestions. It is a great way to get some good information into the ‘hands’ of therapy wary service members.

  20. Thank You Susan. I will check this out and pass it on to the group. The more we can learn the better. As Soldiers and Veterans we just need the right tool kit so to speak to help us. Agaqin Thaqnk You

  21. Pingback: PTSD FORUM with Dr. Dee Rajska | Homecoming Vets at the Crossroads of Humanity

  22. David Johson says:

    I am a veteran, here is the U.S. I was diagnosed with severe PTSD and became an alcoholic and found myself in prison for aggravated robbery. I am out now, getting a degree in Psychology and wish to once again contribute by helping other soldiers avoid my mistakes and failures. Is there a way, as a felon, to participate in helping soldiers reduce/eliminate PTSD-related challenges? I am very much interested in pursuing Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), as I’ve read it has been shown to be beneficial in treating PTSD. Do you have to be “licensed” to do this? Any guidance would be helpful, as there are others like me (other vets) who would benefit from your feedback. Thanks, for your work and guidance.

  23. Robert Simpson says:

    David it’s good to hear your turning things around. Helping other Veterans will help you as well. I have some USA Veterans in my support group since we are on the border with Michigan. I have found to be helping my fellow Veterans I am able to help them along the path healing and as a group we fight the common foe. As for being licensed to do MBSR you’d have to check with your State.

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