Series: A Veteran’s Point of View on PTSD or OSI. Part 4


Rob Simpson

Robert Simpson continues writing his series on ways those suffering with PTSD can control it on your own. BONNIE

 

Dr. H’s THEORY: How to use “date stamping” to your advantage

BY ROBERT SIMPSON

I just got back from the London Operational Stress Injury Clinic. Now I have been going there for more than seven years. I remember thinking what’s talking going to do for my flashbacks and nightmares…. in two words….  A LOT!

There is one BIG thing I have learned about recently from my Doctor who is Dr. H. He has a theory he calls, “Date Stamping.” Let me tell you about how it works and explain it to you. In fact, it is quite simple.

Dr H.’s theory is that, when our brains normally experience an event, it records it into our memories and it includes the date and time etc. So, for instance, I fell down April 2nd 1996 at 11:00am. This is the normal way our brain’s work and in time the memory fades and we tend to forget about it. With OSI or PTSD our brain has forgotten to Date Stamp this memory. So when we relive this event it is just as real as the day it happened all those years ago. So you experience the details just like when it happened no matter how many years have passed. Our brain forgot to date stamp so the memory can not fade. I know personally, the major events in my Military live are just as real now as when they happened in the 1970s. That’s the problem. Sound familiar Troops, boys and girls???

Well, this is the nature of our wounds when it comes to our OSI or PTSD. I know you are going to say fine and dandy, so how does that help me?

This is what I started doing last year after Dr. H told me his theory. To me, it makes perfect sense. When I do have a flashback or have a nightmare, I immediately say out loud, “NO WAY YOU JUST HAPPENED. You happened back ON AUG 15TH 1975 AT 11:05 AM!” That’s when the guy turned around on the pistol range and fired his weapon into my helmet. Just for an example. I have found that over time, this has helped, in that my brain is learning that this happened years ago, not just now. It no longer feels as if it just happened.

With time, it is starting to become less real and feeling like it is happening now and it is more like this happened a long time ago. The end result is that it is now not as hard on me to relive or recall this event. I have shared this with others in my group and I told them to say the date, time and what it is to say it with conviction. They have reported it is helping them to cope with the flashbacks and nightmares. You are in fact training your brain to not trigger the rushes you experience when you have the nightmare or flash back. You will never forget the event, but you can greatly lessen the stress and strain on your body. You just have to keep it up and believe in what you are saying and what is happening during the flashback or nightmare.

There is another doctor in Windsor or I should correctly say soon to be Doctor who has tried this on another patient and reports some improvement, which will be on going for that person. So soon to be Dr. C is helping others with Dr. H.’s theory. I encourage all to try it and stick with it. In a short time you will have results. Remember, we have been trained to overcome many things. Now use that training and your resolve to help yourself. It’s not easy and takes a little time, but you will see results. I would say, what’s trying it going to hurt? Nothing. And there’s a good chance you will see an improvement in your reaction to you wound.

So I’ll close now with my usual saying. Let’s talk, shall we?

LEST WE FORGET

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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16 Responses to Series: A Veteran’s Point of View on PTSD or OSI. Part 4

  1. adamblanch says:

    Good technique Robert,

    Actually, anything that significantly alters the process of the recall should have this affect. You could put clown noses on everyone involved, or imagine them dressed in KISS makeup, or turn it into a animated movie. I don’t believe that it is because your brain forgot to put the date and time on it, but because the stress levels prevented your brain from being able to process it from short term limbic memory into long term episodic memory. Limbic memory is experienced as ‘here and now’, whereas long term memory has lost it’s emotional power.

    The reason the brain fails to do this is because it has attached a meaning to the event which is threatening to your sense of self, an idea that the event has somehow defeated or diminished you or means that you are not good enough in some way. The combination of the memory and the meaning you’ve unconsciously attached to it is like a virus that the central processing unit doesn’t want to let through the door, or poisoned food that the system doesn’t want to digest. You can either change the meaning that you made about it (which is ‘never’ true) or you can respond to the memory differently and show your brain that you have more power over the situation now.

    By shouting at it and taking an active response to it you have shown your brain that you are the boss, so it isn’t as threatening. I use this technique with a range of different clients working with a range of different traumas,and it’s very powerful, Try it out.

    • It is a good technique. But as soldiers we are trained to overcome things normal people can’t. We never failed in our missions, in fact we succeeded. Where any guilt, remorse, or failure comes from is from the fact we feel we’ve let the others in the unit down by having the flashbacks or nightmares. There is no dressing up war, it truly is hell. But this date stamping does work as I have said. I can also under stand 911 Operators, Police, EMT’s Firemen. I understand what they go through responding to a call or listening to a person being harmed over the phone, knowing they can’t do anything. For Soldiers we believe the right way to call our problem is Operational Stress Injury aka OSI. It is real and it has caused many to take their own life’s to get relief from it. Sad, but true. As you say by saying it out loud helps the brain come to grips with it and helps you to start fading the memory so you can get a handle on it. Thank you for you response.

  2. I am a civilian living with PTSD and the author of Flashbacks in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Surviving the Flood. My father was a Vietnam Vet that suffered with undiagnosed PTSD from 1969 to 2009, which was three years before his death.

    From 2000-2011, I started to have symptoms I couldn’t explain. As the years passed the symptoms became worse and affect my entire life and mental health. I was to the point of being in Fight or Flight mode all the time because like a solider my environment became my battle zone. I couldn’t leave the house without my environment triggering me back to trauma I experienced in my past but my mind felt like it was occurring in the present.

    I started therapy to try and figure out what was wrong with me. I thought i was going crazy. I couldn’t remember most of my childhood and the things I remembered I had no details or feelings associated with them.

    During therapy with EMDR ( Eye Movement Desentization and Reprocessing) along with Brainspotting, we recovered memories that were repressed for 32 years.

    My family experienced several times where my father put us in terrifyig situations because he couldn’t stop his flashbacks and triggers from occurring in the present. I remember my father driving us home from my grandmother’s house which was 45 minutes away and it was all back roads with all trees. The car would start to swirve into the next lane as my mother started to panic and scream at him to wake up as she tried to pull the steering wheel back on the right side of the road. My dad would yell and say he wasn’t sleeping. I remember holding my sisters and fearing for our lives. I was only four years old. My mother told me we almost drove off the bridge connecting Wisconsin with Michigan several times.

    For all the years from age 18 years old until 32 years old I couldn’t be a passenger in anyone’s car without getting physically ill. I never knew why and there were times while driving that I thought I hit someone with my car as I ran over a box in the street or hit a curb while turning too short. I would drive around the block even though I knew it was a box or a curb I hit. My extreme anxiety and disturbing images of possibly running a person over prompted me to just check to make sure I didn’t injure anyone.

    What I learned from therapy about PTSD and how triggers occur I don’t think the stampling theory will help.

    What I was told by my therapist is that when PTSD memories are triggered it is because those memories are stored on the right side of the brain where there is emotion. This emotion is what causes our triggers to make us flashback to unpleasant experiences in our lives and makes us think it is in the present. When the therapy EMDR and Brainspotting is used in combination it takes the memories stored on the right side of our brain and reprocesses the memories to the left side where we have logic. When our memories are totally reprocessed our brain recognizes that the flashback happened in the past and not in the present.

    This is when things that used to trigger you may not trigger you anymore. Since I used these therapy methods for my anxiety and flashback about my father’s driving vs. my driving. I can now get into a car and have my husband drive without anxiety or getting sick.

    So this is an example how families do get affect by our loved ones who have PTSD.

    Leslie Raddatz
    PTSD Survivor

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  4. Robert,

    Date-stamping is a great example of a cognitive (or thought-based) grounding strategy. I’m planning in future posts in my blog to discuss grounding in general, as well as to discuss other types of grounding skills.

    Leslie, EMDR is a specific type of treatment for PTSD. It is empirically proven to be helpful to lots of people; however, strategies such as grounding skills, including date stamping, can also be very useful. They do in fact impact similar processes.

    • Is heart math another example of cognitive grounding? I have also done this therapy and found it helped me to be able to identify when my body was stressed and my thinking wasn’t balanced. With a device on my ear lobe it could mesure the stress in my body and teach me how deep breathing and positive imagery can put my body back into balance. It was very interesting. This felt good because it gave me control over my PTSD.

      I have been enjoyng your discussions. Thank you for your reply.

      Leslie Raddatz

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  8. Thanks for the comments. I wish putting clown noses would work. But I have not heard that it has worked. One thing I want to add is that this does not work all the time. But it is another tool in the tool kit I’m making to help deal with the hell we face. I have no repressed memories, sadly everything is real. I could only wish for that my memories would go away.. I am finding that with these tools I can try to help others who suffer from War. Coming together, sharing our experiences, giving each other an ear to listen to. These are all part of our recovery and of course seeing a qualified Doctor is so important. We can only do so much to help each other. We still need that Doctor. I want to add that if you are overwhelmed by things and feeling your life is worth living. Please call for help or go to your nearest ER. We all have had those feelings, but keep fighting to live. Remember we’ll never forget, BUT we can make it all a little bit better on ourselves. Stay safe and remember. Let’s talk shall we?

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