How Creative Writing Can Help Veterans with PTSD
REFLECTIONS OF PTSD with my Perfect Flaws by Tim Segrest is a touching and powerful book about how people, including the author himself, deal with PTSD and the expressive turmoil it plays inside their minds. Here, Tim Segrest shares some of his experiences and stories regarding PTSD. He shares his sentiments about how PTSD is something serious and incurable that cannot be treated with a simple “get over it” phrase. As a war veteran, Tim Segrest knows how difficult life is during and after military service. The personal effects of war manifested through PTSD, particularly, are nightmares that might take a long time to get rid of. Because of this, Tim Segrest writes his books in the hopes that he can help his fellow veterans overcome PTSD through various means. He encourages them to do something to aide in healing themselves aside from medications, and one of the means Tim Segrest finds effective is creative writing (e.g. poetry).
What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that is triggered by either experiencing or witnessing a stressful, frightening, or shocking event, such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, rape or sexual assault, war or combat, and other violent personal attacks. The common symptoms of this mental health disorder include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts about the traumatic event. To be considered PTSD, these symptoms should persist for more than a month, and it should be severe enough to affect the relationships and work of a person. The recovery course of PTSD varies from person to person. Some people are able to recover from the illness within six months, while others experience the symptoms for a much longer time. More often than not, PTSD develops into a serious, chronic condition that requires constant treatment.
One of the people who are most prone to having PTSD are war veterans. Because soldiers in general are exposed to numerous stressful, frightening, and shocking events almost regularly while in a combat zone, there is a higher risk for them to develop PTSD compared to those who are not experiencing these circumstances. Being exposed to excessive temperatures, worrying about their families, and witnessing injury or death can all increase the chances of soldiers having PTSD during or after their service. For many veterans like Tim Segrest, PTSD brought by war trauma is an existent and serious condition that cannot be overcome with a simple “get over it” phrase. It needs constant attention and healing.
How can creative writing help veterans cope with PTSD?
Creative writing is one of the effective ways to reduce the symptoms of PTSD, particularly among war veterans. There is a number of reasons behind this. For one, creative writing allows veterans to express and open themselves up. One of the common social stereotypes regarding soldiers and veterans is that they are always strong and resilient. Most veterans, for example, are often told to just suck it up or tough it out whenever they try to communicate their personal concerns. Because of this, many of them find it difficult to speak up. But creative writing offers a platform for these veterans to express themselves without having to worry much about getting told to “get over it”. All veterans of war have inherent stories to tell, and creative writing gives them the opportunity to write those stories down. In essence, creative writing allows veterans dealing with PTSD to communicate their thoughts, emotions, and stories among themselves and with other people.
Aside from giving them a platform for expressing themselves, creative writing also helps war veterans to develop or increase their sense of mindfulness. When these veterans write, they tend to just sit down and concentrate 100% of their attention on doing something that is not too stressful. They write whatever they want and however they want without thinking so much about other things. This is a good way for them to get out of their own head for a while. Creative writing, in other words, gives veterans some time and space to relax and breathe. It helps them regain their focus and improve their ability to control their thoughts and emotions.
Overall, PTSD is difficult condition to go through. Some people tend to take it lightly by telling those who have it to just suck it up when, in fact, it is not as simple as shutting a computer off. As Tim Segrest has pointed out in his REFLECTIONS OF PTSD with my Perfect Flaws, PTSD is something that is incurable and the phrase, “get over it,” should not be in the same conversation. Healing from PTSD is a long process that cannot be achieved through medications alone. There are several things that veterans and other patients of PTSD can and should do to heal themselves, and creative writing is one of the most effective of them.