PTSD and the Holidays

I’ve been sitting on this review for awhile, but the holidays are creeping up. Summer fun in the blink of an eye will give way to school days, fall activities and right into the holiday season.

I am not a combat veteran, but Andrew Budek-Schmeisser is and, with a collaboration with his wife Barbara, penned this common sense guide, PTSD and the Holidays: Helping the Veteran You Love.

In this short book, Budek-Schmeisser explains what PTSD is and what it is not from his unique point of view. He says the root of it all is an acute sense of loss — of innocence; of the feeling the world is ordered to be a basically benign place; of the past; of the future; of what we’d hoped relationships could be; of context; and finally, of a shared cultural paradigm.

But he also emphasizes what PTSD is not. It’s not a personal failing; the sign of a lack of faith; “dysfunctional”; not something you need to try to fix; something you can fix; nor the end of the person you loved.

While PTSD is lifelong, the holidays seem to trigger more reactions. It is here where Budek-Schmeisser shines, not sugar coating those triggers, but explaining how to identify them and, more important, cope with them as both as a combat veteran or a spouse/family member.

As Andrew relates, “Make no mistake; you’re the most important thing in your veteran’s life. You may think that sometimes the memories are more real to him or her, and the activities — hobbies and other things — with which may be pursued with an almost monastic dedication put you in the shade.

“It’s not true.

“The past is past; part of PTSD is an almost wistful desire that one could fade back into
the flames and the comradeship … forever … but it’s not going to happen.

YOU are the centerpiece, the link between your veteran and the world he or she now
inhabits … and you have to take care of yourself.

He  points out routine is your friend, so , try to have things planned and known in advance; try to maintain daily routines; go easy on holiday media; and, especially for spouses/family members, exercise self-defense against the post-holiday blues. Your veteran will pick up on your cues.

Triggers — small things that can lead to a startle response, or withdrawal, or a nightmare, or flashbacks — abound during the holiday season. They can be hard to predict because sometimes they can bring up suppressed memories of which you are unaware, and which your veteran has hidden from him- or herself. Crowds are often triggers. So are lights, such as New Years’, fireworks or certain colors of light that have indelible associations with the lights seen even from afar on a killing ground. Fireworks can stimulate the memories of gunfire and flares. Memories associated with music can also be a trigger, so be attuned when your veteran becomes suddenly quiet during the playing of a piece of music. And, of course, there are experiential triggers unique to the veteran which come into play.

Anger, withdrawal and/or overeating or overdrinking, and a reluctance to travel are also symptoms to be reckoned with.

On the plus side, Budek-Schmeisser points out the need to help others is often a PTSD byproduct. One  of the “losses” of PTSD is a loss of a sense of mission, Budek-Schmeisser says, so serving those less fortunate than themselves, delivering meals to the elderly, or working with crippled veterans often are demonstrated. “We all want to be needed; we all want a ‘place’ in society.”

It’s no mystery combat can be hard on one’s faith. As Andrew states, “There are no combat veterans in Hell. They’ve been there already.” But by the same token, combat can actually strengthen faith, by virtue of the unexplained salvation, and the utter good to which men can rise when surrounded by the worst the world can offer — and the holidays can be a good time to rekindle church going.

Above all, Budek-Schmeisser emphasizes he is a firm believer in utilizing qualified professional help to deal with PTSD.

I actually learned more about PTSD {and its predecessors, shell shock and battle fatigue} from Andrew’s book than I had known. It brought a sensitive issue to the front burner. It’s a quick five star read — whether you’re experiencing it first hand or as a spouse/family member.

Budek-Schmeisser is a Five Minute Friday friend and author of Blessed Are The Pure Of Heart blog.

PTSD And The Holidays: Helping The Veteran You Love

Andrew Budek-Schmeisser


Amazon Digital Services




THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Mistakes are always forgivable if one has the courage to admit them. — Bruce Lee




About wisdomfromafather

I'm just an ordinary guy walking along the journey of life.
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5 Responses to PTSD and the Holidays

  1. Bruce says:

    Hi Joe. Yeah, I have PTSD too. 50 years ago, I thought I could come home from Vietnam and just be normal again. I had no idea how wrong I was about this. The nightmares, the flashbacks, the intrusive thoughts, waking up screaming in my sleep. I thought I was the Lone Ranger. My attitude was I don’t need anyone’s help. I’ll get through this on my own. After 30 years, I realized I had to do something about this. I walked into a VA Clinic, and admitted I needed help with the PTSD. I hated standing there and had to ask for help. I’m the kind of person who is fiercely independent, and I don’t like asking anyone for anything. I can also be as stubborn as a mule when I want to be.

    20 years later, and my only regret is that I wish I had done this earlier. The VA gave me medication and therapy for the PTSD. I’ve had excellent results from the meds, and they keep me on an even keel. Without the meds, I would have extreme highs and lows several times a day. The therapy helped too. Just being able to talk and let some of the anger out of myself.

    The bottom line is that my quality of life is much improved now. Much better than what it was like when I was younger. The anger deep down within from the way we were treated when we came home from Vietnam. Being called “baby killer”, “war criminal”, etc. This anger is still there, and it will always be there. It’s important to be honest with ourselves, and this is the way I honestly feel deep down inside of myself. I’m not necessarily angry with everyone, but as far as those people who mistreated us, I will never forgive them. I will never forgive my own country for what they did to us. This is a matter of personal honor for me.

    Liked by 1 person

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