• Michelle Partington

Why didn’t you just….

One of the hardest symptoms of PTSD to deal with is guilt and survivor guilt. I’m carrying a lot of guilt from tour for personal reasons and I cannot escape it. Sometimes I can forget about it for a while but then it creeps back, soaking out of every pore.

It’s difficult to accept that we have saved so many lives only to find out they are not happy to be living with the result of their terrible, life changing injuries. I am struggling with PTSD yet I’m not in a place where other sufferers find themselves.

Casualty guilt

During the tours on MERT the team would have to try to save the lives of casualties with some horrific injuries. Your job is to provide the best level of care possible to keep the casualty alive through to handover to the next level of care. I used to look at some casualties, especially the young ones with severely life changing injuries and think “what right do we have to try to keep these guys alive. What sort of life will they now have”. I still have shocking images in my mind of the casualties lying in front of me: lads with a vacant glassy stare, grey due to lack of oxygen and blood which has escaped through severed limbs. Some lost one limb, others 2 and some all 4 limbs gone. Sadly as the insurgents worked out how to make IED’s to do the most damage lads where also losing their manhood. That’s where it really affects their recovery. We have seen that people can manage to adjust after losing limbs because prosthetics have come a long way. How can anyone adjust to losing the ability to have a family. Some of the lads have been heard saying “why didn’t they just let me die”…

Another difficulty I faced and I still feel guilty about is when I had to treat the Afghans, especially children, knowing that as soon as they had been stabilised they were dropped off at the gate hiding any evidence that they had been treated by ‘us Westerners’. As a medic we hold the belief that everytime a patient is transferred they are going to receive at the very least, the same level of treatment and care if not better. We had no choice but to hand over the Afghan patients once we had treated and stabilised them. It didn’t help that we knew the level of follow up care was very little or in some cases none. I used to also feel guilty about how I felt personally when I had to treat insurgents. On a few ocassions the team would be called to insurgents who had been injured from a missile hit on them after being caught planting an IED. A ‘soldier’ from the Afghan National Army would be injured in a ‘Green on Blue’ situation. This means they had been injured following an atack on the coalition. Thankfully I was able to switch off and act professionally. Despite the anger and growing dislike for the insurgents I was able to put my feelings to the back of my mind and treat them as I would anyone else.

PTSD guilt

I have been writing for weeks about my hidden illness and how it has been affecting me, almost completely changing my life. I lost the sanctuary of my home along with my fiancè, and I’ve also lost the person I once was. However I have no right to complain when I know that fellow veterens who have also been diagnosed and battling PTSD are homeless, and in a drunken/drug induced stupor to help them try to cope/forget.

Now I know logically and on a good day that this is all reletive and that people have different levels of coping. However it doesn’t stop me feeling that I should perhaps think myself ‘lucky’. I think it’s because I am determined not to be the one on the street. It is a daily battle not to give up but I don’t want to go there. I want to live with it and I will meet any battle head on if it means I live another day having held back this terrible evil within me.

If I could find a way to rid myself of the guilt I would take it…


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