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Old 03/25/2014, 02:47 PM   #1
mkoop
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Arrow Post Traumatic Stress - A broad data collection study and discussion

I would like to start collecting data in regards to the impacts of Marine Life on post-traumatic stress.

I feel this would allow Reef Central to become a forum to provide subject matter information and become an asset by being able to provide visibility into an issue that is becoming prevalent in our society, and how our hobby may be able assist.

I served 3 combat tours in the USMC as a scout sniper and am a purple heart recipient. At the age of 18 I made a decision that before I would start my life, I would make something of it and serve my country. At that age I was not aware of the true repercussions that would bring. I now suffer from debilitating flash backs that are caused by triggers associated with my diagnoses post traumatic stress disorder. I also suffer from many sleepless nights and constantly waking up in a state of panic. My tank has been able to help me deal with some of these symptoms and I feel it has not only become a part of my life, but has become somewhat of a staple in my journey to recovery.

Don't get me wrong, I love my reef from a pure hobbyist standpoint as well, but it really helps me to disassociate from those memories for awhile and become consumed in my reef. Sure disassociating won't get any of us through all of this, but we can work on that in other ways, and well its not alcohol(unless its vodka! (dosing! ).

It's nice to be able to get a break when I need to while I work through this stuff. I think a lot of veterans are finding their way to this hobby for that reason. Paul B, who I'm sure some of you may have seen around the forums, is going on something like 65 years with his reef. Paul is also a Viet Nam veteran. I don't think it's necessarily a coincidence at all, but I did not have any idea this would occur when I started my reef, a pure interest in the hobby brought me in and it was an added bonus. I think if more knew they could benefit as well.

I will outline a few questions to set as data collection points, but I would also encourage you to use this as a forum of open discussion in regards to how you feel marine life and your tank may influence your disorder. I also want to note, while we see an influx in post-trauma from the recent wars, this should also apply to any veteran who has served in combat and feels they suffer from PTSD.

1. Did you serve in combat? If so, please note the time frames and conflicts.
2. Do you feel you suffer from PTSD?
3. Were you diagnosed with PTSD either through the VA or other reputable means?
4. Do you feel this hobby has an impact on your PTSD?
5. Do you feel that any hobby of equal self enjoyment would have similar impacts on your disorder?

Beyond these questions, please feel free to openly discuss anything you may feel to be of value in regards to this study.

While I understand many may be reserved to share this information openly, if you are more comfortable PMing me whatever you may wish to add, I can certainly post in a manner that will maintain your anonymity.

Thank you and I hope we can get some good conversation and data points generated and maybe be able to help some of our brothers and sisters who are also suffering.


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Old 03/25/2014, 07:26 PM   #2
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Matt, I won't answer your questions, only because technically, I was not in combat situations as normally expressed. I did go to Nam after boot camp, but it was for what was called the CAP program, which basically was training the Vietnamese people. I saw some horrors, but I'm sure it wasn't what combat normally exposes one to. I will give you a little story about what brought me back into this hobby.

Like PaulB, quite a bit of my off time in the Marines involved diving. This had a lot to do with duty stations, but I fell in love with the oceans. I had a salt fish tank within the first year of getting out. Up until about 98, there was either a fish or reef tank in my living room. I got out because the reef got flatworms and this was before FWE. They drove me nuts, so I took it down, but save all equipment and rock. In 04, my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. Before she began her surgeries and treatments, she asked me to set a reef back up. She wanted it for the same reasons you had for PTSD. She doesn't work on the tank much, but she can still sit and stare at it for hours on end. It takes her away. Almost ten years later, the tank is still here. So is my wife. Be strong my brother.


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Old 03/25/2014, 07:42 PM   #3
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Hey Guys I was in the Navy on a aircraft carrier from 86-90. Missions where conducted but being on the ship I did not have to see the aftermath.

I can attest to the calming and soothing effects a tank has on me. It is not a coincidence that many dentist and doctors keep a tank in their office for this reason.


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Old 03/26/2014, 09:26 AM   #4
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Viet Nam was a long time ago and unfortunately a lot of guys have PTSD that was not a real illness at the time and I never heard of it until many years later. For PTSD or battle fatigue we would get maybe an aspirin and send you back into combat as that is all they had at the time. If you tour a Veteran's Hospital you will see many poor guys there with severe cases of it.
I was drafted a couple of weeks past my 19th birthday and I was a New York boy growing up in the city. I wasn't used to jungles but like most GIs of the time, after some training I was dumped into a clearing in a jungle on a mountain top on the Cambodian border. The first week we were attacked by 400 NVA and they killed about a third of us. They even wrote a book about that battle that just came out http://www.amazon.com/Fire-Base-Illi.../dp/1250024951

The combat was of course an eye opener because at that age the only dead people I ever saw were old people in a clean casket wearing a suit.
I wasn't ready for what I saw and participated in and I certainly wasn't ready to put 30 of my fellow soldiers in body bags after a few hours of intense fighting, much of it hand to hand. You age very fast.

But I think, besides the combat, it was the conditions that also affected people.
For that year I lived in a jungle where it rained for 5 months and I never saw a road, wall, roof, building or electricity. Just bamboo and mud. For a New York City boy, that was unnerving.

My last day in the Army was on Cambodian mountain and they flew me directly to New Jersey, still dirty, they left me there in the middle of the night and gave me a 15 cent subway token and showed me the door. (there are no subways in New Jersey and if my family didn't pick me up I would have had to hitch hike the 100 miles to my home.)

Today, thank God there are parades and people to welcome you home.
I had fresh water fish before I was in the Army and it was logical to start up a tank when I got home. My tanks were still there and I filled them with brackish water as there was brackish fish available like archerfish, puffers, bumblebee gobies, mono's and scats. A few weeks later saltwater fish arrived in Manhattan and I bought the first blue devils imported.
I have plenty of friends but in between doing things with friends I need something else to do as I always have to be busy. Fish filled that void.
I have been retired for 5 years and so far have not had to watch TV in the daytime because I always have something I like to do and with the fish tank I can always find something to do. If there is no maintenance needed I will remove some rocks just to see what is under there or I will take out my microscope to check out some detritus.
I don't know if I suffer from PTSD but my wife, who knew me before I went to war says I do. I think I came back better because ever since then, I don't worry about anything except my family's health. I am also not afraid of much. I never cared if my job fired me (they never did) I would not get crazy if someone stole my car and my fish tank certainly causes me no concern. If something dies or if the entire tank crashed, It would not affect me. I would just start it over.
I don't know if that is a good thing or bad but my wife often tells me when she is worrying about something that I am lucky that I went through combat and she doesn't have those coping skills.


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Old 03/26/2014, 11:02 AM   #5
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Mkoop, there are probably not a lot of us old Viet Nam Vets around any more and I am not sure how many combat Vets there are here, but there is a Military reefer club here
http://reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1971850
Maybe you should post something there to see if anyone is a combat Vet. I am sure there are some from the last two wars.


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Old 03/26/2014, 12:19 PM   #6
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Mkoop,

Thanks for your service,

I spent two years away, nothing remarkable to note of or heroic in my background, so thanks again for yours. Just Iraq, haven't been to Afghanistan. 2003, 2008.

I dont' have PTSD aside from having a hard time dealing with idiots, readjustment is always a challenge so the first year home was a bit more difficult that I'd imagined. I have many friends and aquaintances that have PTSD and they are all intriqued by the tank. But they are all hesitant to front the costs to start their own. Wish I could help because they all could do so much more if they were calmer.

I certainly love the calming effects of my reef tank, watching, tinkering, and learning certainly help. I certainly agree with the hobby begin used as a potential source for treatment. Certainly better for me than adopting a dog or other normal plan. Something about watching fish swim is so relaxing.

I hope you get some good information from this study I certainly agree that there is a strong benefit.


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Old 03/27/2014, 12:20 PM   #7
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I know there are more combat Vets on here someplace. There has to be.


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Old 03/29/2014, 03:42 PM   #8
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Today, thank God there are parades and people to welcome you home.
Speaking from experience not always. However it is gotten better I would venture to say because of what the Viet Nam guys went thru.

My first night back from combat I slept on a cold hard concrete floor because the useless SNCO's and Officer sent back earlier could not count or did not care to get enough beds for all of us returning.


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Old 03/30/2014, 08:35 AM   #9
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I don't get into details of why, how, when and where regarding PTSD, but my reef tank (and a variety of other hobbies) has been a lifesaver. I've found that making something helps the most. I built my stand, plumbing, sump, rock work (4 or five times now), water change station, dosing setup and a variety of other things and that seems to make me the most at ease.

Each time after I got back I'd find myself building or fixing something almost constantly and now, many years later my wife still enjoys the fact that I'm always improving one or more aspects of the house, even if she doesn't understand why. I think that this hobby lends itself to PTSD, mostly because it puts you back on a schedule and lets you simulate a military checklist better than most postwar activities.

I also hear watching the fish helps with stress in general and maybe thats why I do my homework in the fish room, haha


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Old 03/30/2014, 10:14 PM   #10
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Hello Everyone,

I am a veteran of the Iraq War (2006-2007, 2008-2009) and I would like to put a little input into this post. I did unfortunately serve in combat operations while deployed over there. One of the reasons I have a saltwater aquarium was to see if it help me with problems I've had with the war. It has yielded positive results that have really helped me out. Please contact me if you would like to know any further information. Thanks guys for all the help with raising my aquarium!


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Old 04/01/2014, 10:03 AM   #11
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Posting input from 2 vets who wish to remain anonymous in this:

1. Did you serve in combat? If so, please note the time frames and conflicts.
Iraq 2005/06
2. Do you feel you suffer from PTSD?
Yes
3. Were you diagnosed with PTSD either through the VA or other reputable means?
Yes
4. Do you feel this hobby has an impact on your PTSD?
Sometimes, sorta like my zen garden. When I work on my tank that is all I think about.
5. Do you feel that any hobby of equal self enjoyment would have similar impacts on your disorder?
Dunno.



1. Did you serve in combat? If so, please note the time frames and conflicts.
Iraq 2004/2005, 2006/2007
2. Do you feel you suffer from PTSD?
Yes, I do.
3. Were you diagnosed with PTSD either through the VA or other reputable means?
I was diagnosed through the VA.
4. Do you feel this hobby has an impact on your PTSD?
Absolutely, safety and control have become huge for me. The calming effect of the tank helps me to feel safe. I can obsess over and control my tank, it helps me feel calm when I feel like I have control over nothing else.
5. Do you feel that any hobby of equal self enjoyment would have similar impacts on your disorder?
I don't know, this one seemed fitting for me as it doesn't require me to leave the home. I am very uncomfortable in public as I don't feel safe, so it is difficult to pursue a large majority of hobbies.


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Old 04/01/2014, 01:35 PM   #12
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1. Did you serve in combat? If so, please note the time frames and conflicts.

1990/1991 Desert Shield/Desert Storm while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps

2. Do you feel you suffer from PTSD?

Yes

3. Were you diagnosed with PTSD either through the VA or other reputable means?

Yes, diagnosed by VA

4. Do you feel this hobby has an impact on your PTSD?

Yes

5. Do you feel that any hobby of equal self enjoyment would have similar impacts on your disorder?

This hobby does help a lot. Many of times weekly I am up zero dark thirty searching around the tank to keep my mind off "things" in hopes that I am taken away from the nightmares that wake me up in the first place. I was a certified diving instructor while living in Hawaii and a saltwater tank helps to take me back to a place that was quiet, comfortable, and relaxing.


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Old 04/03/2014, 08:00 PM   #13
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1. Did you serve in combat? If so, please note the time frames and conflicts.

06-07 Baghdad Iraq at Ibn Sina hospital in the IZ as a medic. I was never in direct combat, just IDF. I saw the results of combat on too many men, women and children for the 15 months I was there.

2. Do you feel you suffer from PTSD?

Yes

3. Were you diagnosed with PTSD either through the VA or other reputable means?

I recognized the signs and symptoms associated with PTSD and went to the VA to get help. All I got was coaching on how to collect disability for when I spoke with the doctor instead of the help I was seeking. I left the office quite PO'd and never went back.

4. Do you feel this hobby has an impact on your PTSD?

Absolutely. Having a salt water aquarium allows me to focus my efforts and energy in a healthy way towards something that is rewarding. Just watching the aquarium is soothing.

5. Do you feel that any hobby of equal self enjoyment would have similar impacts on your disorder?

I used to build computers as a hobby before I got into saltwater. putting them together was calming, but once I finished building and testing, that was it. there was no continuation for me


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Old 04/03/2014, 08:27 PM   #14
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I served in OIF 05-06 and OIF 08-09

I suffer from PTSD and was diagnosed while i was in the Army.

This hobby really is the one thing that can help me relax and enjoy everything. It helps that my son loves to help also

No other hobbies do not allow you still back and watch this world you have created and just lose your self in their activities.


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Old 04/04/2014, 01:37 AM   #15
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1. Did you serve in combat? If so, please note the time frames and conflicts.
yes, USMC 1st Battalion 6th Marines, Afghan, Marjah dec 2009- july 2010. Sangin/Kajaki july 2011-feb 2012. Purple Heart recipient
2. Do you feel you suffer from PTSD?
not as much anymore
3. Were you diagnosed with PTSD either through the VA or other reputable means?
yes
4. Do you feel this hobby has an impact on your PTSD?
somewhat, being out and away from stress helps a lot, and this hobby is a big part of the stress release
5. Do you feel that any hobby of equal self enjoyment would have similar impacts on your disorder?
yes and no, it is a peaceful and tranquil hobby so it puts me at ease and calms me down. I get a release from the gym as well.


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Old 04/04/2014, 10:42 AM   #16
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Hey all you guys, If no one said it, Welcome home Brothers. We all have at least two things in common, combat and fish.

One thing that I always notice is that you more modern guys dressed a lot better than we did.
Sgt, First Air Cav




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Old 04/07/2014, 03:04 AM   #17
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Hey everyone. I did an enlistment with the Marines as an 0351 Assaultman and did Iraq in '08 and then Afghan in '10 where I received the purple heart. I was diagnosed with PTSD by the VA and I got into reef keeping when I got out and moved in with a buddy who had one back home a few years ago. I love the peace I get from watching my tank but I think what I love most are the countless hours of research and actual time spent working on my tanks. College and reef keeping have been the two positive things that have kept me occupied/sane since I got out of the Marines. Without the two of them I literally don't know how I would spend my time.



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Old 04/07/2014, 03:17 AM   #18
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Hey brendon0331 I was in Now Zad, pretty close to the spots you where at, during the surge in 2010. Lots of my boys spent time in Sangin.


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Old 04/08/2014, 01:40 AM   #19
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right on brother, who were you with? we used to watch bombs drop in now zad from kajaki.


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Old 04/19/2014, 12:05 AM   #20
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I was with 1/2


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Old 04/19/2014, 07:52 PM   #21
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Hoorah mkoop!

This topic is definately something I can relate to being a veteran 0321/8541 and here are my answers to your questions:

1. Did you serve in combat? If so, please note the time frames and conflicts.

Yes, (march- july2003) 2003 RCT1 2/8e for the initial invasion of Iraq along RT1
(february- december 2004)2004 RCT1-3/1m for Vigilant resolve and Al fajr
(september 2005- may 2006) 1st LAR for al qut, husaybah, rutbah, and the black territory north of waleed on the syrian border

2. Do you feel you suffer from PTSD?
Suffering isn't in a Marine's dictionary, but there are those times when im stuck in my head.....

3. Were you diagnosed with PTSD either through the VA or other reputable means?
I was diagnosed with PTSD, TBI and all the other side-issues that come with it

4. Do you feel this hobby has an impact on your PTSD?
Yes, what bothered me most about PTSD was the depression, and the border-line sociopathic tendancies. Before I had my reef I didn't care much about emotions or displaying them. It became a real problem with my family relations and friendships because it didn't seem like I cared at all. Its not that i didn't, it was more that i was stuck in my own head. After the tank, I felt happy to come home and see my fish excited to see me. The fish gave me the feeling of purpose i was missing from my years of service. What is most therepeutic of this hobby to me is the structure, I hated it when i was in the military and completely dismissed it after EAS. Its the structured schedule of maintenance that keeps me distracted from my internal thought process of mistakes past, even civilians don't consider them mistakes and constantly remind me, but i still kick myself every time i think of them. Reefing keeps me from going down that rabbit hole of internal thought, and its kept me from drinking rediculous amounts of alcohol since i spend all my extra cash on aquarium "toys", so its a win-win for me

5. Do you feel that any hobby of equal self enjoyment would have similar impacts on your disorder?
Golf and Ice hockey work well for me, they help me get my aggression out constructively since I can't really chew out a clownfish now can I? ( don't answer that)
For every Veteran I recommend a hobby for the mental( reefing), and for the physical. You can't maintain a healthy mindset with ptsd on just one hobby alone.

Keep this thread going, I also would like to see what fellow reefkeepers with ptsd have to say about this topic, and help those interested in starting up. Anyone(especially veterans) can feel free to message me with questions about reefkeeping or if their in need of some motivation


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Old 04/19/2014, 09:42 PM   #22
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I've been seeing a lot of Jarheads stopping in here lately!!!! Welcome Brothers!!!!!


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Old 04/19/2014, 10:24 PM   #23
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I've been seeing a lot of Jarheads stopping in here lately!!!! Welcome Brothers!!!!!

We're usually pretty obvious.


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Old 04/19/2014, 11:29 PM   #24
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We're usually pretty obvious.
Yes we are. :-P I'm glad that we all have reefing in common.


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Old 04/20/2014, 09:11 AM   #25
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Very first post on RC

USAF Explosive Ordnance Disposal '98-current
1.Did you serve in combat? If so, please note the time frames and conflicts.

Yes, '04- Data Masked, Jun-Dec '07 Kandahar, Afghanistan, Mar-Sep '09 Basrah, Iraq, Jul '10-Jan '11 Delaram Afghanistan

2. Do you feel you suffer from PTSD?

Do I have it, yes. Suffer-no. It is what it is and I'm getting better.

3.Were you diagnosed with PTSD either through the VA or other reputable means?
Yes but I am out of treatment now and I have been for about 8 months

4. Do you feel this hobby has an impact on your PTSD?

Yes, I find it calming. Even if my tank were to crash it is still more relaxing than work.

5. Do you feel that any hobby of equal self enjoyment would have similar impacts on your disorder?
yes


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