Post Traumatic Stress: There Is Light At The End Of The PTSD Tunnel

Guest Post by James Greenshields, Personal Development Consultant. For more about James, scroll down…

James’ vehicle after being hit by road side bomb

James’ vehicle after being hit by road side bomb

In 2007 I was serving in Iraq when my armoured vehicle was hit by a road side bomb. I received shrapnel wounds to my head and arm, and they found my helmet 80m from the vehicle. When I returned to Australia at the end of my tour I was hypersensitive, couldn’t hold a conversation and had increased levels of anger. I was bathing my then 2 year old daughter a couple of months after returning and found myself getting increasingly angry at her two year old shenanigans. One night I had enough and looked at myself in the mirror: “James! You can take bullets and bombs, but you can’t bath your own daughter”. That night I vowed to fix whatever was wrong inside me – and I have.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD; an anxiety disorder that an estimated 700,000 Australians suffer. PTSD is a result of the protective measures within the brain engaging during an incident, or period of experience, where an individual feels their life, or sense of being, is threatened. These protective measures don’t reset by themselves and so leave that individual with PTSD.

Symptoms of PTSD are:

• Re-experiencing intrusive memories or flashbacks of the event
• Avoidance of things that remind a person of the event, and emotional numbing
• Hyperarousal coming across in things like difficulty sleeping, hyperviligance and irritability

Anyone with PTSD will know the emotional roller coaster that you can go on. At times you may feel that you are not in control. The start of my recovery process was to understand the consequences for me remaining like that – a lonely life that taxed those people I loved. It took me to make a commitment to my loved ones to change and regain a choice of how I feel and act. Now this commitment has become to myself.

The next step was to understand emotions and how they work within us. We are not our emotions, just as we aren’t our thoughts, or this body that we see in the mirror. There is something deep inside of each one of us that is the real person. Think about someone you really love, do you love them for their body, or how smart they are, or how they feel at any moment in time? My guess is that there is something deeper. Understanding this means you can now observe yourself when you get angry, sad or fearful, and realize that it is not who you are, but an emotion you are feeling at that moment.

Emotions need expressing. Anger is a big one. Find a way to express anger and get it out of your system. A couple of things about expressing it:

• No one is allowed to get hurt – otherwise your inner justice mechanism will kick in and load you with guilt.
• Get a punching bag and start to hit it.
• You need to go until you are exhausted.
• Vocalise what is going on for you – and don’t judge!
• Once won’t cut it, you need to do this until you feel you are back in control of when you get angry and to what degree.

The big thing is to understand that admitting you have PTSD is not a sign of weakness. Actually you will have more courage by putting your hand up and asking for help. And watch the dramatic effect of your courageous action on those you love the most.

If you would like any more information or want to get in touch with me, email:


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James Greenshields is a former Australian Army officer who has seen active service in both East Timor and Iraq. He is now a personal development consultant, specializing in leadership and PTSD recovery. He also presents at one of Australia’s largest personal development workshops, the Mental Toolbox. For more information visit:

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  1. [...] Further to James Greenshields guest post on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder… [...]

  2. [...] For further tips on how to overcome PTSD, check out Fran’s tips after surviving the Boxing Day Tsunami or James’ after surviving a roadside bomb in Iraq. [...]

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