War Stories. War Porn, Trauma Talk, Choir Practice, Shooting the Shit, Remembering the Old Days and Sounding Off.
They all mean the same thing and I would be willing to bet that any and all first responders and military members have done it. You know those times that you get together with co-workers, new or old, or you ran into an old buddy and you start talking. (This happens with or without the presence of alcohol but more often than not there is a few beers or bottles involved.) And, after a little while, you being to talk about the good and bad times. After a bit longer, you begin to focus on the bad, the shitty calls, the near misses and the evil that you have come up against. Things evolve fast and the next thing you know, you are reliving your trauma all over again.
But here is the kicker. These moments aren’t entirely bad in the short term but can quickly turn into something more devastating as time goes on. So, the not too bad part about these sounding off moments is that they serve as a bit of a pressure release valve. You are with people you trust, guys and gals who have lived through the same shit you have and have always been there for you. You don’t have to explain every little detail and they just get you. So, you share your War Porn with them and they share theirs. Everyone lets out a little bit of that pressure that is building up inside of them and then they carry-on with life. Things calm down for them for a little bit and all is good. (almost like a peer support group…..)
The only problem is that after doing this over and over again, you begin to get desensitized to the real impact of your trauma. You begin to shut it down the impact and you suppress your true pain. The need to release the pressure become a more common thing and you find yourself setting up these “bitch and stitch” type sessions more often. Heck, I can remember times where I have looked at a co-worker after going through something and ask “when are the drinks” knowing full well that we needed to debrief what we just went through. So, you finish your shift, get together with your co-workers and get right into the War Porn. You get the automatic release without having to process it.
Wait right there one cotton pickin’ second (say that in the Yosemite Sam voice), what’s this “process it” you through in at the end? Ah yes, that’s right, telling War Porn stories over and over again as a means of releasing the pent-up angst about the situation but you don’t process it. Why’s that you ask? Well, it’s really quite simple. When you do the War Porn talk, it becomes a situation of always trying to one up one another and trying to show others that you are not bothered by what happened. Hell, for years I joked about getting shot at twice in one night. But, without looking at the situation and processing it by attaching emotions, perceptions and expectations to it, you end up messing yourself up further. Now, I don’t laugh or make light of the fact that I was shot at twice in one night. Now I see it for what it is, down right fucked up.
Now, I’m not saying that all War Porn chatting is bad or wrong. But what I am saying is that if you are doing it as a means to vent and release a bit of build up, its wrong and it carries with it potentially dangerous outcomes. Say the wrong thing, release too much or not be ready for what comes out of your mouth and things can turn ugly for you. It is a dead end street, literally, to dealing with your issues. But, you can turn it around to your favour. How you ask? Well, its simple. It really is.
The two easiest things to do if you find that your drawn more and more to War Porn is:
1) Find a therapist – if you have a need to talk about your War Porn, find a professional to help you process it. Learn about the emotions attached to the situation and their impact on you. (plus it is a status thing to say that you have a therapist……Bhahahaha)
2) Find a Peer Support Group geared towards First Responders and Military if possible. THere, you will learn to talk about things in a PG rated version without the R rated add ons. You will find others in the same boat that will support you and help you understand why you trauma causes you to have memory loss, or what to do if you start crying while picking out bananas at the store. A good Peer Support Group is like Trauma Processing Lite.
Hell, I understand that there will be times that we have to sound off just for the sake of sounding off. It just that when we do, we really need to look at why and is there more to it that needs to be looked at?