Accumulative Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

By Sandy Long

Coming across I-72 westbound yesterday morning, I saw emergency vehicles on the eastbound side ahead.  When I got up next to them, there in the middle of the lanes was a sheet-covered body.   It was not a good way to start the day to see this in the dawn’s early light.

PTSD used to be called combat fatigue and came to be understood most in soldiers returning home during WWII and then Korea.  It is the residual from traumatic incidents or occurrences that one suffers such as battle, abuse, abject fear  or accidents where one feels out of control.  The easiest explained example of PTSD symptoms is someone being gun shy; one jumps or over reacts adversely to a loud noise after say, being shot at another time.  Physical symptoms are increased heartbeat, anxiety, nausea, sweats, flashbacks to what caused the PTSD in the first place, nightmares, high stress levels and depression.

PTSD may be caused by accumulative incidences; this is what affects truck drivers the most.  Added to the constant stress caused by traffic and tight schedules, seeing horrendous accidents or assisting as first on the scene to accidents or seeing the sheet covered bodies can cause accumulative PTSD.  Because of the isolation of the job, the trucker may not be able to talk about whatever it was they witnessed to work thru the emotions.   If truckers have been in a serious accident themselves, PTSD may kick in if they see a similar accident.

People can show some strange behaviors that are caused by PTSD.  My late brother would tell me of seeing a horrendous wreck with dead bodies and then laugh.  He had PTSD for years after serving three tours in Viet Nam and being a trucker added to it.  Laughing after relating something terrible he had seen was his way of coping, it was a release for him, but if you did not know him, you would think him callous or hard hearted…he was not.  If he heard a helicopter too closely or a jet would go over too low, he would hit the dirt or go into defensive mode, classic examples of PTSD.

I was in a major wreck in 2000 where I was pinned in the sleeper for a couple of hours in the dark.  I still to this day do not know exactly what my position was when I pulled myself up, I could look down at my ex pinned behind the steering wheel.  When I am tired or stressed, if I think about that, my mind goes into a loop reliving that wreck…and I get scared all over again.

Some PTSD is normal after an incident where you are scared or feel out of control and normal PTSD will ease with a little time.  However, PTSD that stays around or shows up years after the event can be hard to deal with; but it can be dealt with.

Treating PTSD takes dealing with the emotions that you did not feel at the time, this might take seeing a professional.  Talk therapy is the most common form of treatment for PTSD, using anger management, depression strategies and coping techniques.  For truckers, the need to talk about what they see during the day that affects them adversely is very important, for instance, my writing about seeing the sheet covered body is a way for me to deal with seeing it so it does not build up in my mind and turn into PTSD.

PTSD is a very treatable mental illness and nothing to be ashamed of.  If you think that you might be suffering from it by having continued nightmares, anxiety, depression or stress when you see or remember bad things, then by all means do not hesitate to see someone to get some help with this disorder.  As with any mental illness, there is no shame in having it, only shame, in this day and age, if you do not get help with it.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Backfire

By Sandy Long

An old proverb reads, ‘you reap what you sow’; too bad some companies and the government did not read proverbs 30 years ago before they started the systematic destruction of the American truck driver’s image.  What they sowed is sure coming back to bite them in the backside.

Article after article tells of a serious driver shortage in the trucking industry.  Even the general media got into the act with stories about thousands of trucking jobs going unfilled because Americans no longer want to enter trucking to drive truck.  There are studies being done saying that young people do not want to drive cars much less become truck drivers though anyone who looks at the traffic on the roads would have to question that supposition.  Companies are running around wringing their hands wondering how they are going to meet their contractual agreements if they cannot hire drivers.  There is already some talk about future shortages if drivers are not found to keep things moving.  Well, just what did they expect?

Truck drivers are made out to be the most ignorant, dirtiest, nastiest, foul-mouthed people in the country and unsafe to boot.  In addition, truck drivers are said to be pedophiles, serial killers, rapists, predators, thugs, whoremongers, thieves, and every other evil negative thing one can imagine.  These labels are advertised by lawyers, public safety groups, and the government and yes, even an association that supposedly supports the trucking industry and its companies.

The above must be true due to the government passing regulation after regulation spinning statistics and studies to support the above claims of a truck drivers terrible behavior; at least one has to infer that from the newspaper articles and such stating the government’s position that  truckers are the cause of so many deaths a year.  If the government says so, it must be true.

The general public has fallen for the rhetoric about truckers being such bad people.  Mothers guide their kids away from being near drivers in truck stops and it is not unusual to hear them tell their kids not to touch anything because ‘those nasty truck drivers come in here.’  Truck drivers get more single finger salutes now than a kid pumping their arm to hear the air horn toot.  A new warehouse wants to come to town; the citizens come out to state they do not want all of the truckers in town; and reporter after reporter are amazed that people do not want to become truck drivers?

Those citizens are raising the next workforce, it would not compute for them to encourage their kids to become truck drivers.  Today’s kids want a good paying job, where they can have a life and have some pride in their job choice; not to be looked down on from the government to the companies they work for.  Kids from trucking families might know differently, but not kids in general; they read the papers and listen to the news too.

Truckers have watched this occur for decades and while it hurts because truck drivers are basically good human beings; some have turned to humor to deal with the negative connotations that go with the job.  Several years ago, a bumper sticker was seen on trucks that said, ‘if you meet my parents, tell them I am a piano player in a whorehouse, not a trucker.’  Bet everyone thought they were joking.

Between the disrespect, the overwhelming unfair regulations and attrition, experienced truck drivers are leaving the industry in droves.  One has to laugh a little when the companies scratch their heads and cannot seem to understand why their trucks are sitting empty…uh duh, what just exactly did you expect?  You can only beat a dog until it dies and you can only demonize a workforce for so long before no one wants to be in that workforce.  Another old proverb the companies and the government should have heeded, ‘be careful what you wish for, it can backfire and bite you in the arse.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shooting Yourself in the Foot

By Sandy Long

When someone decides to become active in issues whether by writing a representative, attending a listening session with the FMCSA or being interviewed by a reporter, they have to guard their words carefully and rein in their anger.  If someone does not get their point across clearly and concisely, or attacks the person they are trying to influence, two things happen; 1) what you are trying to accomplish will not be listened to correctly 2) the person who you are trying to influence will shut down due to going on the defensive or becoming angry.

Case in point, at one of the listening sessions with the FMCSA it was repeatedly stated by drivers that they could not make any money without running illegally.  Now you or I would understand as drivers that it is not about the money as much as about what is expected of us.  I doubt the FMCSA heard it like that though, they only heard run illegally.  In addition, the attitude of some of the drivers speaking was hostile towards Anne Ferro.  Now to be honest, I am as frustrated as the rest of you, but know that people do not pay attention to what is being said behind the anger or frustration, the message is lost.

While we are speaking about the listening sessions, the issue of flexibility kept coming up in regards to the HOS.  While being able to take a shower or nap during the day is important to us drivers; we drivers also know that it is more about safety than anything else, yet that did not come across clearly.  Few talked about how much safer we would be, and the highways would be, if we could park up and wait out rush hours, sunrises/sunsets, weather etc., since the FMCSA touts safety, that would have been a better way of approaching the issue of flexibility.

How to get your point across clearly is fairly simple; make a list of the main topics you want to cover in depth before you get to the event, listening session or interview…or write that letter.  Remember that most of the people you will be addressing might know a little about the industry as a whole, but have never driven a truck in their lives.  They are also not familiar with trucker speak, so you have to be totally clear and concise.  Be prepared to answer questions that someone might ask.

As far as the anger and frustration goes, take this little test.  Remember when someone, it might have been a parent, a spouse, significant other or boss, yelled at you about something.  Then remember how you felt and reacted.  You might have reacted with your own anger or you might have gotten emotional and cried or wanted to cry, but you did not listen to what they were saying beyond their angry words or attitude.  People do not learn in a hostile environment nor do they listen closely to the message you are trying to impart if they are negatively confronted.

Times are tough in the industry and there is a need for people to stand up and speak out, but to do so effectively, not to shoot themselves in the foot while doing so.  Those wounded foot types might get a pat on the back from other rambos, but in reality they do more harm than good.