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(Excerpt from The Endless Journey Home by Specialist Joe Collins)
Memory problems are probably the most commonly shared symptoms of PTSD sufferers. As first, memory problems may be somewhat hard to diagnose, but often it is a progressive symptom and will get worse as time passes without proper treatment.
The first stages of memory problems might show up as absent-mindedness like easily forgetting things like important dates, appointments, and names of new people that they meet. Constantly misplacing or losing things are also some examples. If the returned veteran never had problems in any of these areas before he/she deployed, it is important to keep a watchful eye on them. Without proper care, memory problems can become progressive and debilitating.
By this time, the returned veteran is most likely showing many other symptoms of PTSD. Late stages of memory problems will be very obvious. The person most likely will forget things on a day-to-day basis. They might even have trouble remembering things from the past. Sometimes the returned veteran may be in the middle of a sentence, then pause and forget what they were talking about. Or, they might tell you something and minutes later tell you the exact same thing because they forget they have already said it in the first place.
Another thing to be aware of is that veterans are trained to adapt and to keep functioning. In many cases, if a returned veteran begins to realize they are having problems with memory and they are unaware that it might be PTSD or they are resistant to getting help, they might purchase note pads, post-it notes or dry erase boards to try to compensate for their memory loss.
From personal experience and other soldier’s experiences, when this level of memory challenges has been reached we often compare it to feeling like our memories have been put into a blender and pulled out. It leaves a feeling like everything is mixed up. It can also feel as if some of the memories were left out of the blender, evidenced when we draw a blank trying to recall certain events. Others say they feel as if their memories are like a block of Swiss cheese, and they can remember things that happened in the order that they happen, but they have blank spots or there are holes of missing information.
It is very, very important if you are a veteran, a family member or a friend of a veteran who reads this and are aware that you or someone you know is going through this problem to SPEAK UP about it. Without intervention or help, this can continue to be progressive and to be harder to treat the longer you wait.