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When we tell our stories we give meaning to our experiences, organize order from the chaos and create connections between ourselves and others. As we do this we not only engage in healing actions that help support our own evolution in life after trauma but also help offer others ideas, suggestions, dreams, hope and belief for how we can reduce and even eliminate symptoms of PTSD.
This week’s guest post is contributed a PTSD memoir excerpt by R. “Doc” Gage Amsler, a veteran medic whose new book, The Strains of War, chronicles his personal exploration of cannabis as a cure for PTSD.
Since I had returned from the Iraq War three years earlier, medical cannabis had become a personal research mission of mine. As someone who had always been desperate to help others, I happened on the miracles of cannabis for PTSD quite incidentally.So what if it was my time, I thought to myself. I could accept that. I could meet this challenge. Would you have done the same?
After too many days of swallowing mortar rounds in combat- ruined places like Basra and seeing grown men shredded through the grinder of tactical warfare, my PTSD reared when I returned home. Seeing grown men torn apart by bullets and bombs sets your brain on record. You capture snippets of these images, and they play in your mind on a loop.
The memory pulls you back into the moment, and soon your whole body is back in that place. Each time you close your eyes, it sets your life on fire as you become an unwilling casualty of the trauma. The trauma cycles through you like a sowing machine, stitching the worst memories of your time in combat together, a seamless collection of death that stabs at you with every thrust of the needle.
I got home that year, my mental state a smoldering heap of panic, survivor guilt, and memories that had been stitched onto the back of my eyelids. I needed help to function, and so I was put on many medications that my doctors said would help me. The medicine seemed to help in the beginning, but then it turned on me.
The more I studied, the more it blew my mind that cannabis was such an effective PTSD cure, yet so many soldiers were struggling with medications that made them worse off than before. As a paramedic, I regularly came across people who had medicine bags full of the junk that was supposed to be helping them.
I realized there was a lot more to weed than anyone really understood. There were different strains, as varied as different off the shelf medications—some could trigger panic, while others would heal it! It depended mostly on the THC–CBD balance, which are synergistic to each other; when one goes up, the other goes down. This explained why common street weed would sometimes cause people problems.
Over several decades, it was bred for a high THC content, the psychoactive property in weed, instead of a high CBD content, which helps promote internal healing. My passion for medical cannabis research grew, along with several plants I was tending to in my basement. I went from a man who was imploding to a man with a mission.
In my humble opinion, medical cannabis has the potential to save thousands of soldiers’ lives. It can help to heal their PTSD symptoms, and it will not shorten their lifespans or cause disease to start up in other places in the body. In almost every way, this little plant became the answer to a question I had been asking since first returning from war. When will the chaos stop? “Right now,” said that cannabis treatment. It was around this time I became aware of a myth that was deeply entrenched in the cannabis community. I learned that somewhere in the world, no one knew where, but quite possibly high up in the Hindu Kush, was a primeval strain of bud.
It is a strain so powerful that it can cure diseases more effectively than anything the world has ever seen. This story is told often among cannabis entrepreneurs, who explore remote parts of the world searching for new natural strains for medicinal benefits. And there, in the back seat of my land cruiser, was possibly the Holy Grail.
My whole life I had been made to suffer with manic, bi- polar, schizophrenic tendencies from the colorful diaspora of men my mother paraded through my fragile childhood. Of course I was not normal; I had never seen what it looked like. War only aggravated my anger. After the tours in Iraq, I was not fit to shovel shit for a few cents an hour.
The world had closed in on me, and I was trapped inside a mind of broken thoughts. The harmony I had been careful to nurture to maintain my sanity in life would pop in and out of focus, like a cruel jack-in-the-box showing me all the regrets of my past. Every now and then I would be faced with a mirror, and could not stand to see the man looking back at me.
PTSD is strange like that. Days go by and things add up, a little reminder here, a flash there.
Eventually it feels like a balloon has inflated inside of your head. All of that pain has to escape somewhere. No one can face the reality of death like that without feeling the annihilating fear that goes with it.
Your nerves are always prickling like thorns pressed against your skin. If something hurts too much, you have to channel the pain somewhere. Sadly, it is usually on the people you love best. Every night is a pantomime of violence that rips your mind apart, and every day the confused logic of that fact is paraded around for everyone to see.
I believe it comes from our most primitive side, when man would destroy man simply because of no law and simply because they just could because of anger or resentment. With the introduction of laws and law enforcement, man is forced to dampen those primitive urges to obey the laws. There are some that simply cannot dampen those primitive urges. Which is illogical, not illegal—following the laws or following your primitive urges?
You see the turning points in your life, the moments when decisions brought you to where you are now. We had been looking to find the best spot for a new base and had wound up in the throes of an ambush. Only, this time, we had no back up, and all that stood between us was the unforgiving landscape against native-born killers.
I clung to the hope that finding that strain was divine providence and that I would not die on my own in the desert that day. I was full of purpose now that the fates had shown me my future. I would take the strain back to America, grow it, and test it. I would be instrumental in curing PTSD for every person that had ever stood in the fire. For every dragon.
This thought kept me pinned to that rock, hugging it for dear life. When the Quick Reaction Force finally came and laid down some heavy fire, it was an hour later than it should have been, something about a delay at the base. Jack sped up to us afterwards, and we piled into the MRAP, frazzled from the emotional experience of being caught in the open under gunfire.
The trip back to the base was sobering. Instead of dwelling on the past, I could focus on the future. Mike, Matt, and I all knew that we had cheated death on this mission. However, any security we felt was only momentary, and nowhere within these borders was truly safe for any of us. We were there to work, to shoot, to save, and to kill. We were contractors, and we were soldiers.
All of the risk I have taken I have done for a reason very close to my heart. I have gone through a lot since coming home. I have lost my marriage and nearly everything I own, and I have been forced to move away from my daughter, who I came home to be with. I even quit a professional job that I excelled at to focus on this passion. I believe that this strain holds the key for combat veterans. I was young once and full of dreams about life. I saw war as a means to an end. But war has no end for the people that get caught up in it. That is why so many good people can never return to the lives they had before. Once you allow that kind of pain into your life, it never goes away.
And then the cycle begins. Doctors. Lawyers. Diagnosis. Bipolar disorder, PTSD, anxiety, attention deficit, explosive moments, and more. They put you on medication that switches off your body and dilutes your brain. You fight. You tear your life apart. All the while, the war inside you rages on. No amount of alcohol exists that can dull the pain of it. You are forced inside that place whenever your eyes flutter closed.
War is unlikely to change. But I do not believe that good men and women have to carry it with them anymore. There is a need for the development of this strain into an adequate cure for PTSD. Imagine a world where our fighters come back home and the fight stops. Mothers can be mothers again. Husbands and wives can return to loving families. Someone’s father is able to hold down a job and even excel at it. These are the dreams that consume me now, since the day I stood on top of that mountain. I believe that this Kush is the answer to it all, a replacement for the medications that make it impossible for them to function.
I have been taking beatings since I was a kid. The worst beatings I ever took were the ones I inflicted on myself because of PTSD. It is a sweeping and brutal disorder for every veteran that I have ever met. These people have suffered enough. They do not deserve to return home to ruin, abandonment, and poverty. But that is what they get.
I am home now, and my combat days are over. I will never stop being a soldier, and I will never stop being a medic. The brotherhood never dies. And to this end, I want to dedicate my future. I am here to shout it across the world. There is hope for PTSD, and there is hope for veterans like me! Medical marijuana can give you your life back. It gave me mine.
Could Cannabis Be the Cure to Combat PTSD? The Strains of War Is the Provoking New TRUE STORY Release by a Veteran Struggling to Cultivate a Cure and Recover from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
A solider going to war knows to expect the unexpected, and R.’Doc’ Gage Amsler encountered a lot of expected and unexpected trauma during his time in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan working in/in support of the United States military forces. But he also stumbled upon a legendary cure hidden in the mountains along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan – the Hindu Kush. He’d heard plenty about this mystical strain of cannabis working as a long time medic… but how much of it was true? Could this particular strain really be the salvation to PTSD? Could he cultivate it? Could he even get it home safely?
Doc Gage had no doubt of the need for an effective treatment for PTSD for Vets. It’s no secret that too many of those who have served their country suffer for it for the rest of their lives with flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, a sense of detachment from loved ones, and difficulty functioning in day to day life. He knows how devastating PTSD can be because his own experiences in the military serving in combat areas have left him with PTSD.
Across the US, military veterans with PTSD just aren’t getting the help they need. Left to fend for themselves thorough the struggle to re-join civilian society after experiencing the horrors of war, too many find themselves marginalized, isolated and unable to hold down a job due to their PTSD symptoms. Could Gage Amsler have the cure? Could the strain of cannabis he brought back from the Hindu Kush help his fellow vets recover and return to full and rewarding lives?
Powerful Plant and Personal Pain The Strains of War is about much more than a plant that can help those suffering from PTSD. This is one man’s remarkable story before and after his amazing find in the mountainous border territory between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
R. Gage Amsler had a troubled life before he became a medic. In fact, he joined the military to change his life because his other option seemed to be dying on the street. His roller coaster like career path also includes stints in the fire department, as a defense contractor and in the automotive-industry. His personal life has been even more chaotic. Along the way, he gained and lost many friends and divorced twice. He missed seven years of his daughter’s life to the chaos. But through it all, he has been on a quest for inner peace. Follow his adventures and misadventures on the quest to develop this cannabis cure in The Strains of War.
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