Selco on PTSD: The Price You Pay for Survival

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Author of The Dark Secrets of SHTF Survival and the online course SHTF Survival Boot Camp

Editor’s Note: Something a lot of people forget when they think about survival is what happens after you’ve survived. When you get through something terrible, there’s always a price you must pay for your survival. You won’t get through it unscathed. 

Oftentimes, that price is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. This is a very real condition triggered by experiencing or witnessing a horrifying event or series of events. Here is some solid advice on PTSD to help you or a loved one who is suffering from it.  You can learn more about PTSD here on the VA website. Once called “shell shock” or “battle fatigue syndrome” it can affect more than just soldiers.

You can’t survive something awful and expect to live unscathed. PTSD isn’t a symptom weakness. It’s a sign that you have a conscience and a heart. It’s a sign that you love and you care. It’s part of being a survivor, and that’s why all of us are here – we want to survive.

In this article, Selco shares his deeply personal experience with PTSD.

The Price You Pay for Survival

by Selco

I am not alone.
he’s here now.
sometimes I think he’s
then he
flies back
in the morning or at
noon or in the
a bird no one wants.
he’s mine.
my bird of pain.
he doesn’t sing.
that bird
swaying on the

—Charles Bukowski 

For all people out there, who carry this ugly bird on their shoulders.

Anxiety, phobias, PTSD, depression… are just words.

For the people who have not experienced it personally, those words cannot portray feelings of being lost, alone and cornered while you are fighting for air, or simply thinking that you are going to die. Or that you are not gonna make it. Or that it is not worth to make it.

I imagine it like a big black bird, ugly bird, hovering above your head in circles, then landing on your shoulders, pinching your shoulders with claws, and with its wings covering your vision. It suffocates you, blurs your judgment, pushes you to make decisions, or more often not to make decisions…

How many times you were in a situation when you felt that you are in your own private hell, while the world around you was still turning, unaware of the darkness in you?

When I am there, I do not care about anything. That ugly bird pinches my shoulders (and my shoulders hurt for real)  and blurs my vision, so I do not see reasons to push on and on.

I know that the reasons are there but I cannot see them. I just keep hoping I will be able to push on, to the moment when again I see reasons for life.

It comes, and it goes…PTSD

So this post is about all of us who carry that bird on shoulders.

Do not make a mistake: it can be anybody… war veteran, housewife, kid…father.

And do not make the mistake of telling that person “oh, it is nothing, you just imagining it” because no, it is not “nothing.” It is everything that matters for that person, and nothing else matters actually for that person.

Every one of us has our own breaking point. The important thing here is that often you will NOT recognize what and when your breaking point is.

I have been through many situations that can be described as pure horror, and I endured it without problems. (You can read more about those experiences in my PDF book or my paperback book.)

Then years later, decades later, I drive my car through the town, and I see something, like two kids playing with their mother, and I suddenly feel that black bird hovering high above my head…

And it hits me like a train, something from my violent past… maybe dead kids that I have seen 25 years ago.

I guess I broke down 25 years ago. Now it is just me “breaking down” over and over again, through repetition of memories and feelings.

I’m an expert on experiencing PTSD.

I am not really fond of the word “expert” and I do not proclaim myself to be a survival expert. But if I am an expert about anything it might be PTSD.

Long experience in that.

Often after having articles where I mentioned psychological problems and coping with them, I read comments where people call it pathetic or portray me as a weak.

It is nothing like that, and often I would love to prove that to those couch warriors by messing them… But it is pointless. It is always about people without experience talking about topics where they lack that particular experience and acting like experts.

People who suffer PTSD are not weak. On the contrary to that, they are very strong, because it is a hell of a thing to have and carry, trust me.

Since I am writing this in one of the worst episodes of it, trust me when I say some things.

[page_section template=’3′ position=’default’ shadow=’#dd9933′]

Have you taken Selco’s online courses yet?

Taking the online courses are the next best thing to getting over to Europe and studying with him personally.

  • SHTF Survival Boot Camp teaches you both urban and wilderness survival skills, primitive first aid, and lessons about the violence that you’ll never forget.
  • One Year in Hell is Selco’s original course that shares the dark truth about what it was like to live in a city under siege. He talks about the signs he missed, what happened when chaos erupted, the grim sanitation conditions, and how his life completely changed.

If you want the real deal from a legend who has lived through the SHTF, these are the online courses for you.[/page_section]

You must push on and on.

There are books and programs on how to cope with it, but the only real and good start how to cope with it is to “push on and on” until that ugly bird goes away… not completely, but far and high enough so you can live something like a normal life.

My second piece of advice is: have someone close, someone that you can talk to about what you are going through, someone who will listen to you.

You need a friend.

That bird cannot be killed, but it can go away for long periods, or very high above you if you ask for help.

Ask for help!

Again, this post is not about Selco the “expert.”

It is to reach out to all of you who feel the same as I do, to all of you who think it is not worth it, to all of you who are pinched by that bird claws, or who maybe had thoughts about ending everything…

I often keep my gun on the table in front of me when I feel like this, and listen to some music. I look at the gun, how nice piece of work it is, effective and definitive piece of work… and yea, it does look often like an easy solution to use it.

But you know what?

Often the easy solutions are the wrong ones.

So f*ck off that bird from your shoulders and push on and on.

Do not forget: real survival is just that -pushing on and on, day by day.

About Selco:

Selco survived the Balkan war of the 90s in a city under siege, without electricity, running water, or food distribution. He is currently accepting students for his next physical course here.

In his online works, he gives an inside view of the reality of survival under the harshest conditions. He reviews what works and what doesn’t, tells you the hard lessons he learned, and shares how he prepares today.

He never stopped learning about survival and preparedness since the war. Regardless of what happens, chances are you will never experience extreme situations as Selco did. But you have the chance to learn from him and how he faced death for months.

Real survival is not romantic or idealistic. It is brutal, hard and unfair. Let Selco take you into that world.



Selco survived the Balkan war of the 90s in a city under siege, without electricity, running water, or food distribution. In his online works, he gives an inside view of the reality of survival under the harshest conditions. He reviews what works and what doesn’t, tells you the hard lessons he learned, and shares how he prepares today. He never stopped learning about survival and preparedness since the war. Regardless what happens, chances are you will never experience extreme situations as Selco did. But you have the chance to learn from him and how he faced death for months. Read more of Selco's articles here. Buy his PDF books here. Take advantage of a deep and profound insight into his knowledge by signing up for his unrivaled online course. Real survival is not romantic or idealistic. It is brutal, hard and unfair. Let Selco take you into that world.

Leave a Reply

  • Thank you for sharing that. It is really brave of you to do so. You’ve helped more people than you know by being so honest about this.


  • There’s nothing wrong with admitting vulnerability to terrible memories. We’re all human, with normal human frailties. Hang in there! I hope you’ll be able to knock that bird off your shoulder soon.

  • This is probably my favorite blog right now, but I always get extra excited when I see one of your articles. Thank for for learning from your painful expiriences and passing that wisdom to those who are strangers to you.

    I haven’t decided which one but I would like to purchase one of your books. Also, one time (or more) you mentioned how tptb try to get us revved up over our ideologies and the news we her, to form hateful opinions of those whose opinions differ from our own. Whenever I read the headline of such articles trying to provoke division I remember what you said and do not feel contempt for others but instead feel that it is another sign that hard times are getting closer.

  • Thank you so much for this Selco. Just happened to be reading that section in your new book and now find it here an hour later. Was reading it while my mom napped. She’s on her way back from being in medical hell — with a kind of PTSD called delirium that is still with her. Three surgeries in as many weeks. I can understand her experience so much better when I comprehend she has had to bear her trauma on her little ol’ lady shoulders all on her own. Her good days and bad days depend on whether the sun is shining. Makes my own inconveniences seem like nada because I can still take care of myself — get out of bed or a chair, fetch my own food, get to the john. Her weakness has scared her (and me) spitless because she was so used to being independent and now has to rely on somebody for every little thing. She now doesn’t want anything to do with her meds, nurses, Drs. (except surgeon) etc. If I tell her what to do I sound “like a nurse” …. The best thing we can do is make gentle attempts at soothing our loved one. Talking of everyday things (grandkids, greatgrandkids) brings the reality of better times, other lives, more into focus. I believe human touch is essential if our loved one can bear it. At times all I could do for mom was put lotion on her hands and face, brush her hair and tell her about the antics of her greatgrandkids. There is something truly remarkable about the ability of children to heal their elders when they can show kindness to them and even just the fact of their existence. There was a placard in my old obstetrician’s office that said: Every child born means the world must go on.

    It’s really true that hope springs eternal and time (thyme 🙂 heals all diseases. And I would add that genuine human compassion covers a multitude of ills. Kisses and hugs are golden medicine. The best brand of love must be found for those in desperate need of it. Without it, all we have is a great big pile of nothing. Keeping love alive is the real challenge in hard times.

    Love to you Selco, Daisy and all who work at keeping love and common sense alive.

    • Your mother reminds me of a story I read a week or two ago about a quadriplegic who could not even talk without one of those gadgets that lets eye movements choose letters. He had been very strong and independent, too. A doctor had remarked that he would want to die in that condition and the “victim” said he was having the best years of his life because of the love. Those who kept him alive did so with love, and he was able to give love, too. He authored several books like that.

  • Best post ever. Thanks. Just lost my mother two months ago and this describes my feelings exactly. She developed dementia the last three months and blamed me for everything. Very difficult situation. Thanks for this post. It helped.

  • Two observations.

    A friend who went back to Vietnam after Dien Bein Phu and various other conflicts, told me only after ten years or more did he think he was ready to be there. And then, he only expected to live two years at the most. After one year he had the “fifty thousand-mile stare”.

    Someone I knew lived through WWI and WWII in an area close to Selco. After being bed ridden from multiple stokes for eight years, one day she told me she was leaving. As I didn’t understand, or didn’t want to know, a hospice worker explained she had worked out her memories she carried with her. The war memories, experiences were not good.

    (She told when she worked in a hospital during the war there were two types of people. One type went screaming into the night, some saw a face before them, before they passed on. The other went peacefully.)

    So, even if you believe you’re prepared, it takes a lifetime to come to terms with your memories?

    I have never read Charles Bukowski, barely made it thru Jerzey Kosinski’s novel “The Painted Bird”, so I’m curious if he is popular in your area since I noticed a young blogger Barbara Horvat from Ljubljana, “Barbara 4u2c”, once reading a novel of his? (“Vexman’s Thoughts” site is interesting.)

    Started reading “The Dark Secrets of SHTF Survival” with elderly typeface, let’s see how much I can handle at a time. I showed someone from the military the cover of the book. Although he had not read it he recognized Selco’s name, saying “yea, he’s the real deal”.

    Thank you for your writings.

  • Bessel van der Kolk’s book ‘the Body keeps score’ describes the chemical tracks laid down in our nervous system by trauma. This can range from parental neglect at a very young age to government neglect of young lives. The nervous system and the immune system keep score and at some point, you have to pay the piper, make up for that neglect. Or at least, don’t add to it by ignoring that painful shoulder, infected tooth or nagging headache. Your body knows just how to get you out of here. A few Hail Mary’s won’t hurt either.

  • Thanks to SELCO for this particular writing, and for his advice. PTSD and severe no sh*t depression can be reduced and coped with, but there will always be triggers and events that can bring the Ugly Bird back. And sometimes you can see it coming and that helps, sometimes you see it coming and it makes no difference and you’re in it, and sometimes you flat get slammed by the Ugly Bird in a heartbeat. But talking to people, and trying to learn to say something to others that is of help, is key. But you have to be careful…sometimes saying nothing is better than irritating someone with condesention or stupid sympathy. And in a SHTF if you don’t know who the sufferer is it’s best to leave him/her alone.
    Sometimes PTSD occurs not because of physical danger or hardship or fear, but because you simply cannot process the extent of the evil of people you trusted. Which is a liability for most now because as behavior by family or friends gets worse people won’t be able to process it and then they break.

    Most survivors of really bad sh*t are never the same people, but you can still live an decently and with gratitude, or you can let the Ugly Bird destroy you.

    Read all SELCO’s books and think through a variety of possibilities without the fantasizing and romantic bullish*t. For me his writings are a blessing because my thinking and living is more grounded regardless of what happens.

    And sometimes there is nothing but dumb luck or bad karma involved. Get over it.

  • Not sure how we can really be prepared in the eventuality of PTSD. The only thing I could think of to help my mom with her delirium was essential oils. It seems to be working. 🙂 Since she waved off all meds, I needed to find something to help her troubled mind. If essential oils are not available, the actual herbs may be thrown In a pot of boiling water which draws the oils out and puts them in the air. Selco mentions that smells are a huge trigger. In doing research for the things that help the mind and spirit, here is a list of herbs and essences which help the mind without drugs.:

    clary sage (any sage)
    juniper berry
    helichrysum (immortelle/everlasting)
    spruce (most evergreens)
    melissa (lemon balm, cheaper to grow than buying EO)

    Sometimes in SoCal we have high pressure weather that old timers call “snarly weather”. Their solution was to throw some sliced orange, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves into a pot of water and let it simmer all day. It really works! According to the book called Adaptogens, we have only three sense receptors for our sight and a hundred for our sense of smell. Maybe this will help all our friends who are troubled. It wouldn’t hurt to have something in our prepper kit along these lines.
    A bottle of orange essential oil is pretty cheap.

    • Yet another post.

      Thanks for the list.
      (Curious,“Selco mentions that smells are a huge trigger.” Where is it written?)

      With my mother it was short term memory loss. Her long, long memory wiring was etched somewhere. I would play movie musicals, ie. Gene Kelly, for her repeatedly. She could remember the movie theater house it came out, the weather that day, the actors/actresses’ personal history, “Frank Sinatra was no good for Juliet Prowse since she was too independent.”, and on. Then she would ask me who I was.

      If long term memory is stored in the muscles or elsewhere I don’t know but the effects may emerge physically like Angina pectoris from worry or perhaps in Selco’s case his shoulders pains (responsibilities during the siege?) which is a clue. A term he used “bones melting” from the sounds of the night (the bird?) stuck me in one of his past writings as being an honest person. Sorry for the two-bit psycho-babble.

      What might be reverent to all is ‘Psychotronic weapons’. Supposedly waves can induce physical and emotional symptoms. Great, PSTD for the masses.

      • There is the ruler of the kingdom of the air at work. Peeps are out there thinking and doing the unthinkable and undoable. The fight will come to us. We must stand and not give way with all the courage of what we believe. Selco’s experience confirms that it will be ugly and treacherous, shaking our faith in our fellow man. We can have no illusions. Our inner sanctum must be protected by a love for truth and life.

  • Selco, I thank you for this. I’ve been dealing with this for over 30 years. Those of us who live through awful times are never the same. All we can do is learn to manage the PTSD, if it’s chronic, it can not be cured. Hang in there, you know the bird will fly out of your sight again.

  • excellent article! Thank you!

    It seems clear that PTSD is underdiagnosed in America and misdiagnosed as depression, and other “mental illnesses.” There seems to be mounting evidence that PTSD victims will grow in large numbers. The past few years have created a society that appears to be completely schizoid and that has totally lost touch with reality. The other night, it dawned on me that American society had actually collapsed in the 1990’s, possibly earlier, but everyone was either too busy, or too in shock to realize what had actually happened, or maybe just
    hopeful that things will eventually improve, but they just keep
    getting worse, with 72,000 drug overdoses last year, systemic corruption, and never ending wars! I was hopeful
    again, like Charlie Brown going to kick the football when Trump
    announced he intented to vacate Syria and Afghanistan, and Democrats wanted to vacate Yemen, thinking AT LAST! Of couse that still left us in Iraq, but I had hoped that after leaving Syria,
    Afghanistan, and Yemen, we would soon leave Iraq too, only
    to have Lucy yank the football AGAIN, hearing that the failed
    Syrian strategy would be exported to and implemented in

    With the contacting money supply and rising interest rates, I can’t help but wonder if the government is unable to sell the level of treasuries required to finance government operations, leading them to steal Venezuelan oil to fund its operations.

    If congress were to assume its responsibilities in Article 1 Section 8 Clause 5 of the constituion and create a debt free and interest free government greenback, similar to the Pennsylvania Pound, based on the amount of land in America, it would save America a lot of head aches!
    1.) There would be no need for estate, income, capital gains, or corporate taxes.

    2.) There would be no need to reduce spending.

    3.) The budget would automatically balance.

    The gold standard is not mathmatically feasible. Inflation occurs not as a result of fiat currency, but as a result of interest. When loans are issued, currency is created outbof thin airbin the amount of the principal on the loan, but not in the amountbof the interst, often, far exceeding the principal.

    There are only 365,000 metric tons of gold in existence. 82% of that gold is owned by private individuals, with governments and central banks through out the world only 18% of that gold. If every person on earth had an equal amount of all of the gold in existence, it would be the equivalent of 5 gold rings per person.

    MintPressNews reported that the Treasury Department has sanctions on the following countries! Not exactly a business freindly environment!
    Today, the U.S. Treasury is applying political sanctions against Belarus, Burundi, North Korea, Cuba, Iran, Libya, Nicaragua, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Russia, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe, to which we must add the Donetsk People’s Republic Ukraine, Hezbollah, the Houthis, and many others.

    • CORRECTION Numbers Sleuth is down, ( it was an excellentbsource! I hope Xi Jin Ping didn’t buy it off and shut it down! ) which stated that there is 165,000 metric tons of gold in existence, not 365,000 metric tons. The world gold council estimates 187,000 metric tons that have ever been mined. There is likely to be some guess work from various institutions, since every individual does not publicly list all of the gold that they own. a lot of gold is used in mother boards now.

      • Since is showing 404 error not found, here is the math based on the 165,000 metric tons. I do not recall the precise population figure that they used, as it changes over time.

        32150.747 troy ounces in a metric ton 
        31.1034768 grams in a troy ounce
        165,000 metric tons x 32,150.747 troy ounces = 5,384,873,255 troy ounces x 31.1034768 grams = 167,488,280,357 grams divided by 7.53 billion people = 22.2427995162 grams per person

        • There are 105.8 trillion square feet of land in America. FRED claims that US household and non profits which they oddly lump together is $106 trillion. If a non profit has hundreds of billions of dollars, I challenge calling it a non profit! Total market cap is about $27 trillion, and there are 23 million small businesses, so at ths stage in the game, a dollar based on land in America is totally within reason!

  • I couldn’t agree more, it’s always the calm after the storm that concerns me. That’s when it hits. I thought I’d survived , endured , fought, escaped, stood my ground , protected what was mine at a costs. Back to normal life, the shopping run, school pick up. Then your at the traffic lights in pure terror, white knuckled, head spinning. Cars blasting there horns, yelling that you have a green. Deep breath, then win if you give in at this moment. To survive was hard with your family but living is harder. This is the long game, it’s not every day. But it’s always there. And I show up every damn day .

  • my husband suffered from PTSD for all the 45 years we were married..until Agent Orange killed him 4 years ago..we married straight after he got home from Nam…the V.A. was useless..the whole family suffered..I loved him dearly but couldnt help him with his demons in his mind

  • my personal four P’s for survival::

    People [a family or tribe or clan]
    Place [a safe place]
    Possessions [stuff, tools, food…]
    Psychology [a mind that won’t kill you, that will treat you gently, that will help you cope]

    When all else fails to kill you,
    There is your mind to take up that slack
    Through the horrors
    And forever.

    …but those are just my personal thoughts

    I dread what is coming soon,
    Not so much for my dying
    But more for those I am powerless to save
    And maybe most for those whom I must kill.


  • Yeah my military stuff started there in the Balkans. I’ve done well with it and have been able to use it in a way for the careers afterwards. It has acted as a driver in preparedness as well so it’s not always “bad”.
    I reject the “your broken” thing. I’m a highly trained individual who reacts to perceived and real things differently than others. I’m a product of an environment that required items beyond the scope of normal.

    Selco your a brave man and a good man.

  • I spent 2005 in Iraq and while not a soldier, I nonetheless did get shot at, experienced mortar and rocket attacks, and witnessed others get killed in front of me. I always thought fireworks were cool. Now I can’t go to a fireworks show if I don’t have something solid to get under and cover my ears. I have a hard time going into wide open urban spaces like parking lots, but wilderness is ok. I have trouble with thunderstorms that didn’t used to bother me. I don’t sleep heavy anymore. When life gets hard, I focus on my daughters and that gets me past the worst of it. You are never the same after survival. I’ve seen the toughest soldiers running for their lives with total look of sheer panic that you would think they saw Godzilla coming for them. Don’t think you can get through the sh!t and not have it affect you. Only crazy people or the ignorant think that.

  • I’m a member of that club. Fighting PTSD (and depression) is like dealing with an ambush. The only way out is to fight your way through it. Your life will never be “normal” but you do the best with what you got.

  • Thanks Selco, you’re the real deal. I agree whole heartedly that sometimes it is hard to find your way through the darkness and all you can do is trust and put one foot in front of the other, and any faint glimmer of light reminds me that God is there even if it doesn’t feel like it. Gratitude is the one gift I have received from PTSD. I can be grateful for the blessings that before I did not appreciate.

  • Great article Selco,always love reading these articles , having met the man himself a can honestly say he’s a true and honest leader in field
    of modern Survival,if you can get on one of his courses do it as NOW might not be too late to learn ,remind or revise skills needed to stand a chance not if but when the
    Drum rolls.

  • Thank you for being so very honest.In my career as a Law Enforcement Officer, I’ve experienced 15 duty related Police Suicides. The women and men officers who were the victims of this horrendous choice I believed never talked to someone about this. After over 35 yrs in Police work ,I still feel there is personal and professional resistance. Personally, I still see the faces of those who took their life and have gotten help for it.

    I’m now retired and able to focus on other pursuits like planting a garden, painting russian figurines( dont know why I choose this) and doing crossword puzzles….it helps beat that demon bird back….

    • Sean F. Alexander,
      Thank you for your service in LE.
      It cannot be easy, (to all those other LEOs currently serving) especially in this day and age.

      Glad to hear you are doing productive things to keep the demons at bay.
      I can see gardening and crosswords . . . but Russian figurines? That is a new one. If it floats your boat, by all means! (thumbs up)

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