A Gulf War Veteran
and cure of this most vicious of conditions is possible. My case
maybe unique but the process is possible and the results are real.
I watched my
commanding officer killed, when his Hummer ran over an anti-tank mine
in the Kuwaiti desert; observed from a covert location the systematic
slaughter of an entire Kuwaiti family of six by the Iraqi Republican
Guard and witnessed the loss of two other members of our Force Recon
I am a veteran
of the first Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm and I was shocked beyond
words at how easily these events unfolded but the pain was shoved aside
by the urgency of our operations within enemy-held territory and the
constant fear of compromise and capture.
Why did the
circumstances then not cause the reaction that I experience after my
wife died? The brain interprets situations and responses differently.
I registered the losses in a different way: in Kuwait I had been
in the midst of a high stress, confusing theatre of operations and reinforced
by intensive pre-operational training; grief turned into a focused attention
on killing anything that flinched.
pain and introspection that followed the loss of my wife, the sudden
mood swings and unstable reactions to simple occurrences was frightening
but the degradation of my ability to function was the worst.
I did not understand
the grieving process and what would take years to come to grips with.
I could not cry my heart out for weeks and be over. I saw her
– every time I closed my eyes - she was alive - smiling and laughing.
The telephone rang and I panicked, burst into tears because it might
be her, who called to say she was O.K. and would be home soon. I looked
normal on the outside but the battle was within. I could not accept
that she was gone and that prolonged the healing.
Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a serious injury and it can lead to prolonged
issues with everything that was once normal in one’s life and it is
a narrow-minded view and a fallacy that it cannot be cured. My
experience has shown that one has to endure throughout the distressing
onset, progression and healing process.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after her death in 1993, I was put in
the care of a primary physician, who was convinced that I was beyond
recall and suicidal. He was right. On the evening of 20th
of October 1993 I was found on the kitchen floor fast asleep with my
finger on the trigger of my service issue 9 mm Beretta M9, one round
of hollow point ammunition in the chamber, safety catch off and it was
lodged beneath my chin. I had been too drunk to pull the trigger.
I was placed
in observation on 24-hour watch at a hospital. In this time away
I realized that the memories were too vivid and real and that I could
not return to my home.
This is a normal
emotional reaction to an abnormal situation.
In my further
work in Africa traumatic experiences that I had to deal with only served
to reinforce the symptoms - my survival instinct reacted and put me
in a state of denial. I was numb, immersed in my work and sleep
was unnecessary. I was obnoxious in handling simple problems, had a
reactionary attitude and challenged any thing or anyone that tried to
subvert my wall of thought process and was on the wrong
side of those, who suggested that I seek help and professional advise.
I knew what was happening to me but could not stop. On more than
one occasion I was asked to take a leave of absence.
Baker, MSW, MPH of the National Veterans Center, a PTSD specialist,
has outlined clearly three categories of this condition. These
are: 1). re-experiencing. 2). avoidance/numbing and
3). increased arousal. The symptoms vary in cause, intensity,
distress and impairment in social occupational and other functions.
Was my condition
recognized as PTSD? I have no idea.
began, in a small village in Somalia; when I saw a rebel militia group
repeatedly rape several women for over six hours. I had to be
forcibly restrained from causing additional casualties. I ran
out of ammunition and was then set upon by other members of my team,
who dragged me back to safety.
My mind snapped
and for the first time in months I was exhausted, unable to awake even
for brief period. I was med-evacuated out via Cape Town
and put in the permanent care of a psychologist, who resembled my wife
so closely as to bring fear of her not being within sight.
She was the
beginning of the healing. I identified with her, she refreshed
my mental stimulus database of happy memories and my brain began to
rejuvenate. I cannot place an exact description of the process
but I suddenly realized that I was happy and was able to function normally
and on a continuing basis.
are frowned upon by the professional practice but my overwhelming feeling
of love and affection for Marcelle, my psychologist, released a vice
grip in my heart and a flood of affection.
I began to
face the truth and life and eventually worked normally, traveled extensively
and pursued my dreams and education.
Positive Regard is a factor; I found the simple human touch most comforting.
Marcelle’s hours of affection and just talking to me about my experiences
and holding me lovingly was a factor in my recovery.
was so important in my case. She said I suffered from
an officially recognized illness a form of Complex PTSD in which the
sufferer has experienced a combination of stressors and actions that
lead to a unique combination of symptoms. In my case she
concentrated on one specific type of treatment among four possible alternatives.
Her self-styled approach to Anxiety Management led me to where I recovered
from a bout of tearful remonstrations to a calm and relaxed individual
in about 4-5 hours.
and caring approach was crucial benefit to the day when I was more like
my normal self. My strength retuned, my appetite improved and
above all I felt alive and well. I still have bad days but my energy
and focus returns and this allows me to come from beyond the darkness
and the pain.