Widgets Magazine
Veterans
Vicky Bippart

PTSD treatment helps veteran 48 years after firefights

(Photo by Peter Murphy)

"A few years ago I heard about the treatment from my friend in Washington state. I went on the computer and I checked a few things out, and I thought, 'Why not? It's time that you do something.'"

For Jerry, that time came 48 years after he had returned from Vietnam…


"Bullets are flying everyplace…"

"It was quite an experience coming back from 'Nam, and I could tell I had changed an awful lot. And I think the biggest thing in my behavior was the fact that I was so jumpy. I would wake up in the middle of the night, and I'm in the middle of Vietnam, and bullets are flying everyplace, and my bed is ringing wet."

"What they didn't know is I was scared of myself."

Something was wrong. He didn't know what it was or what to do about it. And Jerry didn't want to jeopardize his career in the military by speaking up. He went on to finish two tours in Korea, then was stationed in Germany where he met his future wife and started a family. "I just felt that if I said there's something wrong with me the Army wouldn't need me."

Instead of asking for help, Jerry buried himself in his work. "I was working around the clock. I was trying to control my mind, and I was trying to block it. I was in control most of the time."

But he also lost control. Stupid mistakes felt intolerable, and they could easily set him off. "I can talk like a sailor, and in talking like a sailor, I could take your head off and put it in your lap, and you'd never know it."

Loose cannon

These types of outbursts affected his work-life. He later learned that his colleagues didn't like to be around him because he was too unpredictable, too volatile. One called him a loose cannon, another told him years later that people were afraid of him. "What they didn't know is I was scared of myself."

Time passed. Jerry's two sons grew into men. And more recently, his beloved wife became ill and passed away. For all those years Jerry had wanted to ask for help, but he didn't know where to go. He couldn't trust anyone.

Then one day a friend told him about the treatments at the VA. Treatments for PTSD. Eager to get help, but still skeptical, Jerry went in for an appointment.

“She was just that good.”

"I'll tell you right now, as I sit here, when I walked in that room and saw that petite little thing sitting there, I said there is no way in hell this young lady has any clue about what I've been through, what I've done, and she can't help me. I feel like an ass now but it didn't take long for me to change my mind. It didn't take long. Within 30 minutes I knew I wanted to come back for my next appointment. I could have probably stayed there the rest of the week and talked to her. She was just that good. She was ready for me. I wasn't ready for her, but she made me ready. She was good."

Jerry finished his therapy, an evidence-based therapy called Prolonged Exposure, in nine weeks.

"I felt that the treatment helped me in the fact that I can control myself a lot better. I control my anger. I can do a lot of things that I couldn't do before. I still have moments where I don't know, something snaps or something build's up or whatever [but] I accept life a lot easier. I'm more tolerant of people."

"I'll just say it this way. It takes a lot to piss me off. I'm so proud of that."

Here's a five-minute video of Jerry sharing his story.

Read more about Veterans' experience with PTSD Therapy Here.

To hear more Veteran's talk about their experiences with PTSD and PTSD treatment, visit AboutFace.

For more information on PTSD visit the National Center for PTSD website, www.ptsd.va.gov/. This site offers resources such as:

PTSD Coach Online and the award-winning PTSD Coach mobile app, which provide self-help symptom-management tools. The app is always with you when you need it.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.