September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Know the signs of crisis.
About Face features videos of Veterans talking about PTSD
“I want to give someone hope”
Almost everyone has had something bad happen to them, something that they don’t feel able to share with their neighbor or work mates.
When that something bad is a trauma, you can imagine how hard it would be to speak up about it. So imagine the courage it took for a special group of Veterans to tell their stories about their posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the entire world. In the course of their recovery, these Veterans realized that talking about their experiences helped – and, wanting to help other Veterans begin talking as well, they agreed to put their stories out there. The hope is that other Veterans may relate to these experiences, may recognize themselves in what they see, and know that they are not alone.
Katie Weber is one of these brave Vets.
You can see her tell her story on AboutFace, a compelling new VA online resource. Yeah, “about face”…as in “turn around and head in the opposite direction” — toward peace and recovery.
Katie joined the Army when she was 17. She was young and trusting. But when she was raped by a military superior, she felt alone and confused. She began having nightmares and found herself crying at the drop of a hat. She avoided relationships of any sort, afraid to trust again. The difficulties continued even after her discharge. Katie talks about how bad it got for her and her family. All of the Veterans talk about how PTSD affects the people they love.
“I’d go grocery shopping at night when my kids were asleep, safely tucked in. I’d go then so I could have some peace and not worry about being in constant human contact. It was a safe place for me to be, in my head, or so I thought.”
“I had to be a mom but then I suffered a triggering event that spiraled into a big breakdown for me. I would wake up in the morning and open one eye and go, ugh, again? Am I still here?
“I was really depressed. But I had to go downstairs and make breakfast for my kids. I had to get my bearings again.”
Katie knew she needed help but was afraid to go to VA because she thought it was part of the military, and it would trigger her traumatic military experiences.
“I was afraid of the chauvinism.
“But the VA doctors were really super understanding. I was able to see that PTSD is a recognized disorder and that there are ways to treat me for that.”
Today, Katie doesn’t have to wait for the kids to go to sleep so she can go shopping at night.
“Since I’ve sought treatment, I’ve been able to go to the grocery store with my kids. I can go to the swimming pool with them and let them play. And once I’ve done it, well, that’s a big deal. Because I’ve done it and I’m able to do it again. And it just becomes a non-issue.
On the path to recovery
“Once I was diagnosed, I was very relieved. And I have been on the path to recovery ever since.”
And why did Katie agree to be interviewed for the AboutFace project?
“I discussed it with my VA therapist and decided that the risk of sharing my personal story to help another Veteran was worth it. I am empathetic to the crushing pain one feels when suffering from PTSD all alone. I wanted to give someone hope.”
And for Vets out there who need help, Katie offers some inside, informed advice. “The VA is not the military. Don't let fear stop you from making contact with the VA over the phone and telling them your special needs in order to make you comfortable. If you fear crowds, or certain genders, just ask to be accommodated, and don't take no for an answer. If they say no, call the VA Patient Advocate in your area. Don't be afraid to ask for help and never, ever give up!
“You have to have the strength to remember when we joined the service. Remember the slogan? Be all that you can be. Remember all the dreams you had when you were that person? It’s time to start reconnecting with that person…because you are that person. Your dreams don’t have to go on the wayside just because you are struggling with PTSD.”
Visit AboutFace and find out how Katie and dozens of other Veterans have taken that first step into PTSD treatment.
Stand by them. Help a Veteran by knowing the signs of crisis. September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.