We received this story in the last few days. So often it's incredibly hard to get a "rough & tough" soldier to admit that he or she has a problem. PTSD is sneaky like that... the very reason they need help is also the very thing that convinces them that they don't need anyone.
For our family, the first step in the "right" direction was getting my hubby to check out the local Vet Center (CLICK HERE for info). They are less daunting than normal VA facilities and are committed solely to individuals with combat-related mental health issues. If your veteran is struggling, you may want to call your local Center and find out about their programs and ask if they have anyone on staff who served in the same war / conflict as your Vet. Sometimes that "common ground" helps break the ice and makes it easier for your Vet to take the first step toward help.
Here's the story we received...
I start out to say, that just trying to write my story is giving me great anxiety. I was so proud of my son when he joined the Army. He was eighteen then and new that since it was war time he would surely be called to action. But this did not stop him. He was a proud soldier and we, proud parents. And the Army was glad to have him.
His first tour was to Iraq. I would sit and watch every news cast and read every article I could find - only to make myself go crazy with worry. Thank god he came home safely.
But then tragedy struck our family when his 16 year old sister died of a drug overdose. The Army only gave him a few days leave, before having to be back on post. Sadly it left him no time to grieve with his family. Then within a few months he was off to Afghanistan and then he was stationed in Italy. So for a while we had no physical contact with him.
We started counting down the months to July as that was when he was due to process out of the Army. But then we got the crushing news that he was put on stop loss and sent back to Afghanistan. He survived the first 2 tours pretty mentally unscathed, but our family had a bad feeling about this time.
He would call seldom, but more calls to his girlfriend. When we did talk with him he was depressed at times and then other times seemed to be on cloud nine. We had a daunting feeling that he was using drugs. When he came home on R&R he was a little different . He checked into a hotel and slept for days. Then we noticed he was drinking a lot, not following through with plans and unable to sit still long enough to watch TV or visit. He assured us everything was okay. Then, at the end of his leave, it was back to the war.
During this time we could feel him slipping away. Not caring about the army or himself or anyone else for that matter. Finally came the best news - they were letting him leave the military on Christmas day. What a grand gift... or so we thought.
As his mom I could tell right away that things were very wrong. Even though he has only been home for a short time, the change has been startling. The drugs and alcohol are spiraling out of control. He doesn’t want much to do with his family, only with his girlfriend (which oddly enough she was his little sister’s best friend). He needs people to always be around to drive him places because he is too drunk to drive. He has turned down all the material things that he has had us collect for him during the years, so as to be able to set up a house hold. His words were, “I don’t want any of it. I will take it to the dump if i have to.” He wanted to get into his own place, but was unable to conduct business properly so I offered to help. At first, he was angry with me for butting into his affairs, but then decided to let me help. But it was difficult because he kept changing his mind as to what he wanted. At one point he said living on the streets was fine.
Thank God we finally found a place, only to find more opposition over what he wanted in the apartment first it was nothing then may be just a futon, then he let me go and buy a few things he needed just to get by. It was a strict list. His girlfriend is living with him, but has made it clear that he wants no one else there.
He has changed from a kind and gentle man to a mean and confused man. It is so heart wrenching, especially since family was once everything to him. As a family we think he may be suffering from PTSD. The more I research the more I think he is. The problem is he shares very little about the war but bits and pieces tell us it was not good. And, as a 28 year old man, he refuses to admit he has a problem. So how are we to help him? We are totally at a loss. My heart is breaking for that funny, happy boy I used to know. I live in fear every day that something bad is going to happen. WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?