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Shattered Lives: Soldiers who suffer from PTSD - Part 2

Interview between Carol Roach and Teila Tankersley continued

war veterans with PTSD
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

How prepared are the soldiers to come back home after their military duty? How prepared was your son?

Teila writes:

In combat, many soldiers instinctively learn certain routines to help them cope, but these same coping mechanisms often lead to their demise. For instance, on the battlefield they quickly learn to dampen their emotions and to self-medicate with alcohol. The cycle of abuse often begins with a desperate need just to get to sleep and to stay asleep.

My son served in combat as a Cavalry Scout for nearly eight years. Soldiers who come back from war suffering emotionally are sent through crash courses of rehab, required to attend some self-help classes and prescribed medications. These soldiers often get hooked on the medications, then run out of prescriptions, graduate to street drugs, and turn to a life of crime to support their habit. No not everyone, however the numbers may surprise you.

There is a link between substance abuse and combat-related mental illness and although specialists are trying to fix this cycle, they have a long way to go.

Editorial note: According to the National Institute of Health PTSD is often accompanied by depression, substance abuse, or other anxiety disorders.

How hard is it to face the truth about post traumatic stress disorder?

Editorial note: Denial of the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder not only pertains to the victim but many times to the family has well.

Teila Tankersley writes:

It took us awhile to admit to ourselves that our son had PTSD. We thought with each and every day that he’d bounce back to his old self. We never anticipated the stronghold that it would have over our lives.

My son signed up for the Army when he was in his late teens. He served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and every time he came back, a part of him was missing.

What did the family go through?

Our daughter-in-law went through debriefings every time her husband returned, but that never prepared her for how bad it really could get. In fact, she tried her best to grin and bear it. She thought she could love him through it, but the effects that PTSD has over an individual often penetrate through to the entire family. It can be a relationship killer.

The hardest thing is watching your loved one slip away from you. We struggled to try to understand why he was becoming more and more distant. He would get irritable easily, was on guard, tense and demanding. My son was drifting farther and farther from us as each year went by, but, the biggie was that he had begun self-medicating with alcohol and drugs.

Editorial note: According to Elements Behavioral Health 150 million soldiers come back from war. “Once the soldier returns home, worry about them doesn’t cease as many of these soldiers bring with them a surging inward turmoil. Battle injuries or combat-related stress can heighten tensions within the family as soldiers struggle to contain strong emotions. An exaggerated startle response is just one symptom of PTSD, but this can make even the simplest of family playfulness a potential for explosive behavior. Families often want to help and offer understanding but many returning soldiers find it very hard to speak about their war experiences with their loved ones. Spouses watch helplessly as their mate suffers but won’t allow them into their private place of pain. Many refuse to seek out professional help.”

If you or your family is struggling with PTSD, know that you are not alone. If you are in a crisis you have options: Call 911; Go to the nearest Emergency Room or Call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

Please refer to the original article for more information.

to read part one of this series click here:

Interview with the Teila Tankersley with permission to reprint her story.

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