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Jun27
2013

PTSD: An Unwanted Darkness.

By Justin Chattoo

June is recognized by many as PTSD Awareness Month, and today, June 27, as PTSD Awareness Day. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is a severe mental health condition associated with a traumatic or violent event in an individual’s life. It’s estimated that 7.7 million American adults have PTSD, and that’s not taking into account cases in children, as the condition can occur at any age.

One group for whom PTSD is a significant problem is the military; it’s said one in five military personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan face this struggle. In an effort to help veterans process and heal, we partnered with USA Cares and their Warrior Treatment Today program, which financially assists veterans and their families so service members can receive treatment. A portion of the proceeds from our USA Cares Title shirt goes toward providing this vital support.

Justin Chattoo is both an employee of USA Cares and a veteran of the war in Iraq. Below, he writes about his own journey through PTSD, and we are honored to share his words with you on PTSD Awareness Day.

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, and I grew up like most good Brooklyn boys, playing football in the street and having a good time with my friends. I joined the NYPD Cadet Program when I was in high school and even had the honor of working for the Chief of the department as an intern.

Then, September 11 happened, and my life as a New Yorker—as an American—was changed forever.

Two years later, I decided to follow family tradition and serve my country. I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, just as my father’s entire side of the family had done since coming to the country in the 1960s. Off I went to boot camp, and then I was sent to Fort Knox to be trained as a M1A1 Tank Crewmen. From there, I went to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center and the 1st Tank Battalion in Twentynine Palms, CA. During my time in the battalion, I went on deployments, visited schools, lost friends along the way. I gained valuable experience—but I also picked up an unwanted darkness in my life.

After an explosion of anger toward one of my fellow NCO’s, I was sent to the chaplain to talk.  The chaplain decided it would be a good idea to head up to the officer and then speak with a psychologist. It was at this point, after taking all the tests and going through all the questions, that I was “tagged” with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

I knew this was a career-killer, which sent me further down the path of anger and resentment. I had pulled away from most people who knew me and was an island unto myself. I ruined countless friendships because I could not truly be a friend, nor could I control my moods. I was engaged before I had gone to Iraq, but the creature that returned drove her away. I had no one to blame, and I spiraled even further into the darkness.

I don’t know where I would be had it not been for my uncle, a Desert Storm veteran, who stepped in and spoke to me. He encouraged me to get help.

So I did. I got help, left the Marine Corps, and began my transition to being a civilian.

But both PTSD and the stigma that surrounds it would continue to have a presence in my life. On every job interview I had, I was asked if I had ever been deployed. When I would answer honestly about my experience, the whole mood of the interview would change. Many employers seem to have a misconception that someone with PTSD is a liability and will eventually snap and hurt someone. I knew, just as many who suffer from PTSD know, that while there are moments of intense anger, there are more moments marked by depression and grief when you simply retreat into yourself.

Thankfully, due to the veteran hiring preference and the help of Veterans Affairs in locating a job they felt I could do, I finally ended up working for the Department of the Army doing medical boards for three years. Unfortunately, with the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC), my job was moved to Fort Benning, where I could not go. Lo and behold, my old “friend” PTSD returned to push me into depression.

But then, in 2012, I was given an opportunity to begin working at USA Cares as a Jobs Resource Coordinator. We help remove the barriers veterans face when they get out of the service and are in need of help, either finding work or getting financial assistance for bills hanging over their heads. I often encounter veterans who have PTSD and are looking for someone to simply talk to. USA Cares allows me to have those conversations. I get to help my brothers and sisters and make sure they, too, can move forward with their lives. I am privileged to connect them with careers that utilize their skills, hopefully leading them into the happiness they deserve, like I have found.

Working with USA Cares has been one of the most rewarding things I have done. Not only has it honestly helped me come to terms with my own PTSD, I, in turn, get to help those who are struggling with it every day.

—Justin Chattoo

For more information about USA Cares, visit them at www.usacares.org or www.facebook.com/usacaresorg.

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Comments (11)

  1. Dodie

    I work with Justin and would never believed that he had experienced PTSD. He is to be commended for sharing his experience and I can only add to what he said about USA Cares. We are here to help and with workers such as Justin, individuals needing help will encounter people who care about helping and who have lived through similar situations.

    Reply  |  
  2. Cheyanna Corum

    Justin, I want to sincerely appreciate your explanation of what PTSD has done to you, cause with that said I have had the strength to talk a little about my situation. As you know I’m sure that it is a battle to remotely think of the tragedy let alone speak of it. I to have suffered with PTSD for a far more different reason but nevertheless still troublesome to my heart. My deep depression began in 2006 from a traumatic event that took such a spin on my life and turned me upside down. I was completely different than I ever expected to be. Not realizing the strong hold depression/ anxiety had on me. No one knew me anymore or understood why such the change. I cried for no reason, snapped the moment a memory of the event would arise, and the worst of all I hid myself from the world. From the moment it came upon me I felt like my life was over or that I was slowly dying inside and nothing will help me back up again to the normalcy that society claims to portray. I gathered the pieces of my heart that had swept across my soul and began to slowly place them back together like a puzzle. Honestly it has taken several years but with God in my heart and the strength to move on for myself and my loved ones, I have therefore found an inner peace that has guided me to recovery. However I still tremble and sadly suffer from the PTSD daily but, I promise myself that one day I will be able to move on, LET GO, and leave the past where it belongs. I pray for anyone that struggles with such a powerful disease that only “you” can control, but with much determination to living, anyone can survive and say, “I made it”.

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  3. Mary

    As much as I admire those who serve in the military and am grateful for what they do everyday to protect us, I do have one issue to bring up. I am a 23 year old female diagnosed with severe PTSD and I have never served in the military. When people find out about my illness they assume that I was in a war. When I tell them I wasn’t, my PTSD becomes merely a figment of my imagination. Sadly, people don’t realize there’s a war going on inside our borders, on the streets, every second of every day and that regular civilians are suffering just as much. I very much appreciate this article and find the people mentioned in it to be so brave. I would NEVER compare what I’ve been through to what a soldier has experienced. But I would hope that maybe someday civilians with PTSD will be acknowledged.

    Reply  |  
    1. Donna

      Hi there. I can only fathom what you must have went through as your post talks about the brutality of the streets etc. I have two levels of this horrific illness ..the first is a less or different type ..battered woman’s syndrome and I also have full blown PTSD from a near fatal, GRUESOME car crash that me and my very small child at the time were involved in (survived). My little girl was the one who’s injuries were the most gruesome-Ill just leave it at that. ANYWAYS just to let you know, I can relate, because for me it helps to know someone understands my imprisonment I have at times. life can be great with PTSD and it can be hell on earth. that’s all.
      ALL MY BEST TO YOU
      GOD BLESS
      Donna

      Reply  |  
  4. Anonymous

    I was diagnosed with PTSD after a history of abuse. Child sexual abuse, a physically and emotionally abusive relationship, and a rape all before I was 18. It is difficult to learn that the whole world is not a scary place, no matter the cause of the PTSD. My thoughts and prayers to all who struggle with it. ❤

    Reply  |  
    1. Jeans

      Thank you for sharing- all of you. I am not a veteran, but lived as a military dependent for the first 16 years of my life. Dad was abusive, may be high-functioning autistic, Mom had issues of her own that never got treated, I moved every 1 to 3 years up to that point, and then the moving became more and more frequent, more and more traumatic… and all of this brought me into abusive relationships, and it gets even worse from there.
      I was a single mother to a toddler when I learned I have a terrible and possibly fatal illness, then 2 years later, I learned I have kidney disease added to that. The pain I endured that year, before 5 doctors could figure out what was going on, was absolute torture. I never saw it coming ahead of time, so it was like getting viciously attacked in the comfort of your own bedroom- repeatedly.
      Believe me when I say that dysfunctional and abusive family doesn’t just snap out of that behavior just because they learn that a loved one is sick, maybe dying, in fact.
      Now, not only do I not trust anybody, but I don’t trust my own body, my own mind… I go from wanting to cry to feeling quite numb, to painful levels of anxiety and anger many times in the course of a day, and though I have tried, I cannot seem to get help. I can get “free” medication as I am disabled and have low income, but when I freak out, (or get kicked out), and have to relocate, I also have to start over again with all the red-tape, proving residence I don’t really have, proving income, long waiting lists… and many times, by the time I’m able to accomplish all of this, it’s too late, I’ve relocated again and thus the cycle continues.
      I truly am in a crisis right now. I wish I could give some supportive advice or support, but for obvious reasons, I can’t do that right now.

      Reply  |  
  5. K

    I have never been medically diagnosed with PSTD. But the older I get, the more I begin to question things about myself. As a young child I was one of the happiest and most privileged children you could meet. I had a good life…parents divorced at the age of 8 and everything spun out of control. My mother got involved and quickly married to a man that will always haunt me. For two years I was verbally and physically abused by this man. Bruises marked my body that no child or human being should have. I was neglected for all hours of the day. sometimes this meant no food or a bathroom to use. And I was threatened daily. They divorced but things didn’t get better. I was bullied all through middle school and high school to the point of suicidal attempts and a path to self injury that has not come to a stop. I have been diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety. At 27 years old I am still trying to cope with people and the world around me. I have my good days and unfortunately more bad days. I don’t know if I will ever reach a point in my life where I truly see the light and my purpose on this earth. A point where I am no longer afraid of anything. PTSD is real, more real than anyone realizes.

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  6. Anonymous

    Hello
    While I do have PTSD I know that it does not compare to the chronic nature of those that have served in the military. PTSD is hell on earth I say, and sometimes I have a tough time wanting to continue because Im so sick of the lapses in sanity I may have, or the breakthoughs in memory loss or emotions, then I hit a slump another day that breaks me once again. What I originally wanted to say was I have the utmost of empathy and respect for the military regardless of rank or division and Hope and pray on this specific thing (PTSD) as I can relate-at least on some level. The circumstances how/why are different but the agony and pain similar enough. Anyways if anyone wants a soul to reach out to..hit me up on Facebook or whatever
    God BLESS
    Donna

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  7. Ajet

    “Love Is Here”

    Come to the waters
    You who thirst and you’ll thirst no more
    Come to the Father
    You who work and you’ll work no more

    And all you who labor in vain
    And to the broken and shamed

    Love is here
    Love is now
    Love is pouring from His hands, from His brow
    Love is near it satisfies
    Streams of mercy flowing from His side
    ‘Cause Love is here

    Come to the treasure
    You who search and you’ll search no more
    Come to the lover
    You who want and you’ll want no more, no

    And all you who labor in vain
    And to the broken and shamed, yeah

    Love is here
    Love is now
    Love is pouring from His hands, from His brow
    Love is near it satisfies
    Streams of mercy flowing from His side, yeah

    And to the bruised and fallen
    Captives bound and brokenhearted
    He is the Lord, He is the Lord, yeah
    By His stripes He’s paid our ransom
    From His wounds we drink salvation
    He is the Lord, He is the Lord

    Reply  |  
  8. Greg Urquhart

    Hi,

    I am a Cherokee veteran of Iraq and am now a Graduate student at WSU. I was wondering if you could help spread the word about a quick survey on native veterans attitudes and perceptions about ptsd and its treatment. You do not have to have been deployed over seas or have a PTSD diagnosis to participate in it.
    Below is a letter that tells more about the study and has a link to the survey,

    Thanks,

    Greg Urquhart

    Hello,
    We would like to request your participation with a survey for Native American veterans who may have experienced combat-related stress or know others who have. Our intent with this survey is to increase the body of knowledge about Native American veterans and their attitudes and perceptions towards PTSD and its treatment. This information will contribute to increasing the body of knowledge about Native American Veterans. Your answers on the survey will be helpful to us in achieving this goal. The Washington State University Institutional Review Board has certified the study as meeting exempt status. All participants and their responses will be kept confidential.
    The research team includes graduate students in counseling psychology at Washington State University, several of whom are Native American veterans and individuals experienced in working with veterans and Native American veterans. This study is being supervised by Dr. Phyllis Erdman, Professor in counseling psychology at Washington State University. We are interested in this area because of our personal experience with military service and a commitment to helping those who may suffer from the effects of combat.
    We appreciate your time and thank you in advance for your help. Also, if you know of others who may be interested in this survey please feel free to forward the link to them.
    Please click below to access the survey. If you have questions regarding this request, you

    may contact Greg Urquhart at (greg.urquhart@wsu.edu).

    Sincerely,

    Greg Urquhart
    Nassreen Shah
    Matthew Hale
    Sarah Sevedge
    Phyllis Erdman, Ph.D.

    https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/nativeveterans

    Reply  |  
  9. Otilia

    Just want to say your article is as amazing. The clearness in your post is just spectacular and i can assume you are an expert on this subject. Thanks a million and please carry
    on the enjoyable work.

    Reply  |  
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