JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Tex. --
Sleepless nights, angry for unknown reasons, feelings of isolation and decreased interest in doing what you enjoy are just a few of the symptoms those diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) face every day. Trying to understand and cope with the symptoms, in addition to managing the event that caused it all, can be overwhelming for some people.
According to the National Center for PTSD, the disorder is a mental health problem that some develop after experiencing or witnessing a lift-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident or sexual assault. Some people experience an event, have a grieving period, and then return to their old self with distant memories of what happened. Those who suffer from PTSD are unable to make the event a distant memory and become highly distressed when remembering that time in their life.
“When I tried to sleep, I kept having the feeling that I was back overseas,” said Master Sergeant Retired Patrick Poe, Security Forces Training non-commissioned officer. “I was always on-guard, reacting to the sounds and actions that occurred while I was overseas. I was not sleeping.”
The signs and symptoms of PTSD, while similar in many ways, are experienced differently by everyone. Some people get angry and frustrated, while others are more tired and isolate themselves. Recognizing these symptoms and the impact they have on daily life is the first step in getting help..
“I first noticed that I was easily angered and aggravated. After my second deployment the symptoms were worse with depression, anxiety, and unexplainable feelings,” Poe said. “I got help after I realized it was affecting my job, relationships and my mental health.”
Although members cannot be forced to seek treatment for their PTSD, families, friends, and leadership can still help them along the path of their recovery. Helping the member realize how their symptoms impact those around them may be what they need to make the decision to seek help. Even if they don’t seek treatment, it is important for those around them to stay mentally strong and continue to care for themselves as well.
“There are times where I have to distance myself emotionally, so that I am not affected negatively,” said Michelle Hart, Poe’s significant other. “It is self-preservation and I’ve learned that it is not on me to fix him. All I can do is be a constant in his life and be as positive as possible.”
Remaining strong, together, is key to surviving and living with PTSD. Know your friends, your family, your Airmen, your leaders and yourself. If something seems off, talk with someone, and get the help needed and know you are never alone.
“I learned that speaking up and seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but strength and AFW2 is now a family that has never left me,” Poe said. “They wrapped their arms around me, accepted me as I am and showed me that even with my disabilities I can do, and accomplish, all things.”
June is PTSD Awareness month and AFW2 will host daily virtual socials live on Facebook to help everyone cope during this time. Visit the program’s Facebook page to hear stories of resiliency and engage in wellness activities hosted by Air Force Wounded Warriors. For additional information, visit www.woundedwarrior.af.mil to refer an Airman to the program, read about the program’s mission, or learn about additional services offered to caregivers and families.