Reviewed by: Bill McDonald (2004)
Why would you want to read this book? There are several reasons. First of all, it is my hope that victims of all types of traumas, whether war-related or not, can find some comfort in these pages. If you are a victim of PTSD, you need to know that there is hope for a better quality of life. That is one of the core messages in this book. There is no cure for PTSD, but through medications and counseling, it is possible to exercise more control over the illness. But you must take the first step and be your own best advocate. You will hear me say this more than once. If you do not advocate for your own needs, it is unlikely that you will achieve your goals. I hope that some of the information in these pages will guide PTSD victims to seek the help they need. I feel this book also has much to offer those who don't suffer from PTSD. It is the story of how a normal eighteen-year-old farm boy from a small town in Iowa went to war and, over thirty years later - at the age of fifty-two - became totally disabled with PTSD. It is my hope that this will help the public understand not only Vietnam vets, but also vets from all wars, as well as victims of other traumas such as I mentioned above. There are so many fears that hold PTSD victims back from seeking help or even admitting to themselves that they need help. Even though all those around them can see the changes in the victim, it is hard for the victim to admit a problem. They see themselves as having some kind of mental illness. Victims are often paranoid and worry about what others are thinking or saying about them, even those people who have no inkling that there is a problem. Sometimes, it can seem to the victim that everyone knows there is something wrong, and that everyone is talking about him or her. The public must become aware of the disease and offer compassion rather than rebuke. Vietnam vets in particular have been a source of fear in the general public. The media has exacerbated this situation by its frequent portrayal of the vet as an imbalanced, rage-filled time bomb, just waiting for the circumstances that will set him off. Perhaps this has made for some "entertaining" movies, but it has also kept many veterans from seeking the help they needed, lest they find themselves branded with this ugliest of clichés. Even if the victim knows there is a problem, it is so difficult to ask for help, especially from a government that loaths to acknowledge the existence - much less, the debilitating nature - of this disorder. It should come as no surprise, then, that many victims do not want anyone to know about their "weakness." Very simply, it is time to end the silence and the shame. I realize that parts of this book will be difficult for the public to read. Reading a true account is not at all the same as watching violence on TV or at the movies. In these situations, the dead are not really dead and the cast is not really experiencing the events being portrayed. It is much more difficult when the dead stay dead, bodies are permanently mutilated, and the effects of the war will stay forever with those who experienced them. . The violence presented in modern entertainment should be taken as it is intended (though sometimes the level of violence in our "entertainment" is disturbing). True violence should be taken very seriously because it can happen to any one of us - at war or at home. Where a particularly violent movie can leave one unsettled for a day or so, actually living through a violent situation can produce a nightmare that lasts a lifetime. I do not intend for this book to be political, nor do I want it to be an attack on the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). However, I do believe that the policies enacted by the government have played a significant part in weaving the intricate web of my life. Nor do I intend this to be a self-help book.