After my return from Iraq at the end of October 2005, I almost immediately descended into a very dark, lonely, and scary world.  My PTSD didn’t wait for my return, though.  I was already experiencing severe symptoms before I left Iraq.  Once I was out of that environment, the symptoms virtually exploded with the severe nightmares, the deep depression, the constant feeling of being on edge, of being unsafe, the feeling that disaster was going to strike at any moment, and the constant death wish.  I did so many crazy things in those days because I was not thinking straight.  Worst of all, it seemed that no one understood what I was going through.  I probably scared my poor wife and children, even though I tried to shelter them from the pain, as they sensed something was terribly wrong, but they didn’t understand what.  And I didn’t even understand it very well myself, so I couldn’t help others understand, at least, I couldn’t explain it to those that wanted to understand.  There were way too many that didn’t even want to understand.  Worst of all, the ones who were the least sympathetic were people in uniform around me.  Of course, their ignorance and apathy go a long way in understanding why there is an epidemic of suicide in the services.  Too many military leaders don’t understand and respond to the suffering of their soldiers with judgment instead of compassion.

Perhaps the scariest part of my struggle for those years immediately after my return was that the so-called experts, the mental health professionals, understood as little about my PTSD as the average Joe I might encounter in my daily life.  Their ignorance is absolutely inexcusable, but it is unfortunately very normal in our fallen world as all too many people are ignorant without God’s intervention.  This is why I finally turned to God in desperation and asked Him to be my psychiatrist and my healer to get me through this scary disease of the mind and body.  And it is a disease.  There is a spiritual and emotional component to it as it begins with an injury of the spirit and of the heart.  The injury comes from a violation of all that is right.  Anyone can sustain such an injury.  It is not exclusive to warriors.  Such a violation of what’s right, and the subsequent injury to your spirit and heart, can come from an observation of something terrible, or it can come from being in or committing something terrible, or it can come from something terrible being done to you, or it can even come from experiencing prolonged severe stress in a seemingly hopeless situation. 

And once the injury is done to your heart and spirit, then you will experience various physical symptoms beginning with the avoidance, numbing, or amnesiac response which is probably the first response as your mind, body, and emotions retreat from this horrific experience as a self-protective response.  But you cannot avoid the experience forever.  Sooner or later, it must be dealt with, so the second major grouping of responses in PTSD is the re-experiencing through thought intrusion, nightmares, or full-blown flashbacks.  The re-experiencing is your body’s way of trying to deal with the horrific memories.  If they are not addressed, they will simply simmer below the surface, forcing their way out in various dysfunctional behaviors.  The third grouping of responses to PTSD is the hyper-arousal or hyper-vigilance, the feeling of being on edge from the adrenaline surges that are usually triggered by bad memories or some stimulus (a sound, a smell, a visual of a situation similar to the one that caused the PTSD, etc.) that reminds us of the bad time or times that caused the PTSD.   Because of the adrenaline, there can actually be permanent damage to the brain over time. 

Moreover, the adrenaline may be complicit in the hard-wiring of your system that causes many of the symptoms of PTSD.  There are also some "minor" symptoms that go with PTSD, such as the deep depression as you try to cope with these scary reactions to your psychological/emotional injury.  Or there is also the constant death wish or the feeling of impending disaster, or the feeling that you have no future.  Regardless, it is a living nightmare, and one which can be very lonely since it seems that you bear this burden alone in this scary world, and since it seems that no one seems to understand, that you are some kind of freak, which you are not.  You are perfectly normal, and these symptoms are a normal reaction of a violation that goes far beyond the normal order of right and good.

In my desperation, I turned to God for help.  I would spend time in prayer for sometimes several hours in a day in some quiet place of solitude that God would lead me to, laying all of my burdens and all the horrific memories that drove my PTSD at His feet.  Most of the time, I would be inebriated because that was the only way I could stand the pain of the memories coming back up.  I know that so many warriors, like myself, suffer from PTSD, but now, in this modern age, we have the ability to access all sorts of medical literature, discovering that most people who deploy into serious combat will develop some symptoms of PTSD at some point in their lifetime, as do many civilians who experience something horrible.  Moreover, the very astute Jonathan Shay, an author and psychologist who treated vets at the VA, mostly from the Vietnam War, brilliantly pointed out in his book Achilles in Vietnam that the PTSD experience was one that hit warriors thousands of years ago, captured in Homer’s poem about the out-of-control Achilles who basically went berserk after the deep psychological and emotional wound of having his beloved friend Patroclus taken from him by death in battle.   I can truly identify with the deep emotional connection that warriors feel for a comrade in arms, a love that can even be more powerful than the love for a spouse because they shared in an experience that few others will have or will be able to understand.   And after my experience with PTSD, I can certainly identify with the reaction of Achilles.

I pray that today’s posting helps you understand if you or someone you love is going through this terrible injury of mind and body that is called PTSD.  I pray that you will find a good, compassionate counselor to help you through it and that you will find understanding of your own suffering and healing over time. 



Kathy Clanton
01/24/2013 8:01am

Thank you, Del, for sharing your innermost thoughts as well as educating me on this disease. I appreciate you and love you and your family!

03/19/2017 9:00am


03/19/2017 3:11pm

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder happens in those people who have experienced any shocking or scary event. The people affected to this disease suddenly starts react against the air imagining as someone is attacking them. They feel frightened when they are alone and think they are in danger.


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    I'm a retired soldier, having spent 23 years of my life serving our country, actually 30 years when you count the reserve and National Guard time as well.  I believe in servant leaders, following the example of our Lord, and I believe in giving back to the troops once one has attained a certain status or level of success in life.  But I also believe in fighting back against corruption and incompetence wherever you find it if it hurts people.  Our national values were worth dying for.  They are also worth living for.  A man or woman can actually live a life by these principles of humility, service, love, duty, and honor, and have a significant impact on the world around them...if you have the dedication to see it through. 


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