Hearing the Veteran's Voice: PTSD

WACO, Texas (KWTX) We hear about issues veterans face when they return home from combat.

Photo by Neal Klaeser

But it's difficult to truly understand.

A panel of veterans who served in Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan opened up about what they're experiencing in our series, the Veteran's Voice.

In this report they candidly discussed post traumatic stress disorder.

We are only using their first names to protect their privacy.

What you will see below are a series of questions and the veterans' responses.

What does it feel like to have PTSD?

Richard: "The anxiety, the mood swings, hard to sleep, going to sleep, waking up. It's a mess."

Brian: "It's a nightmare when you're asleep from the nightmares. It's a nightmare when you're awake because you can't deal with the everyday thoughts, the intrusive thoughts."

What is it like dealing with PTSD in public?

Richard: "If I hear a car backfire I'm jumping. Or I'm still sitting up against a wall. I can't go in places like HEB. I've got to be on guard 24-7."

Brian: "The triggers, any time a helicopter flies over is a big trigger for me, airplanes are a big trigger for me. Obviously crowds, driving, still looking at everything on the side of the road as a possible IED."

Leo: "Just going shopping is difficult, you got to find that sweet spot when there's not too many people."

How has PTSD impacted your family?

Richard: "I've lost three relationships due to it. And I thought it was just me. People told me I was just a pain in the rear."

Brian: "You're pushing them away. They're walking around on eggshells around you because they don't know when you're going to explode or when you're not going to come out of your bedroom."

Clifford: "I'm on my third marriage and there's a lot of broken relationships."

Joel: "The hardest thing is having your kids come up and say, Daddy are you coming to my play tonight, and you can't go because the crowd is so much and the anxiety it kills me."

Has your PTSD led to substance abuse?

Richard: "I've been dealing with this a long time. I stopped my drinking a long time, ago, about 15 years ago. I stopped smoking. So that's helped out quite a bit. But the root of the problem hasn't been fixed yet."

Leo: "For me it was relying on booze for most of it. So yeah it undermines a lot of stuff. And you're trouble shooting with medications because you're trying to get all these crazy thoughts and emotions under control."

What brought you to the point of getting help?

Leo: "I needed to be here. It's hard to hold a job, it's hard to get a job. So before I lost my job I got myself in here on a medical leave."

Brian: "I want to get back to just living a normal, everyday life."

Clifford: "I've been dealing with this a long time. I don't think two months is enough, but it's something I can use to live, live my life."

George: "I went to Vietnam in 69 and I'm 69 now, and I still got the problem, what these guys are going through now. and the only people I can talk to that will listen are other veterans."

Joel: "That's why I chose to come to Waco because I want to get through that. Maybe it's still hard, but I have the tools to know how to deal with that anxiety, and how to get through it, so I can be part of my children's life growing up. I'm the dad that gets to go to the park with them in public, my wife, go be able to enjoy a nice date night with her. I don't get to do that stuff right now, it's hard. It will literally destroy you if you don't try to get some type of help with it."