Let's Talk Openly about PTSD

Let's Talk Openly about PTSD

Posted on November 24 by T. Robert Fowler
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My visit to Pembroke on Saturday, November 19, to sign copies of Combat Mission Kandahar at Coles Books was great. Books were sold and I had many discussions with passers-by. These discussions included not only local residents but also present and past members of the military who either live in Pembroke or were in town from CFB Petawawa for a few hours. I was quite pleased that some of the presently serving soldiers, who I am sure know Afghanistan better than I do, wanted to buy the book. I think they felt that, by publishing Combat Mission Kandahar, someone was recognizing what it had been like to deploy to Afghanistan and the mission was not forgotten.

"I had avoided writing about PTSD in my book because it is such an enormous subject on its own."

 

These meetings impressed on me how the small but friendly town of Pembroke is really influenced by the base. But on later reflection, it seemed that something other than the theme of my book was turning up in the discussions, more often that I realized – that is, how the daily lives of many in Petawawa are affected by PTSD from Afghanistan. I had avoided writing about PTSD in my book because it is such an enormous subject on its own. But a number of those stopping by my table wanted to talk about it. I now wonder how prevalent is this problem? We have seen or read about it often on TV and in newspapers, and so the public knows PTSD has affected many soldiers. These media reports give varying numbers of how many are affected; but from my unscientific study from a book signing in Pembroke, I have come to guess that it is far more pervasive than acknowledged. It seemed that that so many people around Pembroke/Petawawa are living with it or know someone who has it.

"Pretty, well dressed, smiling, she did not come to talk about the book."

 

Right at the start, one wife calmly told me that her husband, who had been in the Special Forces, has PTSD; but despite that, her daughter is presently going into boot camp as a new recruit. The person who impressed me the most however was a young woman who came up to my table near the end of the afternoon. Pretty, well dressed, smiling, she did not come to talk about the book. She calmly talked about her husband and how she had to deal with his PTSD. My part of the conversation was awkward as I was unsure what she expected me to say. But I was sympathetic and tried to reply as best as I could. She was not complaining but just talked for a few minutes. It was only later that I came to think that she did not want any grand statements from me, no sympathy; she just knew I was there and was interested, and she wanted to talk to someone about it. Thinking about it later, I believed I could have been a better listener and asked more, but I hope I helped in some small way.

T. Robert Fowler

Posted by Kendra on October 27, 2015
T. Robert Fowler photo

T. Robert Fowler

T. Robert Fowler is the author of several books about the military, including Courage Rewarded and Valour on Juno Beach. He has also written articles for The Canadian Army Journal and Canadian Military History, among others. He lives in Nepean, Ontario.