Excerpt from the book Flashback-Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Suicide, and the Lessons of War
by Penny Coleman
LINDA ROBIDEAU: One day he just broke. He didn’t make any sense. He was in the living room sharpening knives. I said, “What are you doing?” He said, “I’m getting ready.” I said, “Getting ready for what?”
I called the police. I didn’t know what else to do. But he put up a barricade, right in the hallway. He told them, “Ever seen a pig bleed to death?” So they backed off. Then he took his shirt off and said, “I have to let the pain out.” He took the knife, and he made a big X on his belly.
Every year he talked about killing himself-and always around May and June. It was the anniversary of when all his friends died. Sometimes he tried. He would take the car and get liquored up and deliberately drive to hit a tree. Overdoses of medication, lots of times.
He just never readjusted to civilian life. He didn’t like a lot of things that we have to be tolerant of. He didn’t like to be in crowds. He didn’t like the smell of diesel. If a car backfired, this is the first guy who goes down on the floor. He didn’t like it when it rained in May or in June.
Any Asian, he didn’t like. We had a neighbor who was Oriental, and one night when I came home from work my husband Don was sitting in the window and he’s scoping this guy out with a gun. I said, “You can’t shoot him just ’cause you don’t like him.” In the end he did not harm anyone but himself.
By 1984, we ended up at the VA hospital. He started having dreams and he’d wake up fighting me. They told him his records were lost. “There’s nothing in your folder, so there’s nothing we can do but medicate you.”
A whole slew of psychiatric medicines followed. Things would get better for a while, but then we’d be back again to May and everything would fall apart.
Coleman brings to light the history, causes, and long-term impact of war induced PTSD. Her use of first-hand accounts from those who have lost veterans to suicide are an important part of the book, bringing an intimate human reality to the psychological struggles she describes. Coleman cites research from many angles to try to create a clear understanding of PTSD, and focuses especially well on why the Vietnam war was “different” from other wars in its impact on soldiers. — Alan Kirby, from Amazon.com reader reviews
The day before Father’s Day, June 16, 1996, Don barricaded himself in the bedroom by putting shutters over the windows and locking the door. He had put camouflage paint on his face, and he put on his medals and a camouflage shirt. He never did that, so I knew I was in big trouble.
He came out and he said, “I’m going to do it. I’m sick of this life. I’m sick of the pain. I’m sick of the fucking neighbors. I’m sick of everything. I don’t need no doctors or social workers or police. I just want to stop the pain.”
I got on my hands and knees and I begged him.
My son Tony was there. I said, “Please, please don’t kill yourself, because your pain will be over, but mine will just begin. I can’t live without you.”
So he said, “Okay then, I’ll take you with me and then you don’t have to worry.”
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