Tim’s Story: Dealing With Trauma And Grief
As a medic in Iraq, Tim was always in the midst of suffering. He treated soldiers with horrible wounds. He saw some die.
Within one day of returning home, he faced another trauma. His father died of cancer.
“He was my best friend for my whole life. That just threw my whole brain out of whack,” Tim said.
Grief forced the 28-year-old into a shell. He hid his emotions from everyone, including his wife. He couldn’t sleep, and he couldn’t get his war memories out of his head.
He decided to take classes to become a paramedic, but he couldn’t make himself go to the first session.
He realized that every car accident, shooting, or injury he’d face on the job would take him back to Baghdad. And his nightmares were already taking him there.
His marriage began to suffer. His wife knew that something was wrong, but Tim wouldn’t talk about it. She wanted to go to counseling together, but he refused.
“I didn’t ever want to talk about the things that I had been through,” he said.
And because he was a medic and not a combat soldier, he was ashamed to admit he had a problem.
“A lot of people went through way more than I did. I figured if I wait, then they will get help first and then I will.”
Tim finally took the first step toward help after he hurt his back on his construction job. He had thrown himself into work, putting in 10 to 12 hours a day and working side jobs at night and on the weekends.
Part of his treatment was to see a vocational rehab counselor about job options. The counselor asked if he was getting treatment for PTSD.
Tim started seeing a Department of Veterans Affairs psychiatrist, a national expert on PTSD. Tim’s treatment includes medicines for nightmares and flashbacks and to help him sleep.
“The medicines suppress the thoughts that are always in my head,” he said. “So during the day, I can deal with them.”
Couples counseling has helped him talk to his wife and has helped his marriage.
Now in college working on a teaching degree and taking care of his baby son Jack, Tim feels better, especially since he can sleep.
“The sooner you catch PTSD, the easier it is to combat it,” he said.
Tim’s story reflects his experiences as told in an interview. The photograph is not of Tim, to protect his privacy.