In observance of PTSD Awareness Month: June 2014, VAntage Point, in collaboration with VA’s National Center for PTSD, presents the following profile of a Veteran who is living with PTSD and has turned his life around with treatment.
Army Veteran Arthur Jefferson witnessed his friend being fatally shot in the barracks. He tried to hide his pain from his only child. But that only drove them apart.
Years after he was discharged from the Army, Arthur Jefferson knew there was still something wrong with him.
“I was just—I just shut down,” he said. “I didn’t want to be around people and even to a point when I always have to make sure that no one is behind me, that my back was to a wall, that I always have an avenue of escape. I was just, just, just hurting.”
His hurt came from memories of the horror of watching his friend being shot to death in the barracks. “Just looking at him looking at me with his eyes—because when he got shot, I mean, when he died, his eyes were wide open, so he was looking at me. So that really, really tore me up,” Arthur recalled.
A single father, he tried to hide his torment to keep it from affecting his relationship with his daughter.
“My daughter, she knew that something was wrong with Daddy,” Arthur said. “’Daddy, are you OK?’ I didn’t want to tell her that I’ve been having these dreams of a trauma that I witnessed, when my mentor got killed in the barracks. You know, shoot, I didn’t want to put that on her. Because, you know, after she lost her mother, we would always talk, and she would always say things like, you know, ‘I miss Mommy.’ You know, and I was like, ‘Yeah, I miss her, too.’ And so, I tried to block her from a lot of things. I was trying to protect her.”
Or so he believed. “I thought I was protecting her, but actually, I was exposing her to something that, she didn’t even have a clue,” Arthur said. “I would snap at her, in a rage. It got to the point where she would say to me, ’Daddy, instead of talking at me, talk to me. I’m your child, I love you.’ You know, and I knew it was from the PTSD and the anger, and I knew that I needed some help.”
His daughter’s love and concern led to Arthur getting diagnosed with and treated for his PTSD.
“It took about the first three months for me to get to a level when I was able to talk about the trauma I experienced,” he said. “Being able to talk about everything, it helped me to open up that relationship with my daughter again. And even to this day, even as we sit here this day, I need my child. I need my daughter. She’s a big part of my life, and she knows that I’m there for her, and she’s there for me. And I know that if anybody understands me, my daughter understands.”
For more information on PTSD and ways to raise awareness of this mental health problem during June and throughout the year, professionals and members of the public can visit the National Center for PTSD website, www.ptsd.va.gov/about/PTSD-awareness/. This site offers resources such as:
- PTSD Coach Online and the award-winning PTSD Coach mobile app, which provide self-help symptom-management tools. The app is always with you when you need it.
- PTSD Continuing Education opportunities for providers, including PTSD 101 Courses, on the best practices in PTSD treatment (CEs/CMEs offered).
- AboutFace: Online videos of Veterans talking about how PTSD treatment can turn your life around.
- For continued involvement, please subscribe to the PTSD Monthly Update. Stay up to date on new information about PTSD and trauma year round.