Dear Annie: I was an army medic who served two deployments in Iraq and saw more than two years' worth of war injuries. Seeing injured soldiers, many of them young, maimed and seriously wounded, while also being concerned for your own life can have an impact on you long after you are out of the situation.
After my second deployment, I relocated to San Francisco for a fresh start. It turned out that the busy city, with its noises and crowds, was extremely difficult, and I started feeling depressed and anxious, having panic attacks if people got too near.
When a homeless man tapped my shoulder while I was waiting for a train, my reaction was so strong that I nearly threw him on the tracks. When a bus I was riding turned a corner and a can rolled by, the sound made me think I was about to be impacted by an IED explosion. Even the humming noise of a lot of people brought back memories of mass casualties, as did certain smells. I eventually secluded myself in my home, unwilling to risk the pain that reliving the memories of war caused. After a particularly bad panic attack, I sought help. I'm happy to say that therapy and mindfulness techniques worked well for me, and I hope others in my situation will seek help, too.
June 27 is PTSD Awareness Day. Anyone can take the first step toward healing by taking a free, anonymous PTSD self-assessment. Nearly 70 percent of people have experienced a trauma in their lifetime, and about 20 percent of them later experience PTSD. Service members, veterans and their families can take an assessment at MindBodyStrength.org, and the broader community can visit PTSDScreening.org.
I want people with PTSD to know they can get help. Sincerely - Elijah Ochoa
Dear Elijah Ochoa: We appreciate your service to our country and your openness about sharing your experiences. We are glad to know that you received the help you needed and deserved, and we hope others will take advantage of this free resource. Thank you for writing.
Editor's note: Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email questions to anniesmailbox@ comcast.net, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.