After his second tour in Iraq, Josh felt at high alert upon returning to the States. Diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), he came to VA for therapy and says it has really made a difference.

When did you realize that you had issues as a result of your service?

I was an IED hunter in Iraq, so of course, any time I pass any trash or anything on the side of the road, my body instantly would freeze up. Post-traumatic stress started taking over my life. I think I just started spiraling down into mass depression. VA really helped me out extremely well.

What kind of therapies did you go through at the beginning?

I was seeing counselors for post-traumatic stress. Also, I was doing group meetings. When you’re sitting in those groups and you start hearing other Veterans talking about the issues they’re having, then you realize, wow. I’m not alone.

I can talk to the Vets. They know I’ve been there, done that and understand them. And so I think peer support was really big.

Did you feel that you were helped more than you would’ve been somewhere else?

I received a treatment at VA – prolonged exposure. And what it is is you talk about a specific thing that happened to you during the war. You record it. And every week, you’d listen to that recording during the week. Then the next appointment, you re-discuss it and talk about the same traumatic event again.

And as I kept doing the appointments, more of the story kept coming out. I started remembering more. And then it just turns it into that. It doesn’t affect you as much, because you’re hashing it out more and more. And you just get comfortable with that story.

It’s kind of hard to explain, in a sense, but it really worked for me. And it let me know the past was the past. And you don’t have to let it control your life.  It got me realizing that I can get out in the crowds and start living my life again.

Is there anything else that you want to say about VA?

VA helps train you in ways to get out and live your life and not let post-traumatic stress or these other things control it for you. And it’s been working great for me.

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Bronwyn Emmet is a public affairs specialist with VA’s National Veterans Outreach Office.

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