November 29, 2007 – Cincinnati, Ohio – More women are part of the U.S. military and seeing combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Some return with the same psychological problems their male counterparts faced for years, post traumatic stress disorder.
Local 12’s Jeff Hirsh reports that the Tri-State is one of the few regions in the nation with a PTSD clinic, just for women.
From the horrors of war can come wounds of the body and wounds of the mind.
“I carried a rifle with me for a year,” said Danielle Sosin, Iraq War veteran. “I saw a lot, and now I can’t go to Target. Who is this person?”
Who is this person? A different female veteran, not traumatized by combat, but by another form of brutal violence. She was raped by her Army drill sergeant. More than 20 years later, the panic remains:
“When it first starts, almost like you’re having a heart attack,” said Michelle Covert, sexual trauma victim. “Your heart starts beating really fast, pain starts shooting down your left arm and as it progresses, I will literally stop breathing and pass out.”
Now, these two veterans sit side-by-side, getting help.
Danielle, Michelle and six other women are at the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Clinic at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Facility in Fort Thomas. Clinic director Dr. Kate Chard leads the women through seven weeks of self-discovery.
“PTSD is a psychological disorder,” said Dr. Chard. “It can happen to anyone who goes through a traumatic event.”
The term post traumatic stress disorder dates to the Vietnam War and the problems faced by returning Vietnam veterans. But it was not until after the Vietnam that PTSD was recognized as a legitimate medical disorder. But the symptoms have been going around forever, referred to as shell shock or combat fatigue.
In-patient clinics to deal with those PTSD problems are not new, for men. But residential programs are new for women. There are only three such clinics in the country, though more are coming, because more are needed. One in seven military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan is a woman.
Through group and individual therapy, the clinic helps PTSD sufferers understand what is controlling them.
“Have they been blaming themselves, have they been erroneously feeling guilty or blaming someone else for it, and is it time to let those thoughts go and move forward,” said Dr. Chard.
By reinforcing which fears are legitimate, and which fears are irrational, patients learn how to take a deep breath, buy time to sort things out, stay calm, stay normal.
There is, of course, no guarantee. But on graduation day, with diplomas and gifts, there is confidence..confidence that when these women leave the comfort and safety of their ready-made support group, they’ll be free.
If you are a veteran, male or female, with symptoms of PTSD, you can call the VA at (513) 861-3100. The extension for residential clinics is 6741.