“Mental trauma will never end, so one needs to find a way to face the pain every day in order to survive.”
Craig Tschetter, USMC
Author of FIFTEEN MINUTES AGO
My very first psychiatrist, Dr. Ching, told me in 1981, “Your memories are never ever going to leave you. The sooner you accept what I’ve said, the sooner your life will begin to change.” I suddenly began to feel I had a chance to survive when before I could see no positive solution to my torment. I tell you this . . . because it’s true. For the past thirty plus years I’ve lived with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; a result of serving my country in combat for twenty months in the mountains and rice paddies of South Vietnam. Normally it’s the role of God to take life away from others, but I played the role of God at age nineteen. I didn’t realize that one day it would haunt me to the point of wanting to end my life. Instead, I chose to seek help at a Veterans Administration Hospital and that’s the only reason I’m here today writing to you in this blog.
Initially I didn’t realize mental illness was no different than any other disease, such as diabetes or cancer. I felt ashamed of my weakness and let my pain fester within me; I refused to talk about it. I was wrong! It must come out in one form or another. For me, it was writing. It started to bring me some peace, because I told the whole world, my family, my friends, I was a person being treated for mental illness. I told them I’m required to see a psychiatrist every three months in order to receive medicine so I can survive. You’re right . . . it was a bold move, but it was the right move and I will never regret it.
Today, I tell my story by speaking publically and through my book, so others have a chance to survive, just like I have. I still think about Vietnam every day, several times a day, but it doesn’t bother me like it once did. Instead, the haunting thoughts are gone and they’ve become passing thoughts flowing in and out of my mind. When people ask me when I was in Vietnam I tell them the dates, (November 23, 1967 – July 27, 1969), but I really want to tell them FIFTEEN MINUTES AGO.