Wounded Times

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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Vietnam veteran's daughter talks about PTSD

Journeying home to tell my truth
By Christal Presley
Special to CNN
December 8, 2012

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
Author's father was scarred by Vietnam -- and so was she
As a child, she kept secret the way the war tortured her family
Her first book, based on interviews with her dad, helped them both find peace
But the healing was incomplete: She needed to go home to tell her community the truth
Editor's note: After profiling Christal Presley and her decades-long effort to heal from childhood trauma, CNN asked to accompany her on the second part of her journey: To confront the places that still haunted her. This piece is drawn from the journal Presley kept on that trip. The video above depicts her struggles with PTSD.
Saturday, November 17, 2012
I feel unexpectedly calm on the drive back to my hometown, Honaker, Virginia, tucked deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. From my house in Atlanta, it's a 6½-hour trip -- but it's also almost two decades in the making.

I'm going home to tell my truth.

I was 18 when I fled there -- the same age my father was when he was drafted and sent to Vietnam. We both ended up scarred by his war.

My father returned home with post-traumatic stress disorder. He spent much of my childhood locked in his room strumming his guitar, moving between the deepest depression and unspeakable rage. Many times, he threatened to kill himself.

I learned to tread on delicate ground, doing anything and everything not to provoke him, but this dance caused me to become a profoundly disturbed little girl. I acted out in school, engaged in self-mutilation, and couldn't make friends. When teachers asked how my weekend went, I couldn't fathom answering honestly. I felt my classmates and I inhabited completely different worlds.

I didn't know it at the time, but I also was exhibiting symptoms of PTSD.
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