By Veterans for Veterans – Changing the National Conversation on PTSD
The Veterans’ PTSD Project is inspired by the strength of our American Service Members and Veterans, ground-breaking research on Post-Traumatic Stress done on behalf of the U.S. Army, and the Project’s mission to change the national conversation about PTSD. But this passion to share Service Members’ stories of hope and resilience was born from very personal struggles and experiences with PTSD.
After several deployments, Project co-founder, Virginia, was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after her third time to Iraq in 2006. PTSD was not a common acronym then and the diagnosis carried stigma, confusion and isolation; she faced hardships at home and at work. Virginia kept her diagnosis a secret and felt both embarrassment and shame.
Determined to get better, she regularly attended counseling, but it fell short of addressing her needs. A counseling student herself, Virginia dug into current research to find how others before her got through their PTSD and made it back to full recovery. Unfortunately, the information available did not provide a road map back to health. The literature fell into two general categories: diagnostic manuals for mental health professionals and volumes and anthologies filled with stories of suicide, bankruptcy, broken families, and tragedy.
Virginia turned to her family and her “battle-buddies” with whom she had deployed. By starting an honest dialogue, she and her fellow Veterans encouraged each other. They found that they shared a common story, and, moreover, that they wanted to move on – from PTSD to resilience. And they did – through faith, family, and community, each of them came away stronger than before and look back on this time as an incredible period of personal growth. None became a statistic, and neither do the vast majority of Service Members who are diagnosed with PTSD.
In late 2008, Virginia, her cousin, Joan, and a close network of friends and family talked about their incredible journeys to Post-Traumatic Growth. Joan, a marketing executive with a rehabilitation hospital and long-time volunteer for brain injury support groups, was no stranger to PTSD and understood how isolated one can feel. They dreamed of a resource that would encourage other Veterans and Service Members by sharing success stories with others. “There is so much I would want to tell someone who is where I was years ago, and, through The Veterans’ PTSD Project, I can.”
Virginia and Joan launched The Veterans’ PTSD Project on September 11th, 2011 and have dedicated their time to changing the national conversation on Post-Traumatic Stress to one of resilience, hope, and even Post-Traumatic growth. The volunteers at The Veterans’ PTSD Project believe that Veterans, Service Members and their friends and families will find inspiration and strength from each other. More Service Members have worked through PTSD than have not, and we are proud of those who have been brave enough to share their personal narratives of hardship, strength, perseverance, and, ultimately, resilience. Thank you for visiting our Project; we believe you will be as inspired as we are.
In 2013, Virginia stepped down from the helm of PTSD project and handed it over to Military Experience and the Arts. Veterans’ PTSD Project became a part of a larger writing community and a leader in that community, Scott Lee, a Gulf War Veteran and author of the blog “PTSD: A Soldier’s Perspective” was the perfect choice to serve as the director. And that’s where we are now: continuing the mission one story at a time.