PTSD: What a difference a year makes, a success story.

Jul 7, 2010 by

PTSD: What a difference a year makes, a success story.

There’s a lot of bad news going around: suicides up, PTSD wrecking lives and families, not much constructive help in sight. But here’s a story that’s GOOD news…about how much progress one combat vet with severe, chronic PTSD — for 40 years(!) — made in just a year of trying integrative medicine techniques and therapies, in addition to his medication. (He was able to lower his psych meds to an absolute minimum as part of the progress.)

At the end of year one, I asked him to write up his experience so he could contrast, for himself, a personal “before” and “after.” Knowing him and the story, I know that he left out the highest highs and the lowest lows, but still, it paints a powerful picture of one life substantially freed from the ongoing torment of PTSD. (That’s Pat in the photo at left.)

Here’s the letter:
Healing Combat Trauma
Re: Alternative Modality Treatments for PTSD

Dear Ms. Lily G. Casura,

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES? It has been one year ago that I first made contact with the web site “Healing Combat Trauma” in an effort to find out information on the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. As back-story, I was a Disabled Vietnam Combat Vet. I was attached to “Flames”, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines (Hell in a Helmet) my first tour of duty and with “Bravo” Co., 1st Battalion, 9th Marines (Walking Dead) my second tour of duty. It was during this second tour of combat that I was wounded three different times in a battle with North Vietnamese Army troops on Hill 881 north of Khe Sanh. I spent another seventeen months recovering in various Navy and VA hospitals and was partially paralyzed for five additional years during which time I married, attended college and received a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Forestry.

From the time I got back from Vietnam, I suffered from mild to severe to devastating symptoms of what is now known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but was not even recognized as a mental disorder much less treated until twenty-five years after the fact. The further I moved from the date of my deployment to Southeast Asia, the more intense the symptoms became and the more aggressive and destructive my behavior evolved into. Not knowing that I was suffering from a “disorder” which affected all of my fellow combat veterans, I simply assumed I was going “Crazy”, just being a “Marine”, and was of course a “fucked up Vietnam Vet”. I made no apologies for my behavior because my close friends, all former combat vets, were exactly like me and what we did was “normal” for us. It was the rest of the “world” that was screwed up, including our wives.

However, as the years rolled by it became clear that a definite pattern of cyclic behavior, action, response, aggression and consequence began to manifest itself. Regardless of determination, courage, education, competence, and ability, quality jobs lasted on the average of no more than eighteen months and no less than one year. They averaged about thirteen months, the same as the Marine Corps Tours of Duty in “The Nam”. I was excellent and even exceptional at all of the tasks of my profession but could never become acclimate to following “orders” by anyone in “authority”. I just wanted to be left alone to “do my job”.

Not only did the patterns of behavior and consequence continue to recycle in my and my family’s life, they intensified with each cycle and became more and more destructive as time went on. This resulted in extreme “guilt” and “withdrawal” and developed into a “hatred” for anyone who had not gone into “combat” in Vietnam. They had not been where I had been and had absolutely not “earned the right” to judge me or criticize me for my actions. Raising five children was a huge financial burden which weighed heavily upon me because I knew that I was not going to be able to work for anyone but took as many labor jobs and engaged in as many “self employment” activities as I could.

Twenty five years into this self destructive lifestyle and monumental stressor left me broke, unemployed and unemployable, family in constant turmoil, physically ill with heart disease and arthritis, and mentally devastated with depression and constant suicidal thoughts. It was then that I was told that the VA had identified PTSD in 1976 but was reluctant to let veterans know because of the reality of paying disability to them. So it was suppressed from us. Even so the treatment they were then engaged in was a combination of “physiological and therapeutic drug” treatments. I entered their treatment program in a desperate effort to save my family and my own life. I was diagnosed with severe PTSD and rated 100%. And it had already taken its toll on me. I ended up with two quadruple heart bypasses, congestive heart disease, electro-cardial heart failure requiring radical clinical trial surgery and a pacemaker, Rheumatoid Arthritis destroying my body and severe clinical depression. The VA solution was to continue the “group sessions”, the “physiological counseling”, and increase the amount of “physic” drugs I was to take. I literally became a drooling “zombie” unable to carry on a coherent conversation, unable to remember what anyone was saying to me, looking at everything in a blur of fog and sleeping 20 hours per day. The VA had essentially “locked” me up in a “mental institution” and thrown away the key.

My family went on with their lives and I became an invalid. Then my almost grown kids began to experience the exact same symptoms of PTSD that I was having. I just quit taking the “meds” and actually “awakened” enough to realize that one of them was about to kill himself. I began to desperately search the Internet for anything that could save my boy and me. If he killed himself, I would do the same, but go out in a “blaze of glory,” taking those with me whom I blamed for the hell we were living.

This is when I came upon a “web blog” called “HEALING COMBAT TRAUMA”. As I began to read the blogs, I became not only interested but engrossed in and awe struck by the intuitive content of it. Whoever wrote the blog KNEW what living with PTSD was like and I began to cry. This was not someone who had been educated about it, this is someone who had LIVED with it but was incredibly intelligent and understanding. As I read, I began to understand what was going on with me, my wife and my children. I began to “believe” that there really was another way to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder besides being quizzed about how bad your father treated you and then prescribed “killer” drugs. The quality of the web site and the professionalism of it made me believe that this “Company” had a huge staff of Doctors, technical staff and alternative modality practitioners. They most probably would not even be interested in me. Hesitantly, I contacted the individual listed on the contact page. Beyond belief, she answered me.

I waited a while to answer back because I was embarrassed to have even made contact. It was a “Don’t hang your dirty laundry out in public” sort of thing. My life was so complicated and I had spent forty years trying to put it down in writing to find the magic answer to it. I asked if she would be interested in reviewing my much self-edited draft and this lady said YES. Wow I was excited and flabbergasted. Maybe there was help coming that I could share with my family, my son in particular to let him know there was real HOPE. And I could take this “hope” to the remaining Nam buddies who were still alive. Most had committed suicide, at least fourteen, in the last twenty years.

Lily Casura took a sincere interest in my “story” and in my plight. Her interest was genuine and not usury. I knew that if what she said were true, then she needed to take this program to the rest of the mentally wounded souls still living from Vietnam, and to the Desert Storm and Iraq and Afghanistan warriors. But I had been “screwed” by so many “too good to be true” schemes from religion to insurance that I wanted to be shown. My challenge to her was: “If you can heal me, you can heal anyone”! She accepted and our journey into absolute “HEALING” began. The road was rocky as she got to actually experience the “ups and downs”, the “rages”, the inconsistencies of working with an actual Marine Corps combat vet. It was a wild ride for both of us to say the least as I “spoofed” most of the treatments as something that a real “Marine” would never do; especially some of the “Yoga” exercises. However, as I was moved through them one by one, I began to “feel” much differently and I began to “change”. I felt physically better and mentally at peace. Something I had not experienced in forty years. I became a true “BELIEVER” and want to share it with the world.

What a difference a year makes? One year ago I was suicidal, physically dying from multiple illnesses and immobile. My heart had stopped eight times and had to be resuscitated. My family was suffering from depression and my son was on the verge of killing himself. I had no Hope, no future, no purpose and no reason to live.

One year later, I am disease free; my Rheumatoid Arthritis has been declared in complete remission, my heart has actually healed itself, my arteries are completely free of plaque, the acute pain that I have always had is no longer there, my anger is gone, my mind is at complete peace, my son is fine, my family is happy, I am thrilled at every day I am here, I have hope in a wonderful future for me, my family and my fellow vets. I was taking over 58 prescribed medications one year ago; I am taking nine now. I was taking huge doses of prescribed pain medications and ongoing treatments for the same. I no longer have any pain, do not take any of the medications and no longer need the treatments.

The Difference One Year Makes: I was dead and now I’m alive! That’s the Difference!

Thank you, Lily, for saving my life and for giving me HOPE and a FUTURE. I am, for the first time in my life, looking forward to the rest of my life, and can’t wait to see the difference one more year will make.

Patrick ______________.
Sgt., USMC
Bravo Co., 1st Battalion, 9th Marines
Vietnam 1966 and 1967

1 Comment

  1. Dear Lily and Patrick,
    I volunteer in a Veterans Community Care Center in CT as a yoga teacher and loved your story! Can you be a bit more specific about the yoga practices that you found particularly helpful?
    My website chronicles my experiences teaching veterans and incarcerated women. In both instances I focus on practices that I feel will be healing physically, mentally, and spiritually, but I am fully aware that I don’t share the military experience. I received a comment recently from the child of a German WWII veteran that led me to search “Veterans PTSD” and I found you….