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  1. #1
    Senior Member FedUpinFarmersBranch's Avatar
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    May 2008

    Post-Iraq , Veteran mom`s can`t put stress to bed

    Post-Iraq, veteran moms can't put stress to bed
    Darryl E. Owens | Sentinel Staff Writer
    June 30, 2008

    Staff Sgt. Ginger Davis sometimes kayaks with friends in Rose Bay in Port Orange to alleviate stress. (SARA A. FAJARDO, ORLANDO SENTINEL / May 10, 200

    Army Spc. Elizabeth Jackson shut down emotionally during her tour in Iraq. It was her way of dealing with the stress and danger.

    Coming home, she found it hard to turn her feelings back on and become
    a mom again.

    "I had a lump in my throat holding him, but [I] still couldn't cry yet," said Jackson, 26, of her reunion with Christopher just three days before his first birthday. "He was still my son, but it took me a little while to get the tenderness down. It was like a 'Why are you crying? Suck it up!' kind of thing."

    Doctors later diagnosed Jackson with post-traumatic-stress disorder, or PTSD -- an old diagnosis that's finding a new gender to victimize. The Deltona woman is among thousands of female veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan with the mental disorder that World War I veterans knew as "shell shock."

    Related links
    Army Spc. Elizabeth Jackson Photo As the current war and multiple deployments continue, the numbers will only surge, experts fear.

    Women are "being exposed to combat in ways never seen before and are coming in to seek care for PTSD," said Amy Street, a psychologist with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    Officially, Pentagon policy excludes servicewomen from direct ground combat. But female troops who drive supply trucks and perform sentry duty often face gunfire and roadside bombs because insurgents strike from anywhere and under any guise.

    "You can't cry," said Jackson, a truck driver with the 196th Transportation Company in Iraq. "That's weak. If you're weak, you die."

    Fanita Jackson, program manager at the Orlando VA Medical Center, where she works exclusively with recent vets, suspects some women are suffering in silence.

    "Some women come back and immediately jump into that family life . . . and they do it up until a point when they realize I can just go through the motions, but after that I'm just going to shut down," she said.

    Street has treated servicewomen who flinch at the sight of bags on the roadside, who stress while idling at stoplights and panic when motorists pull up alongside.

    Former self couldn't be found

    Army Staff Sgt. Ginger Davis knows that well. When she first landed in Iraq in 2004, she was greeted with mortar fire. Later, riding in low-flying planes, Davis, who served with the 1153rd Finance Detachment based in St. Augustine, dodged power lines and sometimes gunfire.

    "There is no safe zone," said Davis, 34, who lives in Edgewater, a city in Volusia County. Months after returning home to Central Florida from Iraq, Davis still was fighting the war -- in her mind.

    "I wasn't relaxing, was always on edge," Davis said. "I just wanted to get back to who I was prior to [Iraq], and I couldn't."

    It can be even tougher for servicewomen who are parents, because standing down from war isn't just a matter of removing a uniform.

    "The skills needed in a war zone are very different from the skills needed to be a parent," said Street, who is with the VA's National Center for PTSD in Boston. "It can be hard to remember how to use them."

    Though studies suggest women might be more predisposed to PTSD, the condition afflicts men and women in similar ways, researchers say. But women may incur undue stress, Street said, trying to "prove they're as good as anyone out there."

    Early help pushes recovery

    That outer toughness can slow their transition into treatment. PTSD sufferers benefit from early help. Typically, focused talk therapy challenges patients to confront disturbing events.
    Post-Iraq, veteran moms can't put stress to bed

    "We can't ever undo the experiences [they've] had in [their] lives, so people who've been changed by their experience will continue to be changed. But you can absolutely recover from PTSD," Street said.

    Davis' almost nightly nightmares, a panic attack before she boarded a plane to visit her brother and unease in crowds drove her to a VA support group in Daytona Beach. She said she still tenses at the roar of planes or helicopters overhead, but therapy has helped her more effectively cope with her anxiety, depression and aimlessness.

    Three years of therapy also have helped Jackson. Before, her closed-off emotions turned "completely to anger. I've made holes in my walls and cracked my sink in my bathroom throwing glass at it, because I still . . . don't let it out."

    She's proud that three months have passed since her last blowup. She and her son Christopher, now 5, are doing better, she says.

    And in one session, she even managed to cry.

    In their own words

    Elizabeth Jackson

    In her own words: "It's like you take your emotions and just click it off. It's actually easier over there because you have no bills, you have no kids, and even though you have [all that], all you have to worry about is you and the person beside you. You just turn it off. When you come home, you don't know how to turn that emotion button back on . . . and you don't let it out. It's a habit. I bottle it up, bottle it up, and then pop! -- it explodes. I don't want their lives [war casualties] to be for nothing, but I have to be able to be able to live with it, and I think that's where I am now. I don't want to forget any of it, but I'm not going to let it run my life anymore . . ."

    Ginger Davis

    In her own words: "Once you're in Iraq, it's a free-for-all, basically. Even if you're in buildings, they are just concrete buildings that a rocket can come into. You just carry on -- you have to. I was a noncommissioned officer and had five to six soldiers under me all the time. You kind of just have to give them the false impression, whether they believed it or not, . . . that you were in control of your emotions and the situation no matter what happened. My family, at first, didn't know how to treat me when I first came home, and that was probably worse than if they had waited to see where I needed the help or where they probably needed to back off a little. Hopefully, I won't carry it [post-traumatic-stress disorder] as a wound forever -- maybe a scar -- something I could look back on and say, 'Oh, yeah, that's where that came from.' "

    Trend rises

    158: Women the Orlando VA Medical Center treated for post-traumatic-stress disorder during the 6 months ending in March.

    143: Treated during the previous 12 months.

    3,005: U.S. Army servicewomen diagnosed.

    40,000: Troops from all military branches diagnosed.

    193,400: Women have served in or near Iraq and Afghanistan -- about 11% of troops deployed.

    SOURCES: Pentagon, Veterans Affairs

    Darryl E. Owens can be reached at or 407-420-5095. ... ory?page=2
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  2. #2
    Senior Member crazybird's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Joliet, Il
    They have never fully addressed this for the men.....and then now women and moms too. Survival skills are different than how we are supposed to live in a civil society. I've never been in war....but I can say there's times I feel like they do, in reverse. Because this society is becomming more like a war zone and I don't have the skills for that. I don't know how they can exist together. Something has to shut down to keep you moving forward in exchange for something else. I don't like the angry side that comes out. Don't like not trusting or being able to believe in things. They've kept us on high alert after 9-11, while they flood the country with people and change everything that was normal. No it's definately not as severe and serious as those comming back from war....but it sure eats away at you and it's not hard to see the results.
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