Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) can happen to anyone and, contrary to what some believe, it does not signify weakness. In the U.S. alone, about 7 or 8 out of every 100 people will have PTSD at some point in their lives. An estimated 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year.
One of the most well-known causes of PTSD is military combat, where life-threatening experiences, difficult decisions, and violence exact a huge mental toll.
Overcoming the stigma of mental health issues has been a challenge in the military, but people like Army veteran Seth Kastle are out to change that through awareness.
After serving 16 years overseas, Kastle found himself back home for good in Kansas, returning to his wife, family, and friends. Though he knew things would be different, he had no idea an extreme anger would build up inside so intensely it would hinder his everyday life.
The issue didn’t subside with time, and years went by with Kastle becoming more reserved, pushing away his loved ones, including his wife. Outbursts began occurring at work. His drinking got out of hand. Kastle was unknowingly suffering from PTSD.
“I waited until it was too late,” he says. “I didn’t even know what PTSD was.”
Kastle’s wife worked through the battle with him, despite the many times Kastle, looking back on the thick of it, thinks she should have left.
Kastle eventually found a therapy resource that worked, and which helped him get back to a healthy state of mind and keep his family life together.
One of the biggest battles Kastle faced, however, was how to talk about what was going on with his little girl. Upon doing online research, he discovered how little information was available about it, and so he decided to write a story about his experience with PTSD in 30 minutes. Then he filed it away, not planning to ever share it with anyone.
But that all changed when a friend and fellow veteran published a book that inspired Kastle to share his own story.
Kastle created the children’s book titled Why Is Dad So Mad? as a gentle yet informative way to help explain his struggles with PTSD to his six-year-old daughter.
“There’s a section in the book where I describe the anger and things associated with PTSD as a fire inside my chest,” he says. “After I first read the book to my daughter, I remember her saying, ‘I’m sorry you have a fire in your chest now, Dad.’ “
“She was 4 at the time. That’s something I’m always going to remember.”
The book has been well-received by outsiders, whose emails express gratitude for his helpful tool for explaining their own struggles with PTSD.
The book proved such a success that Kastle ended up writing another version with his wife, who is also a veteran, called Why Is Mom So Mad?
“There’s a stigma associated with PTSD, and a lot of it is the warrior culture and masculinity that you need to be able to handle this,” Kastle explains. “And if you can’t, it’s because you’re weak.”
Kastle urges the necessity for military members to have more and better resources to help talk about PTSD in order to make reintegration back into home life easier.
“I can easily admit that every piece of my life is better now that I took that step,” Kastle says, referring to making the step into the clinic to get help for his PTSD, which can be, and was for Kastle, a very scary thing.
Kastle is challenging the notion that PTSD is a sign of weakness and, in the process, giving hope for anyone struggling with the mental health issue.
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