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How to Talk to Your Kids about PTSD
“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,” says Seth Kastle – an army veteran. “And if you can’t, it’s because you’re weak.”
When Kastle returned home after serving overseas for 16 years, he had it all. He had a steady job, a beautiful wife, family, and friends. So he was very confused when it all began to fall apart. He felt angry. He could feel it building in his chest like a ball of fire.
Unbeknownst to him, he was suffering from PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder) “I didn’t even know what PTSD was.” He said later. He developed PTSD as a result of witnessing the trauma of war, but this disorder can occur after any person, of any age, experiences a major trauma in their life.
Because Kastle didn’t know what was wrong him, he didn’t seek treatment. He says, regretfully “I waited too long.” He would have angry outbursts at work, he drank too much, and he pushed away from the ones who loved him most – even his wife. “There have been a thousand times looking back where my wife should have left me.”
But she didn’t. They stuck it out and sought ways to help Kastle work through his struggle.
He eventually found a therapy source that really helped him, and slowly he started to get back on his feet. Now he just needed to find the words to talk about his experience – especially with his young daughter.
There aren’t many resources available on how to open a discussion about PTSD with children. After a particularly rough day, Kastle came home and took 30 minutes to write about his experience. And then he filed it away and forgot about it.
Later, when a fellow veteran and friend of Kastle published a book, Kastle decided to do the same.
This is how the book “Why Is Dad So Mad?” was born. He wrote it to help explain to his daughter how he struggled with PTSD. He even includes in the book the feeling of fire in his chest that he experienced because of his PTSD. “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 four.
This book isn’t helping just Kastle and his family, though. Kastle frequently gets emails from people, thanking him for this resource.
Kastle hopes this book will open doors to conversations about PTSD. He thinks that if more resources were available to returning veterans, reintegration would be much easier.
The PTSD foundation of America says that 1 out of 3 veterans coming home will have PTSD and that less than 40% will seek treatment.
People with PTSD have to face the stigma, the shame, and the discrimination that surrounds mental health disorders. But they shouldn’t have to.
We all play a part in disassembling outdated views of mental health. We can help shift attitudes by becoming educated on these issues, becoming a better listener, and showing our support for those currently struggling.
It can be incredibly difficult to take the first step towards getting help, but it will be worth it. “I can easily admit that every piece of my life is better now that I took that step,” says Kastle.
When he started his journey, he didn’t even know what PTSD was, and now he is speaking up to help others understand it too. Now that is how to stand against age-old taboos.