Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran
A letter from a participant in the Veterans PTSD Study:
I deployed with 10th Mountain Division, 2nd BCT, to Baghdad through September 2006 – June 2007. I performed a variety of jobs including guard, medical lab, medic, and pharmacy work. My experience was a typical mosaic of long days, stress, and a variety of emotionally powerful events. In short, I was exposed to the following experiences (some face-to-face and others indirectly through my comrades): IED explosions, small arms fire, rocket attacks, sniper attacks, wounded and dead Americans, allies, and Iraqis (military, enemy, and civilians – including women and children.), mass casualty, suicide, self- mutilation, divorce, infidelity, fist fights, rape, captured and beheaded U.S. soldiers, imprisoned terrorists, smell and sights of bloody, decomposing, and burnt tissues, booby traps, destroyed vehicles, and a persistent fear of being attacked.
Upon my return from deployment, I began my first year of medical school at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU). Even though I completed the first academic year with good grades, I noticed that my quality of life had diminished significantly. I recognized that I was no longer able to be present in the moment and was always observing whatever was happening in my life from a “witness” perspective. I also replayed many situations in my mind, often thinking of how I could have done them differently. I no longer laughed much and felt burdened by my past, reminiscing my days when ignorance was bliss.
A year went by and I had spoken about my experiences to a variety of people in attempts to “release” them or find peace from their recurrent nature. Talking about the experiences helped me a bit, but only on an intellectual level. I understood that what I was feeling was “a normal reaction to an abnormal situation.” I knew that I had done my best and was a force of good in this world. But I also knew that my symptoms persisted even after talking about them. Otherwise I was doing “fine” and identified my symptoms to as recurring emotions that were independent of my intellect. They were in a way unreachable, no matter how I tried to resolve or release them. I concluded that this was the price I had to pay and continued to live my unrewarding life to the best of my ability.
About a month ago I had a powerful experience. I met an old acquaintance who knew me before I deployed to Iraq. Nancy asked if I was open to letting her try something called EFT to help me gain freedom from my recurring emotions. She said it was an “emotional” tool and not a mental one. I agreed and we spent a total of four hours doing the work over two days. The results were immediate and I literally “fell back” into my body from a defensive posture that I had unknowingly created in my mind. I could feel my body again and could not stop crying and laughing. I could now be present in the moment and not have half of my attention observing the situation as it was happening. I also became less reactive to whistle sounds and sirens that used to initiate in me a flight or flight response, as incoming rockets had done in Iraq. Overall, I regained the quality of life that I had prior to deployment.
It was truly an “emotional freedom technique.” Since then, I have been on a constant upward spiral and have been able to transform my past into a great strength. We worked through every single memory and emotion that I was not in peace with and “tapped them out.” I also learned how to “self-administer” EFT and have been practicing it on myself whenever something new has emerged from my past.
Olli – Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran