PTSD. My journey with posttraumatic stress disorder.
Late 1975 I went back to my old job with the Bureau Meteorology. At the beginning of 1976 I began night school to complete my Senior certificate in Physics and Maths. I was off the booze and feeling better although I was still having nightmares and anxiety attacks, but my focus was to complete my Senior certificate. I passed both subjects at the end of the year and this enable me to apply for two jobs, one with Foreign Affairs Dept in Canberra and the other within the Bureau as a Technical Officer Meteorology Observer. I was successful in both applications but chose the Bureau job as I wanted to get out of communications. In the meantime, I had been dating a young lady for six months and we married on the 5th March 1977. Directly after the wedding I started my twelve months course in Melbourne at the Bureau Meteorology School. On my course I was experiencing anxiety attacks with body shakes and trembling especially when manually tracking weather balloons by radar and using a slide rule. My condition worsened as the year went on, so I went to a local doctor to get some tablets to calm me down, but he refused and instead sent me to a Psychiatrist. The Psychiatrist said I had severe war like depression causing anxiety, like Battle Fatigue in the Second World War and wanted to put me into Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital. Note PTSD was not named at this stage. I refused to go into hospital, but he did put me on anxiety tablets in which helped to calm me down. To continue with the tablets, I had to make monthly appointments to see him. I successfully completed my course and was posted back to Queensland to Amberley Air Force Base along with another Vietnam veteran who was on my course. His name was Don, but his nickname was “The Grunt”. He was an Infantry soldier in Vietnam and his platoon was hit hard with high rate of casualties. Like me he was having nightmares and not sleeping much. In Vietnam he had to put several of his mates into body bags. This was his recurring nightmare with their open eyes in death staring at him. He was living in the Officer’s Quarters and never left the base until his annual holiday to Bangkok. The only person he could communicate with, was me. Sadly, he ended his life in Bangkok in 1981 by shooting his brains out after I had transferred to Longreach. Only spent one year in Longreach before the Bureau transferred me back to Brisbane in 1982 to the Relief pool. In October 1983 my daughter was born in Brisbane. Two months old, she had an operation to remove a digital fibroma tumor from her toe. We blamed it on Agent Orange, a powerful herbicide to eliminate jungle cover which contained the deadly chemical dioxin which caused serious health issues including cancer, birth defects, rashes and severe psychological and neurological problems with Vietnam veterans and their children. In August 1984 I was transferred to Charleville Airport Met Office. My son was born in August 1985 and he often came out in rashes all over his body. The doctors didn’t seem to know what it was. One said it was caused by stress, but we believed it was Agent Orange. In 1988 I was promoted to Officer in Charge at Gladstone Met Office. With the new position, pressure increased causing more nightmares and anxiety attacks. My family and friends pleaded for me to go and get help but I refused as I was obsessed with work in other words I had become a workaholic instead previously I was a alcoholic. My lifestyle was busy. I was on the local Council Disaster committee, Acting Port Meteorology Agent by visiting ships in Gladstone harbor to maintain their instruments, junior soccer and AFL, and I joined the local Vietnam Veterans Association (VVA). VVA made me their Welfare Officer but I only lasted in the job for a month. I was visiting this Vietnam Vet in Gladstone Hospital. He tried to suicide after he threatened people with a shot gun in the caravan park where he was living. By visiting him my nightmares and anxiety increased so I quit the VVA job. Surprisingly I survived the Gladstone years as I was in denial of my condition. In 1993 I was transferred to Rockhampton Airport Met Office as a Supervisor. The office was like a pressure pit hole with a lot of personality clashes in the workplace. Nothing destroys morale faster in a workplace than personality clashes when two or more people can’t get along. It drags down the entire office. I tried to present a “normal” face but it was a debilitating struggle with the pressure immense, eventually something had to give. It was only a matter of time before I cracked.
Will do Part 5 in a few days. Sorry about my story dragging on.