Warrior Rising – A Soldier’s Journey to PTSD and Back

Warrior Rising-A Soldier’s Journey to PTSD and Back” – “Warrior Rising” by Chris Linford.

Why I wrote the book…
I considered writing this book for a few years but really got
going on it recently. I was incredibly inspired by the novel “Shake Hands with the Devil” by General (retired) and now Senator Romeo Dallaire some years ago as he was instrumental in achieving Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD being recognized and placed on the “map” for Canadians! For the first time, as a result of reading his book, my shame faded and I began to open my eyes to the
possibility I too could be healthy again!

I started to write of my military deployed operations many times but found it too difficult to think of the emotionally charged events. Many of the memories were disturbing and evoked a significant anxiety response in my head, chest and shoulders. The anxiety made it extremely difficult to think clearly and in depth about the specifics of certain events during my deployments, not to mention how they impacted my life both personally and professionally.

Recently, and after a year of intense therapy for PTSD at the Canadian Forces Health Services Centre (Pacific) in Esquimalt BC, I achieved the best health I have known for several years. I was able to concentrate again and think in detail of the stories in particular from Rwanda and Afghanistan without becoming agitated and overwhelmed; I had some new “tools” in my pack! I found the place in my head and soul where I could remember these events with clarity and honesty and was inspired to make my story available to everyone as so many Canadians are unaware of what can occur on military deployments and the illnesses and injuries we sometimes acquire. The stories need to be told, but the impact of those events is perhaps the most important part including the impact on military families.

I am 52 years old and awaiting medical release from the CF; my time for deployments is over. I have served 24 years in the Regular Force and 8 years with the Reserves. It has been a great career and I see my role changing from that of a medical commander to that of a “helper” or “peer” to those who have not yet figured out what steps need to be taken to claim life and personal health back.

I waited 10 years to get help after my Rwandan deployment as I thought I was okay and that I could manage the symptoms of anger, hyper arousal, depression and insomnia. I could not accept that I may be judged as a malingerer or as weak. I thought I could do it, but I was wrong. This is the reason I wrote this book, as many wait for years and try everything and anything we can to keep from asking for help to manage symptoms;  alcohol and drugs are often the answer for so many.

The stigma surrounding mental health within the military community is still very prevalent and must be eliminated to open the door for thousands of combat veterans to confidently present themselves to receive the help they deserve and not feel guilty or less of a soldier, sailor, airman or airwoman for doing so! Courage  can be demonstrated in many ways, and exercising it earlier rather than later is  by far the best approach to enable veterans to effectively manage the stress of  combat deployments and return to full and active military or civilian careers and lives.

The intent of this book is to get that premise understood. It needs to be in the public domain as it is the “community” that will diminish the stigma of “weakness” by insisting their military sons and daughters receive treatment early. So many veterans suffer and will continue in silence long after the combat missions are over and the media has gone on to new and more dynamic stories. For the Canadian public at large, the war is over in Afghanistan as the CF now concentrates upon a mentoring role of Afghan military and police forces. The war for hundreds, and perhaps thousands of CF veterans will continue in the form of an insidious, invisible war injury; an  Operational Stress Injury (OSI) which includes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I was diagnosed with PTSD in 2004, almost 10 years after my deployment to Rwanda Africa just after the terrible genocide inflicted upon the Tutsi Tribe by the Hutu’s. I struggled emotionally for several years but eventually I had to ask for help as I became professionally and personally dysfunctional and unable to cope with even “normal” levels of daily stress! My wife Kathryn and my children would tell you that they knew something was wrong long before I thought people would notice. I played a game in my head using all my personal resources and energy to hide the fact that I was not well.

I achieved very good health once I was treated for my initial PTSD, which took about a year of therapy as well as medications. I was able to continue my military career and eventually go on to command medical units, as well as deploy again to Kandahar to be the Executive Officer (XO) of the NATO Role 3 Combat Surgical Hospital. This was an important event in my life and I would not
change any of it. I did get very sick again through this mission but looking back on it now, I would do it again as I was able to do what I was trained to do.

I hope my story will be helpful to all veterans, who need to know that they are not alone with this war injury, and there exists significant resources to help in their recovery; they just need to step forward and ask for it! It doesn’t always mean the end of a military career especially if it can be identified and treated early. This book is also for family members of those individuals as they often feel isolated and “at a loss” for what to do to help their loved one. Lastly, this book is for the Canadian public.

I have been asked many times if the CF is treating our veterans with PTSD better now. I have seen many changes since the first Gulf War in 1991, to Rwanda in 1994, to present day, and I can say with certainty that the CF is doing much better with treatment resources. After all, I am “walking talking proof” that what the CF Mental Health world offers worked for me! However, I do believe that more can be done, but it is important that only proven therapies are offered to CF Vets. Having said that, it is incumbent upon Mental Health professionals and senior leadership in the Canadian Forces Health Services to actively research and provide the finest treatment protocols. They must recognize that there is no “magic pill”, but in fact many worthy resources to treat this terrible injury. The right combination of therapies over time will enable Vets afflicted with PTSD to return to a good and healthy lifestyle.

Warrior Rising describes not only what made me ill with PTSD, but also what I did to battle it down. In the last chapter, I reflect upon my twice weekly therapy sessions and the practices I took on between those sessions. The road back to health can only be guided by the therapy; it is the veteran that must do the really hard work! These were difficult times for me and my family and I hope the honesty and frankness of this chapter will serve as encouragement for those on that path, as well as those not yet started. This is a very personal story and thus it is told as seen through my eyes and in the first person.

In the first chapter I present a short background of my life as a young person purely to demonstrate that I came from a fairly “normal” home with two parents and lived in a suburb of Montreal in the 60’s and 70’s. I also present my initial military experiences just to provide some context of my life leading up to my deployment to the first Gulf War in 1991. I minimized that deployment as it was less than 60 days and in the grand scheme of things was a “blip” on the radar. I provide a few significant moments of this first deployment as it really gave my wife Kathryn and I a quick lesson on how a military deployment can so incredibly impact family life!

I look back upon my career with pride now. It hasn’t always been that way as when I was really sick I had difficulty feeling pride thus, it was very difficult to even put on my uniform. Even though my deployment experiences made me very ill with PTSD and depression, I hold no resentment towards my military career history as it has led me to the place I am today with an incredibly improved understanding of myself, my injury, and my personal and professional relationships. It has also led me to a new focus in life to come to the aid of those veterans who have not yet found the way to get help. I hope this book can play a role to that end.

The button below is now linked to the Friesen Press Bookstore to purchase Warrior Rising in either hard/softcover format. It will be available in early July and will appear on their website when ready to order. For eBook readers, you can download it by doing a search for the title: Warrior Rising- A Soldier’s Journey to PTSD and Back. Thanks to all of you for your patience and your purchase.