Local VA Teaches Veterans to Cope with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
EDINBURG – Memories of war or events from days of service can affect veterans and their daily lives, ending in a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder diagnosis.
"You're constantly looking behind you,” said Army Veteran Mayanin Casarez.
Although Casarez didn't go to war, she said she’s going through some PTSD symptoms. She didn't want to tell us what happened.
"I have to be like against the wall or something because I got to know my back is protected,” she said.
Casarez said she’s filled will emotions. She fought back tears after we asked her what do veterans with PTSD need to get by. She wants others not to fear a person with PTSD.
"Don’t turn your back on us,” she said.
It wasn’t until Casarez found someone to watch her back and help her find peace.
"That’s one of the things that I love about her when we go to sleep. As soon as I turn around when I face the wall, she like runs and gets my back,” said Casarez.
A dachshund, named Dora, is now Casarez's protector. She said Dora walks and guides her through crowds with ease.
"I couldn't go to the mall. It's been years I haven't been to the mall and she’ll help me go. And we went the other day and we did okay,” she said.
Casarez said Dora is more than just a service pet.
“The only people that have helped me are going to the classes with the VA and she keeps me sane,” she explained.
But Casarez isn't the only veteran in the Valley fighting her past.
VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System officials said the Valley has about 6,000 veterans they have seen in the past 12 months who are diagnosed with PTSD.
Veterans Affairs Clinical Psychologist Dr. Jessica Grogan specializes in PTSD.
"What we hope to accomplish during treatment is to give them the opportunity to identify those strengths, accept the trauma as it was and live a fulfilling life despite that event carrying it with that's not intrusive,” she said.
Grogan said PTSD consists of four segments: intrusive recollections or unwanted memories or nightmares, avoidance, extreme changes in mood and hyperarousal symptoms that include not sleeping well or high levels of aggression.
"Two veterans with PTSD may have very different symptoms. They don't have to have all of the symptoms I mentioned; they simply have to have some representation of each of those four clusters,” she explained.
Casarez said one way to help herself and other veterans cope is not to judge.
"Help us deal with it. It's not nice, but once you know the person that has it be more kind to them because you know that way it's better for us to deal with it,” the veteran said.
Dr. Grogan said the VA trains their clinicians on an annual basis for cognitive processing therapy. In the session, they learn an overview of the disorder and what types of emotions are associated with PTSD.
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