Echoes: The Story of An American Hero with PTSD

September 7, 2010 by  

A Tired Soldier, Image from http://www.thegoldensoldierproject.com/

On TrueBloodNet.com we rarely do very serious pieces; we do light articles to entertain, to distract you from the worries of the day and to support our favorite show, True Blood. We’re departing from that meme tonight and we invite you to take a different journey with us.

On Wednesday night, September 8th at 10pm EST just before the penultimate season 3 episode of True Blood airs on HBO, we will be doing our first ‘TwitterPlay‘, “Bringing a Soldier All the Way Home: the Story of Arlene and Terry”

The play, while done within the arena of True Blood and by the Twitter Players from BloodBites, centers on a serious real life problem facing many of our returning veterans (as well as veterans from previous wars), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. The play is based on first-hand knowledge as related by a real war hero suffering from PTSD, @Terrybellefle.

Thank You is Never Enough.

We here at TrueBloodNet.com want to deeply thank everyone involved in this project, @Arlene Fowler for bringing the opportunity to our attention and pushing when things might have faltered; all the TrueBloodonTwitter group for their support and our own writers and Admin Ollie Chong.  Most especially, we’d like to thank @Terrybellefle for both his service and his willingness to share with our readers and followers the personal details of his life in the hopes that more of us will understand what a soldier’s life is like and that perhaps find it within ourselves to reach out to those paying an ongoing price that we may remain free.

Meet @TerryBellefle

I joined the service 10 years ago at age 18. I joined primarily because my family didn’t have money for college and I wanted to travel the world. I joined up as infantry. Over the next few years I worked very hard at my job, I applied for paratrooper training, and then eventually applied for Army Ranger training. I was a Ranger for a year before I was sent to Afghanistan, my unit was to replace a unit that most of the Rangers were either killed or hurt during a helicopter crash. I spent 9 months in Afghanistan.

I didn’t have one specific incident that caused PTSD disorder. It was the stress of being away from home, the stress of very little sleep and food, and then having to kill people. Even though they were threatening my life and those of my fellow brothers it gets into your head. I came home a changed person. I had horrible nightmares nearly every night.

Nightmares

But the nightmares didn’t end when I’d wake up. I’d be walking through a mall and someone would scream..my heart would race, my palms would sweat and one time I dove under a bunch of chairs. Things that never used to bother me before, small things like my nephew playing with a loud toy or the fan kicking on, would startle me and keep me on edge. To deal with life I pretty much shoved my feelings aside. I had heard from guys who had come home before me that this might happen.

Then 6 months later my unit was deployed to Iraq. This was only a six month deployment but many things happened that will live with me forever. The main thing was that I met a great group of friends…guys that became family our bond forged in the heat of war. Then later on, 4 months into my deployment, I watched one of them almost die. He lived but he ended up losing a leg. Two of my adopted family did die and I lost two great friends. I came home changed from those experiences. A year and a half later I was deployed for my last time to Iraq, this time for a year.

Dealing with PTSD has made me a different person. I’m not the guy who left home ten years ago. It’s been the worst and the best thing that’s happened to me; best because its taught me how strong of a person I am and worst because…every night I relive it all. Every battle I’ve been in. Every friend I’ve lost. Every wound I’ve gotten. Luckily for me I have a group of really great guy friends, all of whom I RP with on Twitter and I guess in our own way we are each other’s own PTSD support group.

@TerryBellefle on “True Blood”

I read Charlaine Harris’s first TB book while in Iraq the first time, I Loved the character of Terry and when I watched my first episode I was thrilled Terry was an Iraq vet! He reminds me so much of myself. He loves to hunt and fish, loves his dogs, his grandmother..and redheads, just like me! LOL So when I met @Arlenefowler on Twitter we became friends. I RP’d [Role Played] with her as another character at first but she told me she really would love to RP with me as Terry. She felt that because of my experiences and how I could relate to Terry I could really put a different spin on him. I could add a deeper dimension to the role playing, a bit of reality.

I enjoy playing Terry. He is a complex character and the way he looks at life isn’t too different from how I do. RPing is an emotional outlet for me and a lot of my other friends who are Vets. Role Playing gives us a creative way to work through some of our feelings…something fun that is therapeutic at the same time.

Our Twitter page

A Few Words from the Wonderful @ArleneFowler

Let me begin by saying that the first thing that attracted me to the person that plays Terry Bellefleur (@TerryBellefle) was his writing…. we role-played very briefly together as different characters and I quickly asked him to play Blake Taylor, someone Arlene could date until Season 3 began. I soon discovered he was one of our country’s very brave warriors that suffers from PTSD and his real interest was in playing Terry Bellefleur. I might add that other vets were interested too, but to me, he was “my Terry” from day one. I knew from his writing that this was not your average guy looking for silly fun although we’ve had lots of that too — but rather, he was a sensitive, kind, and morally strong man who expressed himself beautifully. As Season 3 approached, he patiently “dated” Arlene while he anticipated things working out for him to be Terry Bellefleur …that was the role he really wanted.

Over time, he’s talked to me about his pain, nightmares, the loss of fellow soldiers he loved, venues to relieve his suffering, and more. I can’t say l could ever know what it would be like to walk in his boots…. but I can say that he intimately knows what it’s like to walk in Terry Bellefleur’s.

Without question, I now have a greater awareness of PTSD through him. There have been times he was too upset to role-play because he just lost a friend, or he had one of those hair-trigger moments that had him in its clutches before he knew what happened. He’s expressed being apprehensive about going to a party because of crowds or shared that he’s in his room with Nirvana blasting through his headphones to drown out the sound of July 4th fireworks. One evening, he sat alone in a movie theater while his neighbor finished shooting off the firecrackers from the night before. Things intended to bring joy might bring him pain when you never imagined they would.

I’ve always known people can suffer from PTSD from one-time occurrences … a disaster such as a house fire, violent crime, or accident, but now I’m keenly aware that in combat or war it can be ongoing, repeated, and relentless. You can’t say a battle needs to be put on hold because you’ve just been so traumatized or injured that you need to see a doctor. Normal young men become warriors whose bodies are trained to be incessantly highly sensitized—often for years. Then they come home as though nothing ever happened and have to struggle to find their own way back– struggle to find the right treatment that makes sense for them and makes them whole again.

There’s so much more to be said about PTSD, but personally I hope I’ve given a “little something” to a very special soldier by asking him to be “my Terry”. I consider myself privileged that he’s let me role-play with him and call him my friend.

A Last Word from TBN.com

We want to remind everyone that PTSD can strike anyone, not just our wonderful soldiers. Many of those who lived through Hurricane Katrina are still suffering from PTSD. That kid you heard about on the news who was molested by an uncle? She’s likely to develop PTSD. A teenager bullied mercilessly by his peers, a rape victim, a fire survivor, someone who’s been mugged, a victim of domestic violence, your uncle Joe, your cousin Sara, the guy in the mirror. Our society can be brutal and many people need help and the organizations who support those with PTSD can provide that help. And so can you by both donating time or money to one of the charities listed below or to a local organization that works with victims of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or by just reaching out to someone you know who shows the signs of PTSD and being willing to listen to them without judging.

We thank you, in advance, for your patience on Wednesday night. We know there will be a whole lot of tweeting coming from us. You could unfollow us for the night if you don’t want to listen in to our TwitterPlay but we hope you won’t. You could get annoyed and just unfollow us for good, we know that’s a risk but we hope you won’t. What we hope you will do is listen, learn and then reach out to someone who needs your help. We promise to return to tweeting  silly nonsense and True Blood related babble on Thursday. See you at the TwitterPlay!

VA Hospital in D.C.

To Learn More about PTSD or Donate:

MilitaryMentalHealth.org/

VA on PTSD

PTSD Family

RealWarriors

Nation Center for PTSD

Where to Get Help:

Gift From Within

Vietnam Veterans of America

To Donate VVA.org

Veterans Health Council

Veterans Support Foundation

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

(Image credit: TheGoldenSoldierProject.com)
BloodBites: http://truebloodontwitter.com/
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  • I don’t know how often this is checked, but The Mission Continues is a great non-profit aimed at getting vets volunteering in their communities. They’ve had some success at relieving symptoms of PTSD and are in the process researching the specific reasons why.

    I love Terry on True Blood, and I smiled a lot throughout this piece reading about the role-players. You guys are cute. 🙂