LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)— About seven or eight out of every 100 people will experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at some point in their lives. Michigan native Eric Calley, is one of those people. He battles PTSD every day.
“PTSD is three things that happen at once?”
Former Michigan Health Director Frank Ochberg is one of the Doctors who sat on a committee in the late 1970s and helped define PTSD. He says it’s three things that all happen at once.
- “The unwanted return to the scene of what’s happened.”
- “Being in this elevated state of awareness and arousal and it’s an uncomfortable state.”
- “A sad state in which you feel somewhat unworthy.”
At the age of 15, Eric Calley suffered his first trauma, three friends losing their lives in a drunk driving accident. A year later, his best would also die in a car crash. Both experiences would leave a lasting impact, one Calley himself wouldn’t realize until years later after he got back from serving in the Iraq war.
On September 11, 2001, like the entire world, Calley watched as planes flew into The World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. Like many, within weeks, he was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, and by September 11, 2002, he was overseas fighting for his country. An experience that would change his life forever.
“When you’re in a combat zone… it’s your life or theirs. You’re kicking down a door for an IED device maker which means there could be bombs locked to any door or a bad guy around the corner that you have to shoot point-blank… those kinds of things stick with you forever,” said Calley. “I remember going to East Baghdad… in this church, there were over 100 bomb vests and that’s when it really hit me that anything can happen at any time. It really puts you on edge when you find bomb vests that will fit a two-year-old kid, filled with ball bearings, C4 explosive, and a hand detonator”
Eric Calley returned to the U.S. in 2006 expecting to resume normal life, only his experiences made going back to “normal” an impossible task. “Normal” things like attending a fireworks display with his children on the Fourth of July, the sounds took him back overseas, to the battlefield.
From there, Calley turned to alcohol. A DUI charge in 2007 and suicidal thoughts soon followed. It wasn’t until a day of drinking led to him shooting a hole in the ceiling did he seek help.
“It is not curable, it will always be a part of your life, but it’s manageable.”
For treatment, Calley first spent time at a facility in Battle Creek, before later transferring to a rehabilitation center in Florida. That’s where he learned about Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR), A Psychotherapy based on the idea that negative thoughts, behaviors, and feelings happen because of unprocessed memories. It helped her come to terms with his diagnosis.
“Once you accept it yourself, it’s a lot easier to deal with.”
The treatment was helpful, he’s learned to keep himself busy so he doesn’t have too much time to think about the past. Calley also credits his being able to manage his PTSD, to his two service dogs.
“My two service dogs I had helped me throughout the last decade. I probably wouldn’t be talking with you today if it wasn’t for them…It would help me get out in public…taking the dog outside each day gives you a purpose… A lot of us who are lost, any kind of animal you have can help you through the roughest of times.”
“A common misconception is that its weakness”
Both Eric Calley and Doctor Ochberg hope their advocating will help de-stigmatize PTSD.
“A common misconception is that it’s a weakness. That there’s something weak about you if you develop this pattern after major trauma. It can happen to anybody.”Frank Ochberg, Former Michigan Health Director
“People aren’t going to think of you less, in fact, people probably think higher of you for going to receive help than receive no help at all because they look at it as like ‘at least he’s trying to get help’….and so that stigma of it’s not okay to ask for help, that’s gone.”Eric Calley
For Calley, he’s managing his PTSD. Days aren’t always easy, and some are harder than others, but he’s got a proper support system and is in a better place.
If you or someone you know is struggling, you can get mental health assistance by clicking here.
The number for the National for National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They’re committed to improving crisis services and advancing suicide prevention by empowering individuals, advancing professional best practices, and building awareness.
You can also find help by clicking here.