Vets with PTSD Require Family Education and Patience

Cheyenne Forsythe and Joy Finley share a quiet moment on a Pinellas County beach.
TAMPA (2011-8-23) -

Army mental health specialist Cheyenne Forsythe was trained to help combat troops in Iraq deal with the onset of Post Traumatic Stress. Yet, he didn't notice his own signs of PTSD after surviving an IED blast and returning home from Iraq.

His erratic behavior due to the PTSD helped to break up his first marriage something he's working hard to avoid with his fiancé Joy Finley.

“My lowest point was when I was sitting in a cell in Killeen, Texas after I had been arrested for domestic violence,” Forsythe said, “From there, I had to change, I had to do something, I had to address the issue.”

He was arrested for hitting his former wife with a flip-flop. “I had lost control,” Forsythe said. “It was like I was watching myself and I couldn’t stop myself and I wasn’t there, I was on autopilot.”

Forsythe did not tell police that he had just returned from Iraq, instead Forsythe chose to “admit my guilt and get on with it.”

Getting on with it meant getting help for his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Forsythe is sharing such personal details now in the hope of helping other returning veterans who may be living with PTSD symptoms, yet unaware.

“There’s thousands of veterans who are misunderstood right now because of what they went through because of our policies in the Middle East,” Forsythe said. “We have to be honest with ourselves what war and combat does to human beings. It dehumanizes human beings.”

Forsythe said the hardest part of dealing with his PTSD is trying to get his family to understand his behavior. They’re reaction was to ostracize him. But, Forsythe is slowly educating his family and friends about PTSD. Education and patience are his recipe for bringing family back together. That and “getting the help that you deserve.”

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was part of Forsythe’s discussion with his new fiancé, Joy Finley, a USF graduate student.

“This is not anything that is foreign to me,” Finley said. “My father was diagnosed with PTSD and bipolar disorder. So, I think we understand the extremity of it and we know that Cheyenne is far from that extremity.”

Turning to her fiancé during the radio interview, Joy took Cheyenne’s hand and addressed him directly ... “to your credit, I think that you’ve come a long way in dealing with it. It’s really a testament that PTSD can be healed and to me that’s the most important message out of all of this.”

The couple plans to finish college before getting married.
This story is part of WUSF’s Off the Base series that focuses on the stresses and successes of military families living with multiple deployments. You read more about PTSD and Cheyenne Forsythe’s journey to educate others at offthebase.org.

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