As I have reported before in this blog, I exchange letters with a man in prison. We began writing back and forth three years ago when he read my novel, The Trion Syndrome, about a Vietnam vet with Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI). He was moved by it. He told me he suffers from PTSI from combat in Vietnam. As I learned later, PTSI may have been a factor in the crime that landed him in prison.
As time went on, I noted this man’s talent for writing. I encouraged him to write for publication. When he did, I submitted his articles. One has now been published; a second has been accepted for publication. Eventually, I urged him to write about PTSI which we both suffer from. It took him a year to do it, but he finally did. I’m now circulating that article to periodicals. I’m sure one will accept it.
This man, like other veterans I spend time with, is my brother. A fraction of 1 percent of the American population has seen combat and understands the damage it can do to the soul. The panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares, irrational rages, and depression characteristic of PTSI don’t fade with time; the victim has to learn to cope. It turns out that writing down what happened to injure the psyche is one of the most effective ways to deal with PTSI. I discovered that remedy early on. These days, thanks to facing my memories head on and writing down what happened, I manage. And that writing became the raw material for my novels and stories.
But my friend in prison didn’t have writing to turn to. He struggled through the malady alone. I admire him for his strength and courage in facing the disease without flinching but especially for his positive outlook in the face of disaster. A parole board will reconsider his case later this year. My hopes are up. And my heart is with him.