Dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

The following letter to Canada’s Minister of Veterans Affairs Canada is written by Robert Simpson. His description of what it is like to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the most heart-wrenching I have read. The irony is that he served on peacekeeping missions. BONNIE
To: the Honourable Mr. Blackburn
Minster Of Veterans Affairs Canada
From: Robert Simpson
I am a Disabled Veteran. I suffer from PTSD:
Minster, I am writing you today about the terrible effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This wound has terrible effects on those of us who suffer from it. It is worse than losing a limb. In fact, Minister, it can be worse than two missing limbs. It is a proven fact that PTSD leads to heart attacks, which rob us of the jobs we’ve fought so hard to hold despite of the crippling effects of PTSD. Many have killed themselves to stop the hellish nightmares.I served in the Reserve force until 1976, then the regular forces from Oct 1976 until medically released in June 1980. During this time I was a member of the Ontario Regiment in Reserves.
During my time with Reserves, I was shot point blank in the helmet on the pistol range. A few days later, I experience two grenades thrown into my pit, then a grenade dropped at my feet. Also in Aug of 1975, I fought a forest fire at CFB Petawawa in which we were cut off by the fire and I had to call in water bombers on to our position while standing in the Petawawa River.
During basic training in 1976/77, I had a member turn around on the rifle range with a fully loaded C2 on automatic. He was disturbed and the weapon was only 18 inches from my face. I was able to talk this person into putting the weapon on safe at which time I disarmed him. After basic training, I was posted to the 8th Canadian Hussars in Petawawa. During that time I became an original member of the 3rd Special Service Force in 1977.
From Oct 1978 until April 1979, I served in Cyprus. During that tour I was wounded several times. I was in hand-to-hand combat on a number of occasions starting with the Battle of Fort Worthington, our third night on tour. In this battle, I was pulled from my bed by Turkish Commandos. The only other Canadian and myself fought our way through the dark house to the rifle rack only to find our weapons locked up. While my smaller partner called on the radio for help from the main body, I fought off the attackers by myself defending a doorway. After we had cleared the house and help had arrived, I was lead to a shower to clean myself, as I was coated head to foot with blood. They had to see if in fact I had been wounded. While I did suffer some light cuts, most of the blood was from the attackers.
Several weeks later, we were told that 40 Turkish Commandos entered the house that night, with the intent of taking us prisoner to find out who we were and then to dispose of us in the buffer zone ( IE kill us). I was then told what the captured Turk said. “That big devil killed 8 of our soldiers.”
Since that battle I have been unable to sleep without a light on as the nightmares and flashbacks come in the dark and I cannot tell if it is real life or the nightmares. I am happy to say that Thanks to the OSI Clinic in London, Ontario, I am finally able to sleep without a light most nights.

However, the flashbacks of being covered in blood haunt me to this day. I see myself covered in blood all the time; as well I relive that battle and others which happened during my tour. Sadly my wife has had to see me suffer from the flashbacks and nightmares of this tour of duty. Also we found a dead family of six including about an 18-month-old little girl whom I carried out of the house near OP Irish Bridge.

I’ll skip forward to the last two weeks of my tour. On the way out to the East line, we heard what sounded like firing. My Sgt. yelled, “Sniper. engage! ” To my horror, there was a young boy approximately six-years-old with a cap gun just 30 feet away. I had taken up first pressure and my rifle was then in effect on a hair trigger. Somehow I managed to not squeeze off that shot. I would not have missed at that range. In early 1991, I lost a son who was just eight years and not quite a month old. For the last three years of his short life, I saw that child via the sight of an FN C1 rifle. What a way to remember your dead son!

I was also shot in January 1979. Luckily it was a spent round and only pieced my arm a slight distance in. Once more lucky.

What I am trying to tell you, Minister, is that the wound of PTSD is horrible in its effects on us. We fight each day for self-control so as not to lash out at those around us, to control ourselves in a crowd. We are always on alert for sudden movements or sounds. During our waking hours, we suffer flashbacks and also sleep is often not a blessing nor restful. We know not of peace and quiet, but the constant vision of war.

The effects of all of this can cause massive heart attacks, which rob us of the chance to work. Suicide is what some of us turn to to end the hell. As well we turn to booze or drugs to stop the torment. This I call tell you offers but a few hours of peace while we are passed out. It only get worse when we awaken again.

We only receive little income, yet we suffer as much as a person who loses a limb. I’d like you to try to live on less than $1,400.00 per month. I use to make $25.00 per hour.

I would not wish this hell which I go through on my worst enemy. They say they cannot make it go away. All I ask is that you at least let me live in comfort, above the poverty line. I kept my part of the deal Minister… I served where you sent me, under the conditions of that area of operation. It was a war zone, not a special duty area. The deal was I do what you order me to do and if I can no longer do my job, you would take care of me. I kept my part of the deal. I served in a hell hole. When will Ottawa keep their part?

PTSD is living always in hell with a continuous running of that hell which we served in. I with unloaded rifle was forced to use only my fists and boots and a pick handle against armed troops. As well we did not receive any UN pay. It was split between the Turks and Greeks. Minister, I was shot in Jan 1979. I feel that I paid for the bullet which violated my body. When it came time to receive my medal, it was tossed to me by a hungover officer after double duty on OPs ( 16 hours), not pinned on my chest like the majority of my unit. Many wrongs have been visited on me, a Nobel Peace Prize winner. I did not see any Peace during my tour, only war, and I don’t know any now. It will end when I die…. I hope.

We don’t ask for much, just what was promised: a proper amount of pension for the rest of our lives, treatment for our wounds and respectful treatment of us.

I am more than willing to come to Ottawa to speak to any Veterans committee hearing or even you. I am more than willing to speak about PTSD and its effects as well as the treatment I receive. Also the lack of pensions. Please understand, Minister, I am thankful for all the help Veterans affairs Canada has given me. I would point out that Colleen Garlough of the Windsor Office has helped me so much. I am lucky to have had her looking after me. From others, I hear of VAC workers who are not as helpful. To best serve a Veteran, you need to have Veterans manning those VAC offices.

Canadian Soldiers are the best in the world. While the new charter has done some really good things for Veterans, it needs to be changed to lifetime pensions for us and at a decent level of income. More treatment centers like Parkwood are needed.

In closing, I’d love to see my pension fixed to a lifetime pension and improved treatment for the hellish wound called PTSD. I did as Ottawa commanded. Please in return give us livable pensions and good treatment for our wounds, both the physical as well as the terrible wounds to our minds. Help Canadians before helping other countries. We are owed that courtesy.

Also minister I speak not only of myself… but for the 10s of thousands of men and women of the Canadian Forces who have and do serve this great country called Canada. The people of Canada walk everyday in peace and safety far from the horrors of war and strife. Why? Because we left these shores to ensure that war never visits this country’s shores, but is fought many miles away.

We served and kept our part of the deal. It’s time Ottawa keeps their part. It is a national shame that Canada’s Veterans live in squalor without a roof over their heads or food to eat. We suffer greatly. Too many have died at their on hand because the was no treatment or that treatment was slow to come. As well, because we were unable to work, there was no money to keep us fed and housed in comfort, which we earned the right to. We freely served only to be left without the means to live with dignity for the rest of our years. It is time to right this wrong, here now, today.

God Bless Canada and her Soldiers and Veterans!

Robert Simpson
cc MP Bev Shepley

20 Responses to Dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

  1. Rob Simpson is forming a support group for vets in his area. Here is his announcement. BONNIE

    Up date about the OSISS support group which I am forming. I had a meeting with Padre Horrobin of First Baptist Church. Our group will be meeting there as well he is going to be our Padre. We are planning on a meeting after Easter likely early May 2011. You will hear more info on this site as well as on 99.1 FM as they are going to help get the word out. I am hoping to get the help of local newspapers to cover this as well. One of the reasons of using a Church is the fact it is without booze and a good Christian setting. We are working out all the details for the first meeting as it will be a learning experience for all. We will discuss which direction and how we wish to go foreward. I’m looking to hold the meetings on a Wednesday evening at the Church. As I said more info to follow as it becomes known. If you wish to contact me before the meeting then please e-mail me I hope to hear from you all. This group will be open to any Veteran and their family from anywhere. It will include Canadian, USA, British, Polish or any Allied Veteran as well if you wish a family member, but no children please.

  2. Bonnie Toews says:

    Rob Simpson explains more about his support group:

    OSSIS stands for “Operational Stress Injury Social Support.” It’s Veterans coming together in fellowship to support each other and to do social activities. As well, we’ll be having speakers from Veterans Affairs Canada, the OSI clinic and I hope a rep from OSISS in London from time to time to tell all about what help there is out there for the Veterans both treatment and how and where to apply for pensions. I intend to go one better and include wives, girlfriends. But no children at this time. There is nothing like this west of London, Ontario. I feel the time is right, the place is right and Padre Horrobin and I feel we’re the right two to do it. I will shortly include my phone number as well for contact. It takes a Vet to help a Vet with this horrible wound. Simply because we’ve all been there, done that and know better then anyone else what is going on inside that person. Thanks for posting my stuff.

  3. David Desjardins CD says:

    People need to be made to realize that PTSD/OSI’s, have such a greater effect on not only the individual diagnosed with the injury, but their whole family dynamic, and social network. When I was eventually diagnosed, with PTSD, not only was my life falling apart, but, I was totally ostracizing, my family and friends as well. I wanted nothing to do with my kids, common discussions over everyday topics resulted in arguments. To say it was dicey is an understatement.

    I do have to thank what ever divine powers is out there for my wife and her unerring support throughout the years. She is by far a stronger person than me, and, has put up with more than any person should have ever been subjected to. As a result, coupled with constant therapy, and the mitt full of meds we are a cohesive family unit again, not without our trials and tribulations, but we cope. My “invisible injury” remains a constant challenge, much more so than my physical disability, and, dealing with veterans affairs, although, seemingly getting better, still is a task better left for a “good day”. It take people like Robert Simpson, to stand up and make these issues known. Especially to those who will never put themselves in a position to have to worry about PTSD or related injuries.

    Families, although never having been put in a position to sustain an OSI, are just as much victim to the injury as the sufferer. Some come out stronger, some, not so much.

    Thanks Robert, you’re not alone in your efforts.

    Dave Desjardins CD

  4. Bonnie Toews says:

    David, thanks for pointing out the other victims of vets’ post operational stress are wives and families because it’s the ones with whom we feel the safest that we also release our anger and frustration. All these things have a ripple effect stemming from the cause.


  5. Steve says:

    To All the Vets suffering with PTSD, Check out this facitily . HOMEWOOD health care center in Guelph Ontario, they have a program for PTSD. I Have completed the 8 week program twice along with other soliders and it was a life saver. The staff and other patients really get it there, it was a life saver.

    • Bonnie Toews says:

      Steve, I will certainly check it out and add to our blog roll of programs available to veterans suffering from PTSD. Thanks for bringing HOMEWOOD to our attention.


    • Anna says:

      My husband is at Homewood and they tell him they cannot help him learning new mechanism to cope with symptoms! What? Because he might be going back to war they are saying he should not be there! My trust is very low for that facility. It takes special trained people to work with military to at least understand what goes through their mind. A staff told my husband he was there because he was crazy!!!! She said “isn’t why you are here?” I am not sure Homewood have the people trained for that. But I havent been there myself.

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  8. zygor says:

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  9. Anna says:

    Well said. My husband is a military and has PTSD too. The clinics that are supposely trained with dealing with this apparently cannot help him. They are trained for retiring members and dont learn how to cope with PTSD for serving members. Im from a police force and also have PTSD following the murder of one of our member. Reaching out for help is already hard and takes lots of strenghts. Facilities which understand military reality and its PTSD is overly missing. After giving up such a life to the force the least we all expect is good support which respect the gift of such a life and yes, a decent pension. Military works so much for the safety and freedom of this country that the least we can do is giving them some peace of mind!

    • I couldn’t agree with you more, Anna. Are you on Facebook? There are groups formed there of current members and vets dealing with PTSD and other related problems. They help each other, and in many ways it works because they all know what they’re dealing with. Helping each other gets them to talk about it — to open Pandora’s Box — and they teach each other coping methods and share what programs have actually worked for them. Women somehow are expected to heal themselves. Often we do because we have no choice. I understand what you have suffered as a policewoman as well. At least you can better understand what your husband is suffering and be able to observe that a facility like Homewood is not the answer for everyone. I have found with dealing with institutions (on my husband’s behalf) that those few who do not fit into their square pegs become lost in the shuffle — literally, they are ignored and left unattended. So much needs to be done and so few to do it.

      God bless you both, Anna.


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  11. Robert Schnurr says:

    I would just like to let our members of the military know that psychological services are available in every city in Canada for those in need. All that is required is a referral from a family physician to a psychologist of your choice. The psychologist then conducts a brief assessment and forwards this to Veterans Affairs for review and approval of treatment. So far I have not had any problem in getting the necessary funding for treatment whether this is for chronic pain, PTSD, depression, substance abuse, or other psychological issues. Your family physician may know a psychologist in your area or you can call one through the yellow pages and ask about treatment. In the London area I can be reached at 519-858-0491 if you need more information.

    All the best,

    Dr. Robert Schnurr, c. psych.

  12. Thank you, Dr. Schnurr. I am reposting your information on the veterans’ electronic message board. If you would like to contribute an article relating to this, I would be happy to post it. Comments don’t get the same attention as the main blog.


    • Robert Schnurr says:

      Thanks Bonnie. I will give this some thought and see if I have anything new to say. There is so much good stuff written on this site and we don’t need me to repeat it or perhaps do a worse job of saying what has been said so thoughtfully. It does dishearten me when I hear and read over and over that our soldiers are not getting the help that they need. I know that the OSI centres are there to help but a lot of people seem to be slipping through the ever larger cracks for whatever reason.


  13. This is sadly true. And the dilemma of homeless vets is growing across the country. Soldiers’ reluctance to talk about what they are suffering is a big part of the problem. This is why Jim Lowther and his V.E.T.s organization go out looking for homeless vets. These battered souls have lost their way and with it have lost the ability to seek help when they need it the most.

    Thanks for commenting here, Robert, and letting us know you are one more who cares about our vets.


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