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Overcoming the trauma of war


Silouan Green is a service-disabled U.S. Marine, performer and creator of The Ladder, a multi-media program for helping troops and veterans engage and overcome PTSD and other trauma. Silouan travels around the country talking with Marines and soldiers.

I slept with a gun to my head. My finger was on the trigger. The barrel ground into my temple until I bled. Each morning, I would wake with my head stuck to my pillow by a bloody scab.

It had been 10 months since I was shattered in a jet crash that killed my co-pilot. We had ejected from a burning plane just a few feet from the ground. My life would never be the same again. I knew what it was like to live in hell. My relationship fell apart, my girl left, I got hooked on too many pain-killers and psych meds, and as I became more depressed, I worked out less, which in turn increased my pain.

Eventually, in a haze fueled by the drugs and insomnia, I began to have hallucinations. Pumping gas, I smelled the fuel and was transported back to the cockpit of a burning jet, coming to my senses only when the gas station attendant shook me awake with fuel spilling out of the tank onto my feet. I saw demons. I slept with my Smith and Wesson. I just wanted to die.

One woman changed my life, Dr. Gia Lanzano, an Air Force psychiatrist. I was incredulous at first; she didn't look like she belonged in the military, but she cared about me and helped me discover a new passion and purpose to live. It began with playing guitar and eventually led to the work I do today with our troops and veterans. But it took me years to admit to the hell I'd endured. I was ashamed. I felt like a failure of a Marine and a broken human being who didn't deserve redemption.

It's been years since I climbed up out of my black pit, and as I travel around the country meeting with our soldiers and Marines, I've learned I'm not alone. I began this journey after a man I visited in prison, serving a life sentence for double murder, asked me to contact his son. This young man had been a Corpsman with the Marines in the first Battle of Fallujah and he described to me the horror of house-to-house combat, the fear as bullets flew over his head and he entered homes engulfed in death.

When we met, he'd been out of the service for three months, couldn't hold a job, couldn't leave his room, and was dealing with the demons of PTSD. It was on that day, almost two years ago, that I vowed to go wherever I was needed, and to break down any wall to help those suffering from the same demons that had almost killed me.

If you are suffering from the demons of PTSD, it is no reason to be ashamed. We all sustain cracks in our protective shells as we go through life and sometime those cracks shatter us. I survived by using my demons as fuel to discover a new life. By sharing our experiences -- by helping others see that what they are experiencing is a normal reaction when life takes a flamethrower to humanity -- we can all overcome the cracks in our shells through passion and purpose.

I encourage you to share your own experiences, to ask how you can help your loved ones, to take the difficult steps through fear and despair to build a better life. Years ago, I realized I had a choice to either Live Free or Die. Thank God I chose to live. If you have felt or feel the same way, let us know about it.

You can share your experiences here on the comment boards below.

By Silouan Green  |  May 6, 2010; 12:00 PM ET
 
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Comments

I am fortunate enough to have seen Silouan speak/perform. He is incredibly inspirational both mentally and spiritually. Silouan stirs hope in the hopeless and provides guidance to the lost.

If you ever have the chance to see him perform live or read his book or listen to his CD... do it! You won't be disappointed.

Posted by: ScotchieIPA | May 6, 2010 11:13 PM | Report abuse

We commonly think of PTSD as only afflicting Marines and Soldiers exposed to the horrors of combat while serving in defense of our nation’s security interests. But trauma is a common human experience. Most of us will deal with the loss of a parent, sickness of a child, perhaps enduring unemployment or even getting cut off in traffic. There are various types and degrees of trauma, each of which has an effect on the “shell” Silouan so aptly describes. Some traumas leave a mark, others a crack. But each traumatic event weakens the protective coating until the shell breaks. “The Ladder” is Silouan’s roadmap that has led people from the depths of despair to a proverbial better place, anchored in Faith. Through his own epic struggles with the demons that plagued him, he has found a path from darkness into Light. He has graciously chronicled his personal ascent and shares his story with strangers who yearn for another taste of normalcy and redevelop a sense of purpose in life. There are lessons for us all in “The Ladder” and I urge people to use it’s simple approach to a better tomorrow. Those of us who have been spared a fracture in our shell may owe a debt to those who, in their sacrifice for the greater good, now have gaping holes in theirs.

Posted by: fmo3404 | May 7, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

I personally have seen Silouan speak to and counsel people in prison, including a maximum security facility. He is an amazing presence who changes lives. I have known few people more generous with their time or their heart, and I'm glad to see him in print here.

Posted by: mattrouge | May 7, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

MY Name is Cody Thueringer, I had the pleasure to meet Silouan Green at Ft Bragg. From that meeting a friendship which I am very greatful has developed. My issue is similar to Silouan's in that it wasn't in the middle of combat. I was a Medic that without too many details experienced a very tramatic call. The trigger however wasnt the injury the person I was working on had , the amounts of blood he lost or the chaos that surrounded the call. The trigger was simply a comment made to me by the PA. To this day that comment has haunted me everyday and everynight. Shortly after that call my brain trying to bring closer to the incident and the comments made started to replay the incident over in my sleep. I would dream all night about the incident like a video on replay it would start from the moment we arrived on the scene to the time we dropped him off at the hospital. Than it would strat over again. each time trying to change something here or there to somehow change the outcome but never accomplishing it. Despression started to set in. The dreams affected my sleep my relationships and my whole life. I began to have sucidial thoughts not to hurt anyone but to only stop the dreams, thoughts and the guilt. I also had flashbacks one while driving where I had to stare throught my patients face for over 6 hours. I felt my life slipping away the pit getting deeper and darker, but thank god for my experience as a Firefighter/medic because without the knowledge and incidents of suicide I wouldnt be here. I was not going to be someones patient and burden, that simple motivation is what helped me climb out of this pit. I set small goals Like if I can make it to breakfast, than can I make it to lunch. Slowly I began to climb the LADDER out of the pit. Everyday though the fear of falling into that black hole exsists. I question myself getting back on the ambulance and even working in the medical field just because of the unknow. The fear of that black place is there always. I am a survivor of PTSD and major depression disorder even though some days are hard I am here because of myself, the knowledge to get help, and those like Silouan and the unnamed counslors that have helped me.

Posted by: cody_thueringer | May 14, 2010 1:01 AM | Report abuse

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