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Friday, March 26, 2010


Hi, for those of you that don't know, I am recovering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Phew, I said it.

I saw a lot of violence growing up. My father wasn't the best. I lived through a lot as a kid. Years later, I faced pyschological violence in the workplace in Canada, and the combined effect was a disaster.

In military combat, 4% of soldiers having PTSD is the norm, but in Afghanistan its as high as 12%. With sexual assault victims, it's almost have. The incidence of trauma is higher when done to or in front of a child.

January, February, 2009, I got my life back together, started my own company. Before that, I attempted suicide twice, experienced depression, fury, shock, denial and a full range of symptoms. I would just sleep all day, as I was too tired to do anything else, and hoped, one day I'd die.

Post-traumatic stress is a normal human reaction for an abnormal situation. It doesn't mean than a person is crazy, unhealthy that they are seeing a psychiatrist. Rather, their mind is over-whelmed and over-stimulated. The best thing you can do is show kindness to a PTSD sufferer or survivor. Constantly tell them that their life means something, that you'll miss them if they are gone, and say a few kind words. You have fits of anger, sadness, etc. If they are angry, which is a normal symptom of PTSD, no matter what they say, give them a hug, and say that you understand they are upset, but you won't abandon them. The worst fear most PTSD suffferers have is the subconscious fear of abandonment. Reassure them that you won't abandon them and they will feel better. Even the most vicious anger of a PTSD sufferer ends quickly if you assure that you won't abandon them.

In this interview with CBC Radio's Michael Enright, an emotionally fragile Dallaire talks about his ongoing therapy, his suicide attempts, his faith in God and the weeks he spent "just crying, and yelling, and brooding."

The ghosts of Rwanda
• This clip from June 11, 2000, finds an audibly worn Dallaire at one of his lowest points in his battle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
• He describes obsessively eating junk food and working long hours without sleep.
• "You spend a lot of time just crying, and yelling, and brooding," he says of his syndrome. "It envelopes you."
• He also admits to attempting to suicide at least twice — adding that the only thing that stopped him from being successful was his own "incompetence." In addition to his attempt to crash his car on a highway he has also admitted to drunkenly trying to slash his wrists with a razorblade.

• With his 36-year military career having come to an end, Dallaire was telling people that he felt like school was finally out and he was enjoying a much-delayed summer vacation. But behind the scenes he was coping with an array of problems, from violent outbursts brought on by his memories of Rwanda, to several suicide attempts.
• In this interview he opens up about his troubles with PTSD, explaining how he lost his self-control and discipline after returning home.
• To hear Dallaire discuss the ongoing impact of PTSD on himself and his soldiers, listen to this additional clip.
• A heavily medicated Dallaire began the long process of psychiatric therapy in 1997, which helped him deal with the misunderstood condition of PTSD.
• "Shell shock" or "battle fatigue" was first diagnosed by British military doctors in 1914. Some thought it was brain damage caused by artillery shells bursting overhead; others thought it was simply cowardice.
• Today, the same condition is called post-traumatic stress disorder: when a witness or victim of something distressing is mentally or physically affected by their ordeal.
• To learn more about the effects of PTSD, watch this clip, "Veterans and post-traumatic stress."
• A week after this interview Dallaire, haunted by his failure in Rwanda, spiralled into a deep depression. On the night of June 20 he was found partially clothed, drunk and unconscious under a park bench in Hull, Que.
• A man who was walking through Jacques Cartier Park told a reporter that Dallaire was sitting on the bench for a while staring at the river. "You could see his eyes were glazed over, like he was somewhere else."
• Suffering from a reaction between his anti-depressants and the alcohol, Dallaire was rushed to a hospital where he nearly fell into a coma. The incident gained national headlines and generated a debate over PTSD.

• Dallaire said the event convinced him to start writing Shake Hands With The Devil, which marked the first step on his road to recovery.
• The bond between Enright and Dallaire stretches back to the early days of the Rwandan genocide, when the two would talk live on CBC Radio's As It Happens. Dallaire later joked that he made the show's producer read out the latest hockey scores before he would grant his interviews.

• In Shake Hands With The Devil Dallaire wrote "in our conversations, Enright became the voice of home to me."
The ghosts of Rwanda
Medium: Radio
Program: This Morning Sunday
Broadcast Date: June 11, 2000
Guest(s): Roméo Dallaire

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