PTSD: A Chief's story

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Michael Brunin
  • 926th Wing

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- How do we handle post-traumatic stress disorder?


What is right?


What is wrong?


We can tend to look inside and say do I actually have it or am I just being weak? Pride is a good thing, but pride is also a killer when you have PTSD. When someone says PTSD we automatically think, “I wonder where they were deployed?” However, there are five main types of PTSD that effect the human psyche and we just don’t think about this until, sometimes, it’s too late.


Researchers speculate that, upon facing overwhelming trauma, the mind is unable to process information and feelings in a normal way. My overwhelming trauma was watching my son fight cancer. It was two full years of hell watching him go through things that a normal human being should not be going through. At the time I was like a robot and didn’t realize the damage that was being done to me. I had to stay strong. I was the leader of my family and by God I was not going to allow anyone to see weakness in myself. I bottled it up to a point that I was looking in the mirror and didn’t recognize the man looking back. I was in a dark place.


I remember as my son was gasping for his last breaths to try and stay alive I told him, “son I’m ok and I’ll make it, you go rest now and see God.” After he passed, I had so much hate and anger for God. I bottled it up to the point I wanted to die. I didn’t realize I had a form of PTSD and I had it bad.


I didn’t like who I was, so I started talking to priests and pastors and asking questions as to why would God take a child in such a vicious way? All said the same thing to me, “It’s God’s will.” I found myself in an area that I was spiraling more down and out than towards peace. You see with my particular form of PTSD I couldn’t find peace with God or accept why my son was taken. I hid it for the most part at work, but it was there like a demon in the night, always waiting on me to help me go down the dark hole and hate life.  


Two things happened to me that saved me; I met my future wife and I got an answer.


My wife was like an angel sent to me as a gift. She has this unique ability to get me to open up more than I have ever done with anyone else. She was able to get me to just talk to the point of tears. It was as if a weight on my soul was lifting and I was starting to find peace with my son being gone.


However, I still had a beef with God for his method of how he took my son; two years of hell. Why not just take him? You’re God after all? But, one day as I’m sitting in my office working away a new member of our Wing showed up at my door. He was like the wind. One second he was not there then the next bam there stood Chaplain Lt. Col. Rowley. He was a very soft-spoken man. He asked if he could step into my office and I said absolutely sir. We introduced ourselves. Then I posed the question that I always do with chaplains, pastors and priests. I was waiting for the typical stupid answer that had always followed when he shocked me with an answer that made me cry with tears of relief. It was amazing. He, in one quick swoop, took so much hurt away. At that moment, I had finally found my peace with God. That one moment in time was the healing I needed to help me completely move forward.


I talked with him many times after that, and eventually was able to completely drop my shield and open up more to others. The best part is I healed my relationship with God. Do I have any demons still there? I don’t feel any remorse towards God nor am I angry about my son passing these days. I do however hurt at times, but the demons are no longer in control of me.


Oh, that awesome blast of an answer that the “Wind” Lt. Col. Rowley gave me? For that, my friends you will have to come and have a chat with me. Can’t make it that easy.


I leave you with this. I have been so lucky to come from a large family. Not just the one I was raised in, but also the one I come to every day as well. If not for all of them, I would not be here today. My family, unit and friends have always been there for me to talk with and get me through my past of hard times. No one can truly understand the pain that someone else is really going through, for the human mind is a very fragile thing. Remember this. What might seem like nothing or trivial to you, might just be the breaking point to another. To be a good listener to a person in need could just potentially save a life.


Remember bottling it up fuels the demons that live in the dark and want you there with them, for it is pain they seek. There are so many avenues that are there to help. We have one life that we get to enjoy and to hurt inside for most of it is robbing you and the ones that love you.


PTSD Resources: