Northeast Kansas veterans battle PTSD for different reasons

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Kevin Walker is a combat veteran from Junction City, who suffered a major injury in Iraq when he was hit by an IED in 2004.

“In May of 2004 my platoon was out on a patrol and we went to a turnaround point, headed back, and that’s when my vehicle was hit by an IFD.  One by one shrapnel went through my window and hit me in the right side of my nose, into my right eye, and into my brain. A loud noise that I am not prepared for, it scares me. Because I think of an explosion,” explains Walker.

Ed Decock is a veteran from Topeka with PTSD.  But he says his anxiety doesn’t come from combat but from being abused by those close to him.

“Basically the only things my father ever really taught me was how to fight,” says Decock.

Ed says years of abuse led him to a lifetime of alcohol and substance use, and eventually to a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dr. Kirsten Watkins, a psychologist and admissions coordinator for the Stress Disorder Treatment Unit at Topeka’s Veteran Affairs Hospital says, “The primary symptoms of PTSD are re-experiencing, where you are experiencing the trauma again and again in the present. Increased physiological arousal, where your body is kind of jacked up and keyed up. Avoidance behaviors. Anything to avoid thinking or feeling anything about the trauma. And shifts in a negative way about how you think and feel.”

Shelley Endsley-Killinger a Clinical Social Worker for Valeo Behavioral Health Care in Topeka explains PTSD as, “a physic injury.  It can take a long time for symptoms to fully play out, it can be years. You may see something that triggers you and didn’t realize.”

Kevin and Ed are successfully working through their PTSD today, after reaching out for help and talking about it.

“You can’t change anything that happened. You just have to work through it,” says Walker.

Ed completed the 7 week Stress Disorder Treatment Unit Program at Topeka’s VA Hospital, coming out of it a different person.

“I spent so many years being angry and using drugs and alcohol to cope and try and deal with these demons that i had inside me.  And now I don’t have to do that anymore,” remarks Decock.

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