The Second Thing: Living and Thriving with PTSD

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I wanted to take some time to reflect on the struggle I have had with chronic PTSD following my tour in Iraq.

For years, PTSD dominated my life, in fact it almost defined who I was. The nightmares, night terrors, anxiety, depression, occasional thoughts of suicide, and so many other effects of it were often almost more than I could bear. But over the past few months, beginning with an existential crisis around Easter, I think I have turned a corner. 

I have quoted James Spader’s character Raymond Reddington from the television series The Blacklist. Reddington told an FBI agent who had seen his fiancée murdered: “There is nothing that can take the pain away. But eventually, you will find a way to live with it. There will be nightmares. And every day when you wake up, it will be the first thing that you think about. Until one day, it’s the second.” 

For me, my time in Iraq haunted me. It was the first thing that I thought of when I got up, when I went to bed, and so many times during the days, and through the sleepless nights. It still is there, I left part of me in Al Anbar Province and brought part of it back with me. That will not change, but it is no longer the first thing that I think about. 

That my friends is a turning point. I still suffer in many ways from the effects of PTSD and mild Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI, but while they are a big part of me, they do no longer define who I am. Iraq is no longer the first thing that I think about, and that my friends is important. It has taken over eight years, and yes, I still deal with the effects, but they don’t define who I am. I am a priest, a chaplain, a historian, a theologian, a husband, and a career military officer; not to mention daddy to two very sweet and smart Papillons. 

Indeed, there is nothing that can take the pain away, but for me, it is now the second thing. For me, that is a victory. 


Padre Steve+ 



Filed under mental health, Military, PTSD

3 responses to “The Second Thing: Living and Thriving with PTSD

  1. Of all the differing blessings, the one you have received is great, grand, a wonder, and sometimes if it still is a miracle. You’ve crossed the hardest part. May God have a continued and even better relationship. Blessings!

  2. Defining yourself as a person with PTSD is something that happens very quickly because it has such a major influence and emotional impact on your personal and family live. Existential questions and doubts arise.

    I recognize a lot what you are writing here. I don’t have PTSD but since I was about twelve years old I have OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). In a few weeks I celebrate my 60th birthday. So it is something that literally controls my life.
    Since a few weeks I manage, baby-steps,to see myself more as a person. That OCD is not defining me.

    How hard the road was and still is for the both of us, how much it has took from us, it also did learn us to be a better human being.
    That is the positive I do acknowledge.

    I am glad to hear that you are doing well

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