“I made it!” Massachusetts Veteran with PTSD turns his life around

A PTSD Awareness Month success story



In observance of PTSD Awareness Month: June 2015, VAntage Point, in collaboration with VA’s National Center for PTSD, presents the following profile of a Veteran with PTSD who turned his life around with treatment.


Rich Adams was assaulted while in the Navy and retreated into a life of shame and anger. Treatment, he said, made him “a good human being.”

“I have a great life. I really do,” he said. “To see my granddaughter, I take the trolley to North Station, and then I take a train from there to Lowell. But years ago, taking the trains and buses, they were awful.”

Back then, Adams couldn’t take being in crowded places like trains because of his PTSD. “Sometimes I’d have an anxiety attack,” he said. “And then when it stops at the next stop I would get off. I’d be sweatin’ and everything. Sometimes I’d even start talking to myself on the train, it was crazy. I mean, I’d yell, ‘Hurry up, open up, open up this door!’ you know. And someone on the train says, ‘Hey, what’s wrong with you?’ And I’d turn around and say, ‘I’ll come over and kill you, you son of a bitch!’”

While serving in the Navy during the Vietnam War, Adams was robbed and sexually assaulted in the Philippines. “When I got back on the ship, I didn’t tell nobody, so I just kept it that way. And that really kind of screwed my head up, you know? Because I became a very angry guy. I mean, I’d get in fights. I’d go into a bar room, you know, hit a guy with a bottle over the head if he looked at me wrong. When I was doing it, it was like, ‘I really don’t care what others think. I don’t care what my family thinks.’ The pain inside, it just tears at you. Not just at your insides, but in your mind, too, like there’s no way out. You know, either I’m going to kill myself or someone’s going to kill me.”

Then Adams went to a VA shelter in Boston, which led to his receiving counseling from a VA mental health clinician.

“First I said, ‘What’s PTSD?’ he recalled. “And she says, ‘Posttraumatic stress disorder.’ I say, ‘Sounds like something I could have.’ It was healing for me, talking to my counselor, because I thought I did something wrong. And talking to her about it, it’s just, I more or less felt that I didn’t do anything wrong. I was a victim, and I was. I was ashamed. And I’m not ashamed today, you know? She was a big help.”

Adams doesn’t get into fights anymore, and his life has turned around dramatically in other ways.

“I can converse with people better,” he said. “I can talk to people. I don’t have to make believe I’m someone that I’m not, you know. I’m just Richie Adams, you know, recovering alcoholic and addict, Vietnam Vet, who already went to hell and came back. I’m content, I love people, I go out. I walk if I want to walk down to the store, grab a newspaper, read the paper, do a crossword puzzle. And I look around and I say, ‘Man, I can’t believe this…I made it! I’m a human being today, a good human being.’ You know, I wish I knew I had this earlier, but I always believe that everyone finds out about themselves sooner or later in life. And it’s never too late, you know?”

For more information on PTSD and ways to raise awareness of this mental health problem during June and throughout the year, professionals and members of the public can visit the National Center for PTSD website, This site offers resources such as:

For more on Rich Adam’s story, and the story of other Veterans who have found ways to live with PTSD, visit AboutFace, an online video collection of Veterans talking about PTSD and how treatment can turn your life around.

 


This article was written for VAntage Point by George Decker and Vicky Bippart.

 

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. Amy Sprague    

    What an amazing story. Inspiring. I have ptsd too and I have the highest respect for our vets fighting through their trauma. Our trauma. War. Thank you for sharing Rich.

  2. Peter Robinson    

    Hello, I am just now relating to other vets w/PTSD. I relate w/Adams’ story in the Phillipines. I might have been one of those guys in his bar fights. I became an alcoholic and addict in the Philippines in 71 also. I went to Treatment @ Menlo Park VA, but the program was a joke. I now am seking treatment here in Roseburg, OR to deal with my triggers. Since I got this laptop I can follow the PTSD websites. I have one hell of a PTSD exprience story of over 40 years with prolonged exposure. My experience with the VA claims for compensation has been a nightmare in itself. Like a hamster on a wheel going nowhere fast. Well thanks for all the support. Someday I will get well, like Adams did. Thanks.

  3. Jerry Richard Weaver    

    Great story and it gives me hope that I’ll make a full recovery sooner than later. Most people cant comprehend the suffering that a person goes through both mentally and emotionally, its a roller coaster ride most days and often leads a person to a solitary lifestyle away from those you care about, it changes you as a person and the way you view the world. Great story Rich and glad your doing better, keep up the good work

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