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:
- PTSD Coach Online and the award-winning PTSD Coach mobile app, which provide symptom-management strategies. The app is always with you when you need it.
- Continuing Education opportunities for providers, including PTSD 101 Courses, on the best practices in PTSD treatment (CEs/CMEs offered)
- Whiteboards: short animated videos to learn about PTSD and effective treatments.
- For continued involvement, please subscribe to the PTSD Monthly Update. Stay up to date on new information about PTSD and trauma year round.
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.