The Herald Bulletin

Midday Update

Community

August 3, 2013

Battle buddies

Service dog helps veteran with PTSD

PENDLETON, Ind. —

Fourth of July fireworks were not a light-hearted summer activity for Chris Brenneman.

Going to the store or being in a crowd were almost unthinkable.

Even going to sleep could not be counted on for rest — because it often led to violent nightmares.

“I woke up swinging,” Brenneman said.

Brenneman, 43, served in the Army from 1989 to 1996. After being medically discharged, he eventually came to understand – the hard way – that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. After a long road back, Brenneman was able to enjoy the once-dreaded fireworks this summer with his family for the first time in years. He's got a Labradoodle named Reubin firmly at his side to help him along that road.

Now, Brenneman is stepping up to help educate others and to help them find their way out of the labyrinth of PTSD.

Inside the PTSD box

While everyone knows what’s it’s like to feel stressed after a traumatic event, persons who suffer with PTSD may face a debilitating struggle.

After suffering the trauma of combat, or rape, or a disaster, a person can be stuck in a box filled with nightmares or flashbacks. They may be unable to handle crowds or drive a car. Inability to concentrate or sleep, irritability and anger are part of the mix. It’s a dangerous world to people suffering from PTSD, and they live warily in a place in which they can feel increasingly isolated, depressed or angry.

“They go in a box,” said Brenneman’s wife, Melissa. She knows because she witnessed it up close and personal.

“It’s a major problem. It’s very tenacious,” said licensed clinical psychologist Dr. David Tarr, recently retired as coordinator of the PTSD clinical team at the Richard L. Roudebush Veterans Administration Medical Center in Indianapolis. At the same time, Tarr said, the reaction is basically a normal response. He described the main mechanism at work in PTSD as avoidance.

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