Insiders: The Struggles of Dealing with PTSD

Posted at 11:00 PM, Sep 03, 2015
and last updated 2017-12-13 05:24:31-05

TALLAHASSEE, FL (WTXL) -- Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, affects about eight percent of Americans, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

There's no cure for it, but finding treatment for those who have it is crucial and potentially life-saving.

At least half of us will go through at least one trauma in our lives, according to the National Center for PTSD. While that doesn't automatically mean someone will get PTSD, the truth is many people don't even realize they have it.

For Logan Earwood, riding horses is more than just a hobby. It's what he says helped save his life.

"These horses have helped me so many times," Earwood said. "I go out in the pasture when I can't sleep. Go out, pet a horse, and it calms me down, so I can relax."

The 22-year-old veteran was serving in Japan in 2011 when a massive tsunami devastated the country. He spent a year there, helping with relief efforts.

"When I got out of the military, I had drug addiction, suicidal ideations, PTSD, whole nine yards. And I felt like I was losing control of my life."

That's when Earwood sought out the Hopes and Dreams Riding Facility in Quitman. For seven years, owner Mike Randall has been helping veterans with PTSD through several forms of therapy, the primary one -- horse therapy.

"If you're in that mood when you're having anxiety and depression and you're feeling bad and all, they're gonna come right to you," Randall said. "They're gonna lay all over you. They're gonna push you around, trying to get you to ride them, because they know something's wrong, and they want to correct it."

Veterans are known to suffer from PTSD, but they're not the only ones. Family therapist Jane Marks says anyone can have the disorder, which typically happens months after a traumatic incident.

"For people experiencing PTSD, it just takes an event that somehow shatters our sense of safety and trust," Marks said.

Marks says feelings of depression and anxiety may not kick in immediately, but once they do, it's important to seek help.

"You don't have to feel that bad, and you don't have to feel that sense of being out of control or fearful," Marks said. "There are things that can be done to help ease those symptoms."

Easing those symptoms is Mike Randall's goal. He served during the Vietnam War and knows firsthand what veterans go through on duty.

"When you're in combat, and you see your friends die in front of you every day and you see some awful things that your mind can't comprehend, it just builds up and you can't sleep," Randall said. "You just keep seeing these flashbacks of really horrific things."

And it doesn't take much to relive those memories.

"A smell, a sound, seeing something, a gunshot, anything can trigger it," Randall said.

In 2015, a Valdosta veteran killed himself on the Fourth of July after hearing fireworks. 27-year-old Mike Kreft was a student at Valdosta State - an army combat veteran who visited Hopes and Dreams before. Randall says the fireworks drastically changed Kreft's behavior.

"The day before, this gentleman was very happy," Randall said. "He had his plans in front of him. He went to school. He had it all, and they couldn't figure out why he just flipped like that. Well, being out here, we've discovered some things we're trying to get them to research."

22. That's how many veterans with PTSD commit suicide every day, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Hopes and Dreams admits more resources are needed to keep this number from growing.

"It's very important right now, because there's not enough places out there," Randall said. "The VA is doing the best they can, but unless you've been down there where these boys have been, you ain't gonna figure it out."

The facility houses 12 vets. That's all they can accommodate. Randall gets calls from veterans from across the country, hoping to get help. He says there's a waiting list of at least 40 veterans.

That's why Earwood is so grateful. He came to Hopes and Dreams from California.

"This place is a life-changer," Earwood said. "It gives you the tools you need to overcome all the obstacles that you have, and I feel 100 percent confident that I'm going to be in the right direction for the rest of my life."

Randall says since Hopes and Dreams started, he's been called to intervene in 21 situations where a veteran has been suicidal. Fortunately, he says, he was able to stop all of them from going through with it. The facility has helped more than a thousand veterans since it opened.