Recreation Therapy for Managing PTSD

I spent a year in Iraq in an intense environment with a combat engineer unit while serving in the US Army. We built the beginnings of a more secure and pleasurable base for the soldiers that were to follow us. Pressure to be a female leader, consistently produce and work hard, without reserve, was constant factor. You can read about my true story here.

Thankfully that daunting journey was over after one year and my commitment for the Army had expired. However, I was to come home a different person. Certainly more grateful of the small things our amazing country is plentiful of. Although it was a a short lived high, I literally wanted to kiss the ground when I landed state side permanently. Then came the question, what’s next? 

I decided to finish my degree but didn’t have a clear career direction. I consulted my best friend from childhood via phone. Cyndi knew me better than my husband at the time. She knew I was fearless, full of life, and always seeking a good time. I loved being around people and talking about deep aspects of life.

The humbled survivor in me, revealed how I would like to care for soldiers. I had lamented how lucky I had been for coming home unscathed, with all limbs.  With her intuitive suggestion, I went into Recreation Therapy.

But having the courage to help myself would prove to be most of the battle. Whether she knew it or not, I was just pretending to be that same ole person. I started losing that fearless girl the day I found out I was to be deployed to Iraq. I all but lost that tenacious life after being there just a few short weeks.


Returning home I was scared to death of everything. It just all felt so damn hard. I’m a Mississippian with a heavy accent, that had come home to the US, no support and still newly married to New Jersey (New York City metropolitan area). Of all places in the US, the Army could have placed my husband as an Army recruiter, it was there. It was the busiest, most short tempered, cultured click place on earth. And I felt I had to fight to fit in there too.

After having been unsuccessful to conceive for many months with my husband before I left for Iraq, I miraculously became pregnant right after I returned home. I had an extremely difficult and stressful pregnancy. I had become pre-eclamptic and in the end, I stayed in the hospital for a week that  eventually led an emergency C-section. Between the severe panic attacks and the improper epidural, I couldn’t breathe, so had to be intubated and put under. The thing that set me over the edge was not being able to see my son for hours after. 

To sum ot up, traumatic stressors and so much time spent in isolation over there, set me up me for a very difficult pregnancy. Subsequently a first time mother of a premature baby. I nearly had a nervous breakdown.


So I let the dog raise him. Kidding. My son, was the only motivation to get off the couch for a very long time.

It was all so much to handle. I was miserable, but asking family members to help was out of the question. I was angry all of the time. I developed severe anxiety, bouts of depression and lived with nearly daily debilitating migraines. It took me a long time to admit it, even to myself that I had PTSD.

Ironically, I was going to college for my BA in Therapeutic Recreation and in the midst of earning a Psychology minor. I don’t know how I did it besides drive for my child. Although my drive was filled by anger and it was so difficult, it turned out to be an expensive and long road, but the catalyst to recovery.  If I hadn’t understood and managed my symptoms, I would be in jail or an insane asylum. Going to school for recreation therapy changed the trajectory of my life. 

Recreation Therapy is similar to Art Therapy in that is involves art along with many other leisure and recreation tools as therapy. It’s a bridge between physical and art therapy and talk therapy. The programs are set to work therapeutically to help with social, mental, physical, and emotional disabilities.



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