Corpsman chief helps service members combat post-traumatic stress disorder

13 May 2011 | Lance Cpl. Victor Barrera

Post-traumatic stress disorder is something that countless service members face when they return from a deployment. However, many of them are afraid to admit they have PTSD to their family or chain-of-command.

Some think they will not be understood or they will be labeled an outcast. However, Chief Petty Officer Mischa Phillips, a hospital corpsman with the Labor and Delivery Section, Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune, understands their daily struggle all too well.

In November 2009, Phillips returned from Afghanistan and shortly after was diagnosed with PTSD, and her road to recovery has also led her into the paths of other service members who suffer from the disorder.

“It’s a battle every day and it’s something you can see in their eyes. It’s often how they carry themselves,” said Phillips. “It’s easier to talk to someone about the issues they face when they know you’re going through the same problems.”

Phillips talks to others who share her plight and encourages them to write what they are going through and feeling down onto paper. For those she has yet to meet, she encourages them to come forward.

“Many are scared of the stigma that is attached to it,” said Phillips. “They don’t want to be labeled ‘the crazy one’. For some, it’s the whole ‘you have to be tough’ mentality.”

However, before Phillips could start helping others, she had to help herself.

“My family thought I was a complete stranger,” said Phillips. “Just making progress makes me want to keep improving. At times you just need to swallow your pride and know that you’re affecting more people than just yourself.”

Phillips, who has been treated with both out-patient therapy and in-patient facilities, just starts talking to fellow services members, which she believes is something that always helps.

“It’s never going to be easy. At times you feel like no one can relate to you,” said Phillips. "I feel better, but I always have to remember I'm in recovery, because what you've been through is something that you'll never forget."

With writing down her thoughts and talking to service members, Phillips has gotten better.

“You’ll never be the same, it’s something you live with,” said Phillips. “You can never go back to how you used to be, but you learn to establish a new norm and slowly learn to live with it, but you know that you’re not alone.”