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H&HS Marine continues battle against post-traumatic stress disorder

By Sgt. Rebecca S. Newton | | April 28, 2005

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Sgt. Terrance A. Beadles of Phoenix, Ariz., is a six-foot, two-inch, 200-pound Primary Marksmanship Instructor at the Marksmanship Training Unit who earns first-class scores on his physical fitness tests. He is quick to smile, quick to lend a hand, and quick to give everything he has to his job and his fellow Marines. His coworkers at MTU describe him as 'hilarious' and 'extremely knowledgeable.'

He is what most Marines want to be -- dedicated, respected and well liked.

In August 2002 he deployed with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, a deployment that would end up in Iraq until May 2003. Sgt. Terrance A. Beadles is still dealing with the results of that deployment. Two months ago he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"It started soon after I came out of Iraq -- the nightmares and cold sweats and violent awakenings," Beadles said.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is psychological stress marked by hypersenses and hypervigilence, said Navy Lt. Melissa D. Hiller, clinical psychologist, Branch Medical Clinic.

Symptoms also include feelings of detachment, a reduction in the normal range of emotions, and flashbacks.

It is a disorder affecting dozens in Yuma and thousands across the Marine Corps.

"Initially I didn't think that there was anything really wrong with me," Beadles said. "I just thought I was having normal reactions. I just went on with life. I guess I figured if I pretended it wasn't really there, I wouldn't have to deal with it."

Hiller said this is common among service members.

"Within a certain window, these reactions are fairly normal. It's mostly just a matter of readjusting. But when it's going on for one month, two, three -- then there's a bigger problem," she said.

Beadles said his problems have their root in the time he spent in Iraq as an anti-tank assaultman.

When he returned, Beadles talked to family and friends, but not about what he saw and experienced.

"I clammed up and dealt with a lot and started drinking," he explained. "Most of the friends I have here don't know about it, because I work with most of them, and I don't bring my personal life to work. My family ... nobody knew what to do with me because nobody knew what I was going through."

Beadles' father urged him to get help when he first returned from Iraq, but Beadles told him that nothing was wrong, he said.

"I was drinking, really heavily," Beadles said. "A lot of the guys I know from that deployment are still drinking heavily."

Beadles said when he woke up from a violent dream and tried to strangle his girlfriend, he decided that it was time to get help.

He stopped drinking in August, and sought professional help in February.

Since then, Beadles said he has had weekly counseling sessions to help deal with his feelings and was prescribed medication to help him sleep.

"I go in and sit with Lieutenant Hiller and talk with her, and she helps me deal with it," Beadles said. "Basically, just dealing with it is the only way it's going to get any better, and some of us are going to need help."

The counseling sessions themselves take their toll, he admitted.

"The first couple of days after a session are shaky. When I'm at work, I'm at work, and the job comes first. When I go home, it's a different story. I'm a wreck," he said. "It's like going through a bad battle with depression."

Beadles said the difficulties are worth it.

"My nightmares have decreased," he explained. "I still have them; it's still rough, but the amount of problems before I started seeing Lieutenant Hiller and the amount of problems I'm having now ... I can tell a definite difference. I still have a long way to go, but it's definitely gotten better."

Hiller said recovery depends upon both the number and type of experience people have, and the amount of time they wait to seek help.

"You can deal with this on your own, for a while. But not for long, not for the rest of your life," Beadles explained. "It's definitely harder on your own. Even if you just go out and talk to somebody about it, and you get things off your chest, it's a humongous weight off your life.

"I look back now and I really don't know why I waited so long to talk about it," he added. "Partly I didn't want to put my problems off on anybody. Partly I felt like nobody would understand."

Hiller said that is a typical reaction.

”Family and friends can help by not only being supportive, but by learning a little about the disorder so that when Marines return, they can look for changes in personality or other symptoms,” she said She added that peer pressure could also work wonders, with sergeants and corporals showing the junior enlisted that emotions are normal by talking about what was experienced with each other, and by seeking help if problems with adjusting persist.

"(Marines coming back from deployment) need to seek help," Beadles said. "If they have nightmares, if they have a hard time sleeping, they need to get help. There are things medical can do for you.

"I've been there and I've lived it, and I know there's only one way to deal with it -- to get help dealing with it," Beadles added.

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