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Dealing with The Flashbacks

Heroes Remember

Dealing with The Flashbacks

So we were about maybe a week, ten days to being home. Waking up like bolting from sleep. I had all these dreams of things that did not even happen. I call them my “What if?” nightmares. I think as a female over there I didn’t want to get kidnapped. I didn’t want, there was a lot of things you didn’t want to have happen. And the guys in the platoon, they were great about, you know, “I just want to run around that corner and go pee, ”because you had to squat, you had to go pee everywhere right so you would get used to doing that. The guys were very protective of me and they were really good about that. So I had these dreams of I would be kidnapped or I was raped. Then I was too scared to go to sleep. I would bolt awake just sweating, like “What are you doing Vanessa?” I didn’t have just this one incident that I revisited over and over again. I just dreamed up stuff that never even happened. So I don’t know if I was trying to let go of all these protective factors that were in place and now I was just processing what we did to avoid certain things from happening but I’m telling you the stuff I dreamed up, nothing even came close to happen but then I was too scared to go to sleep. So I went and met this social work person. It’s like, “Okay what’s going on?” I’m like, “I don’t know these weird things are happening.” Anyway we talked for a bit. I probably saw him for maybe two months to sort of dump some garbage out, you know, I had this no like sense of belonging and all this and then in time actually I went to PEI. I met this guy and then I knew I needed to go somewhere and start with kind of a ground zero. So where do you go? You go home. So I went alone. My husband said, “What are you doing?” I said, “I need to go to PEI to sort myself out” I need to go to where I know it’s a safe place, and it’s PEI, nothing is going to happen on PEI. So I went home. I slept for two days straight. I crashed and burned and slept for whatever reason. I think I finally just let go. My mother would come in and check, “Are you okay?” It was night time. I couldn’t believe the hours that I slept. I finally slept. And then I asked my step-father if I could borrow his car because I am going to get this driving thing back. So we went out in Cornwall, Meadowbank area . There’s a couple of bridges, a very nice scenic drive, you know, so I got this. She was like, “Are you good?” I said, “No like I am home because I need to deal with some stuff and I know I can do it but I am going to need time.” I came home, yes it’s great to see you guys but I am here for me right now so my family was super supportive and they didn’t kind of get everything that I was going through. I didn’t share anything, I just told them I was having trouble driving. So away I go and pull out on a side country road. You don’t even see a car for minutes when you are driving. So I got this down and then I would, kind of exposure therapy if you will and then I practice going over the yellow line. If there was a pothole I purposely drove over it, a piece of garbage on the road I drove over it showing myself nothing is going to happen, nothing is going to happen. I knew it wasn’t going to happen. Once I got my confidence back with that the other things started to settle so and I read up on different things, you know, this fighter fight response, how long is this going to last? What I have learned at that point and time is that it takes approximately your body 6 months to settle. These startle responses like once you are out of that environment, like okay I have been home almost a month now. It wasn’t even that long. I can expect this to dwindle off but I needed to put myself out there and put my back to a door, purposely go to a restaurant and put my back and yah Vanessa nothing is going to happen. Stand in front of an open window and that’s fine. I purposely did this for weeks, weeks. And then it did get better, loud noises. There’s a mechanic shop in our building that we worked at at the time. They would drop a tire on the floor or something there have been a few coffees gone flying or like there are certain loud noises or the drop of a toilet seat. Just a one of, it would still catch me at the point and time but you could laugh it off because other people were going through that. And what I found very interesting when I went back to work after my time off, a lot of my peers didn’t come back to work and no one knew what to do with us. So the chain of command sent everyone home. Or if they came back they were angry, short-tempered, you don’t get it, you weren’t there, that raw attitude. Okay go home, you need more time, just go home like you’re kind of scaring me. We had a few guys that were kind of scaring people at work. But they sent them home. And some of them never came back to work. Got into therapy, on medications, some of them that was it, you know, severe PTSD, medically released, gone. And you know from that battle group, from that core group of medics I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head but there is a very significant amount of those guys that are still; a lot of them have their paths back now but there is a lot of, a lot of variety of symptoms that people went through and I think it wasn’t dealt with. Well no one knew what to do I guess. I chose to expose myself and go through that and a lot of people, no into the basement, into the bottle, into the whatever. I needed to be better than that so I wanted to get back into… I knew there were more tours to Afghanistan coming up. I needed to get back over there. And the drive to get on the next Roto was awesome so Christmas came and went, went on a career course in January to get my next medical qualification. Came home from that, planned a wedding on PEI for the summer. We did that and then off to Afghanistan.

Choosing to get better, Vanessa shares the story of how she dealt with fears that haunted her from ’06 deployment to Afghanistan yet her ability to overcome them

Vanessa Larter

Ms. Vanessa Larter was born April 17, 1982 in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. After graduating from high school Vanessa studied at UPEI and later made the choice to join the military as a medical technician. Her basic training took her to Gagetown, N,B, Camp Borden, Ontario for her first medical course, BC for paramedic school and then finally to settle with his first job in Edmonton, Alberta. She joined with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry with occupation of army medic. Along with In-Canada service Vanessa had two deployments to Afghanistan, 2006 and 2008. With a sixteen year career Vanessa is still in the military and resides at Camp Borden as a physician assistant holding rank of sergeant. Vanessa has great pride for her military service. She now resides in Ontario with her three children.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
October 27, 2018
Person Interviewed:
Vanessa Larter
War, Conflict or Mission:
Canadian Armed Forces
Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI)
Army medic

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