Daniel comes from a broken family and his anger, resentment, and hurt make him want to join the Army as soon as he turns eighteen. He leaves Colorado hoping to find a purpose, but he comes back years later even more confused than ever. Being in the Army gave him no new enlightenment about life, and he comes back with PTSD and no one to turn to. That's when he meets Coop, another veteran who also has PTSD and who lost his sight in the service.
The idea of support is a central theme in this novel. These guys need all the support they can get, from each other and their families. Living with PTSD is a daily struggle that I've been dealing with since high school. Those people with PTSD need all the help they can get, including the understanding of the people around them.
When deciding to write two characters with PTSD, I knew I would have to tap into a lot of my own experiences. That was the hard part of writing this book. I took a look at my own life and the parts of it that are hardest for me. PTSD can come with a lot of different symptoms, but some of the common ones are always being hyper aware and having nightmares all the time. My nightmares are lessened now, but I used to have them every night. And I don't even remember what it was like to not be aware of everyone and everything around me, because the big point with PTSD is that everything feels like a threat.
I've learned to control a lot of my symptoms and I'm on anxiety medication, but it's a constant struggle and a constant force pushing in around me, where I have to remind myself every time I go grocery shopping or even doing the smallest task that not everyone is a threat and that it's okay to relax sometimes. Loud noises make me jump and freeze. I see potential threats everywhere. There's no relaxing or calming down from this.
That's what daily life with PTSD is like. Managing these symptoms is really all that can be done, and I've learned to live with it with the support of my friends and family.
In writing a book that centers largely around PTSD, I wanted to make it accessible to both adults and teens. That's why I decided to make their story young adult. I wanted to give people a real look at what someone with PTSD is going through with the help of fiction.
I think books are a fantastic way of reaching out and connecting with other people. In fiction ideas can be expressed and stories can be told with characters people can fall in love with. That's why I wrote this book. I wanted to show people what PTSD can look like, and that it's normal and that people don't have to be afraid of people like me. We're not weird or freaks. We're just struggling with something a little bit each day, and we need the support and understanding of those around us to help us with that hardship.
One of the hardest things for me in my journey with PTSD was telling people that I had this issue at all. Back when I couldn't admit to anyone what was going on with me, there were plenty of things I couldn't do. I wouldn't go to the movies with my friends because of crowds, or holiday shopping with my family, also because of crowds. My grades suffered, and I couldn't concentrate. I was afraid to tell anyone because I thought everyone would blame me for my sexual assault. I pulled into myself and I lost touch with the world. That was a very dark time for me, and it was a hard struggle to pull myself out of that place.
My hope in writing characters with PTSD is that people who are suffering, who maybe don't know how to talk about what they're going through or don't know how to say that they have this going on, can start to open up the conversation about PTSD and what it means for them.
There is a stigma about mental health, and I think that makes us scared to talk about things. But there is support out there, and people willing to listen. While it is hard to admit that we have problems and that we need help, living with PTSD every day without anyone to talk to can be a nightmare. The more we talk about these things, the more normalized they can be, and hopefully, the more people are able to reach out and get help without fear or uncertainty stopping them.