ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – DA Michaels’ one-woman push to help military veterans and first responders dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is built on a tragedy that nearly sent her “down the rabbit hole.”
“Seventeen years I was strong as can be then all of a sudden (become) I wasn’t,” Michaels told News 6. “For some reason, that particular one was the one that just sent me home and broke me.”
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The author of the book “Courageously Broken” offers a chapter-by-chapter journey of her struggles with PTSD in the U.S. Navy and then as a sheriff’s deputy in Orange County.
The event that delivered that emotional PTSD gut punch was an emergency call made to an Orange County home in 2017.
It was responding to the drowning of a 2-year-old boy, hearing the cries from his mother and seeing the lifeless child in the pool that fractured her world and nearly pushed her to the brink.
“I became dangerously close to becoming a 22 statistic,” she recalled.
A 22 statistic refers to the chilling data showing 22 veterans lose their battle to PTSD on American soil every day—that is one veteran every 65 minutes.
The same is true of our first responders.
“We’re all human we all have a breaking point,” Michaels said.
A white paper study conducted by the Ruderman Family Foundation in 2018 found that law enforcement officers and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty.
That’s why Michaels has developed a new website listing organizations that will help first responders and military vets cope with PTSD.
The website is set to go online June 1.
“It’s most important to me that the message gets out there and that people understand that they’re not alone and they can get the help they need,” Michaels said.
Michaels was able to get help and navigate her emotional pain but she is concerned too many internalize the pain and never talk about it.
Walter “Hoop” Adams served in the U.S. Navy between 1980 and 2000.
Adams, who now lives in the Florida Panhandle, said the death of a shipmate has been haunting him for years and the recent death of his father is what pushed him over the edge.
“PTSD is like the dark,” Adams told News 6. “It comes in and shuts all the light out of your life.”
Adams said he focused on his wife, grandchildren and pets to remind himself of why he needs to be here.
“Don’t hide, don’t be ashamed. I’m begging you, please, because at the end of the road that you’re going down, it’s not good. It’s death,” Adams said.
If you are looking for someone to talk to go about a PTSD issue, use the following website: www.HU2H.org.