It took him years of struggle, the death of his first wife and self-reflection to finally come to terms with his disorder. And that’s why Charles Newhall is looking to inspire others through lectures and his memoir.
Newhall served in Vietnam as commander of an independent infantry platoon, earning the Silver Star, Bronze Star V (1st OLC) and Purple Heart, and on Thursday, spoke at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center as part of the Brooks E. Kleber Memorial Lecture series.
His memoir, “Fearful Odds: A Memoir of Vietnam and Its Aftermath,” touches on the decades of managing the long-term effects of trauma and successfully coming to terms with his past and the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Newhall’s memoir describes the perseverance he was forced to show and offers advice to those battling similar demons.
Q. When did you first realize you had PTSD and what happened that made you aware of the illness?
A. In March 1982, I was diagnosed with PTSD by Dr. Theodore Kaiser, the day after my first wife, Marsi, committed suicide. Marsi’s death triggered severe post-traumatic flashbacks to the deadly combat actions depicted in the opening pages of “Fearful Odds.”
Q. How did you come to terms with your PTSD?
A. I overcame PTSD after 35 years of psychotherapy, which helped me to recognize the onset of the disease and understand the methods to effectively deal with it described in my book, including cognitive behavior therapy, coping mechanisms and defense mechanisms.
Q. How do you think your lecture went over with those in attendance and those who spoke with you after?
A. All of the dozens of groups that I have spoken with—especially veteran’s organizations—have been very receptive. In many cases, veterans have told me that reading “Fearful Odds” has allowed them to open up with their families and discuss their own challenges with PTSD.
Q. Can you discuss your memoir and when you decided you wanted to write about yourself in such a personal way?
A. I received a very moving letter. It said “I was going to commit suicide. Your book saved my life.”
It was important to me to tell my story so that it might help others who have suffered from life-threatening trauma or the suicide of a loved one.
Q. What’s next for you?
A. I have written a second book, “A Dialog Between the Heart and the Head,” which tells the story of building (my) garden over the last 30 years, a project that has been my coping mechanism for depression.
Tyler Miles is a news reporter for The Sentinel covering Carlisle. Follow him on Twitter @TylerTMiles or email him at email@example.com.