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Summer 2022 - Vaccines

PTSD: A Patient’s Perspective

RETIRED ARMY SFC Dan Jarvis deployed to a combat zone in Afghanistan in 2011. Shortly after his arrival, he stepped on a pressure plate and detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) that inflicted a traumatic brain injury.

Headshot of man with PTSD

RETIRED ARMY SFC Dan Jarvis deployed to a combat zone in Afghanistan in 2011. Shortly after his arrival, he stepped on a pressure plate and detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) that inflicted a traumatic brain injury. Although he insisted on continuing to lead his troops, the battalion surgeon ordered him out for a week before rejoining his soldiers. Following weeks of no sleep, he led his squad on a mission to escort an explosive team to defuse a bomb found by another platoon. When an undetected IED exploded under the fourth vehicle in the convoy, taking the life of SPC Doug Cordo, Jarvis felt responsible.

Near the end of his deployment, Jarvis received a Red Cross message informing him that his mother was deathly ill. He left Afghanistan and headed to the United States in hopes of seeing his mom before she took her last breath. Unfortunately, he did not make it in time. After her funeral, Jarvis returned to his assigned duty station in Fairbanks, Alaska, at Fort Wainwright. Burdened by guilt and still unable to sleep, Jarvis sought an escape by binge drinking nightly.

The combined trauma of these experiences led Jarvis to contemplate suicide. But, when a solider from his former platoon took his own life, he resolved not to follow the same path. After retiring from active duty in 2014, he reentered the law enforcement profession, married, but continued to suffer in silence. “The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder became more pronounced, including drinking, depression, nightmares, night sweats and a negative outlook,” he recalls. “My wife strongly encouraged me to seek help, and I contacted the local VA.”

After his diagnosis of PTSD, Jarvis underwent prolonged exposure therapy that tormented him nearly as much as the trauma he had experienced. He opted not to continue this line of treatment, and that’s when he encountered the breakthrough treatment that changed his life for the better. “The Reconsolidation of Traumatic Memories Protocol (RTM) developed by the Research and Recognition Project was the most effective clinical treatment I experienced,” explains Jarvis. “I also benefited from Accelerated Resolution Therapy that helped me process my survivor guilt.”

According to the Research and Recognition Project, RTM is defined as a novel, nontraumatizing, brief therapy for PTSD characterized by intrusive symptoms. RTM works by restructuring the visual representations of a trauma memory as a past, nonthreatening memory by changing elements of the memory. These changes include, from a dissociated perspective, the loss of color, the loss of depth cues, increased distance and visual and temporal distortions.1

Jarvis says his experience with RTM was so life-changing that he was compelled to help others find the same relief from traumatic memories. Today, he is the founder of 22Zero, a nonprofit organization that does just that. Jarvis notes the name is powerfully symbolic: The number 22 is the commonly accepted number of suicides per day in the U.S. The goal, says Jarvis, is to take the number 22 a day to zero. “Originally, we were raising money to fund trainings using the RTM protocol with licensed counselors,” says Jarvis. “Then, when COVID hit, we had to regroup and reorganize. We changed our own paradigm by going to the roots of the RTM, which is neuro-linguistic programming. Our process is called Trauma Resiliency Protocol (TRP), which is modeled after an earlier protocol called visual/kinesthetic dissociation.”

When asked about his mental health today, Jarvis describes it as “fantastic,” and says he is free of night terrors, anxiety and anger outbursts: “I’m still human and feel the pressures of daily living. I went through a divorce during COVID, but I’ve recovered from that. I still felt sad and abandoned, but lucky for me I have many coaches to support me.”

Today, Jarvis works with others who are battling PTSD, and he emphasizes that he wants people to know it is 100 percent healable. Based on his experience, he’s seen success with clients typically after one to four sessions using TRP. “Our program is free for veterans, active duty and first responders,” says Jarvis. “We also work with civilians and family members. I encourage people not to hold onto their trauma. Help is available.”

References

Bourke F and Gray R. Transforming Traumatic Memories: The Reconsolidation of Traumatic Memories (RTM), Protocol. Accessed at brookdale.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Curing-PTSD-Through-Reconsolidation-of-Traumatic-Memories-RTM.pdf.

Trudie Mitschang
Trudie Mitschang is a contributing writer for BioSupply Trends Quarterly magazine.