Re: “Letter to the editor: PTSD – so little understood for so long” (Dec. 31):

I appreciate the dialogue regarding veterans and post-traumatic stress disorder, but here is my very personal question: What about their children?

My father was a nuclear engineer and a submariner. He was reticent to such a degree that I hardly knew him as a personality. He likely suffered from PTSD; in turn, so did I.

My mother knew I was scared of my father’s “temper,” but child abuse was not on the public radar screen then, and PTSD wasn’t even a diagnosis until 1981, the year I turned 22.

My memories include being held upside-down over a second-floor banister, my father in an inexplicable rage and threatening to drop me; they also include being threatened with a sledgehammer. Too young and uninformed to make the connection, I had no idea what was “wrong” with me as I entered adulthood, suffering from my own rages and self-destructive behavior. I was rejected as a “troublemaker” by family; the estrangement has been lifelong.

Though I had inner resources that likely protected me from even worse psychological damage, and though I experienced the sustaining kindness of others, I have always been aware how easily I could have ended up homeless, and dead before my time.

Mostly healed now, I have mourned my losses and learned to appreciate the hard gifts of my life. I can finally publicly speak to the abuse without retraumatizing myself. I can speak for the children who have no voice, who can’t tweet #MeToo.

This letter is not a call to hold veterans suspect, but rather, for people to be aware there are children who also need attention, that PTSD can reach into the next generation and that the need to care for traumatized veterans is urgent, both for their sake, and for the sake of their children.

Zoe Gaston

Cape Elizabeth

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