Veteran shares struggle with PTSD

By Brenda Campbell

Jennifer Crane joined the military when she was 17. She greatly
admired her grandfather, who also served for in the armed forces,
and decided to follow in his footsteps after a recruiter talked to
her in high school. After getting parental consent she went off to
training camp.

Her first day of training was September 11, 2001, which served
as an omen of the events to come.

Crane, a United States Army National Guard Veteran spoke to a
group of about 15 Cal Poly Pomona students Thursday in the Bronco
Student Center about her experiences in the military, as well as
her struggle with Post Traumatic Stress

Disorder (PTSD)and drug addictions.

Crane is a part of the organization Hope’s Voice, which seeks to
educate and inspire people at college campuses. Hope’s Voice
donates to the organization she supports, Give an Hour, which
offers free mental health services to Veterans.

Crane wants students to be informed on ways to help veterans
with issues after returning home, because no one helped her.

She talks about her PTSD experience as a way to inspire others
to overcome their past and give hope to others.

“No matter how low the low is, you can work yourself back up,”
said Crane.

According to Crane, 41 percent of veterans are returning with a
mental illness, and that only includes those who seek help. Thirty
percent of them use illicit drugs to self medicate before
contacting professional help, and 15 percent of

all casualties are due to suicide.

With tens of thousands of veterans returning home, it is likely
that students will come in contact with people struggling with
mental disorders from serving in the armed forces.

In a movie Crane showed, students are studying for a test when a
college veteran hears a walky-talky that sends him back to visions
of the armed forces.

“Visions like that you never stop seeing,” said Crane. “It’s the
littlest things that bring you back.”

Not long after deployment to Afghanistan, Crane began to cut
herself off from family, friends, and her boyfriend. She stopped
eating and spent an excessive amount of time at the gym. Soon her
body began rejecting food and she was sent to

a medical facility because she needed to be rehydrated. She
described herself as emaciated.

It was at the hospital that Crane saw one of her visions she
can’t stop seeing. In the bed next to her was a child with three
amputated appendages, screaming. He had blood seeping out of his
bandages. She recalls the memory as a

traumatic experience.

She was released from the military after that and proceeded to
live out of her Volkswagen Jetta.

“My whole world was turned upside down,” said Crane. “I felt
like I didn’t belong [back home].”

As Crane attempted to cure herself of PTSD, she turned to drugs,
mostly cocaine. She described it as the best cure for her current
situation. It gave her the desire to socialize again, and she had
no desire to sleep, which ended the

flashback nightmares.

Her cocaine cure was short lived and within a month she was
suffering from PTSD as well as a drug addiction.

She continued to live out of her car until she ran into an old
friend on her daily trip to McDonald’s. Her friend noticed Crane’s
sub par condition and suggested to Crane she get treatment from the
United State Department of Veterans

Affairs, which offers free medical help for veterans.

“All this time I was living in my car and I had no idea the VA
was only two miles away,” said Crane.

She entered a treatment plan for the PTSD at the VA until she
was told that it didn’t seem as though the treatment was helping
and she was a distraction to other patients. Crane was kicked out
of the program despite her pleading.

“I felt even more defeated than before. The people who
understood me couldn’t help me, society couldn’t help me, and I
couldn’t help myself,” said Crane.

She quickly reverted to her old ways, and began to indulge in
drug use again. Crane described herself as too cowardly to take her
own life, or else she would have done it.

Three months after being released from the PTSD treatment she
was arrested for drugs.

She was given the choice of jail or drug court, which involves
staying sober and getting treated for her PTSD.

She chose drug court.

Crane was put in contact with Give an Hour through her recovery
program and was so grateful for the treatment that she wanted to
give back.

She began giving short speeches about how Give an Hour had
helped her, and that snowballed into the lectures she gives

Jennifer Crane

Brenda Campbell / The Poly Post

Jennifer Crane

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