Dissipating My PTSD: Working on Large Crowds

When spring semester started, Off the Base blog contributor Cheyenne Forsythe found he had to overcome another challenge associated with his PTSD. He’s sharing that journey in the hopes that others can learn from his experiences.

Army Specialist Cheyenne Forsythe served on a Combat Stress Control Team in Iraq, 2003.

By Cheyenne Forsythe

I’ve gradually seen the signs of PTSD dissipate over the last few years.

Number one on my list was scanning. Being the driver for a Combat Stress Control Team has its hazards. One of the ways you manage these hazards is by monitoring the horizon and the road ahead, looking for anything out of the ordinary in hopes of spotting an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) or signs of an ambush.

This was the first thing I noticed when I came home. I couldn’t stop scanning anytime I got in a car. Over time, I’ve taught myself to see the road as a peaceful place.

For therapy, I worked for a bus company in Killeen, TX, called, “The Hop”. I drove our peaceful streets for two years, managing to work my way into a para-transit route, shuttling dialysis patients to treatment, mentally challenged children to school, seniors to activity centers, and poor children to the dentist. Along with enriching my life, I learned to trust the road again.

Cheyenne is now a USF student studying business.

Well, I’ve got a new challenge now. It’s not really new. I’ve been working on it for a year. I isolated myself last year. Didn’t go out, didn’t date, just stayed in my room, when I wasn’t at counseling or school.

Last week was my first week at University of South Florida‘S Tampa campus. Class sizes on campus are in the 400 range. Going from a class size of 30 at the St. Pete campus to 400 doesn’t go unnoticed by the good old nervous system.

That first class was certainly a shock. In order to acclimate myself to the new environment, I’ve taken steps to be more outgoing. To do that, I have to pay attention to what’s happening on campus. A few weekends ago, I volunteered for the Stampede of Service and did some community revitalization.

Cheyenne represented veterans with "invisible wounds" during the 2010 Florida Ride 2 Recovery from Tampa's MacDill AFB to Jacksonville.

Since I moved to Tampa, I’ve been to a Tampa Bay Ray’s game and caught a USF Bulls football game. I have to admit, the Ride 2 Recovery event put it in perspective for me. I had become accustomed to small groups of people.

I’m going to use USF for more than just an education. The activities on campus offer a chance help me work on my issue with large crowds. Basketball season has started already. I’m going to make sure I get to more than one game.

Contributor Cheyenne Forsythe is a University of South Florida student and a 6-year Army veteran who served with the 85th Medical Detachment. He was on one of the first Combat Stress Control Teams sent to Iraq’s frontlines in 2003 to help soldiers with combat stress symptoms while still “in country.” After surviving two IED attacks, Cheyenne now lives with PTSD as well.  Speaking out on veterans’ issues has become his self-ascribed mission because as he puts it: “It’s just the right thing to do.”  His other contributions include:

Learning to Take a Break

Serving on a Combat Stress Control Team

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