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Author to share post-traumatic stress experience with UNG

POSTED: November 6, 2013 12:30 a.m.

What was meant as a way for Christal Presley to work through her experiences with post-traumatic stress disorder has turned into a book and a way to connect with others with similar stories.

Presley shares her story with the University of North Georgia’s Dahlonega and Gainesville campuses today and Thursday as part of the university’s Visiting Author Series.

In her book “Thirty Days with My Father: Finding Peace from Wartime PTSD,” Presley recounts conversations she’s had with her father, a Vietnam veteran who came home with the disorder.

“I’ve always been a writer, ever since I could (begin to) write,” Presley said. “Writing to me was as natural as breathing. I write about everything that I experience. (Writing the book) was a journey in personal healing to try to get to know my father better, and to record those conversations.”

In the book, Presley details her troubled childhood and her struggles to be able to relate to her father.

“I think that I held my father and both my parents up to being these heroes of sorts,” she said. “Maybe not a hero, but they were supposed to be perfect.

“Hearing my dad’s stories about Vietnam and about how things were when he came back, for the first time helped me see him as an 18-year-old kid, as somebody who was very naive and innocent ... as somebody who was just like me in a lot of ways.”

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, post-traumatic stress disorder “develops after a terrifying ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm.”

With UNG being a senior military college, “PTSD is something that is affecting many of our students,” said Austin Reide, co-chairman of the university’s Visiting Authors committee. “We think it’s a very important story.”

Information from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs states “about 7-8 percent of the U.S. population will have PTSD at some point in their lives.”

The department’s website also noted 11-20 percent of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars experience PTSD, and as many as 30 percent of Vietnam veterans have.

“I hate calling it a mental illness or a disorder, even though it’s called post-traumatic stress disorder,” Presley said. “It really is an injury.”

Reide expects hundreds of students and community members to attend the two scheduled discussions. Today’s session is at 7 p.m. in Dahlonega, at the Health and Natural Sciences auditorium.

Thursday’s Gainesville discussion will be at 4 p.m., in the Martha T. Nesbitt Academic Building.

“I think it’s a very important issue, especially given the last 10 years of warfare that we’ve been through and how many of our veterans are suffering from PTSD right now,” Reide said.


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