“He went from this stud, athlete, awesome dad to barely human because he was so whacked out of his mind.”
Bailey Francisco is very matter-of-fact as he talks about his dad’s battle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and how it ripped their family apart.
“It didn’t even feel like I had a dad during those years. He was just so out of it all the time.”
Bailey recounts his experience in a short documentary, which he produced through the Colorado Youth Film Institute. The film is called “After War” and chronicles his dad’s four deployments in a short time frame. Bailey’s dad turned violent and paranoid, eventually abusing pain medication and alcohol and turning into someone Bailey no longer knew.
Unfortunately, Bailey’s story is all too familiar for military families. The film begins with this statistic:
80,000 veterans in Colorado suffer from PTSD.
“It’s incredibly common,” Bailey said when he stopped by to talk to the National Military Family Association about his film. “Colorado Springs is a big military town. Friends I’ve had since 4th grade came up to me and said they had the same story. They’d say ‘hey, my dad was an alcoholic because of PTSD, too.’”
39% of those who live with a veteran struggling with PTSD will develop Secondary PTSD (also known as STS, or Secondary Traumatic Stress).
Bailey doesn’t specifically go into STS in his documentary, but the stress clearly took over his childhood.
“90% of my thoughts were about my dad.”
When the domestic violence escalated, the path to divorce began for Bailey’s parents.
“I feel like it made my mom and I closer because we talked about everything going on. She’s very strong,” he said.
Bailey remembers attending NMFA’s Operation Purple Camp in 2006 and 2007—two weeks of fun with other military kids like him during a dark time in his military family life.
“Kids are protecting parents and parents are protecting kids. And they don’t always realize that about each other,” NMFA Executive Director, Joyce Raezer, explained. “It takes longer for military kids to get into the swing of things. They’re more homesick than others because they’re worried about mom at home.”
That was definitely the case for Bailey. “Once my parents got a divorce, we had no money. No support from the military or anybody. Mom working a part time job. She hadn’t worked since they’d gotten married. Mom started by volunteering, and we were below the poverty line.”
NMFA hears stories like this far too often, although even once is too many. That’s why we believe it is so important to provide the best possible services to our service members and their families. Adolescence is trying in even the best circumstances; Bailey showed us that adding PTSD to the mix makes it even harder. That’s part of why NMFA has redoubled our efforts on mental health support.
Hearing Bailey speak, it is obvious that he is a survivor. Bailey just finished his freshman year of college and has all the confidence and swag of a military kid who has survived—and thrived. For more on Bailey’s relationship with his dad today, you might want to watch the 10-minute documentary. Don’t forget the Kleenex.
**This is the first blog post in our 5 part series on PTSD and military families in honor of PTSD Awareness Month. We’ll publish a new post each Friday. Next we’ll we’ll tackle PTSD and domestic abuse. Do military spouses give their service members a pass to mistreat them because they have PTSD? To make sure you don’t miss this and other posts, sign up for our blog emails.**
Posted by Besa Pinchotti, Communications Director