Veterans cope with PTSD in New York City

Sean Jeffers suffers from post traumatic stress disorder from his time spent in the first Gulf war. He said that New York City can be overwhelming for returning vets. Credit: Bess Adler
Marine Corps veteran Sean Jeffers suffers from post traumatic stress disorder. He said living in New York City can be overwhelming, but also beneficial, for returning vets. Credit: Bess Adler, Metro

Sean Jeffers is a Marine Corps veteran and Brooklyn native. Discharged under honorable conditions in 1994, Jeffers is still managing his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder diagnosis nearly two decades later.

Jeffers is currently in a vocational rehabilitative program with the Veterans Administration, working to complete his undergraduate degree. He expects to finish by the end of this semester.

Getting that degree is hugely important to Jeffers: it’s the reason he joined the Marine Corps in the first place. Jeffers had completed two semesters of college before he realized he couldn’t afford to continue.

“Ultimately, I wanted to go to college, I didn’t necessarily want to go into the military,” Jeffers said. “The military was a way for me to pay for college.”

Now Jeffers is eager to finish so he can pursue further education. He wants to be a therapist or a social worker, he said, and work with other veterans.

He’s been meeting with a career advisor in the meantime.

“We’re trying to see exactly what would be best for me, because they don’t want to put me in a position that would aggravate my PTSD,” he explained.

There are upsides and downsides to living in New York City.

Some vets say the crowds and noise can be overwhelming. Jeffers, a born and bred New Yorker who now lives in Harlem, says it’s easier than him than it is for others.

New York is his home, he said.

“For me, personally, I tend to avoid the crowds, I’m not necessarily traveling during rush hour and I’m not going to highly populated areas,” he said. But Jeffers tries not to give his PTSD so much power. He doesn’t want to feel like it controls him.

And there are benefits to being in the city too, he said. Some vets he knows in upstate New York don’t have as many different programs readily accessible. Some of them have to travel miles just to get to the nearest one.

Being so far away from help can exacerbate what already “can be a bit of a lonely journey,” Jeffers said.

“The whole PTSD thing, it sometimes causes you to push away from people,” he said. “So a lot of veterans live a lonely existence.”

That’s the biggest challenge for Jeffers: fighting the urge to isolate himself and “be away from everyone.”

But he noted the difference between his experience and that of the upstate vets is the diversity of resources available for him. He has his vocational program, as well as a Harlem-based vet center just blocks from where he lives.

“One you get out there, people are willing to help,” he explained. “There are programs out there, you have to be receptive to help.”

One of the programs he has found helpful is a clinic that offers free massages for veterans. It may seem like an unusual comfort for someone who is inclined to push people away, but he said it has been helpful, “really good and just relaxing.”

“When I go out, I want to be left alone,” he admitted. “But sometimes you go to places and people interact with you and sometimes it’s okay.”

The New York Open Center, operated by professionals from New York College, is one of those places, he said.

“It helps, it helps the process,” Jeffers said. “People are friendly, and I’m friendly back.”

If you go
The New York Open Center offers free massages to veterans.
134 west 26th street suite 9
(212) 924-3706

 

Correction: Sean Jeffers is not a veteran of the Gulf War, as the cover of the Monday, Nov. 11 edition of the newspaper stated. Metro regrets the error.

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Tattooed, bearded suspect sought in Williamsburg bike theft:…

The suspected thief faces grand larceny charges after investigators said he entered the building on North 5th Street in Williamsburg.

Local

Report: Rich New Yorkers don't move from NYC…

An Independent Budget Office analysis found that the wealthiest residents don't move out of the city any more or less than other New Yorkers.

National

Pioneers for domestic violence push on

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article. Two decades have passed since the O.J. Simpson trial captivated the country. But in the 20 years…

Local

Food truck with a mission hires at-risk New…

A group branding itself as food trucks for social justice specifically hires and trains young men and women with troubled pasts.

Movies

Review: 'A Most Wanted Man' works better when…

In one of his last roles, Philip Seymour Hoffman headlines the John Le Carre adaptation of "A Most Wanted Man," about the pursuit of a Chechen refugee.

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, July 22: 'Royal Pains,'…

Catch a new episode of "Royal Pains" where Hank has to help out a housesitter.

Entertainment

'Bachelorette' recap: Episode 10, 'Men Tell All'

Why does the #MenTellAll episode exist? Because they don’t, and it shouldn’t. Is it a lazy vehicle to sell more ad space? Is it to…

Television

Olivia Williams explains the ins and outs of…

Olivia Williams plays a botanist beginning to suspect her physicist husband's work on the Manhattan Project might be ominous in WGN America's "Manhattan."

NFL

5 players to watch at Giants training camp

Metro takes a look at five players who will be on everyone’s mind when Giants training camp gets underway.

NFL

'Vicktory dogs' travel road to rehabilitation seven years…

Of the dozens of dogs groomed by Bad Newz Kennels, 48 were rescued and 22 of the pit bull terriers have emerged at Best Friends Animal Society.

MLB

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according…

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according to report

NFL

Giants lineman Chris Snee to retire: Reports

The Giants report to training camp on Tuesday, but Chris Snee may not be there when they do.

Parenting

Buy gently worn back-to-school clothes with Kidizen

Kidizen allows parents to buy and sell gently worn back-to-school clothes.

Wellbeing

Ruling could be beginning of the end for…

This morning, a federal appeals court threw out an IRS regulation that implements subsidies for low-income Americans who bought insurance through Obamacare. These Affordable Care…

Tech

RocketSkates let users roll with a motor

Los Angeles company Acton has raised funds on Kickstarter to roll out a nifty alternative – motor-powered "RocketSkates."

Tech

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony becomes a tech entrepreneur

He's been an All-Star, an Olympian, and a celebrity spokesperson. Now NBA player Carmelo Anthony is adding the position "tech entrepreneur" to his resume. Along…