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My Story on Navigating PTSD and Helping Other Veterans Do the Same

“One of the aspects of PTSD is depression and with depression comes irritability. Living with depression was like walking through molasses. Everything was more difficult, irritating, and unrecognizable. I knew something was in the way that needed to be cleared. It’s hard to be happy when you feel like that.”

Hello! Who are you?

Hello there everyone, I’m Bob Taylor. I live in the great “mitten” state of Michigan. I am originally from Saginaw and now live in Kewadin on Torch Lake which is located in the northern part of the lower peninsula of Michigan. It’s a truly beautiful place on earth.

I have been very blessed in business and am the founder, sole owner, and CEO of Alliant Healthcare Group, which is an SDVOSB (Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business) medical device company headquartered in Grand Rapids, MI. We sell to VAs and military hospitals all over the world, in addition to civilian healthcare facilities.

I have been married to the love of my life, Sara, for thirty-six years and we have two amazing children who are now adults doing great things in the world. I also love being called Bumpa by my two grandchildren.

In addition to my family, my passion in life is helping other veterans find purpose, joy, and success after military service. I am now a very happy person and am grateful for every day.

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What is your struggle and when did it start?

When I left active duty in 1992 shortly after Operation Desert Storm, I was very fortunate to land a great job working with my best friend from college as an R&D engineer for a medical device company. I had a great job, a supportive family, and by all appearances seemed well adjusted.

My struggle was with the hidden symptoms of PTSD. The stress of entrepreneurship with all its ups and downs was hard, but nothing had prepared me for what PTSD would eventually bring. 

I was a B-52 Navigator and flew eleven combat missions in Operation Desert Storm. Though I did not see hand-to-hand combat on the ground, I was haunted by thoughts of the destruction and harm the bombs caused, which led to extremely violent nightmares. They came about six months after I returned and went away as mysteriously as they started.

Even though the nightmares left me, the depression, irritability, and other PTSD symptoms did not. In actuality, the nightmares were not gone, just buried in my subconscious. They returned with a vengeance sixteen years later and that’s when drinking became my vice to help me fall asleep with the hopes of avoiding the terrors of the night. It didn’t work.

I didn’t realize how affected I was by this until this second phase of symptoms. My greatest regret in life is that I did not seek help until I had endured 16 years of struggle. I finally realized I couldn’t heal myself and I reached out to the VA (Veteran Affairs).

I have been through twelve years of therapy at the VA and an MDMA treatment specifically for veterans suffering from PTSD. At this point, I have improved immensely, and life has become joyful again.

I am eternally grateful for this and have written a book called From Service to Success to help other veterans and their families get through their struggles and come out the other side.

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

One of the aspects of PTSD is depression and with depression comes irritability. Living with depression was like walking through molasses. Everything was more difficult, irritating, and unrecognizable. I knew something was in the way that needed to be cleared. It’s hard to be happy when you feel like that.

I was also irritable. You know that person in your family or at work that just irritates you? Well, I felt that way about almost everyone in my life. It was an internal torture and came out in ugly ways like yelling and swearing.

It was obvious to my family that I was struggling with something. I tried to internalize it, but it showed regardless. Their reactions to me should have been motivation to seek help sooner, but I was embarrassed and depressed and tried to fix it on my own.

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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

Things went bad quickly at one point about 16 years following my combat experience. I couldn’t sleep because of the nightmares and the drinking wasn’t helping. Sleep deprivation can accumulate rapidly.

When I made the decision to get help from the VA, it took effort to get into the system, but the treatments helped me almost immediately. I was in pretty bad shape at the time. In a sleep study, my legs would jerk 270 times per hour. There’s no way I was getting any quality sleep. 

Simply making the decision to get help and then knowing I wasn’t alone to figure it out anymore, lifted the proverbial weight off my shoulders and brought relief. I took the initiative to change my life and I am proud of that.

I encourage others to do the same as often as I can. I struggled for almost two decades before getting help and I regret that. I wish I had done it sooner, but at least I did it. That’s why I want to spread the word to other veterans. So they don’t wait and suffer for years.

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

The first step I took was admitting to myself and my wife that I had a problem that I needed outside help with. It meant becoming vulnerable, but it is not a sign of weakness. It is, without a doubt, a sign of strength to admit you need some help and then go to get it.

The next step was going to the VA and connecting with a therapist that I felt comfortable with. That’s really important. If you have a therapist that you don’t connect with or feel comfortable around, ask for another one. You will find the right person to help you and it makes all the difference in your healing journey.

When I knew I had found the right therapist for me, I said to her, “I will do anything you tell me to do. I will be the best patient you have ever had.” I stayed true to that, and it was worth it.

I’ve also quit drinking completely and I don’t regret it. In addition to that, I began daily gratitude practice. No matter what situation you are in, there is always something to be grateful for.

You can’t be miserable and grateful at the same time and being grateful feels a heck of a lot better! I also use many of the coping skills I learned in my therapy. I learned some amazing strategies that make living better.

Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?

As I mentioned, I wrote a book to help other veterans struggling with PTSD or any aspect of transitioning from their military service. I’ve decided to share almost any aspect of my personal story, so I have completely given up my privacy at this point.

I have been interviewed, given speeches, done book signings, etc. I will talk to anyone about my experience if it helps them or someone they love. There is nobody that I do not feel comfortable talking to about my struggles now and I’m glad because when I am vulnerable, it lets people know they can be vulnerable too.

I didn’t feel this way right away, but it got easier every time and now it’s second nature. Of course, it was tough in the beginning. Anything new is because it’s unfamiliar. Each time I opened up, it became easier to do it the next time, and so on.

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

Don’t wait, seek help now! Your life is happening now, so don’t let precious years and relationships pass you by. What you do today affects your tomorrow and every day after that.

Each step forward is progress and better than being stagnant or, even worse, regressing. Your best days are not behind you, your best days are in front of you. So, take the action to create a joyful and successful future for yourself.

While you are moving forward, make it a priority every single day to find things to be grateful for. It’s everything and will keep you living, thinking, and feeling in an attitude of gratitude.

It might sound self-promoting, but I would advise people to read “From Service to Success” because it provides a roadmap for ways to constantly improve your situation.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?

  • Think and Grow Rich: This book helped me learn the law of attraction and how it works, which has helped me to create the life I want. 
  • The Bible: Without my faith, I would be lost. I find inspiration, guidance, and lessons to lead me through my life.

Where can we go to learn more about you?

You can read more about me here, or on the following social media pages:

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

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