Thursday, September 10, 2015

Writing is a way to gather your mind

Ron Capps was in the military and in the State Department. He served in Rwanda, Darfur, Eastern Congo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. What he saw, what he was unable to do, broke him. A military psychiatrist diagnosed him with PTSD and prescribed Prozac. It wasn't enough to keep him in the field. He took a desk job in Washington. Kristina Shevory tells his story in Believer.

Capps had enjoyed keeping notebooks when he was on deployments. So he enrolled in a writing program:
In class at Johns Hopkins, he wrote about what he knew best: the killing fields. His classmates encouraged him, pushing him to break the tough-guy code and write about his battle with PTSD, and his moral failure, as he saw it, to save all those killed where he had served.

Writing helped Capps gain control of his mind, and brought stability to his life. The more he wrote about his struggles, the more manageable they became. He was no longer sobbing in the middle of the day or paralyzed by flashbacks. If writing could do this for him, he thought, it might do the same for other veterans.

In 2011, Capps formed the Veterans Writing Project, in Washington, DC, to host free writing workshops for veterans, active-duty soldiers, and their families to help them control their own PTSD or aid their family members who have it. The group hosts readings, weekend retreats, and classes at places like George Washington University and the Writer’s Center. “I founded the [VWP] because I wanted to be able to use the things I was learning in graduate school, the things I learned as a working writer, and give away all that knowledge to others for their own struggles,” Capps told me when we met in 2012. “This is the thing I could do.”
Not exactly Wordsworth's emotion recollected in tranquility, or is it?

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