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Monday, February 13, 2006

Doonesbury: B.D.'s 1st VA Counseling Session

Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau

Doonesbury, the award-winning comic strip, offers a great way for soldiers and families to understand PTSD. Garry Trudeau has taken great care in showing his readers how his returning character, B.D. (a hard-nosed wounded combat vet and amputee), is coping with the PTSD he brought home with him from Iraq.

Get an update on B.D.'s saga and then read more on Trudeau's recent visit to Walter Reed's Army Medical Center. He passed out free copies of his new book, The Long Road Home: One Step at a Time, to the troops who've been inspirational to the cartoonist's rendering of B.D.

Click on 'Article' link below tags for more...

Since this diary is for educational purposes only, I'm including copies of Doonesbury strips in this interest.

1/23 | As we pick it up, we find B.D. arriving for his first appointment at his local Vet Center:

Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau

(link to larger image not available)

As he checks in with the office manager for his 0900 appointment with Elias the counselor, he's a bit startled when Celeste says "Welcome home, sir!" He asks her why she always says that to him, and she replies that she thinks vets can never hear it enough; that they often don't feel like they're fully home; that the war is still raging inside of them. B.D. says, "He's going to open me up like a can of peanuts, isn't he?" To which Celeste replies, "No, I'm not showing that on the schedule."

::

1/24 | This is a big day for B.D. -- his first official counseling session:

Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau

(link to larger image not available)

B.D. is asked to take a seat and notices there are chairs set up at various distances from the counselor's desk. The VA counselor asks why he thinks they're set up like like. "I suppose each seat corresponds to levels of trust," B.D. figures. Elias tells him he should have his job, and then asks if he's ready to begin. B.D.'s still trying to get out of it and cracks, "Is there another back door here?"

::

1/25 | The session that B.D.'s been dreading begins:

Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau

(link to larger image not available)

The counselor opens it up by giving props to B.D. for coming in -- that it takes a lot of courage to do that. B.D. says, "Well, it wasn't my idea" and goes on to say that his shrink at Walter Reed, his battle buds, his wife, his kid, his friends and family were all on his case to do it. Elias finishes his thought, "So, this isn't about you." B.D. shows the difficulty of a vet admitting to himself that he needs help when he says, "No, I'm fine."

::<

>1/26 | Elias and B.D. set the ground rules:

Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau

(link to larger image not available)

B.D.'s curious how the sessions will proceed. Elias says he usually starts off by sharing his own combat experiences in order to show that he can identify with vets who come in for help. If the counselor's story is better than B.D.'s, he says he'll buy lunch -- but it doesn't happen often. [Catch the counselor's story here.]

::

1/28 | B.D. tests the counselor:

Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau

(Click here or on image to enlarge)

In this exchange, B.D. tries to test the counselor's mettle. He lays a story on Elias, "Two wars ago, as a grunt in Cu Chi, I shoved a suspecte V.C. out of a chopper." Elias doesn't flinch. He tells B.D. that his story describes a war crime and that he shouldn't tell anyone else. B.D. gives and says, "I didn't kill anybody. I just made that up." The counselor says he knows he did, leaving B.D. impressed. [Learn how Elias called B.D.'s bluff here.]

::

1/31 | The VA counselor reassures B.D. that he's in a safe place:

Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau

(Click here or on image to enlarge)

Elias explains to B.D. that he can be trusted, that the Vet Center isn't the military -- whatever he says in counseling stays in counseling. "Nothing leaves this room. The only exception is if you threaten to harm someone, including yourself." When Elias asks B.D. if he has any self-destructive thoughts, B.D. breaks up the seriousness of the session by joking, "Does wanting to date your office manager count?"

::

2/01 | B.D.'s first session comes to a close:

Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau

(Click here or on image to enlarge)

The counselor makes a move to end the session at this point. B.D., who's noticeably opening up and getting more comfortable with Elias, is surprised, "But we barely got going." When Elias tells him they've been at it for two hours, B.D. can't believe it. "And I'm not even having fun," he says. Elias says, "Yeah, I seem to have that effect."

::

2/02 | The Vet Center's there for you and B.D.

::

Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau

(Click here or on image to enlarge)

As B.D. walks out of his first counseling session (way to go, B.D.!) he confirms his appointment for the next week. Elias lets him know that if he needs to come in before then, he can. B.D. asks if he owes anything for the session, and the counselor explains, "Are you serious? I'm a benefit, man! Believe it or not, your government provides you with the services of a burned-out, gimp, recovering, bullet-headed high school drop-out absolutely free!" To which B.D. replies, "This is a great country." [Read B.D.'s parting conversation with the cute office manager here.]

::

If you're a vet suffering with PTSD, please know that you are not alone. Please take your symptoms seriously, and seek out any or all of the resources available to you.


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