March 8, 2018
To help him, we must help ourselves
Richard Engel has covered war zones as a reporter for over 20 years, and was named the Chief Foreign Correspondent of NBC News in 2008. He has had some terrifying experiences, including being held hostage in Syria just a few years ago. After that experience, he decided it was time to marry and raise a family.
Now he and his wife have recently learned that their son Henry has a variant of RETT Syndrome. He has written about how lonely it can be to be the parent of a special needs child, and he has felt anger at God and envy of other parents.
Just yesterday he published a piece about the similarities of being a special needs parent with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, something he knows of directly from his work and captivity. Of course he is just on the beginning of this journey, but the lesson he draws is like that if you are on an airliner in distress: put on your own oxygen mask first, then your child’s. Otherwise you put both of you at risk.
But in order to help Henry, we have to help ourselves. And that means staying mentally strong. I’ve found that troops with loving and stable families, those who have been smart with their money, and those who are able to talk about their feelings tend to resist PTSD’s downward pull for longer. This resistance is fundamental because the breaking point is terrible: Walking out onto a frozen lake is one thing, but falling through is a whole new level of terrifying.