By Dean Yates
Filed Nov. 15, 2016
HOMELAND: In the study at my home in Evandale, Tasmania. In the island’s rainforest, touching the ancient trees and gazing at the misty mountains, I thought I’d found the peace I was looking for. REUTERS/Cameron RichardsonPost-traumatic stress disorder isn’t just for soldiers. After years of covering war and tragedy in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for Reuters, it happened to me.
EVANDALE, Australia – When the psychiatrist diagnosed me with post-traumatic stress disorder at the end of our first session early this March, I finally had to accept I was unwell. The flashbacks, the anxiety, my emotional numbness and poor sleep had long worried my wife, Mary. I had played down the symptoms, denied I had a problem. Five months later I’d be in a psychiatric ward.
I covered some big stories as a Reuters journalist. The Bali nightclub bombings in 2002, the Boxing Day tsunami in Indonesia’s Aceh province in 2004, three stints in Iraq from 2003 to 2004 and then a posting to Baghdad as bureau chief from 2007 to 2008. From 2010 to 2012, based in Singapore, I oversaw coverage of the top stories across Asia each day.
Then, after 20 years working in Asia and the Middle East, it was time to settle down. I moved my family in early 2013 to the Tasmanian village of Evandale, population 1,000, to edit stories for Reuters from home.
Rather than relaxing in Tasmania, the beautiful Australian island where my wife was born, I unravelled.
In a letter that was painful for her to write, Mary, a former journalist, outlined her concerns to the psychiatrist ahead of that first session: “When we came home to Tasmania three years ago it was a real ‘tree change’ for Dean and he spent much more time with the family. Very soon I began to notice changes – a loud-noise sensitivity, a quick temper, irritability, impatience, and an atmosphere of what seemed like misery that sat like a pall over the household,” Mary wrote.
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