Retired Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire is opening up about his battle with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a new book.
Dallaire joined News Talk 770’s Danielle Smith on Monday, to talk about his latest book “Waiting for First Light – My Ongoing Battle with PTSD”.
The former Senator was the commander of the ill-fated United Nations peacekeeping mission in Rwanda during the genocide in 1994. An estimated 800,000 to one million people were killed over 100 days in that country, when Hutu extremists targeted the minority Tutsi community.
Dallaire eventually asked to be relieved from his post. “I had, by then, given everything I had physically, emotionally,” he told Danielle Smith.
The former UN commander said he was not able to sleep, or eat and had decided he was putting the mission at risk.
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Dallaire said it is only recently that the military has learned how to properly treat PTSD.
“When I came back, we’d already had a couple years of the Gulf war syndrome, Yugoslavia … we simply were saying ‘listen, with time and rest you’ll get over it'; Not realizing that the brain is physically effected and that your whole being has been transformed,” Dallaire said.
He told Danielle about an experience he had in Freetown, Sierra Leone, where a man was using a machete to cut coconuts. “It threw me immediately and I was on my way to kill the guy,” Dallaire said. “For about five minutes I relived three months of the genocide.”
Dallaire compares PTSD to losing a limb and said soldiers suffering from the disease are forced to readjust to a new ‘normal’.
“The injury has effected your ability to control your emotions,” he said. “ You have experienced things which are so foreign to your way of life, that you can’t grasp your current way of life anymore … and so that intolerance tends to make you unsympathetic to whatever the problems might be in our ‘normal’ way of life.”
Dallaire urged people suffering from PTSD to seek help immediately.