Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on November 11, 2016 at 9:03 AM, updated November 11, 2016 at 9:46 AM
MAPLEWOOD — After nearly two decades of running from her past, Kathy Parker was broken, she said.
Parker left home at age 15, finished school, found a job and started a family after she was sexually abused as child, she said. But, by her early 30s, she was chronically exhausted and felt as though she was unraveling both mentally and physically, she said.
That’s when Parker received the terrifying diagnosis: She was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Learning how to live with PTSD wasn’t easy, Parker said, but she found comfort and support after discovering PTSD Journal, a print magazine and website for the millions of people tormented by post-traumatic stress.
Parker’s story is one of the hundreds Morris Plain’s Christian Benedetto has heard since he launched the PTSD Journal last summer, he said. The journal based in Maplewood quickly achieved a global reach, helping veterans and others find acceptance and overcome the stigma of PTSD, a potentially debilitating mental condition that affects people who have experienced a traumatic event.
“To find the PTSD Journal meant I wasn’t alone,” said Parker, who lives in Australia. “That was the biggest thing. To be able to read the stories of others, to share their pain, to understand them and know that I was equally understood in my own pain.”
Stories like Parkers’ come to Benedetto constantly through emails and social media, he said. From as near as Newark to as far as China, the magazine has reached military veterans, 9/11 survivors, abuse victims and other men and women who have experienced trauma or tragedy, Benedetto said.
“We are saving lives and affecting lives on a daily basis,” said Benedetto, 49, a veteran of the Gulf War.
Benedetto knows the struggle of living with of PTSD all too well. As an infantryman in the Gulf War, he spent most of the 100-hour campaign to liberate Kuwait in the darkness of an amphibious tractor – like a tank that floats.
For years after he came home, Benedetto had nightmares and panic attacks and turned to drugs and alcohol to cope, he said. It wasn’t until 2013, after his young son startled him while he was sleeping, that he finally sought help for his anxiety and paranoia.
“He got in bed and he kind of startled me, and I grabbed his wrist really, really hard,” Benedetto said. “It scared me more than it scared him.”
Benedetto, who owns and operates a commercial real estate brokerage firm, immediately sought medical help and was diagnosed with PTSD.
As he tried to come to terms with his own diagnosis, Benedetto saw the need for a forum for people to share their PTSD experiences and learn more about the disorder. So he turned to Vic Nichols, publisher of Newark Bound magazine.
Nichols was skeptical at first, he said, until he realized how many people suffer from PTSD and how wide-reaching the magazine could be.
“I did a little bit of research on my own and then I realized what a huge thing this really is,” Nichols said.
The first issue, published last summer, featured a cover story questioning whether Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis had PTSD. Another article told the story of a Florham Park woman whose son and daughter were killed by a drunk driver.
The issue, available both in print and online, also examined the common signs that someone may be suffering from PTSD.
“My hope and my dream is for the PTSD Journal to be the LexisNexis of the conversation on the topic of PITSD nationwide,” Nichols said.
The second issue was published in June and a third is coming this month. The journal will be published quarterly next year with plans for about 300,000 copies of each issue.
The print version of the magazine is distributed to The U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other organizations that serve individuals suffering from PTSD.
Monica Davis, who experienced PTSD after working as a Department of Defense contractor in Iraq, uses the PTSD Journal for Project Rebirth, a non-profit that helps peoples coping with grief, loss and trauma, she said.
“The point of it is that you can be in this grief-stricken moment, you can be in despair and when you read these stories they turn into what hope looks like,” Davis, of Virginia, said. “That’s what this journal does.”