It was when Apache Jay Nesahkluah was lying in a bed at the Sedgwick County Jail, sobbing to himself, that he realized everything he once had had fallen apart.
Nesahkluah returned from combat in Iraq in 2009 and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I got fired from every single job that I had, … every single relationship I had lasted less than a year,” he said. “Even when it was going well I’d find some way to sabotage it. That feeling of self-worth was gone.”
Nesahkluah is one of at least five Kansans featured in a new documentary on PTSD and veterans that will be nationally broadcast Wednesday evening on DirecTV and Dish Network.
The movie, “Searching for Home: Coming Back From War,” profiles veterans from the WWII to Iraq War generations and the struggles they faced reintegrating into society.
Nesahkluah, who is one of the film’s most prominent characters, said he was “somewhere less than a human being, but a little more than an animal” when he returned from Iraq.
He first sought help for his PTSD five years ago, and began improving by receiving counseling in Wichita and Topeka, and by re-embracing his American Indian culture.
Before Iraq, he was a fancy dancer and a hoop dancer at regional powwows.
He said he abandoned that part of him – threw the clothes into a dumpster and “watched to make sure that they came and took it, crushed it and compacted it – 25 years of my life thrown into the dumpster.”
Returning to his ethnic roots, receiving counseling and being surrounded by supportive peers has helped make his PTSD manageable, he said, but he still feels its effects daily.
He still keeps a loaded shotgun in the backseat of his car. He still checks that every single door and window is locked before going to bed at night. He still wakes with a start about two to three times every night.
Whenever his family returns home from an outing, he still has to enter first and clear the entire home, gun in hand, before allowing his family in.
But things are looking up.
The film’s director, Eric Christiansen, an Emmy Award-winning documentary maker, said the film will help people coping with trauma and tragedy – veterans and non-veterans alike.
For more information, visit the film’s website at www.searchingforhomethemovie.com.