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There has been an ongoing national movement to break the taboo of mental illness, particularly Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 11-20% of veterans who have served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have experienced PTSD. But it’s a tough subject for many people to talk about. That’s why one Kansas father and veteran, Seth Kastle, decided to write a children’s book about his experience with PTSD, as a creative way to explain the condition to his daughters.
Kastle was deployed in 2002 and spent time in Afghanistan and Iraq before returning home to Kansas in 2004. He tells Babble, “When I returned home and began the reintegration process, it was difficult, but I didn’t understand why.” He began to struggle with PTSD, but didn’t know it at the time. It would take several years of struggling in the dark before he realized he needed help, Kastle explains, “The resources that are in place for returning service members didn’t exist then, I didn’t even know what PTSD was.”
But one day, after a hard day at work, he went home, sat down at his kitchen table, and in 30 minutes wrote a story about his struggles that his children could understand. And it was certainly well thought-out. “The book Why Is Dad So Mad? was something that I had in my head for quite a while, but never did anything with,” he says.
Of course creating a book is quite the process, and thanks to his inspiring friend, Kastle made it happen — turning the idea into a published story for kids. “A friend of mine, who was overseas with me on both tours wrote a book about succeeding as a foster child. He was really a big inspiration to me and made me get off my hind end and take the steps to make this happen,” says Kastle.
He was quick to point out that while there are few resources to help dads explain PTSD to kids, there were none for mothers. So, Kastle teamed up with his wife Julia Kastle to publish the book Why Is Mom So Mad. “My wife is also a combat veteran. I actually proposed to her on top of a bunker in Iraq in 2003. We collaborated to write the second book,” he says. “She helped give the book a mother’s perspective.”
The book Why Is Dad So Mad is filled with beautiful illustrations that give a visual depiction of the tough emotions that veteran dads with PTSD experience. Kastle did a brilliant job describing complex and difficult thoughts in a way that young kids can understand and empathize with — including his daughters.
“Reading this book to my daughters was a pretty powerful experience. In the book, I describe the anger from PTSD as a fire inside my chest. After I read it to my oldest daughter, she told me she was sorry I had a fire inside my chest,” he tells Babble. “That is something that will stick with me.”