I’m Still Transitioning

For Michael Brandon Jones of Pittsfield, the only time he truly feels at ease is when he holds his breath and dive into the water.  “Transitioning?” he said with a laugh. “I’m still transitioning, and it’s been 10 years.” A five year Marine Corps veteran, Jones 35, still thinks about what he brought back from his tour in Kosovo. It’s where he picked up his love of free-diving, a process of diving without equipment. It’s also where he developed post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. “Your perception changes when you have a weapon pointed at your face,” said Jones, now the seafood manager in Great Barrington. “ You can’t really explain that to anybody, it’s something that you wish you never have to explain. You kind of feel withdrawn because you worry about your reaction.
For Jones and others, PTSD is a result of the nervous system doing its job too well. It’s supercharged the fight-or-flight state, creating associations that might seem innocuous to a civilian, but can produce anxiety in a combat vet.
Jones, said he hopes to bring some relief to others who have PTSD. Training for certification to teach free-diving, he wants to share the therapeutic benefits of the activity with veterans to help with their physical or emotional rehabilitation.
You learn to retrain the mind, and that’s what I did though diving,” Jones said. “I learned to be able to release all that through the water. I’m trying to give [others] an outlet outside of the bottle and the pill.
Yet even as he holds a job and has a family that loves him. Jones said that living with the constant battle-readiness of military life isn’t easy. He said that after five years, that hyper-vigilance almost was part of his DNA.
“It changes you. It hardens you,” he said.” You tend to be a little colder and rigid and more judgmental. You learn to adapt to it to a degree, but this change is forever.

The Berkshire Eagle Sunday, May 22, 2011
Article: When they come home.

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