Welcome to Central Recovery Press!
Free Call 888-855-7199
diane cameronDiane Cameron: Witnesses the effects of trauma daily in her job as development director for Unity House, a service organization based in Troy, but she also has personal experience with such trauma through her own family. She has documented that story in a new book, “Never Leave Your Dead,” in which she writes about her stepfather, Donald Watkins, and his fight with post-traumatic stress disorder. Watkins was a decorated U.S. Marine who was among a group known as the China Marines, many of whom were captured by the Japanese at the beginning of World War II and held as slave laborers until the end of the war in 1945. Cameron will read from the book at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 28, at The Book House in Albany and from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 24, at Market Block Books in Troy.
1 What did you learn as you wrote this book that you did not know about your stepfather?
I learned that the “nice elderly man” that my 70-year-old mother had married was one of the surviving Marines from a crucial period of American military history. I learned that he had a scary past and an indomitable spirit of survival and resilience. I learned that he had post-traumatic stress disorder long before we ever had words to diagnose or describe it.
2 After writing this, do you feel he was a traumatized veteran? A victim of abuse in the mental-health system? A criminal? Mentally ill? Or just eccentric?
Across the 20 years that I spent researching Donald Watkins and the China Marines, there were times in which I believed each description was true. When I first met him, I thought Donald was elderly and eccentric. As I learned his history, I understood that he had committed two terrible crimes, but that he was also both victim and survivor of psychiatric abuse. Donald’s was one of the first cases in the United States to test our mental health system, ultimately leading to deinstitutionalization and from there to our current system of services. And, of course, under and around all of that, Donald was a decorated and traumatized United States Marine.
3 What contribution did men like your stepfather make to helping those who suffer from combat trauma today?
Donald, and his fellow pre-World War II veterans, fought and suffered within our military and healthcare systems to preserve and demand recognition, dignity and better services for all veterans. They suffered greatly but paved the way for those services. As Marines, they did not leave their dead, even at home and even late into their lives.
4 How did this book help you deal with your personal struggles with family abuse?
Through the many years of researching and writing Donald’s story, I came to better understand my mother’s struggles with addiction and mental illness. I could see her behavior through the lens of traumatic injury. And I was able – watching her in that late-life marriage – to appreciate her most admirable qualities, one of which was her ability to recognize Donald’s heroism and redemption.
5 What message do you hope readers take away from ‘Never Leave Your Dead’?
I hope that readers will appreciate that trauma is always a long story and that, while we are rightfully saddened by the injury caused by trauma, there are also gifts and strengths on the far side of many traumatic experiences. We can never be glib about this part of trauma, but there can be spiritual and psychological growth when trauma is recognized, accepted and treated.
— Mark Robarge
Available now!

Available now!

This interview first appeared in the 5/11/16 issue of the Troy Record

This interview first appeared in the 5/11/16 issue of the Troy Record