Military.com has partnered with TakePart.com, Participant Media’s digital magazine and social action platform to present a powerful documentary, That Which I Love Destroys Me. The film offers a candid look at PTSD through the eyes of two Special Operations veterans –Tyler Grey and Jayson Floyd – and charts their journeys toward healing through their struggles to rebuild relationships with family and exploring their trauma up close.
You can watch the entire film here through the end of March. Jayson Floyd talked with us about his experiences making the film and how talking about his issues really has helped him manage and work thr0ugh his PTSD.
Let’s talk about how you got involved in this documentary. You had some connections through your own career working in the film industry.
Ric Roman Waugh is the director of That Which I Love Destroys Me and the last movie I did was with him. It’s called Snitch and starred Dwayne Johnson. I played an undercover DEA agent.
How did you all decide to make a documentary together?
In 2007, Tyler and Ric were beginning to work on a movie together. Ric pulled Tyler in to do some tech advising on a script and a strong relationship developed between both of them. Tyler started to talk pretty honestly to him about the readjustment problems for the current veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ric had his eye on making a documentary. He just didn’t know what the subject matter was going to be. Tyler pulled me in to discuss some of my experiences readjusting. We started talking about an experience that Tyler and I had when we went up to Fort Drum to speak to a Wounded Warriors transition unit. I think at that time there were 17 of them were on station in different regions. It's a unit specifically designed to help transition either the veterans that are getting out from medical injuries, transitioning back into civilian life, or people that still can stay in the military because their PTSD wasn’t too bad. They re-acclimate them to a healthy life and then bring them back into service.
So we went up there and we really didn’t know what we were going to talk about. About an hour before we had to go out and speak to a large auditorium of injured veterans about our own personal struggles, we decided that the only thing that’s really going to help is to be completely honest about happened with us.
Tyler has a unique storyline because he was severely physically wounded. He had a portion of his arm taken away from him in an explosion and he received a lot of shrapnel. On top of that, he had his own form of PTSD. I talked about a broad spectrum of my issues with PTSD. We were really honest with these guys and got a strong response from the audience. We had three or four different sessions with these guys. During one of the sessions, one kid had a really strong response to our talk and he ran out of the auditorium.
He came back later at the end of the speeches. We would let the audience come and talk to us after the session and that kid came up to me and started talking about what he was struggling with. He pulled out his suicide letter and he said that he'd been struggling and that he's been thinking about suicide. Because of all we said, we really connected with him and he wanted to talk about it.
We realized that we have a really strong response from these guys. What’s funny is the mental health professionals are the only ones who complained, because during that time we were speaking fairly aggressively. We were cussing. But it's all the things that other veterans related to, and we spoke veteran to veteran. W found it pretty interesting that the mental health professionals were the ones saying that they have a problem with how we're doing it, but all the veterans really engaged us and liked how we handled it.
So we came back and we told that story to Ric and he wanted to put a camera on us for a film. There was no agenda when we started filming the documentary. There’s a reason why the movie comes across the way it does. There's no political view. There's no military view, pro-war, antiwar. It's not left or right, Republic and Democrat. We just put cameras on us and the only rule that we had was to be completely honest, like we were when we gave that speech to the Wounded Warriors unit.
Over the course of the next three-and-a-half years, Ric had hundreds of hours of footage. If anything that happened in our lives, we tried to be completely honest at every depth, at every level possible. Ric had to be highly mobile and fly out to film when anything was happening.
There was no agenda and you're just seeing what it was like to re-acclimate with PTSD and physical injuries after the war.
How has talking about your experiences the way you did in the film affected you since shared them?
The reason the film reaches so many people is it's so familiar. It's really common, the struggles we go through. We're not saying that our pain is any worse than anyone else's. All we're saying is we were in a position to talk about it and we don’t consider ourselves the example, but we do understand the weight and the responsibility of being in a position to tell it. So you know that’s why we told the documentary.
When Tyler and I see the documentary, when we look back on it, it's a form of therapy for us.
It sounds like all the talking is something that really helped you deal with the transition.
Eventually, that’s what the whole message is. The whole message is to normalize it, find someone to talk to about it, and just get it out. That’s what the whole documentary is. It's the process of working through it verbally. Everyone from mental health doctors to other veterans believe that the best way to deal with your PTSD is just to get it out and talk about it.
It’s not something that’s always been a part of the culture of men and women coming home from combat situations.
I think the thing that most veterans would agree with me on this. When you find yourself in chaotic environments, it's your job to find and create order out of chaos. There are certain characteristics, personality traits that help you do that successfully. You learn to numb yourself from the signals around you. You bury the emotion or the pain down. In the moment, that’s healthy. The only thing that gets you through those moments is logic and reason. Emotion is actually an inhibitor. Those traits that make you strong in the moment, that make you capable to do those things as a veteran, are the complete opposite of what you need to do to heal yourself when you come back. Inside our community, you have this built-up stigma that if you do those things, it's a form of weakness.
When you come back and you're trying to readjust, you have to do the exact opposite of you learned to do when you got in. And that’s the toughest part of the lesson.
We’ve got a large audience of active duty men and women, veterans and military supporters at Military.com. Tell them why it’s worth spending two hours to watch your film.
This is not just for veterans. This movie is for anyone with experience with any form of PTSD. Family members and friends will get a perspective into a world that most veterans don’t talk about.
If you want to understand what's going through a veteran's head when they're actually making a healthy recovery, if you want to understand how you might be able to help your family member, if you're a veteran who wants to understand and be able to relate to someone that’s suffering from the same stuff that you are, sit down and watch the movie. It’s going to help put a voice to all the suffering, all the pain that you might not have been able to talk about. I you're a family member or a friend, it's going to help you rationalize and understand the process that it takes to heal.
Ultimately, the more people that watch this, the more it normalizes the process the veterans are going through. It's a compounding exponential curve. The more people that watch it, the easier it gets for more veterans to come back to do it. When you watch it, you're adding to that healing factor for the soldiers that are coming back.
You’ve managed to get some traction in the movie business, something a lot of veterans would like to do. What’s your advice for people who want to get into film?
It's like most jobs. If you feel like you need to do it, if you love it, then you need to take it seriously and you need to go apply yourself. It's not an easy industry to get into. It's highly competitive, especially because the market is saturated right now with all the veterans that are coming back from the war. My best advice is that it's just like going in the military. If you feel like you need to do it, if you feel like you were meant to do it, then chase your dreams. But if there's any question or any doubt inside of you, figure out what you want before you come out here and dedicate your life to it.