Christal Presley writes about her father's battle with PTSD after serving in Vietnam.
ATLANTA -- Christal Presley says as a child, she was really afraid of her father.
"He spent my childhood locked in his room, vacillating between depression and rage," she explained.
Presley says her father, Delmer Presley, suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, after serving in Vietnam. When her father returned from his tour in 1970, psychiatrists were just beginning to understand PTSD.
"He cried, he yelled, and I cried, I yelled, I cut myself. My dad was suicidal," she said. "My dad thought he was going crazy."
Presley believes she has suffered from what some experts describe as second-generation PTSD.
Now an Atlanta homeowner with a Ph.D. in education, Presley says she has struggled as an adult and has never really been happy.
Her pets have brought her some peace and relaxation, but she wanted to really deal with her father's demons, which ultimately became hers. After minimal contact with her her dad for more than a decade, she asked her father to chat with her, by phone, every day, for 30 days.
"The first day, he hung up on me," Presley said. "He didn't want to talk about the war. He didn't know anything about a war, even though he had agreed in fact to talk to me."
But day by day, their conversations became more detailed and even comforting.
"I began to see him as a young boy who went to Vietnam who came back very broken," she explained. "I had never seen that side of his story before. I had always thought of my dad as a father who was dysfunctional, as someone who couldn't play the role of caregiver."
The 34-year-old instructional mentor in Atlanta Public Schools says she came to better understand why her dad so often removed himself from the family.
"My dad was never hiding away from me because he hated me," Presley said. "He was hiding away from me because he loved me so much and was trying to protect me from him."
The former English teacher compiled their conversations in a deeply personal memoir, "Thirty Days with My Father."
She also traveled to Vietnam with Soldier's Heart, an organization that supports veterans and families suffering the psychological wounds of war.
"I was able to really walk in my father's footsteps in a different way, but still find the same peace that I always longed for," Presley said.
She said writing it all down has positively changed her life and helped to mend the fractured relationship she had with her dad for decades.
"The whole project was about setting out to understand my father and finding my father, and who I found was myself," Presley said.
While she's proud of her work and how much she has grown, the most important review is from her father. Presley said her dad really likes the book and believes it will help a lot of people.
In addition to the memoir, Presley is also the founder of United Children of Veterans, a website that provides resources about PTSD in children of war veterans.