"I came back with a lot of mental health issues," said Jonathan Bittner of Harleysville, Montgomery County.
HARLEYSVILLE, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- A veteran who served in Afghanistan is using his own experience with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to help others cope with mental health issues.
Jonathan Bittner of Harleysville, Montgomery County enlisted in the Army in 2005 and deployed to Afghanistan in 2007. After serving for nine years, he medically retired in 2013 due to mental health issues.
"I came back with a lot of mental health issues, traumatic brain injury, really struggled for a couple of years trying to find my way. So I spent a lot of time in the inpatient treatments down at the Coatesville VA Hospital," he said.
He credits the hospital for saving him. And because of that lifesaving intervention, he decided on what his life after the war should be.
"I went back to school...I finished my bachelor's. Another two years after that, I finished my master's degree from Chestnut Hill College with a focus on trauma," he said. "I want to help others who were in the same place that I was, where my heart is."
Bittner used his degree in psychology to open up his own practice called the Chestnut Hill Therapy Collective, and dedicates most of his work to helping veterans and first responders suffering from PTSD find peace.
"It causes issues such as depression, anxiety, lack of sleep. Another common kind of downside of PTSD is the isolation that it causes," he said.
He said the rare combination of being male, a veteran and a therapist allows him to have a special connection with people who have gone through similar traumas.
He has a message for all who may be struggling with their mental health.
"Whether you're diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder or not, that diagnosis doesn't make you who you are. And that doesn't have to change you as a person," he said. "Here I am, all these years later, and I understand that I'm blessed to be alive."