MOLLIE S. WATERS/THE GREENVILLE STANDARD
Valerie Moody Perdue was thirteen years older than her baby brother, Honorably Discharged Marine Sgt. James H. Moody, who was known to most as Jimmy.
To his older sister, Jimmy Moody was always Bubba, and while the age difference sometimes led Perdue to act more like a second mom than an older sister, Perdue said she and Moody were always close.
“We were always doing stuff when we were together,” said Perdue. “Bub and I were able to talk about anything. There was no judgement between us. Although we might not have always agreed on every topic we discussed, we had the objective ability to either explain how we felt to each other or simply agree to disagree.”
As Moody grew up, Perdue and her family were there for him when he graduated high school and when he joined the military. Occasionally, he opened up to his big sister about his experiences in active combat.
“I know that Bub’s camp in Ramadi, Iraq took incoming frequently,” said Perdue. “He spoke of mortars, bombs at the gate of his camp and IED’s on convoys. Bub had daily hand-to-hand contact with Iraqi detainees.”
During his active duty time, Jimmy Moody saw the horrors and atrocities of war first-hand. It was something that would stay with him long after his service ended. Those experiences and others resulted in Moody developing PTSD, an acronym for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Even after his military service had ended, Moody often turned to his sister when his PTSD became unbearable.
“Bub didn’t just have a little anxiety or a little depression,” said Perdue. “Bub’s panic attacks were severe. He would literally pull off the side of the road and jump out of the vehicle to puke while hyperventilating. Otherwise, he was well adapted to covering them up by self-medicating. After these episodes, his body was so tired and his mind so weary that he would slip a little farther into depression.”
Perdue said she saw her brother go through many other challenges as well. Going out to dinner was often an ordeal for Moody.
“We needed a seat in the back, against the wall, in a booth if at all possible,” said Perdue. “If not possible, we would look at what was available and choose, based on the selections given. He never complained. He made trips to the restroom because he couldn’t sit still in that situation.”
Perdue said Moody also had difficulty standing in lines because of people standing too close to him. He would have panic attacks that left him mentally, emotionally and physically drained.
Although Moody sought help for his PTSD, he ultimately completed suicide on Aug. 4.
Perdue said losing her brother has been difficult on her and her family, but she does not want Moody’s death to be in vain. She wants people to know more about PTSD so they can help those who have it get the help they need.
“People do not know you have PTSD unless they or someone close to them has it and can pick up on your symptoms,” said Perdue. “You can’t just, ‘snap out of it,’ ‘get over it,’ or ‘carry on’ during a time of crisis. For someone who has PTSD, emotions are at a heightened state. What goes up must come down: meaning you are extremely hypervigilant in a PTSD crisis/event, you have so much adrenaline pumping, you can go and go and go. When the adrenaline gets back to normal, you feel like you can barely put one foot in front of the other.”
Knowing these things, Perdue believes, is the first step in helping someone in need.
“I beg of you, if you feel that you have anxiety or depression, and you are not seeing a physician, please make an appointment,” said Perdue. “If you think you or a loved one may have PTSD, I urge you to see a psychiatrist who has experience with PTSD, not a medical physician. It is not a weakness to admit you have these types of conditions.”
Perdue added her brother’s one wish was that others not suffer from this debilitating illness the way he had. She said Moody hoped his family would raise awareness about PTSD and other mental illnesses.
“I’m a nurse,” said Perdue. “When I see patients suffering with some of the same symptoms Jimmy had, I share his story with them. He told me that if I thought sharing his story would help one of my patients, then to share it. That’s what he wanted to do: help people.”
Perdue believes sharing Moody’s story now is keeping with his wish to help others.
She says talking about PTSD and other mental illnesses is a way to destigmatize the negatives associated with them.
“God can handle all things,” said Perdue, “but he gave us enough sense to seek help from professionals who have knowledge and experience in handling these types of conditions.
“If people will seek help from others with the God-given ability to understand mental illness, then maybe there’d be fewer cases of suicide as a result of anxiety, depression and PTSD and other illnesses like them.”
Perdue said remembering her brother and sharing his story is a way of honoring him while helping others.
“I’m not angry with him,” said Perdue. “I’m proud of his service in the USMC and with the Sarasota County Fire Department. He was a beautiful, loving, caring person who will be greatly missed by many.”
A PTSD support group has formed in Greenville. It meets each Tuesday night at the Butler Baptist Association office at 400 East Commerce Street at 6 p.m.