ARUN RATH, HOST:
When Marine veteran Tim Maynard returned home from active duty last year, he was diagnosed with PTSD, and his life spiraled out of control.
TIM MAYNARD: Things went kind of down a dark road for me after getting out. With the PTSD, I lost my family. I lost my job. My apartment complex kicked me out because I had a flashback.
RATH: He tried everything, but nothing seemed to help.
MAYNARD: I went through group therapies. That I went through - I was actually institutionalized for a little while because of the PTSD. I was having flashbacks, thinking I was in other places. I went through some electric therapy, one-on-one counseling. They put me through medication for about two years. And nothing was really working. I mean, it was ups and downs. It was just driving me crazy, and it was tearing my body apart.
RATH: Then Maynard came across a program in his hometown of Greenville, North Carolina, that offered free scuba diving lessons to veterans who received the Purple Heart, so he signed up.
MAYNARD: For the first time I got in the water, it was just - it was like everything stopped - everything. I was just mind-blown at how alone, yet safe I felt. I just felt like nothing else mattered except for me swimming around right there. And then when I came up, I just couldn't even express the amount of joy. It was an overwhelming sense of emotion.
RATH: Finally, some relief.
MAYNARD: Diving is all that I had, and that's all I kept doing because that was what made me feel good. And - sorry, I get a little choked up when I start talking about it, but it really - it's a lifesaver.
RATH: Maynard says, he goes out scuba diving at least once a week now - from the Florida Keys to the Bahamas and exploring shipwrecks off the coast of North Carolina.
MAYNARD: It's been about nine months since I've had an anxiety attack. And I don't have to take my medicine for it anymore because I'm diving so readily. I just - I feel a sense of euphoria for two to three days after I do the dives.
RATH: On the other side of the country, in San Diego, California, Marlene Krpata is doing the same thing. And when she dives down deep, she says, the ocean comes alive.
MARLENE KRPATA: The different schools of fish will start to appear. You start hearing yourself taking your breath in and then the bubbles coming out. You start to breathe a little slower, and everything slows down for you.
RATH: Krpata was an intelligence officer in the National Guard serving in Iraq when she came under enemy mortar fire. Shrapnel damaged the nerves in her right leg, and doctors eventually had to amputate below the knee. Along with her physical injuries, she came home with guilt.
KRPATA: If I felt like I didn't get the information out quick enough, and if my information might've saved that soldier's life, I took it personally that that soldier died because I didn't do something quick enough.
RATH: VA counselors suggested she try to live in the moment. It didn't help.
KRPATA: I would throw the books, and I'd get mad. And I couldn't understand this living in the moment because I couldn't do it here.
RATH: And she says, she struggled at her job.
KRPATA: I work in a company that - we manufacture big turbines, and the manufacturing plan is very noisy. And when I first went back, it was very hard. At times I would, you know, break into tears 'cause, you know, it'd just get too chaotic for me, and I couldn't handle it.
RATH: But underwater, it's quiet.
KRPATA: That completely calms me down. That completely gives me peace. It's so beautiful again. You forget everything that's above that water, and what's below the water is all you think about.
RATH: She says, she's finally able to live in the moment when she's underwater. Krpata swims with groups like Dive Pirates and the Challenged Athletes Foundation in San Diego. As for Tim Maynard, he's an instructor at Scuba Now in Greenville, hoping to get other veterans into the water.
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