A congressman says he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in the aftermath of the US Capitol riot — and that video of the siege triggered an “emotional, physical reaction” within him months later.
Michigan Rep. Dan Kildee, a Democrat who was in the House chamber as rioters stormed the Capitol on Jan 6, took footage of gun-toting officers as they responded to the chaos. He then removed his congressional pin as someone warned it might identify him as a lawmaker.
But the impact of what the rep saw didn’t fully hit him until later, Kildee told NBC News on Sunday.
“I went home, I thought I was fine,” Kildee recalled. “It was after I got home and I started looking at some of the video from the event. I thought it was a few dozen people – it was hundreds and hundreds of people, violent people. And that triggered an emotional and physical reaction.”
Viewing the footage again, Kildee said, caused tightness in his chest, breathing difficulty and debilitating anxiety.
“I became really irritable,” Kildee said.
Kildee sought help from a psychiatrist to address his mental health. Dr. Jim Gordon said he quickly recognized the same symptoms in the Michigan rep as he’s seen in war veterans or victims of school shootings.
“And what Dan was experiencing as he talked about is what people experienced,” Gordon said. “All the symptoms he just described to you, these are all fight or flight that’s being prolonged.”
Feelings of unease for many victims of traumatic events like Kildee can linger long after the incident, Gordon said.
“They didn’t get go away and they have not gone away in so many people and they’re still there for people who have not attended to them,” Gordon told NBC News.
Kildee said he’s speaking out about his struggles to connect directly with others trying to recover from trauma.
“This is not something I ever expected to experience, not something that I anticipated,” Kildee said. “But I’m just really grateful that we connected and that I was able to get help when I needed it the most.”
Kildee, who was elected in Michigan’s 5th Congressional District in 2012, meets with Gordon nearly every Saturday for therapy, which includes meditation techniques, he said.
“Most people who experience trauma don’t experience it in real time on every network across the world,” the rep said. “They do it privately, quietly, painfully, silently, alone. And so if I can speak to them, that’s what I want to do.”
The Jan. 6 riot, which occurred as electoral votes were being counted to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s election win, left five people dead, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. The probe into the riot has resulted in more than 400 criminal cases, the federal prosecutor who previously led the investigation said late last month.