IN SHAKESPEARE, VETERANS FIND A “TOWER OF STRENGTH”

“Shakespeare’s meter of iambic pentameter mimics the human heartbeat.”

IN ACT 5, SCENE 3 OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S RICHARD III,THE MACHIAVELLIAN HERO KING RICHARD IS VISITED BY A PARADE OF GHOSTS.

These are the spirits of people King Richard has killed — and he has a guilty conscience.

Frank Lesnefsky can relate. He has also been haunted by ghosts. In September 2009, Lesnefsky returned to the U.S. from his second deployment to Iraq. He thought memories of the “complete obliteration of the human body” he witnessed on the battlefield wouldn’t stay with him forever. He was ready to leave the past behind.

But soon Lesnefsky started to feel a piercing pain in his lower back. “A ball of tension,” he tells Inverse. Then the nightmares began. To exhaust himself and ultimately sleep, Lesnefsky began exercising excessively — so much so that he ended up with kidney failure.

Individuals embrace after a DE-CRUIT performance.Ashley Garrett

“I felt like my soul was inside a monocle race car,” Lesnefsky, 43, recalls. “I started drinking to try to calm.” In 2014, after several of his army buddies died from suicides and overdoses, he decided to pursue therapy.

Lesnefsky was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, after experimenting with different therapists, he learned about DE-CRUIT, a program that combines theater and psychotherapy to treat trauma in veterans. DE-CRUIT completely transformed his life, Lesnefksy says.

Sign up to our newsletter and be the first to get our news and updates direct to your inbox.

Donate