Congressman Has Been Seeing Therapist to Treat PTSD from U.S. Capitol Attack: ‘Thought I Was Fine’

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Sean Neumann
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Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images Rep. Dan Kildee

Rep. Dan Kildee is opening up about the post-traumatic stress disorder he's been experiencing since the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol.

Kildee, 62, revealed during an NBC Nightly News interview on Sunday that he's had difficulty breathing in recent months and started seeing a therapist after a colleague told him they thought he was experiencing trauma.

"I had a lot of tension in my chest and breathing was difficult," Kildee said he felt after rewatching video from the attack. "I became really irritable."

The Democratic lawmaker from Michigan was in the House chamber when pro-Donald Trump insurrectionists broke into the Capitol building, leading to a standoff with police officers who had their guns drawn. Meanwhile Kildee and other lawmakers lay on the chamber floor and told each other to remove the pins on their clothes that would identify them as lawmakers.

In all, five people died during the rioting. But Kildee told NBC he didn't initially realize the extent of the attack.

"It was after I got home and I started looking at some of the video from the event," he said. "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."

He told NBC that "I thought I was fine" until he rewatched those videos from the rioting, which triggered symptoms one trauma therapist told him were common for military veterans and survivors of mass shootings.

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Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images Rep. Dan Kildee

The lawmaker began seeing Dr. Jim Gordon, who wrote the book Transforming Trauma, at the recommendation of another lawmaker.

"I've worked in war zones, post-war and post-disaster situations, after school shootings and with war traumatized vets," Gordon told NBC.

"What Dan was experiencing, as he talked about it, is what people experience," Gordon continued. "All the symptoms he just described to you are 'fight or flight' that's being prolonged."

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The doctor said those feelings linger in PTSD patients who do not attend to them.

Kildee told NBC he hoped to speak out about his recent mental health treatment in an effort to reach others experiencing similar problems. The congressman said he sees his therapist almost every Saturday.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images Rep. Dan Kildee

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"This is not something I ever expected to experience — not something that I anticipated," Kildee said. "But I'm just really grateful we connected and I got help when I needed it the most."

On Twitter afterwards, the lawmaker recognized many people deal with PTSD "quietly, privately, painfully, silently & alone."

"Too often, there is a stigma attached with seeking help," Kildee wrote. "That needs to change."

If you or someone you know need mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.