Christal Presley never fought in the Vietnam War, but she often felt like she had. Her father returned from that war with deep psychological scars and his intense struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder affected her childhood deeply.

Now, she’s written a book about her attempt to get her father to open up about his time as a soldier, and about how finally talking about PTSD helped to heal both herself and her dad.

Presley wasn’t even born when her father came home from the war, but by the time she was in kindergarten, his attempts to forget what he had seen there collapsed.

“He didn’t start experiencing (PTSD) symptoms until I was 5 years old, and he found one of his best friends dead, at the side of the road. And the war just came rushing back to him,” Presley told CTV’s Canada AM from Atlanta Thursday.

From then on, Presley says her father struggled with his battle (psychological?) scars, wavering between deep depression and rage. He experienced nightmares so intense he had to sleep on pads to absorb his sweating, and he eventually lost the ability to work.

“He hid away in his room a lot. He was very disconnected from my mother and me,” Presley says. “If I dropped a plate or spoon, he would hit the floor, he would go berserk. It was very scary; he was very unpredictable.”

Presley says she and her mother had no understanding about what was happening to her father, so they kept his struggles secret and tried to live their life normally.

“This was the 1980s and PTSD was not even a medical term, so we thought my dad was just going crazy,” she says.

She learned to walk on eggshells, she says, trying not to provoke him. But the strain of what was not being said ate away at her. So, as soon as she turned 18, Presley moved out and didn’t looked back, barely speaking to her father for the next 13 years.

Then, in 2009, after realizing that she had spent her whole life running away, rather than trying to understand, Presley decided she wanted to try to reconnect with him.

“I finally reached a point in my life where I wanted to reach out,” she says.

She decided to try, for 30 days, to get her father to open up to her, taking a page from a former therapist who advised her that when trying something new, to commit to doing it for 30 days.

“So this is exactly what I did with this project with my father. I resolved to call him every day for 30 days and actually ask him some questions about the war and what happened to us back then,” she says.

At first, her father refused to talk. But within a few days, he began to open up. And what Presley quickly realized was that her father really wanted someone to ask him about how he was feeling.

“I had never once asked for my dad’s story. I had never realized as a kid, or even as a young adult, that my dad wanted to talk… The whole time I think he just wanted somebody to ask,” she says.

Presley turned those conversations into her first book, entitled, “Thirty Days with My Father: Finding Peace from Wartime PTSD.” The book tells of how she and her dad were finally able to reconnect by talking about the war , their collective wounds, and their wish to move forward.

At the end of the 30 days, Presley’s father gave her a hat as a Christmas gift that reads: “Daughter of a Vietnam Veteran” across the front. Presley says that gift was a major breakthrough to her, because it showed that her father wanted something that was once so shameful to now be worn across her head.

While her father isn’t “cured,” and likely will always have episodes of PTSD, Presley says she and her mother now have a better understanding of his condition and how to handle him.

To Presley’s own surprise, she was also able to make a large realization about herself – that she was gay.

“One of the things that happened after I wrote this book was I deeply reflected on so many parts of my own life. And I realized that my whole life, I’d used older men to fill the gap of not having much of a relationship with my father,” she says.

“So I did realize I was gay… when I realized that I no longer needed -- now that I had my dad in my life -- to fulfill that gap.”

Presley, who has a Ph.D in Education, is also proud that she has been able to found a website called United Children of Veterans, which provides resources about PTSD in children of war veterans.

“I think it’s so important that children of veterans with PTSD find a place to tell their stories and know that they are not alone,” she says.

“My whole life until I was 30... I thought all these things happening with my dad and the way they were affecting me, it was just something happening to me. And it’s been amazing to find that I am not alone – tragic, and yet amazing as well.”