So it is true….PTSD can be repressed and then resurfaced years later. When I was in Iraq I experienced a lot of things that made me who I am today. The loss of a fellow soldier in April of 2004 didn’t really affect me as it did others. He was the first soldier we lost in Iraq. At the time I took his death as another soldier down, time to stand up and keep moving on with the mission. I never truly grieved or truly tried to understand. My mind went into a different mode, one that just said, “this is war and it happens.” We should never look at those we lose because of war as just another casualty. We should see them as another brother that has sacrificed his life for the betterment of the rest of the nation. Here is now over 10 year later and those feelings of sadness and grieve are finally surfacing. I suppressed them for so long that it not only affected those around me, but has affected me and the person I should be.
During my Mental Health appointment yesterday I first the first time in 10 years cried about what happened in Iraq. For the first time it was emotional to me and not just a reason that I changed my life or another statistic. It became real after all these years. Not only did I cry, but I did it in front of people I didn’t even know. Normally if you asked me about the situation I would tell you the story and tell you as much as I could about him, because for years afterwards I learned all I could about him to remember him. No emotion behind telling the story, just a combat story that we as soldiers tell. But yesterday was different. As I met with my team of Mental Health doctors that I had just met for the first time, they asked me if I had experienced anything in Iraq and then it was like a flood gate.
I think it was because I was talking to someone that really just wanted to know what I experienced instead of wondering if I was in combat, they truly wanted to help. A 30 minute meeting turned into an hour. At the end I felt a slight weight off me. The feeling someone else in this world knows what I am going through in my head. I am no where near fixed….that will be years or maybe the rest of my life, but at the moment I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel to the end of this nightmare in my head.
I would encourage every Veteran that has been in a combat zone to see a Mental Health Doctor or to Visit the VA and see if they have an IRAQ/AFGHAN counseling group. If you are in PHX they have one every Tuesday and Thursday from 3pm to 4pm. Even if you don’t feel you have any issues its best to check the box and just talk to someone before you self access yourself.
To all my Veterans out there…be safe this weekend.
-This post is dedicated to all the fallen heros – R.I.P. Shawn Edwards – 04/24/2004 – OIF II