PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
Since 2004 when I was deployed to Iraq I felt changes that I thought was from growing up, from experience and becoming more than I was because of war. Now so many years later I have come to realize that those changes were from different things than I had thought. The death of a fellow soldier, being in a war zone, and my medical issues that I have been fighting since have truly shaped my brain. Since 2004 I have fought the notion that I had PTSD. I think the signs were always there, but I didn’t let them affect me. Now as I am dealing more with my medical issues those old thoughts are creeping back up, and my guard is down and as of March, I have been diagnosed with PTSD.
The hardest part of this diagnosis is knowing the destruction I have caused over the last 11 years. PTSD does that, it affects the brain in a way that the person you used to be isn’t there anymore. It affected me in so many ways that I understand more now as to why and wish I would have caught it earlier. PTSD if not caught can destroy families, destroy careers, and can cause suicide. Its a serious issue that we must seek in all soldiers returning from combat. Many soldiers will shrug it off as nothing, but later it will affect them as it is affecting me now.
I can honestly say now that I can look back of the last 11 years and see all my faults and all the destruction that I have done and only wish to say I am sorry. What I have lost is family and friends, but the worst is I lost myself. I lost those things that make me me. I isolated myself from my family, from my kids, from those that I love. My emotions towards certain things changed also. The things I loved to do, weren’t fun anymore. Happiness wasn’t the same. Friendships weren’t the same.
The hardest transition was from the military. My first job made me just as happy as being in the military because in the military I had a purpose and working for the Church gave me a purpose. I think this helped with the PTSD issues. I think the last time I was truly happy with my life and career was while I was at the Church. Ever since I was laid off from the Church I have gone from job to job, looking for that same purpose. Most of the people that become a soldier want purpose in their life, they want meaning in what they do, they want to be protectors and want more for themselves. And that’s the struggle when soldiers leave the military. They have to search for that purpose, that meaning. Its the hardest transition in life, going from a purpose filled to a purposeless life style. I believe that’s why so many join Veterans groups, become police officers and firefighters. That feeling of having a purpose continues to drive them. Without it the PTSD, the memories become more real, more vivid and become more apart of their everyday life instead of just a memory.
Most of all this became real the moment I put in my claim for PTSD through the VA. When I met with the counselor and was asked questions I have never been asked before and then seeing that they said I did have PTSD, it made it more real. The constant reminder everyday of the medical issues I have that I get no answers for don’t help in the matter. Parts of my life I know I have to live with and adjust too. That also doesn’t help because the PTSD makes it difficult for me to really want to do anything, the medical issues keep me from doing the things I want to do, like running. So its a double edged sword. The one thing I know is that my medical can never be fixed, that I will live with my condition for the rest of my life. The PTSD over time will go away through proactive counseling and the continued pursuit of peace internally. So I am more focused on the the PTSD these days than the medical.
We need to really start cracking down on the PTSD issues within the military. Every soldiers that deploys to a hostile environment has PTSD. If they say they don’t then they really do. The human body wasn’t designed to handle the things that happen in war, no amount of training will keep a soldier from forming PTSD. The screening needs to be more rigorous and needs to be more frequent. Soldiers just coming back from combat will not show signs of PTSD, because they aren’t disconnected from combat. It takes time for that disconnect and for the PTSD signs to show.
I have read and done the research on the 22 deaths a day. I always see, 1 active soldier, and 21 veterans take their lives everyday. If we really dive into these issues you will see that all 22 suicides could have been stopped internally. A soldier with any signs of PTSD should not be allowed to be released from active duty until they are stable. A soldier should never result to the point of suicide. The chain of command needs to be more active in these soldiers lives, they need to be more proactive in seeing the signs and knowing their soldiers more. This also goes up the chain of command. Soldiers need to know the signs that they will see in their leaders and the same way leaders down to their soldiers. When I was in I had leaders that were so proactive I hated that they knew so much about where I would go, but I look back now and thank those leaders because they were proactive in my life as a soldier.
I want to say sorry to all those friends that I have hurt in the past. I am truly sorry. I am sorry to all my family for not being proactive in the family and being disconnected. I am still working on that part of my life. Sorry to those that I hurt as those were not my intentions. I am still struggling with these issues and will continue to for the rest of my life. But I now know and understand the issues and I understand that its not me, that this person that has taken over isn’t me. That I am more than this. That I don’t have to be in the military to live a purpose driven life. PTSD will not define me, its what I have, not who I am.
PTSD – Its a disease that many can’t see that can destroy lives. We need to come together and fix this as a country!!!