This post may not be pretty, just a warning. It was hard enough for me to write.
I came home from Iraq in September 2007. I can’t believe it’s been 4 1/2 years.
Me and my mom the day I got home, well stateside.
I like to think that I’m still the same person I was before, but that’s not the case. Sure, I still enjoy doing things outdoors, learning, reading, teaching. But some things have changed.
I jump when a car backfires.
The sounds of fireworks send me into a ball curled up on my bedroom floor.
I sit around (hello unemployment) and think of money, bills, babies, and I can’t breathe.
I never used to have anxiety issues. I used to think that anxiety disorders were just another way to diagnose people and medicate them, not really solve the issue. I thought PTSD(post traumatic stress disorder) was the military’s version of ADD, everyone has it. Then, I had my first panic attack.
I was at work, had just been introduced to my unit in Fort Knox, I was being given the run around about where I was going to live and who I needed to talk to. I finally found the right person, got the keys, drove around post for an hour and found it. I dragged my stuff inside and realize that it’s just me, in a two bedroom place(furnished at least) where I don’t know anyone and I know where nothing is. I panicked. I felt like someone was sitting on my chest, I couldn’t breathe, I started seeing black spots, my body started to tingle. I grabbed my phone and called my boss(the only person I really knew at that point), I don’t remember much after that.
I vaguely remember him coming into my townhouse, he sat and talked to me until I was semi–coherent, then he drove me to the base hospital. The nurse told me that my O2 levels were too low for her liking so I was staying until they improved, she told me I probably hyperventilated after having a panic attack and my body needed to recover. She gave me a prescription for Xanax and directions to follow up with a therapist on base. He later gave me a daily anxiety med prescription and Xanax for emergencies. But I wasn’t convinced, I figured it was a one time thing. I didn’t tell anyone(sorry mom) because I was embarrassed and figured it would pass.
A few days later, boss and I were walking back in from lunch when we heard an explosion(there was a tank range there) and we both hit the ground. He then told me that he had been in my position, he had just come home from Afghanistan 6 months before and that it’s normal to be jumpy and it gets better with time. It was then I realized that it wasn’t just me and that I did indeed need help.
So what inspired this post? I felt myself going down the same slope recently. Moving, leaving my job, not knowing anyone or where anything is, the husband having to work so I’m alone. Luckily, I now know the signs and decided this time to be proactive. I called a company that offers free counseling to military members and their spouses, I’m getting a referral to see a therapist here and get my prescriptions refilled. I haven’t had a full blown panic attack, I’ve been able to talk myself out of them. I’ve been keeping busy, running to relieve stress, my house is spotless but I feel like a ticking time bomb which is why I decided to take the initiative.
So, a few things…
1) Anxiety/Panic issues are very real.
2) If you know someone struggling, reach out to them. I don’t know what I would have done without my friends/family encouraging me to seek help.
3) If you know a veteran, who needs help but says they can’t b/c of how it may effect their career, tell them to shut up and go because it’s all confidential and they can’t be punished for seeking help.