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When Depression Takes Over
I think I’ve been avoiding admitting that I have depression for a long time. Last year, I decided that instead of hiding, I needed to do something about it. I probably couldn’t have picked a worse time, but is there really ever a bad time to seek help for depression? Yes, in some cases, though I think I understand the thinking behind it.
I like to also think that even though I suffer with this sometimes debilitating illness, I can control it, especially at work. I expend a great deal of energy trying to be perky and find interest in my professional surrounding. However, I feel like it’s becoming harder and harder to fake. My doc even saw fit to increase my anti-depressant dosage because I felt like I was quickly regressing in spite of almost religiously taking my medication since my break-down.
Looking back, I can see where all this comes from and unfortunately I have to blame my deployment – something I hate to do.
My first duty assignment was at Fort Irwin, CA and lasted almost six years. I loved my job, even though it was demanding and stressful. There just came a point where I had to go if I wanted to make it passed Staff Sergeant. I chose Fort Stewart to be close to my family in Florida since I didn’t want a strategic office job in San Antonio. I love the “Soldiering” part of the military and try to avoid office work as much as possible.
From Fort Stewart, I deployed to Kuwait and six months later ended up in Iraq. My experiences there are well documented here, but I can’t ignore the fact that several near death experiences and close quarters combat affected me in ways I wasn’t aware of at the time.
When I got back, I was almost immediately put on orders back to Fort Irwin to head up the insurgency and IED training cells for Operations Group. I also trained Soldiers on proper interrogation techniques. When my Brigade came down on deployment orders again, I enlisted the help of my Battalion Commander to delete my orders so I could redeploy with my unit. Even with a LTC and COL behind me, I couldn’t get out of the Fort Irwin orders.
Here is where I began to notice that I had changed. The Fort Irwin assignment lasted 18 months. My D.C. assignment lasted two years. My Alabama assignment lasted two years. And now, after about a year at Fort Hood, I again find myself unsatisfied with life in the military. This is very difficult because I really do LOVE the military and my fellow troops. I love the structure, the comraderie, the job security, and the many different opportunities. But, looking back over the past 10 years I can’t help but wonder if I will ever be satisfied.
The past few years have found me scatter-brained and unfocused. I can’t concentrate on things anymore and have trouble remembering ANYTHING. My Droid keeps my life in order thanks to an awesome calendar app and my wife picks up anything I forgot to log in there.
Years of pain management have also taken its toll on me. I think part of the depression comes from the fact that I can no longer do the “Soldier” things I used to love. It has nothing to do with age and everything to do with my combat injuries. Of the three APFT events, I’m profiled against two – running and situps. Honestly, I’ve never liked sit-ups, but I really do miss running. As a result, keeping weight off has been a chore since my cardiovascular options are limited. At least in Alabama, I could swim laps daily which did not add to the pain.
Emily noted the other day that she thinks I’m addicted to pain, when I’m really trying to avoid pain medication addiction. If I took a pill every time I was in pain, I’d be taking something every time one wore off.
Through the past year of treatment for PTSD, I’ve learned many great coping skills that have helped me to largely deal with the trauma associated with my experiences. A program here at Fort Hood called Strong Star is helping me to realize how absurd thoughts like “I’m a failure,” “I’m not a good husband or father,” “the world is a dangerous place,” and “I don’t relate to people” really sound. The thoughts are still there, but I’m learning to rationalize them away from being wholistic and overwhelming.
Because of time constraints and the desire to spend time with my Grandmother in the hospital, I’m going to post a Part II to finish my thoughts on this subject. Mull on this for a bit.