I am a first time reader, I was sent here by FoxenaWolf on FA. I've read through a couple of your letters and responses and it seems like you have a lot of common-sense and a dash of reality, with enough sources to back up your help.
Please understand I was in the military for four years, I served in Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea so my entire tour was overseas, I saw a lot of Horrid things over there. I will not go into details because I already have to relive them every night, no point sending them out onto the Internet. Now the horrid dreams are bad enough, and I think I have a handle on them, its just watching over my shoulder, carrying weapons, finding all the exits in a restaurant, sitting with my back against a solid object/wall with a clear line on the main entrance. Withdrawing from friends and family, Not trusting others, and the general sense that something is there waiting for me to let my guard down.
That is only one of my issues the other is how I have to think about what I did, while in the service, the faces, names. And the wondering if I truly deserve to still be here. There were enough IEDs that lost me friends and TCs while I was driving that If I had just not reacted in time it would have been me instead of my friends and battle-buddies. I lost a lot over there and a few brass medals and a twisted mind are not what anyone should look forward to in coming home.
Now I know you covered the 1-800-suicide in one of your other letters, and after being told how to "chin up and look on the bright side of things" and "it’s not all that bad is it?" and my favorite "I think you need to see a professional." I have stopped calling them, I see a psychologist once a week now, and I am on meds. Unfortunately The meds don't help anymore, the therapy is just digging into things I wish I could forget, and time and time again I end up talking myself out of something stupid.
I guess I am writing this more as a "this is what I have to deal with," letter because there really is not much anyone can do to help. I did this to myself, I brought this on. I am responsible, and I am the one that will go to what ever "bad place" ones religion dictates.
I hope you have a wonderful day papa bear.
* * *
Yours is a very moving letter. I have never served in the military, let alone seen action, so to say that I understand fully what you have gone through would be a transparent lie. I will not insult your intelligence by saying so. People who say "chin up" and "look at the bright side" don't know what you've been through, either.
You also know about psychologists, counselors, help lines, and on and on. No doubt I wouldn't be telling you anything you don't already know if I threw out terms like "post-traumatic stress syndrome" and "survivor's guilt," both of which you clearly have.
I do think, though, that you are placing too much blame on yourself. You did an extraordinarily brave thing serving your country overseas, allowing yourself to be shot at, putting your life and limb at risk daily, all so that you could defend the people you love at home. You should never have to apologize for that and you have nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing.
Your letter doesn't mention whether you have sought any help from a church, synagogue, temple, or other spiritual outlet. I believe that when one's spirit is troubled by such horrors as you have sought, it is very important to seek balance by trying to gain a broader, deeper, more fulfilling view of life and its true meaning. I am not trying to push a particular religious or spiritual path on you (I'm a pagan), but I do think you can find help by spiritual, rather than psychological means.
Write me again if you would like to talk with me further on the subject.
* * *
I am of the Wicca Faith, Solitary Celtic Wiccan to be more precise. I came to my faith in the military, "There is no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole." I tried a lot of the recognized Religions that the military provided. Unfortunately with my current living position I have had to become a solitary Wiccan. The woods are nice up here but the thinking is even more backwoods.
As you can probably guess, there are not too many covens, circles, or even fellow Wiccans that I can seek out. So I go by what I learned in the military, what little scripture I have and what small glimmers of truth I can dig out of the internet.
You did manage to get one though, PTSD, I was diagnosed shortly after leaving the military, then while "treating" me for PTSD it came to light that I am also Suffering DID, Dissociative Identity Disorder, caused in part by what I had to go through. Unfortunately because the military states that DID was not entirely caused by them, which causes quite a few issues. It seems like every doctor I see wants to run tests, and journals, and the like to make sure I do have DID and PTSD, it’s almost as if they do not believe themselves or me. There has never been any talk to Survivor's guilt though, and you could be right that I am suffering from it. I will have to bring it up when I see my doctor again.
I thank you for the suggestions and the time it took for you to respond to me. I hope the information I have provided is insightful and helpful.
I hope to hear from you soon.
* * *
Merry Meet, Violet,
I'm glad you found a faith to believe in, and I hope it brings you some comfort. Wicca is actually the fastest growing faith in the United States, and I've heard that it could become the third largest in the country soon. You must be pretty isolated, but have you tried meeting other Wiccans online? Or perhaps even starting your own coven? I would encourage you to keep exploring this aspect of your life.
I did not know about your DID, of course. Did you have it before you were in the military? If not, it could easily have been started by your traumatic experiences there. Don't get me started about our medical community. Too many times doctors do not believe their patients (you know your body and your issues better than any doctor, and you know when you are not feeling right). Also, if you are getting treatment from military doctors, or other government doctors, they might be reticent to diagnose you because then you would be eligible for monetary aid. Does this violate the Hippocratic Oath? Yes, but doctors don't seem to take it very seriously these days.
I agree it is a good idea to talk to your therapist about survivor's guilt. It seemed pretty apparent to me from your first letter.
Is there anything else I can help you with?
* * *
Merry Meet Papabear,
I thank you for corresponding with me, it has helped, and given me some ideas. I had thought about meeting fellow Wiccans online but one must be careful now-a-days, if you know what I mean. With my aforementioned life-style starting a coven would not be a good idea I think, too much pressure and way to many new people. But one never truly knows till they try.
I did not have DID, as such, before the military I did have a rough childhood, which doctors are trying to pin my aforementioned issues on. But the worst of my life so far was the military. I know what you mean about doctors now-a-days, I have to see V.A. Doctors and they are some of the worst, they do exactly what they HAVE to in-order for the patient to get out of their office.
I thank you again for your time and energy, and I will take your ideas to heart and act as I see fit on them. Let’s hope things start to look up for me, there is only so far one can go downhill before they just slide to the bottom.
Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again Papabear.
A note on comments: Comments on letters to Papabear are welcome, especially those that offer extra helpful advice and add something to the conversation that is of use to the letter writer and those reading this column. Also welcome are constructive criticisms and opposing views. What is NOT welcome are hateful, hurtful comments, flaming, and trolling. Such comments will be deleted from this site. Thank you.