Trigger Warning: This post discusses negative self-talk and feelings of abandonment.
I would like to re-examine what I have already stated but with a little more emphasis on my feelings so that everyone can gain a better understanding. Even before this, I would like everyone to also understand that just because people in the CAF experience different traumatic events, that we aren’t ranking traumatic experience levels; everyone should receive the same level of support. For instance, a clerk who worked at the Kandahar Airfield (KAF) and who has PTSD from their time, but who may not have seen direct combat or experienced anything similar to what I have described, doesn’t mean that their experience was any less traumatic, or more traumatic. And they should still get the same level of care and empathy from everyone as someone else with a different set of traumas. Walk a mile in their shoes. It could have been anything that caused their very own personal hell. Whether it was getting yelled at or man-handled in an aggressive manner, in Canada or overseas, a car accident, a death of a family member or friend, a scare from something they did, something their kid did, something that was done to them. Trauma can be caused by anything. By judging them, we diminish them as though they don’t deserve the same treatment as us. Who’s to say that Karen or Pat or I don’t deserve the same consideration because they deem my trauma to be less. This is a sign that we are still operating on a military type hierarchy which means that we treat others with exclusivity. We exclude them when we think they haven’t met the correct criteria. I think this happens to some extent in the civilian workplace as well.
Trigger Warning: This post discusses suicidal thoughts and harming others.
I felt a small sense of relief in the short walk to see the doctor; however, it occurred to me that they might not be on board with helping me and I became fearful again. After all, I really had no idea about what was going to happen. I was especially afraid of being judged. I mean, that’s what we do on a constant basis. That’s how we, I, kept the pulse of things. I know how I had judged others. I often thought how much better I was than others, how much smarter I was, how special I was, and I reminded myself of my accomplishments and laurels in the time past. And by judging others, I made myself feel better, powerful. A medic came into the examination room and took my vitals. My blood pressure, which is normally on the low side because of running, was in the high 150’s. That’s not cause for alarm but it was 25-30 points higher than normal. My chest was tight and my heart rate was up. I had a headache, probably from grinding my teeth; I’d already bitten through one bite guard. Generally when I had gone to the MIR in the past, my vitals were always extremely good, but not this time. After a short while, the doctor came in and introduced himself. He asked me to explain what was going on with me and what I would like out of this. I explained everything as concisely as I could, trying to stay on point.
I talked about the trouble I was having at work and how it was affecting my mind, my body, and my performance. I hated being at work with people who claimed to be “family” but acted anything but. They must have a whole other idea about what the word “family” meant. After a lot of thought on the subject I realized that just because a person, or a bunch of people are in your family group, doesn’t mean they’ll be on your side. Often it means just the opposite. It’s human nature to look for and acquire a more favourable or advantageous position over all others. It’s security. Up until this point in my life, I had been led to believe that “family” is everything; it’s all a person has. I bought into everything I was told and I hadn’t really questioned anything. They say, “Keep your friends close but keep your enemies closer.” I let myself be taken in by the whole thing. And I had let myself get taken advantage of. The worst part was that I believed I was right and that I was the victim. I told the doctor that I wanted to hurt a group of people and asked to get help at Mental Health. An appointment was made for me as soon as possible.
The Mental Health Unit (MHU) in Gagetown is off the base so it’s pretty discreet. I made my way over there and checked in. I was set up with a mental health nurse, whom I would have weekly appointments with. She would keep an eye on me, listen to me and all of my woes, make sure I was taking meds if required, make appointments for me, make sure I showed up at appointments with the in-house psychiatrist, find me a civilian psychiatrist, marriage counsellor, etc., etc. She informed me about the process and how it would all unfold in a particular timeline. Between my mental health nurse at the MHU and my mental health nurse at 42 Health Services, they had most of the answers. Slowly I began to trust that there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
I was terrified with each new turn going through the military health system. I was burned out and sick of it all. I felt I could no longer do my job effectively, like I had let down everyone and myself too. I felt like I failed. I did fail. But, in my experience, almost everyone I encountered at 42 Health Services treated me with kindness and empathy. I was still incredibly frustrated, having bouts of hate and rage, and obsessing about everything out of my control. I hated our uniforms. I hated everything. I had been thinking a lot about killing. I had been thinking a lot about suicide. I eventually got posted to the Joint Personnel Support Unit (JPSU). I think they have changed the name again.
I’m sure some can relate? I have left out a lot of information about events, people, and my feelings. I’m not quite sure yet how to express some of them without looking like a total psychopath. It was all just pain coming out in maniac form. How am I supposed to say, “I wanted to bury that guy alive,” or “I wanted to tie that guy to a tree and let him die of exposure,” or “…crush his head in a vice”? In my head I feel like a total monster that should be put down. Anyway, if you feel like that, like you’re about to implode, explode, or hurt someone, go to the MIR, call the helpline, send me an e-mail. You can talk. I’ll listen. We will listen.
CFB Gagetown Mental Health Team 506-357-6482, 0730-1530
Canadian Forces Members Assistance Program at 1-800-268-7708. It's 24/7 and bilingual.
If you're desperate, contact me through Messenger; I can give you my number then if required.