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Veteran Life: Just another Wednesday
Veteran Life: Just another Wednesday
By Sean Mulligan twitter @wtfs4nt14g0
It was just another Wednesday night, in New York State in August 2012. Man that feels so long ago. I texted a medical question to a good veteran friend of mine from the service. She didn’t respond and for some reason I turned off my phone. Before I could have another thought, the police showed up and I was in the back of ambulance with a police escort all the way to the hospital.
Let me get the biographical stuff out of the way. I grew up in the suburbs of Boston, in a good neighborhood, with a good school system. My childhood was a happy one, though many illusions were shattered right before I went off to college. In college I met my future wife, and generally had a good college life. My goal was to return eventually to Boston. My wife and I ended up settling in her hometown in New York, about an hour away from New York City. We had two sons and began our journey as a young family. This is what I thought I was coming home to in 2007.
As you no doubt have guessed, the homecoming situation was not how I left it in 2006. I am not sure what direction this writing work of mine will go. I will admit to being apprehensive about it. I am going to be vague about some things and go into detail about others. It is a process.
I am a veteran. I served in the United States Army Reserves. I was mobilized as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom III (the III just means was from 2006-2007.) My unit conducted a support mission to the main forces doing the ground work. I was not in a shooter job – not infantry or scout or artillery or anything like that. It was one of the jobs people don’t often think of, but are critical to the overall mission success. Hard to fight without maps, supplies or fuel for trucks.
My unit was mainly stuck on one base in Iraq, with some missions to Baghdad and other bases. I was lucky that I wasn’t stationed in Baghdad or Anbar. I was also lucky being mainly on base for the duration. Being on a base is big plus for two reasons – safety and comfort. I have to say these things because I want you know that most troops had it way harder than I did over there. I don’t want to paint a false image of me dodging bullets and sleeping on the sand. I wasn’t some badass, killing fools left and right. That wasn’t my experience. Every veteran’s story is different. This one is mine.
So it was immediately obvious when I got back home that my marriage was likely over. I had to figure out if I should try to save it, or move on, or all of these major things. I did try to save the marriage, though my heart wasn’t in it. I changed so much overseas and felt like she didn’t care about my year over there. The military teaches you that you can overcome almost anything in life and to never give up. The military also teaches you that somebody always has it worse than you. Believe me, I lot of veterans (and civilians) had it a lot worse. I was not wounded, none of my friends died over there. I only did one tour. I used a mental trick where I just pretended the whole thing was happening to someone else and I just followed the advice I would give to them.
This got me through the divorce, which was moderately messy. It got me through to my next serious relationship. It got me back to working and drilling in the Reserves and being generally okay. I wasn’t okay though. I know it too, but ignored it.
2010-2012 is a really hazy period of my life; it is difficult for me to remember the details. I completed my contract with the Army and received an honorable discharge. I missed my Army friends a lot and I drilled that last year of my contract even though I didn’t need to. I started dating an old girlfriend and it got really bad and messy right away. I doubt I was a positive in her life at this point. I am not a victim here; a lot of this was my fault. Other parts of the downward spiral may not have been my fault but I should’ve avoided them with better choices.
Well when the next long term relationship ended I was left empty and broken. All the stuff I was hiding burst to the surface. I was at my wits end. I gave up hope on ever returning to a happy life. I did go through the motions of seeking help. I was regularly seeing a therapist who definitely helped me along the way. She confirmed the obvious PTSD diagnosis, and helped start me on the right path. I had a few close friends that also helped me as much as they could.
This got me to that damned August night. Nothing bad had happened in the immediately preceding days. I just knew I wasn’t getting back together with the old flame and all of my friends and family were far away. Some of them were deployed to Afghanistan at this time. I definitely felt like a piece of shit for not being there with them.
I just felt alone, and hopeless. I type the words, but I can’t convey the weight that I felt. I felt suffocated. I felt immobilized. As a parent this is very irresponsible and selfish. I should’ve been thinking of my children before all else. But depression just gets you a point you can literally think of nothing but how sad you are and how empty the future seems. So I sat on the bathroom floor with a picture of my sons and a knife and contemplated not waking up the next day. The question I asked my Army friend (medic) was “How long does it take the average human to bleed out?”
You are not alone
I will fast forward to present day. I am doing very well now. I am not depressed. I get sad and lonely, but so do most people. I have a new job and returned home to Boston where I feel much more content. I see my sons as much as possible and they are also doing quite well. You wouldn’t recognize the new me, it took a drastic event, but I am back now.
The main reason I wanted to write about this stuff is to help other people. If you are veteran and you are struggling there are some numbers listed below. The group IAVA has helped me a lot, I definitely recommend signing up with them. If not, please reach out to a close friend or a family member, one of these numbers or to me. You are not alone. There are probably people in your life that would do anything to help you. Give them that chance. If not, reach out to one of the groups below.
Never give up. Never give in.
Contact phone numbers for help:
Veterans Crisis Line 1 800 273 8255, press 1
IAVA Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America – 917 591 0387
www.veteranscrisisline.net – offers online chat support also