It has been over 15 years since I was in the war and I still can’t believe that the effects of just six months in battle are affecting me as an adult. I thank God that I am alive and that I am not suffering as bad as some other brothers I served with during OIF II. Even though I am grateful, I must admit that at times being alive seems like it is the most challenging task to bear. I have suffered from suicidal ideations and have attempted and thought of taking my life multiple times. In these darkest of moments, I often tend to push friends and family away because in my experience they make it worse. Because of this reason I have taught myself how to cut out people easily from my life. I have had relationships that have lasted well over a decade that I cut off merely because they said or did something hurtful to me, or just because of unforeseen circumstances. I have had to restart my life repeatedly over the past couple of years, during this time I have learned to identify the trends. If everything is going great that is usually when depression or anxiety starts kicking in. I start anticipating the karma coming back from Iraq, my mind starts self-sabotaging, I feel unworthy, separate from humanity, I start desiring death, and most times I feel undeserving of anything good in my life.
Quite often, I find myself in solitude because of my lack of trust and confidence in humanity. I have been taken advantage of multiple times throughout my life, and it has usually been the closest to me that tend to take advantage of a situation or me personally. I have learned not to keep people close to me that are not beneficial to my personal growth or long-term health. I have an undying loyalty to friends and family members that are passionate about making an impact in the world. Loving, kind, and goal oriented individuals are the kind of people I want to have in my inner circle. I have dedicated myself to strengthening only these type of relationships this year. I have been able to develop my trust (not necessarily 100%) with time, I have managed to allow myself to trust again and boy did it take some time. I choose not to fully believe in people because I have been taken advantage of my entire life. I allowed individuals to do so because I never voiced my concerns, complaints, or feelings about how people treated me. I would note their adverse actions towards me, and deleted them as a friend or person in my mind. I have turned meaningful close relationships to surface level relationships because of simple irrational conversations or a certain something they may have done or said to me.
I have avoided creating relationships because people are genuinely selfish and evil in my eyes. Everyone I have encountered to date has an ulterior motive, I have learned to fully immerse myself with relationships that disclose their motives at the beginning of the relationship. As time progresses, I have observed the relationships I have with people and have noted those whose words are consistent with their actions over time.
The reason I connect relationships with PTSD is because I have found that it has been detrimental to my continued recovery process to forgiveness for the wrong that I have done as well as the damage that people have done to me. I am not a professional doctor and have no type of degree or certificate for psychology or any other field in the mental health industry. I can only speak on my experience so please take this with a grain of salt. I have learned that expressing my feelings and discussing my issues with people that I can trust is a powerful and rewarding gift that can serve to be a stress reliever and raise my confidence in people. To find trust, I have to be vulnerable enough to display faith in people.
Dealing with stress and anxiety from PTSD post-Iraq is not an easy issue to conquer. However, I have learned that the answer is in between good and bad relationships as well as the environment. These factors play a significant factor in limiting triggers and learning to deal with any angry outbreaks or anxiety attacks that may occur from time to time. Relationships have allowed me to learn to identify when I have a terrible episode and how to deal with it. I needed people around me that I can trust, but unfortunately, it has not been an easy journey for me to find these trustworthy people.
To accurately identify who I can trust I had to be patient for seven years with the people in my immediate environment while analyzing my relationships and how they functioned amongst me and others. During the first five years as a civilian, I experienced being homeless and lived in the back of my car. Ironically enough this was not my tipping point, one of the darkest times of my life was when I started getting involved with the Church. When I was actively involved as a member of the Church I thought of killing myself quite often; I would have dreams that included death, body parts, blood, and intestines.
Growing up in Church I was told that this life is temporary, and the real life starts after I die. I must be okay with suffering and turn the other cheek and say nothing when I am being offended or disrespected. Religion is an interesting part of my life; it’s like that itch in your back that you can never reach. I decided to ditch religion and follow the still voice in my heart that was leading to what God truly wanted for my life. Once I realized that my true God-given purpose was outside the walls of the Church, I realized how valuable my life experience is.
At this stage of my life, I am focusing on strengthening my immediate circle of friends and family members. I want to build a loyal and honest group of people around me that will keep me accountable, are reliable, hard-working go-getters, entrepreneurs, are hungry to make an impact in the world, and transparent about the intentions they have for their future and our relationship moving forward. I wanted to make an impact in the world after I got out of the Marine Corps in 2011, it wasn’t until 2016 that I started pursuing my purpose and letting go of additional responsibilities and casual relationships. I decided to stop caring about what others think and just let go of every worry and concern. I have never been happier, and I thank God every day for granting me the ability to see what I need to do precisely and for providing me with the strength to deal with the mental battle I fight with on a daily basis.