I am not supposed to be here.
It saddens me to have to explain this, but I feel that my words could probably help someone who may be feeling the way I felt last year during the holidays. So, with that hope, hereís my story.
As the Fort Bragg community geared up for the Christmas holiday season last year, I was all but sure it would be my last. In fact, when I left work on Dec. 22,† 2011, I made it a point to tell all my co-workers goodbye and wish them happiness throughout the holidays.
As I struggled to remain upbeat and in a somewhat, pleasant mood each day I came to work, I dreaded going home to my empty house. You see, I am separated and live alone. And for someone who is used to being around Family throughout the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, being alone can feel equal to being on a small, uncharted†island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
During the summer of 2011, I noticed a change in my behavior and attitude. It seemed that in a matter of months, I went from being the funny, positive, and Family-oriented person that I have always been, to a person who was withdrawn, standoffish and unmotivated about certain things. In fact, I found that I no longer enjoyed two of my favorite pastimes ó deejaying and working out at the gym. It wasnít until I gathered information about post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, that I was able to better understand what may have been the problem.
I immediately contacted the VA Hospital in Fayetteville and spoke with my health care provider about how I was feeling. She scheduled me for an appointment with a mental health specialist that was to take place about a week later.
Upon my visit with the specialist, I was asked about different periods of my life, including my deployment to Iraq from 2005 through 2007. After sitting with her and sharing some of my deepest emotions, I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. But ... my session also revealed something else that I didnít know. PTSD is not only caused by experiences in combat. Other life situations, such as childhood experiences can serve as triggers as well. For me, it was a combination of both.
Weeks after my session with the mental health specialist, I to attended a series of counseling sessions that took place over the course of six months ó from August 2011 to January 2012.
The counselor was very knowledgeable and helpful as she had us share our feelings in a series of group sessions. Honestly, what I found was that there are a lot of people whose problems are more significant than my own, but I continued with the course. That is until fate would cause a setback in early October last year.
On Oct. 4, 2011, while I was at work and attending the weekly counseling session, I returned home only to find that someone had burglarized my house. Along with my identity (the thieves stole a briefcase with most of my military orders and other paperwork), they also stole my Xbox 360 gaming system and about 30 video games, various deejay equipment, food from my refrigerator and cupboard, landscaping equipment, a bottle of Crystal Head Vodka that was autographed by actor Dan Akroyd when he visited Fort Bragg in 2011, and a much needed piece of medical equipment.
To make things worse, when I arrived home at around 5:15 p.m. and reported the incident to Fayetteville Police, it took them more than an hour to arrive, but the forensics ďexpertĒ arrived around 8 p.m. Needless to say, she could find no information or evidence as to who was responsible.
I returned to the counseling session on the following Thursday and several weeks after that, but things were not the same. Although most of my possessions were replaced, I grew more depressed in the weeks that followed the incident.
Having felt that someone had violated my personal space, I found it even harder to sleep at night. Even after I had an alarm system installed in my home, the thought that someone came into my residence and had taken items that I worked hard to purchase caused me to experience various emotions, ranging from anger and rage, to sadness and helplessness.
Then, on top of all that, I felt that some of my Family members relied on me too much and when it came to Family, I had a problem saying no. This fact also compounded emotions I was feeling about my childhood and how it was unfair for them to ask me for help during a time that I actually need their support.
Nevertheless, everything became so overwhelming that I honestly felt that I didnít want to be around Family for the holidays. But I also knew that I didnít want to be home alone for the holidays. Itís really hard to explain, because it sounds contradicting, but during that time I felt like I was trapped in a closed cell and I wanted out.
So, as I said before, I had no plans of returning from the holidays, but then, an amazing thing happened.
On Dec. 23, my very close cousin and I decided to meet with some of his high school classmates at the Cypress Bends Vineyards in my hometown of Wagram, N.C. Also there that night were some of my relatives whom I hadnít spent a lot of time with. As fate would have it, my cousin and I invited everyone back to my house after the winery closed and needless to say, I had a driveway and yard full of cars and a house full of people. Different people. Many of whom I didnít know before, but whom I now consider friends.
Then,†in the days after Christmas, I had a conversation with one of those newfound friends and it was through that conversation that a suggestion was made to write out my feelings.
My friend explained that writing my feelings and talking about them was a way of releasing them. The friend even purchased a journal so that I would have a ďcanvasĒ for my words. Instead of feeling like no one cared if I lived, I felt relieved that someone whom I had only known a few days knew exactly what I needed ó someone to listen.
Through the power of the pen and the comfort of words, I began to feel better about my situation. I also spoke with a church pastor and my VA counselor, who confirmed that writing out my feelings, was the right thing to do. Then I decided to take it a step further and I confronted the Family members whom I felt were partially responsible for those feelings.
As a result, I feel much better now and although depression does rear its ugly head every now and then, I think itís important to know that I have resources to combat it. And while the resources that I used were not located at Fort Bragg, the post offers so much more for those in need, especially in the midst of the holiday season.