I grew up in a middle-class home in northern Illinois and then later Wisconsin in the 1980s and 90s. I was also homeschooled back before it was cool and before we had the internet and online learning tools. When I was 18, I was clueless about what I wanted to do with my life. I had no direction and no idea what I wanted to do. At the time, my uncle was serving as a full-time National Guardsman in Janesville, Wisconsin and he encouraged me to consider joining the National Guard. If nothing else, they’d at least pay for my undergraduate school and help give me some direction on what I might want to do with my life.
I served six years in the Wisconsin Army National Guard as a member of the 1/126th Field Artillery Battalion. I learned a lot from my time in the National Guard and they paid for my undergraduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. I left the National Guard in 2002 to pursue a career as an officer in the Air Force. As things would turn out, I ended up serving in the Air Force as an enlisted NCO instead.
It was during my time in the Air Force that I deployed to Iraq for the first time. From the middle of 2006 through April of 2010, I served nearly three and a half years in Iraq both as a military member and then as Department of Defense and State armed contractor. I was proud to serve my nation during the war, and I was honored to have served with so many brave men and women who put their lives on hold in the defense of our nation.
During my time in Iraq, I saw some of the most violent and bloodiest years of the war. I also saw some of the most peaceful times since the initial fall of the regime, so it was quite the contrast. On one of my deployments, the base I was on had been hit by either rockets or mortars more than fourteen hundred times in a single year. On some occasions, it might just be one or two rockets. On other occasions, it could be half a dozen or more over the span of a few minutes.
It's hard to explain to someone who hasn’t been there what it’s like to experience the sheer randomness of these attacks or what it’s like to have a rocket land fifty feet in front of you and not go off. Living through years of this kind of random violence and death began to take an emotional toll on me.
When I returned home from Iraq in April of 2010 for the final time, I thought I was safe. I thought the war for me was done, and it was. However, while I was done with the war, the war wasn’t done with me. What I didn’t realize was a new war had just begun, a war I was woefully unprepared to fight or deal with- the war of the mind.
When I went from working seven days a week, twelve plus hours a day to suddenly working a nine to five job, something changed. My mind suddenly had a lot of time to think about my experiences during the war and process everything I had been through. While I had many positive memories of my time in Iraq, I was also haunted by many of the things I saw, did, and participated in. The longer I was home from Iraq, the more pronounced my PTSD symptoms became.
Like many veterans, my thoughts became destructive. I retreated into my mind. I began to self-isolate from friends, family, and people in general. It wasn’t until I decided I wanted to permanently end this war in the mind that I finally sought help from the VA. I am not saying I have cured myself or that I do not still struggle with PTSD. I still do, but I’ve found some therapies and treatments that I believe have helped.
I wanted to take some time to write a few articles outlining some of the therapies and treatments I have tried so others can learn from my experiences. Like many veterans and their families, I have sought all manner of treatments and therapies that might help. I also realized there is not a lot of good information readily available for us to find.
To solve that information gap, I have written a series of articles that I believe many of you may find helpful. There is no panacea of therapies or programs that will ultimately work. I encourage you to read through my own experiences with these therapies and then determine if you're interested in trying them. At the end of the day, I hope you will at least choose one or more until you figure out what will ultimately work on your end.
The first article I want to share with you is about something called SGB. You can check it out here.