Veterns urged to seek help, hope

Bryan Eberly and Bryan Eberly

I just got through a long, painful and restless night.

I spent the majority of it drinking. I downed maybe seven bottles of beer and a couple shots of whiskey. It always seems to help drown out the noise in my head and eventually I can pass out despite the urge to stay awake.

I also smoked an entire pack of cigarettes. I’m pretty sure I completed a marathon just pacing through my living room. And I managed to watch, from the corner of my eye, maybe three seasons of Adventure Time.

That is, when I wasn’t blubbering like a child, screaming into a pillow or at a wall, or asking my dog’s inane questions like, “Why would I do that?” or “How did that happen?” As if they would answer me. Twice I woke up my roommate who sat with me and tried his best to explain what I was going through. Or just sit and rub my back. He couldn’t seem to do anything.

And at my blackest, darkest, drunkest moment, when I ran out of cigarettes, when the TV turned off, when my dogs went to bed and my roommate fell asleep on the couch, the really bad thoughts came. The ones rationalizing stepping into traffic. Or running a red light. Or swallowing sleeping pills. Or gliding a knife across certain parts of my skin. And the thoughts that I deserve that to happen to me. That I deserve suicide.

Fortunately, that is about the time my brain finally succumbs to the alcohol and sleeplessness, and I end up pitching forward onto my living room floor. I finally get some sleep, and the bad black thoughts are forced again into the back of my mind. And I wake up at noon, missing most of my classes, and wondering why I keep letting this happen.

And why does this happen? Usually it’s because I see something on TV. The movie trailer for “American Sniper” set me off once. If I see young male Arabs, I can be set off. Especially if they are wounded or shot. If I see anything that looks like a bombed out city, or burning trucks, I can break down. I once took a trip to the dump outside the south side of BG, and just being among piles of trash and twisted metal was enough to set me off.

This is not a rare occurrence for me. Once upon a time it was, but as I grow older, as I find more free time to think, I find myself sinking further and further into a disorder I once tried to ignore. Post-traumatic stress disorder. The acute and stressful reaction to memories or stimuli that forces me to relive some of the most painful moments in my life. They once happened in a blue moon when I was still in the Marine Corps. But for the last two years since I separated, the occurrences have grown from periodically to monthly. These nights are now weekly. When will they become daily?

I don’t want to know. I don’t want to deal with them anymore. When I woke up this afternoon, I realized I can’t do this anymore. I cannot have nights like this. School is too important. Life is too important. I have to find help.

The truly sad thing is help has been available ever since I got home from Iraq in 2007. I was required to fill out a quarterly survey evaluating my mental health from the time I got home to the few months before I was discharged. I had free mental health facilities at my disposal no matter where I was. I even once had a psychiatric appointment for stress-induced anxiety, and when the doc asked me to describe my experiences in Iraq, I replied with “I don’t like talking about it.” Truly a major hint that something was off in my mind, but I didn’t want to face it.

But now I have to face it. It’s not going away. And help is available. The Wood County VA office is behind the El Zarape strip mall, in the same building as the DMV. Mary, who runs the office, is a very direct, eager and superbly helpful veteran. They are open virtually all day long. The first step is to walk over to that office and tell them I have a problem. And then, like a good Marine, do whatever they tell me to do.

And I didn’t say that last part for just my sake. I wasn’t merely reciting a laundry list. I’m sharing all this because I know I’m not alone. If you are a veteran, and you are dealing with these things in silence like I’ve been doing, you don’t need to. We really don’t have an excuse not to seek treatment. We have something wrong with our brains. Let’s get it fixed.

Semper Fi.