Shared story from Gary

I was not formally diagnosed with PTSD till 2005 by the VA. Yet the experience causing it had happened back in 1989. I was a 20-year-old airman stationed in Japan and we were on our way to Clark AB, Philippines when we were told to lay down in the bed of the truck taking us from the hotel we were staying at to the base. Gunfire rang out and holes of light started opening up in the camper shell of the truck. We were talking fire from protesters a few blocks from the base. After that, I had days when I couldn’t sleep and even began drinking heavily. After a night of drinking, I had a hallucination that our base had been overrun and it was either die violently at the hands of protesters or take my own life. I chose the latter of the two. However, I was saved by my flight line Sargent.

After time in the hospital, I was given a general discharge under honorable conditions. However, that was not the end of my military career. I later joined the Army national guard where I had only one run-in with what would in 2005 be linked to PTSD.

After that I bounced from job to job because being around large groups of people made me have panic attacks. After having a nightmare one night, my ex said she feared for her life due to the things I was shouting in my sleep. More time spent in the hospital and then even though I didn’t own any firearms, I found myself in court fighting to see my daughters and was told by the courts I was being placed on a database that would restrict me from owning any firearms. When I stated my opinion on the matter I was told not only did I not have the right to own any firearms but I had no rights to an opinion or freedom of speech and to shut up. Since then anyone that has had an issue with me has been able to, without evidence of violence toward them, been granted protective orders and as of 2015 the right to deny visitation with 2 of my children.

I pay support and even have a wife and 2 children that live at home that have seen the extent of my rights being violated. They have had to help me at one time even do daily care because the VA had me on so much medication I couldn’t function normally. And the only times I have been in the hospital for care was to regulate my medication when the nightmares returned. Had my PTSD been to a level of being dangerous I would have never been able to serve from 1990-2003 with the Army national guard and then 2003-2005 on active duty army.

Now since the PTSD tag has been added to me I can’t find work and live disability check to disability check. I can’t go hunting unless I use a bow or an air rifle. The defense of my home is the same. I get treated like a second-hand citizen by law enforcement and most people due to my ex and siblings telling people that I have PTSD and should be avoided as much as possible. I have never used a weapon outside of the military since 1990. I have used mace to defend myself once and got a misdemeanor A&B for that after being attacked while sitting in my own car.

Once people know you have a mental health problem they use it to their fullest to keep you down as much as possible. When and if you do get to a social level that benefits you, they will and do use the mental health problem against you to get you back where they feel you need to be.

Just know just because you are diagnosed with a mental health condition doesn’t mean you are broken or dangerous. It means you have been through things and survived things that would have killed a weaker person. I have been medication-free for over 3 years now and am working with vocational rehabilitation to start my own business. At 49 I have learned that people will always turn their heads away from those who are different and if you let it bug you, your mental illness will only get worse. Find the love for yourself and in the things and people you enjoy and just take life one day at a time.

Note: The original story was edited to add spacing for ease of reading. All words are the author’s own. Thank you for sharing your story, Gary.