In August of 2007, I was finally given a consult to go see a psychiatrist. The nightmares were unbearable and I felt like I was cracking at the seams from the pressure of my impending separation from the military, the nightmares I was experiencing, and my inability to remember things. I guess the clinical social worker I had been seeing for a few months finally began to realize that I was suffering from a little more than “Adjustment Disorder.” It took about two months from the time he agreed to refer me to the mental-health clinic to the time of my actual appointment.

As I sat in the waiting room of the stigmatized 13th floor of the Army hospital, I worried about whether this appointment would somehow negatively affect my ability to hold a security clearance, or stay in the military. I hadn’t mentioned any of this to my superiors because I knew it didn’t matter. I had tried to get help from the unit back in Germany, and they basically blew me off.

The only person that took me seriously was Jordan. He had been my sponsor when I had first arrived at my overseas posting in December 2002. He was an E-7 like myself but had about 18 years in and was well-respected at the unit. He was a complete dick most of the time but when it was important, he was serious and treated me like I was a veteran member of the program.

I had sought his counsel after returning from the war in 2003 after I realized that something just wasn’t right. I told him about the nightmares, the insomnia, and the increased anxiety I was feeling. He took me to see a friend of his who was a Vietnam veteran and a pastor. For whatever reason, I remember telling Jordan that I’d go talk to guy as long as he didn’t try to give me some bullshit advice about needing to pray or getting right with the Jewish carpenter. Jordan said he would tell the gentleman, and so I agreed to meet and talk to him.

The conversation basically went like this:

Pastor: “So Jordan tells me you’re having some difficulties after coming back from the war. I was in Vietnam and suffered from some of the same things you’re going through.”

Me: “Uhh……”

I knew the feelings inside of me had to come out, but I couldn’t or didn’t want to deal with them yet. My mind was in a tug-of-war over whether I should talk about the memories and painful feelings I was trying to avoid. I tried to make some brief conversation so as not to appear rude since Jordan had set the whole thing up. I felt the anger and pain rising to the surface even as I sat there, and finally called the whole thing quits a few minutes after it began. I could feel my veins popping out of my neck and my eyes becoming glassy as I looked through the window in the pastor’s office. I didn’t want to cry in front of two dudes, but they had to have seen it in my face, in my eyes, in my contorted expressions.