I have a confession:As most of you know, I lost my legs in 2010 when an IED detonated under me while rendering safe dozens of IEDs on Operation Roadhouse 2 in Safar Bazaar in the Garmsir district of Helmand Province Afghanistan. That was the climatic ending to a rather tough and active deployment. During the nearly 6 months there we worked nearly 80 IEDs, dealt with deaths and amputations among our ranks and yes, even some Infighting between my teammate and I.
My injury also resulted in the death of a Marine Engineer, Cpl Daniel Greer, who stood just a few steps too close to me.
When I returned home, every aspect of my life had changed, with a one year old son I didn’t know, and a newly reunited girlfriend I began my recovery feeling the weight of responsibilities I’d never known. My family was both my necessary support, and most difficult task at hand. I felt as if I never had the chance to be vulnerable, weak, uncertain or negative. How could I? These people were barely holding it together themselves, at least I could pretend to be positive and happy.
Somewhere along the way that facade turned into a self motivated beacon of inspiration. I fed off of the opportunities to motivate and mentor the Marines around me, I escaped my own misfortune by focusing on helping others. So.. Here comes the confession.
Sitting here, 5+ years after being injured. I’ve neglected my own health, I’ve negated the effects of PTSD by saying, “I was one of the lucky ones..”
Well, that much is true, but not because I escaped the mental wounds, but because I craftily maneuvered through them as though they never existed, all the while preaching how such a wound shouldn’t be ignored, misunderstood or allowed to destroy a hero’s life. Yet, here I sit, thinking of all the ways I’m awkward, fundamentally angry, nervous in any public setting. I don’t drink because I’m scared to death of being vulnerable, I don’t do bars, concerts or large crowds where alcohol is served because I truly do not trust my fellow citizenry. I forget the simplist of tasks and need constant assurance the people around me aren’t angry, dissatisfied or bothered… Mainly because I’m almost always those three things.. But never allowed to show it.
I can’t say with certainty I have what is known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But I can certainly tell you I’m not the same, I rarely feel sane and I have almost every traditional symptom. But what I can tell you, what you must know, believe, and digest with and open mind and ready heart is that I do not suffer from those symptoms. No, I am NOT a victim. I survive those symptoms. Everyday I wake up, hurting, barely rested, nervous, skeptical and afraid. But I wake up. I get up and I get going. I tell myself what I need to hear. In the pouring water of a shower I cry when I need to, but I turn off the negativity with my faucet and continue on. I am here for a purpose, part of that purpose is healing myself, taking care of those I love and am responsible for, and maybe, just maybe sharing my own experiences with those who could use the same motivation and perspective I convince myself to accept every morning. This life isn’t easy, and I’ve seen little evidence to believe it was meant to be. But it’s life. And I’m damn fortunate and grateful for it. I need you, and I believe many of you need me. It’s what we are as humans. Thanks for hearing me out and take from this moment of vulnerability a spark of motivation to continue on, happily.