Failure of nerve

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Tacitus has a powerful post about suffering from depression while serving in the military. (Via Calpundit)

His story especially resonated with me, because I was in the same situation, 15 years ago. I was not an officer - I was only a Spec 4 (enlisted). At the time, I did not know that I was suffering from a medical condition (and would not begin to know for another 2 years), and neither did the Army. The depression eventually got bad enough that I didn't report for duty (on more than one occasion). I just sat in my apartment, knowing the MPs were going to show up but not caring or feeling anything at all. In the following months, I lost two grades in rank through Article 15's (demoted to Private E-2 in non-judicial punishment proceedings) and finally given a general discharge under honorable conditions.

Most of my unit thought I was trying to pull a fast one to get out of duty, get out of the Army, and go home. I heard my brigade commander was against discharging me - that he wanted me court-martialed instead. The company commander and 1st sergeant thought I was a discipline problem to be solved through Article 15's and extra duty.

Before I was discharged, I was sent to talk to a counselor a few times. Even not knowing what my problems really were, I got the feeling my problems were way over the counselor's head. My impression of that time is that the Army was not really equipped to deal with soldiers with those kinds of problems and that it didn't want to.

I am proud to be able to say I served, but I can hardly be proud of my record. I wish things could have turned out better, but I don't see they could, even if I knew then what I know now. I have been living with depression for over 25 years, and it still kicks my ass, even to this day.

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Once somebody points them out, certain things seem abolutely obvious. But not until somebody points them out.... Read More

8 Comments

Hey man, don't sweat it. Nothing that can be done. Don't know if you've ever read Anna Karenina, but the Biblical quote that opens the book is an apt one, I think. The Army isn't the determinant of your basic character.

Try and forgive yourself. Few people understand it even now, other than those of us who live with it every day.

"I have been living with depression for over 25 years, and it still kicks my ass, even to this day."

You and me both.

My sister has suffered manic-depression for more than 25 years. She also had (what should be) disabling migraines until a few years ago when a new drug helped. With drugs and some therapy she has fought and fought. While she still has bad days, she has family, friends, and is one of the most loved people in my old hometown. Psychological problems are not indication of the value of your character or your worth. Do your best, accept help and love, be valuable.

Keep up the good fight, Tweezerman.

P.S. I'm a vet who had at least two colleagues commit suicide, probably depressed (in the States). We need, desperately, to do more for our people in uniform.

I dropped out of college due to depression and joined the Navy (Vietnam War era). Boot camp with serious depression was not fun, but I was fortunate that the depression lifted when with the exhilaration of graduation from it, and was doubly fortunate that my military service was exciting enough (I quickly made aircrew on P-3's) that it held the depression at bay.

It returned after I got out of the Navy, and I have had to deal with it ever since. It sucks, but I am lucky enough to have good meds. I have a friend who has been crippled by the disease for a long time.

I can understand that the macho culture of the military would have a hard time with people suffering from psychiatric illnesses. Especially during the Vietnam War, they suspected everyone of trying to get out to avoid combat.

Now two people in the next generation of my family have the same problem. It is a curse, but it is hardly your fault!

Thanks for sharing. Depression can be a killer and an ass-kicker.

I suffered severe depression from about the time I was nine until I was 32. Everything I tried only worked for a short period of time -- therapy, meds, etc.

The only things that really worked for me were diet (particularly giving up caffeine and sugar), regular exercise, and a regular, adult-sized paycheck.

Then my depression lifted to the point where I wasn't thinking about killing myself 20 times a day, and where some of the other stuff, such as cognitive therapy, started to work. (That is, I realized that through my thought patterns I upset myself, and once my depression lifted a bit, I could use healthy thinking to lift myself a bit further.) I did go to a healing ministry about this time, but I'm not certain that the depression's lifting was the result of that; part of what happened was I got a pretty good job with people I liked, and who were willing to teach me a lot of things I wanted to know.

I still get down from time to time, but nothing like it was. Now, mostly, I'm angry. Which, from the perspective of a former depressive, is an improvement.

As others said, keeping fighting the good fight.

Don't worry about getting kicked out of the Army. It couldn't be helped, and it was probably was best for you and the Army. There is no discrase in what you did because you couldn't help it. You didn't choose to be depressed it chose you. You probably did talk over the army's head because they aren't equipped to help you.

well, i just thought i would add to this post becuase it touches close to home. I served a year in iraq and have been home for two months now, i am suffering from depression and it is really starting to kick my ass. i hate everything about my unit, everything about what i do in the army and the experiences while at war haunt me daily. i have no desire to do anything, i go to work only to find a way not to do anything. i was recentley told that i cannot run ever again. yet they can't discharge me for this, adding to my feeling of worthlessness. Something that helped me get away from all the feelings of depression. i really have no point in this post, i can't really even think right now, just thought i would type something. fuck this shitSLFDJGALDGFHLAJDGL;KAJSDKLJADLGJSFDG