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Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.

A LETTER TO A STRANGER ABOUT PTSD |

August 22, 2013

Name: Mikey Piro
Returned from: Iraq
Hometown: Lindenhurst, NY
Milblog: ptsdsurvivordaily
Email: mpiro45@gmail.com

My PTSD Google Alert brings through many interesting articles. The volume of disturbing articles seems to be increasing over time. This morning a link from Gawker was at the top of my news feed. I am not a huge fan of Gawker, but I felt compelled to read this article. I read it and was overwhelmed with the tragic stories that are still persisting and were presented there.

I have been avoiding the shit out of many things and unfortunately the pressure has built up too high. The bottom of the article had a link. So on a whim I penned a letter.

Dear Hamilton,

Reading the accounts of other Veterans is upsetting to me, but a story that needs to be told.

I exited the Army in 2006 after two tours in Iraq. They were in relatively close order and the ten month break in-between trips was not nearly enough time to readjust. The second trip was worse than the first and exposed me to new and different horrors of war. That deployment compounded what was most likely a case of PTSD from the first tour.

When I returned home I slogged through the VA benefits process with the help and support of my wife and family. For a while I lived away from my wife and newborn son. For a while my father drove me to and from work as the medications I was on rendered me unable to function as I was coming up from them.

Each week for the better part of six years I saw a therapist at the VA and chipped away at learning to deal with a new normal of persistent anxiety and depression. In that six years I fired two therapists and cannot speak highly enough of all the rest.

I quit drinking and all drugs but I am still addicted to work to keep my mind away from the negative patterns of thought that are ingrained from years of training and fighting. I finally got off the antidepressants about a year ago. Despite all that, some days I still break down and cry in the bathroom at work. I consider myself lucky to even have a job.

I wish I could say that after these six years I am an integrated happy member of society, but I am afraid that will not be true for many years, if ever. I can keep the wild and extreme thoughts at bay, but they still linger in the dark corners of my mind. One day seven years ago I took out my gun and considered getting some rest from those thoughts.

That day I doubled down on my family and my therapy and today I am able to survive and more often than not, flourish. I did not do it alone. We Veterans cannot do it alone.  It takes lots of hard work and discipline to maintain this steady state. My perspective coming through the other side of this is now valued by my coworkers and family, but only as I am able to present it currently. If it was any rougher or more graphic, I don’t think they could handle nor tolerate it.

I am now dedicated to see my two boys grow up and reach a ripe old age with my wife.

I write a blog about PTSD and my treatment. (My friends were harassing me about not having a post lately)...

Thanks again for raising awareness.

Sincerely Yours,

Michael “Mikey” Piro

It was liberating to write this little summary and confess how I feel. I am still deeply emotional about my experiences in war, but I have so much to celebrate and be thankful for. I am flourishing. These past 16 months have been the best since I came home and each month continues to be better. I could not have done it without you that are reading this right now and this convention of baring my soul into the internet. I am doing fine, thanks to you.

So here comes the ask: find a Veteran, give them a hug.  Accept them for who they are and give them an opportunity to flourish.

Comments

Thank you so much for sharing your story. I believe that you are a true definition of a fighter. I personally do not know how i would deal with a situation as tough as yours. Thank you so much for fighting and protecting our country. I am also very pleased to see that you are doing well. Keep up the progress and i can tell you will flourish. Thank you for serving and God Bless

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