Will s Story
Charleston, SC USA
“It was 2014 and I was 21-years-old. I was in the army and stationed in Fort Riley, Kansas. I kind of just shut down. They weren’t quite sure what was going on with me. They saw that I stopped showing up for formation and showed signs that I wasn’t functioning normally, so they started asking questions. It was at that time when my official diagnosis came out: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder.
This all occurred right after my twin brother, who is special needs, was molested by his caretaker, but the event that caused my PTSD happened much earlier…
I was 12-years-old and I had been best friends with another boy for a couple of years. We always played football together and hung out a lot. But, he was in 8th grade, about to go to high school, and I was younger.
One night, I was staying over at his house. He had just started dating his first girlfriend and was telling me he had heard all these wonderful things about intercourse. We went to sleep and he woke me up in the middle of the night, telling me he wanted to practice on me, so that he could make sure he was well-versed by the time it came for him and this young lady. I didn’t know what this meant. He then progressively went and pulled down my pants, forced himself inside me. He told me afterwards that if I told anybody, then I was gay.
Being 12 years old and growing up in the south, being gay was considered the worst thing you could be at that point in time. I didn’t know any better, so I tried my best to hide the incident for years. I forced it down as much as possible because, how was I supposed to tell my father who was conservative and best friends with that boy’s father? How was I supposed to tell my mother who would freak out?
I didn’t tell anybody. I just kept it inside and it ate me alive, until I finally I just gave up. I attempted to take my own life 6 months after the incident. I told everyone the reason I did it was because my mother and father had been fighting over the custody of my brother and me- it was just the best way for me to keep what happened a secret.
For years, I didn’t cope very well- I shoved it down. I probably coped the worst way I could because I tried to find a way to escape through sex. I am embarrassed by my actions. I truly did not care for the girls I would bring home. I didn’t care about anything. I was just trying to find and fill that hole that was left in me. I isolated myself.
But, after my brother was molested in 2014, I broke down. I couldn’t keep that barrier that I put up anymore. I attempted to take my own life again in January of 2014, by attempting to overdose on painkillers. But, the girl I was seeing at the time got me to the hospital. I didn’t really receive the care I needed at the hospital; unfortunately, the military just drugs you up and tells you to forget it and moved on.
The next time I attempted to take my own life was in March of 2014. I was still broken down from everything during this time, so I again tried to overdose. I was hospitalized for 3 weeks in Louisiana. I came back from hospital to find out that the girl, who I thought was in love with me, had been having multiple, different partners other than me. I didn’t know how to take it, so I attempted to hang myself. My ‘battle buddy’, as I call him, came into the room and saw me. I honestly wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him because he got me down as quickly as possible.
At this point, I had attempted suicide 3 times in 5 months, but I again attempted a final time as soon as I got out of the army. I felt that I didn’t have a purpose. I didn’t have anywhere to go and I was still fighting the PTSD battles every single night. I couldn’t eat or sleep, and when I did sleep, I only had memories of my 12-year-old self, laying there helpless. I stuck my 9mm in my mouth and pulled the trigger. But, thank God the gun jammed.
That was the first time that I felt that maybe there was a higher power or some force that didn’t want me dead. So, I tried to figure out a way to make life work.
I went to therapy for a little while and I took medication, but the medication made me feel like a zombie. The harsh reality is that the military drugs you up until it’s fine- that’s what they want. The more medication they can give you, the better you are, because they don’t want you to be broken. They want you to be able to go out and continue to function the way they need you to.
I started off on one anti-depressant and I was getting more and more depressed; it was affecting me in an adverse way. Then, I was moved to another anti-depressant and a medication to get rid of the nightmares I was having- it was the same medication used for combat PTSD to get rid of those images. I also had an anti-anxiety medication and a sleeping medication. I would physically be there, but my mind was somewhere else.
But, I was always my happiest when I was around horses. I grew up around them because my brother is special needs, so we tried to use them as a therapy for him. But, when I would be around them, it would also be therapy for me. I got a job at the carriage industry where I could be around those beautiful animals. It gave me an opportunity to talk to them and they would listen, with no judgement. That has always been my coping mechanism.
My advice to those struggling is keep fighting because you never know who’s going to miss you when that day comes. If you ever do decide that your life is not worth it, just know that there is somebody, you may not know them or maybe it’s someone that you don’t think cares, but there is somebody that will always miss you the moment that happens.
I personally have had friends that didn’t do well with their mental illnesses. There’s an old saying: ‘22 a day’. 22 veterans a day kill themselves. One of my best friend's did successfully commit suicide, which is why I wear a bracelet on my wrist every day commemorating him and reminding myself how much I’d be missed if I were to ever do that.
For anybody who is ashamed of being a victim or ashamed that they had their rights of their body taken away: remember that it’s your body and that person only wins when you let them. I let the aggressor in my situation win for about 10 years. And every day for 10 years, it ate me up inside.
I didn’t know at the time that was what was eating me up inside- I just knew I didn’t want to be here. I didn’t want to wake up the next morning. I didn’t want the nightmares to continue. I was afraid to go to sleep, that I would find myself in that bedroom, feeling and reliving every single aspect of that night again. That’s the most terrifying thing about PTSD- it’s not the anxiety attacks, you get used to them. It’s not the fact that you don’t want to be here anymore. It’s the fact that when those flashbacks come, you feel like you’re there. And, there’s nothing you can do about it.
Do I still have nightmares and flashbacks to this day? Yes. But, I remind myself that I am not the 12-year-old boy that I once was. I am not the scared little child that I once was. I am not the man I once was, hiding the truth for 10 years, so no one would ever know.
You’re a survivor- that’s the best way to put it. You’ve made it through your trauma and you’re continuing to build upon that to form a life for yourself. If you ever have those PTSD flashbacks, let at least one person know what it looks like or what it feels like when you leave that safe space that you’ve created in your head. That way, you have someone to bring you out. That’s the easiest thing you can do is to have something or someone that brings you out. To me, it was my horse, like when he is nudging his head at me because he wants to love on me.
And remember, no matter how dark it gets, someone will miss you. I will miss you even though I don’t know you.”