I have openly talked about my use of laxatives for years; I make no secret of the hours and days spent avoiding food, and more specifically eating it; I talk about my death and my desire to die as though I were sharing a favourite recipe; my naps are long, and often I refuse to actually wake from them, instead pulling covers over my head and pointing to the door with a hissed, "Get out get out."
In a recent news conference over the ongoing kidnapping crisis in Nigeria, the national chairman of the Kibaku (Chibok) Area Development Association has stated that at least seven parents of kidnapped girls have died due to trauma. According to Dr. Pogu Bitrus, delays in the government response to free the girls has taken a toll on parents as a result.
I know PTSD. I live it. I am assailed by the images every day; images which have made me fall to my knees as flashbacks so vivid and ugly wrapped themselves around my eyes like a blindfold. The incident plays on a constant loop in my broken brain, sometimes slowing down long enough to allow me a moment to breathe; other times the nightmare so real I forget I'm no longer that young child pinned underneath a grown man.
General, might I offer up that, at the heart of the problem of suicide in the Forces, is that soldiers feel trapped and with no way out? That the widespread stigma against mental injury and illness, that the attitude you present -- that helping is coddling, and that your condescending attitude exemplifies the problem which soldiers face?
In seven days, Canada lost four soldiers to suicide. They died of despair. Suffering mental wounds from their service, able to foresee the end of their careers but unable to see how they could survive after, they succumbed to their injuries and took their own lives. We might give it fancy clinical names, like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Operational Stress Injury, but that doesn't change the condition: broken mind.
When I read that Romeo Dallaire had been in a car accident on Parliament Hill just outside of East Block, I wondered if it was due to fatigue. I have never known him to be other than fully occupied and frequently exhausted in the course of his heavy schedule. Romeo has a lot more than just memories to fight. As he explained this week, he fights depression and remains medicated for PTSD. But he has turned his pain into a purpose, and in so doing he can get up every day.
For a soldier, the battle does not end once you leave the warzone. I will be fighting the effects of my injuries from "the incident" for the rest of my life, and that is why I am writing this piece. Over the past seven years I have been fighting another battle, one for a pension that befits the injury and the effects that the terrible day in Afghanistan left me with. I have sought the help of my MP, doctors, the media, the military ombudsmen, and Veterans Affairs, but they have all left me no further ahead than when I started, and with the startling conclusion that 5% of a soldier's brain is worth a mere $22,000.
At 23, I tested positive two years before I even got my first professional acting job. Everything I've done professionally has happened since I tested positive. But when that doctor looked into my eyes, told me I was HIV positive and then said, "You're going to die." I had a decision to make. It wasn't if I was going to go, but how I was going to live. I knew that if I was going to survive, I had to take care of myself the best I could and that meant (and means) staying firmly and actively engaged in what thrills and interests me. Perhaps, I do not have the luxury of disinterest.
Imagine if the true prevalence of cancer in Canada was somewhere around 50 per cent, but the government of Canada estimated the prevalence to be approximately 20 per cent because they included in their estimate only a portion of all possible cancers. The medical community would be in an uproar because there are important implications drawn from such data.
Increasing numbers of military veterans are entering the U.S. prison system. Why? A recent study highlights the important role that anger can play in how well veterans reintegrate into society after traumatic tours of duty -- and how likely they are to run into problems in prison, if that's where they end up.
Canadian citizens may be shocked to learn that the Canadian Forces do not have the same Charter Rights as the rest of us. They give up those rights when they enlist. Maybe this law makes sense for the military -- it is used to suppress mutiny and rebellion, but at the same time, these are the people who are risking their lives for our freedom. Don't they deserve better?