This Navy Veteran stopped hiding his problems

This Navy Veteran stopped hiding his problems


-My name is Ponce.
U.S. Navy. I served in various places
from July 1988 until December 2011. Some of the things
that I pushed down initially was really the fear of some of
the operations that we did, and under the
austere environments in which we were in. That manifested itself
in a lot of different ways. I was very fortunate. A Navy chaplain was the one
that guided me and said, “Let’s talk about it.” The things that he saw,
I think, was my meter and how I talked was
very sullen, dull, flatline. Definitely the constant
gazing around as if there were a threat, and we’re just talking
to one another. And the complete
almost depletion of just basic self-confidence. Not to be melodramatic,
but it became very clear that he had convinced me
at that moment, “You wanna see some help?”
And I think I was really at the end of my rope,
And I went, “Yeah.” Mine was a combined therapy. It was medical as well
as therapeutic. One of the first things
that they do is they remove you, frankly. They place you in what’s
called LIMDU, or limited duty,
for about 180 days. And that’s when they triage — give an assessment
of what’s going on there. And then you’re reevaluated at
about maybe the 90-day part — 90-day part, by doctors. And they actually have
a medical board to see how you’re tracking,
how you’re coming along. And in my case, at that time, I was found fit
for full duty again, and I resumed my career. You think, “Okay, now
I’m fixed and I’m good.” And so, you say, “I don’t need
this therapy anymore,” right? But you haven’t found a lot
of those coping skills, or you may have another incident
that then you find yourself not able to deal
with those things, or you don’t have to mechanics
or the instruments to do so. So, what I found myself then,
I became a better — I became better at masking it — It was completely
counterintuitive — at the end of my career. And that’s when
it really came to a head, because then some of the —
Because it’s compounded. Some of the military
experiences, now you have your
internal experiences, and now the external experiences because you’re not out there
deployed on the front line. It came to a head,
and resulted in me having to actively seek
assistance with, specifically, the Department of
Veterans Affairs. They have what’s called
the Vet Centers. And the Vet Centers are one more
tool in mental health in which, in my case, you would go
to six to eight weeks of whether it be
group counseling or individual counseling, individual assessment. It’s free. It’s free, so there was not
a hindrance there. And what’s really important
as well is, if I find that
I’m in a situation because of some
of my conditions, I feel free and know where
I can go to get an answer. I don’t have to self-medicate. I don’t have to self-loathe. I can acknowledge, “You know, I’m not feeling
comfortable here, and this is the reason why.” And then be able to use
some of those coping mechanisms
to right-size myself. At the time, some of the stigmas
that I had concerns about — Would I be derailing
my professional career? Would I lose my
security clearance? Would I be seen
as someone who’s faking? So, of course, on active duty,
that was a very real concern. And, might I add, it’s still
a very real concern for some of the people
that I still interact with that are on active duty. But of course, what I share
with them is, “Listen, it’s normal. There isn’t a stigma
attached to it. It’s better to be healthy. Reach out the
Veterans Administration and seek help. It’s fun out here.
It’s okay. Things happen,
but you can recover. And we’re here to help you.”

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