Chapter 16 – Military

Note – This post discusses the military as part of my mental health story from 2018 to 2020 and may trigger unwanted thoughts or emotions in those that have suffered traumas. This post is part of a story told chronologically.

The evil thoughts that had lessened over the summer intruded once again in different forms after Robyn’s death. Voices alerted me of threats from knives each time I walked through my kitchen. I considered removing all knives and going without them until my mind fully healed. Wasn’t this stupid though? Irrational? I didn’t want to concede defeat to the enemy so I kept the knives.

Most of the homicidal thoughts that attacked for a year were directed against strangers, people nearby, or friends. When unwanted thoughts raced across my mind, I prayed or pinched my finger and focused on a positive memory until the thoughts dissipated. If only I could get to Christmas, then to Easter, then to Pentecost, I thought.

The targets changed when family members visited. Hiking through the woods, voices told me to hit them with rocks or push them down. I anguished over this, yet pushed the thoughts aside rather than telling them out of fear and embarrassment. When these voices told me to harm my nephews and niece, I panicked. Kids can be a source of stress, and that stress was like a mallet hitting potatoes, then smushing and whisking them. My mind was already mashed potatoes. Now, it became liquid. I called my doctor and asked for anti-depressants.

I didn’t know why I was having the thoughts. Because I wanted kids and didn’t have any? Was I beating my inner child rather than hugging that boy who had experienced trauma? Was I not nurtured enough by my parents? Weren’t these thoughts selfish? I reasoned they came because of unresolved, buried grief, and my warped mind and its subsequent vulnerabilities to dark forces. Consequently, I asked a friend to pray for me. He gave me a list of Scripture passages and said these were temptations, and nothing was wrong if I didn’t act on the thoughts. I knew that, but letting the thoughts go was extremely difficult in my state of mind. I started anti-depressants again and gradually dialed in the right dosage over the weeks as I started military duty.

Over the years, I looked forward to working my part-time military job. I was good at it, and it gave me confidence. This time, however, was different. I dreaded working, fearful of informing my commander about my mental illness. Wouldn’t my security clearance be revoked? This job was my backup plan for money in case writing didn’t work out.

When I read an email requiring Reservists to qualify for weapons training, I immediately panicked. I didn’t want to be near a gun. I also had to take my annual fitness test. I hadn’t exercised much over the year, and with my heart now audibly beating louder since Robyn’s death, I panicked each time I attempted to run. I worried when my heart would attack. Each step became a threat, as thoughts reminded me I could die at any moment.

I walked to my room after work, and voices yelled at me up the stairs and down the corridor telling me to jump off the roof. When my head hit the pillow, my heart burned. Pains stabbed near my left armpit, and my heartbeat audibly if I tried to sleep on my side. When I rolled onto my back, stomach acid swelled upwards, burning my esophagus.

I messaged my doctor to ask about my heart, and I scheduled an appointment with my physiatrist to ask for sedatives. Propping my head up with additional pillows helped the acid recede, but the terrible thoughts didn’t go away unless a sedative tranquilized them.

Fortunately, an email came to my inbox correcting the original requirement. Reservists didn’t have to weapons qualify then. I hoped this knowledge would alleviate my anxiety, but my mind and body were already mush. I took the annual health assessment and told the nurse I was having homicidal and suicidal thoughts.

The nurse told me to go to the base hospital. I met with a psychologist and went through the half-day suicidal protocols. Nurses and doctors asked me questions, and we talked for over four hours. With the help of sedatives, I said I could work through the pain.

After I finished military duty, I stayed with my family in Cincinnati. However, I often left family and retreated to Xavier University’s chapel to escape evil thoughts ordering me to harm them. The chapel became my refuge and a place where I had an intimate experience with God. Over the next month’s posts, I’ll conclude my mental health story and describe those experiences with God.

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