The Journal Series
“Sometimes the worst prison is the one you put yourself in” – Bjorn
The cold sets in, a cold that would make Jack Frost weak in the knees. A bone chilling cold that pierces the nostrils and drives a pike between my two ears. Breaking the deafening silence is the distant sound of water dripping on a pipe. My neck is swallowed by a solid steel collar, stealing the small breaths I take. With each of those small breaths, my lungs burn as if ice is forming in them. The frozen metal chair drives icicles through my legs and back. I am alone. No emotion, no hope, no relief in sight, and no rescue coming. No dramatic action movie extract from my old team. Just another morning in my own prison.
The bedroom door explodes with the joyful giggles of my two girls. Both still young enough to have not experienced the truth. The truth that this world will punch you in your mouth, no matter how hard you work or how good you are. They have the innocence that just as long as Daddy is around, the world is safe. God, I wish I could keep them just like this forever, but I know that is impossible. I’ll just keep doing what I do, minute by minute, hour by hour, keeping my nose to grindstone to make sure they need for nothing.
The burst of “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! It’s your birthday!!!” breaks me out of my prison cell. I put on my Daddy smile and squeeze them both so much my youngest lets out a little toot. The room breaks up in laughter and my beautiful wife leans over and gives me a good morning kiss. I roll over and put both of my feet on the floor.
The excruciating nerve and muscle pain reminds me that I ain’t young anymore. One of my first mentors when I was a boot, used to tell us “Every morning wake up with the purpose of driving your two feet into the ground. Then the Devil will say “Shit, he is awake” and you Marines, let him know every second that you are.” That used to work for me, but doing the devil’s work for so many years, kinda defeats that theory.
I wasn’t always this way. I’m actually still young, in some people’s eyes. The others, like my PCM, says things like “Geez, you not only look old, but your MRI’s humble you a little bit, don’t they?” Nothing like a little motivation to just turn your day around from our broken medical system,
Once I was young and full of life. I can’t complain one bit about my upbringing. I had a badass Mother that did everything that she could as a single Mom to make sure I needed for nothing. Her parents became my idols. Grandma was an angel, not just saying that, I firmly believe that she was a bonafide angel. My Grandpa was fair, firm, and taught me about life at a very early age. Between the three of them, I had a moral and ethical compass set early. Nothing they could have taught me though, would prepare me for the last 20 years, serving in the military. So many deployments, so many injuries, both seen and unseen.
The one constant in my life, is my Grandpa’s voice “Anything worth doing, is worth doing right the first time. Don’t start a fight, but damn sure finish one. Never quit, keep your nose to the grindstone and be the best man you can be. Don’t ever give up, you’ll never forgive yourself. Last thing boy, if you can’t look at yourself in the mirror, it’s time for you to make a change.”
Those last words from Grandpa, are what drove me to get help. As I stared into the mirror, avoiding my own eye contact, those words came back like a southern storm. Him being gone for years, sometimes I can barely remember the sound of his voice, but in that moment I heard his voice and those words again. They drove me to seek change. Im not going to lie and say that the military mental health system is great, or even sub par. I am not going to lie and say you are going to get help immediately. I am not going to lie and say things get better instantly, like some magic easy button. I am not going to lie and say that I have never contemplated the easy way out. I’m not going to lie and say I never wanted to harm myself.
I am going to tell you the truth. You. Are. Not. Alone.
Truth is, this world will punch you in the mouth, take almost everything from you, almost. The military mental health system is completely broken. The world, and so many in it, do not give one ounce of care for you.
However, there is a reason to keep moving. A pride in keeping your nose to the grind stone and as simple as being able to look at your own reflection. Like Nipsey Hussle said “Hustle and Motivate.” Never stop hustling to stay alive and motivating yourself. Motivate your Tribe. If you don’t feel like you have one, then make it a mission to find one. Get yourself out of your own prison, get out of solitary confinement.
If you can’t find one, I know of a great Tribe. This Tribe might be full of flyboys, but believe me, us knuckle draggers are welcome too. Trust me, they gave me a chance to live a tenth life, since I used my other nine.