Robbie is a US Air Force veteran sharing his story of PTSD – but it’s not what you’d think.
Written by Robbie S. Millward, Milford New Hampshire USA
Thank you so much for allowing me to be a guest blogger on Seeds In The Wasteland. I’m truly honored. I’m wanted to share a recent event in my life in regards to PTSD. PTSD isn’t new, it’s just had a lot of different names throughout history, specifically military related. E.I. Shellshock, 1000 yard star, etc. Only recently has it become accepted and more spoken about outside of the military and combat. This is what happened to me.
At almost 39 years old I found myself in a familiar situation. This time it’s happening 4500 miles and 18 years away from my last inpatient stay for my mental illnesses. I attempted suicide at age 21 while in the United States Air Force. This was not my first attempt. It was this final attempt that finally landed me in a place that could help. Or so I had thought.
I spent a week off base at a civilian hospital because the military was not equipped to handle mental illnesses at this time. Because I had a beer, one single solitary pint, the crux of my stay would be based on a problem with drinking. This did not take away from being treated and seen by professionals who, I’d like to think, give it their all when they were working with me. At the end I was misdiagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, given 3 months of Zoloft and sent back home to New Hampshire.
The next 17 years or so I self medicated, was diagnosed with Major Depression and Generalized Anxiety. It wasn’t until I received my 3rd diagnosis prior to being admitted into an inpatient mental health program, that things really started to click with me. It didn’t make the road ahead any easier, just slightly clearer. The funny thing is I 100% disagreed with the diagnosis at first. Even argued with the psychiatrist, who was the head of the hospital, that there is zero chance that I have PTSD.
Yes, I am a Veteran of the United States Air Force. Yes, that means I served in the military, so having PTSD shouldn’t be a stretch, right? Here’s where I stood and why I disagreed with Dr. Sullivan. I never saw combat. Truthfully, I only served 26 months in the Air Force before being discharged due to my mental illnesses. I was in the Air Force and stationed in Alaska. My job was to watch the sky via a radar screen. I saw more flocks of geese than I saw enemy jets. Other than the self harm, which I induced, there wasn’t any trauma I could remember from the Air Force. Like I said, I vehemently disagreed with the doc. Then he said this “What’s your first memory of your father?”
I sat in the chair bewildered. He could see that in my eyes and repeated the question “What’s the first memory you have of your father?” I sat back a little, crossed my feet and stroked my beard a little while I thought. “I was between 2-3 and I remember sitting on a countertop in a dimly lit gallery kitchen on the Army base we lived. My mom was very, very young and my father had a stern look on his face, was thinner than now and had no facial hair.” This memory brought an uneasy feeling and the doctor could tell. It was this next question that blasted into my head and I will never forget, especially being a father of two beautiful daughters.
“Robbie, when you were 2, when your girls were 2, when any child is 2, what are they mentally equipped to handle, understand, cope, process, etc?”, “ Very little” I replied. “Exactly! When men and women go into combat, no amount of training or preparation gets them ready to mentally handle, understand, cope and process the extremely hard things that happen in war.” It was this statement that I started to understand. When I was a very young child, a lot of terrible things happened in my presence to others. Unspeakable type things. My young mind saw, heard, felt, sensed all of these things but never knew how to truly deal with it. As my life grew older, some of those things that happened around me when I was so very young started happening to me.
Empty promises became the norm. My every other weekend’s became optional to him. Regardless of how much I cried. Then I would cry because I wouldn’t want to go with him. He was a stranger. Disappears and then demands my time? Who is this guy? When I was 5 I was taken away from my mother by him and his brothers. I remember wearing cowboy boots, shorts and shirt screaming for my mom who could do nothing. Even though he hadn’t seen me in years, he decided to come and rip me from my only constant. She couldn’t do anything about it. It was the early 80’s, police don’t get involved in those sort of things then. I remember hearing him tell my mom on the phone that she will be lucky if she ever sees me again.
It took my constant rock and hero gathering some of her own strength and help to confront this want to be man and bring me where I belong and where I will always belong, home. With my mom. My constant. I tell this story because it took me some time to recognize that PTSD is not military related all the time. I tell this story because I’m not the only one.
These traumas in my life have left symptoms or every day checklists that I cope with. I always know the exits, I do my best to not have anyone behind me or in a blind spot, I’m hyper vigilante of my surroundings, extremely protective of the females that I care about, constantly look over my shoulder for him, have horrible dreams either with him in it or derived in some manner of his actions, scared that I will wake up one day and be him. These are things I’ve been doing since I can remember. No child should ever be concerned about those things.
I’m Robbie. I’m dad. I’m a Veteran. I’m a warrior of my life. A survivor of my illnesses and traumas. I’m still here and plan on still being here for a long time. I love you all.