The Transition from Military to Wacko
By Dustin DeMoss
This weekend I will be attending SARDAA (Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America) to participate in a Question and Answer session on the feature film Light Wounds. This is a movie inspired by my life.
This is an article I posted in Red Dirt Report (RedDirtReport.com) and some errors have been fixed. In the original article it looks as if I had been in Korea for two years. This is a phenomenal mistake on my part as I wasn't paying close attention.
Entering the military is a solemn decision that must be taken with care, at least that’s what I thought I was doing when I made the decision to sign up. But I found out that even after reading all the material; watching YouTube videos; talking to the recruiter and talking to Vets your experience in the military may still not be like theirs. In Invictus by William Ernest Henley he says, “I am the master of my soul, I am the captain of my fate.” You only learn how untrue those words can be when faced with your first orders to deploy.
My only deployment in those two years to Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. It was during a time when North Korea’s Kim Jong Il was acting up and threatened to test nuclear weapons as a show of strength for his nation. Following his threats the number of exercises on base with our gas masks on and working to ritualizing the preventative measures needed to protect ourselves against chemical and biological attacks actually became something of a monotonous habit All the time I was thinking, “This sucks.”
I returned after that deployment to New Mexico, “Land of Enchantment”. Soon after I saw one of my best friends in the Air Force get kicked out for driving drunk. I kid you not. This was in New Mexico, a land us Airman came to refer to as the “Land of Entrapment.” It held you hostage and it seemed that the Air Force held you hostage to this unforgiving place. I had already seen three of my fellow airmen get kicked out for drug related offenses. It seemed to me that often in this “Land of Entrapment” you excelled as an Airman for the first year you were there, and then you faced burn out. I on the other hand didn’t burn out until after I was out of the military.
I left the Air Force in November of 2007 on a humanitarian discharge to help take care of my mother and step-father both of whom had serious illnesses. I took a job after getting out and worked for about 9 months when my world started to fall apart. In my mind I was like a caged animal that had been freed.
In reality it led to me spending two months in a psych ward. The diagnosis; schizophrenia. Luckily for me and getting coverage for the cost of my illness when my health records for my time in the military service arrived they showed clearly that I had sought treatment for some mental health related issues while I was in the Air Force. I remembered this clearly because I had gone to the doctor on base for treatment of severe depression and he told me, “Exercising more releases endorphins. You should really exercise more and you’ll be happy. Exercise in the mornings.” Well duh, I already exercised every morning. Thanks, doc.
As I learned more about mental illness I discovered a number of studies that show going untreated for depression or other issues can lead to more severe mental illnesses. I am now dealing with my illness and while I can’t blame it 100% on the military clearly they didn’t do anything to help me even after I asked for help. I now face some people who don’t understand my illness and have never even been in the military who say to me “there could be nothing wrong with you because you never saw combat.” All I can tell them is that my $1000 a month medication costs and all my doctors would tell them otherwise.
I am getting on with my life and looking forward to a productive future but schizophrenia never goes away. It is something I will always deal with. I will be forever grateful to my friend Jonathan Looper who is responsible for telling my story in Light Wounds and hopefully I can help other people and their families who are dealing with mental illness better cope with their lives. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of but it is something to face and deal with.