I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist or doctor of any sort.
Although I did get a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Social Science in the 90s, my real education was when I got married to my husband and inadvertently to the Canadian military.
Although I never felt I fit in as a military spouse (I saved every penny I could to buy our first home and move off base). I was nonetheless married to an infantryman who went on 3 overseas missions in our first 6 years together. We had a son after his 2nd mission, and then our daughter shortly after he was home from the last (well, about 10 months after). During this pregnancy, I knew he was not himself and I knew it had to do with what had happened on his last tour. He was involved in an IED (improvised explosive device) explosion that killed 2 of his peers and injured 3 others. He walked away without a mark on his body, but his heart and spirit would never be the same.
In 2004 he was diagnosed with PTSD. For the following 10 years, he managed to continue his career in the military and changed trades from infantry to military intelligence. When he had supportive superiors, he thrived, when he did not, he went into crisis. Eventually, tiring of this nauseating roller coaster, he retired with a medical release in the fall of 2016.
Over these last 20 years, I had a variety of jobs, as most military spouses can relate to. I first worked at a military base social work office; then at a shelter for abused women and children; then I worked for a group that counselled abusive men. My last and longest job was for the Director of Military Family Services, which is basically HQ for all military family services in Canada. I worked as a counsellor, and eventually as a manager of a team of counsellors that provided nationwide support to military families looking for referrals, supportive counselling or crisis intervention.
Now backing up a few years before my husband’s retirement, while I was working at Director of Military Family Services, I started to show signs of burnout. Although I had no idea what was happening, I had been in survival mode for so long that was all I really knew and it had served me very well. However, when I went to my doctor one day, she was able to see behind the facade. Luckily for me, she was very persistent and insistent I see a psychologist and I eventually (painfully) let down my guard and accepted the fact that I could no longer carry on the way I was. I was on extended sick leave from work and after trying a gradual return to work after almost 6 months off, I eventually accepted that I could not work in that environment AND stay healthy. I reluctantly decided my health was more important than the job and I eventually resigned. It may sound like a rather simple and straightforward process, but was anything but simple or easy. I was diagnosed with major depression and anxiety and although I am in a much better place now, which is why I can even write about it, staying healthy is an ongoing challenge.
So who am I to talk about depression, anxiety or PTSD? I am someone who has personally and professionally experienced them from various vantage points, at various stages and various levels of care. It is from this experience that I draw from to share in my blog.
My goal is simple; I want to change the conversation about mental health issues and ultimately end the shame and secrecy that hold so many of us back from living the life we want and deserve.