A RAND study just showed that something like 20% of all returning servicemembers from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from depression or PTSD.
That’s an astounding number — almost 300,000 men and women.
But it is just a number.
What is it like? Read this post from a vet actually suffering from this syndrome. A sample:
So it’s like that — you’re all alone. But, hey, at least you made it home!
So you go to your barracks room, dump your stuff, then you head to the PX so you can get some civilian clothes to go out on the town.
You shower. You eat. Then, you go out.
And…and…and nothing. You head to the mall, for lack of something better to do, and you see the people milling around — and it’s like nothing ever changed. If you didn’t tell them, they wouldn’t know you’re a soldier, they wouldn’t know we’re at war, and they wouldn’t know that you just got back.
Don’t get me wrong — they’re not ungrateful. They’ll thank you, they’ll congratulate you…and then, they’ll go on their lives and you’ll go on with yours.
Except for this: the whole time you were in Ar Ramadi or Balad or Tuz Khurmatu, your platoon leader and your company commander and various VIPs were telling you that you were the only thing standing between America and the massed hordes of Osama bin Laden. We were fighting them in some godforsaken shithole in Ad Dawr because the other option was kicking their ass in Aurora or Hilliard or Prestonsburg.
Or you were helping the Iraqis win their freedom — fuck it, we’re making their livesbetter — see that kid, over there, Jalal? We hooked his family up…kid had a cleft palate, we helped rebuild his dad’s car garage so he could fix old beaters up. We did some good, we did!
But none of this matters to the folks out at Nordstrom’s or JCPenney’s or Bed, Bath & Beyond. They’re just regular folks, they just want to do their thing.
You turn on the news…nothing. The very thing that was at the center of your life for a whole year…you might see it get 90 seconds in the regular news. And when I say a whole year — I mean it: I lived my life day to day. I was grateful to see the dawn — the end of my tour snuck up on my ass like a thief in the night. There’s really no way to describe the centrality of existence to someone who hasn’t been there.
Given all that…how would you react? How would you feel? What kind of emotions would be roiling inside you?
Some guys get pissed. I’m not talking regular angry — I’m talking pissed, like Incredible Hulk you-wouldn’t-want-to-see-me-when-I’m-angry. I was one of those guys. Hell, I’m still one of those guys, though a lot less now than I was four years ago, when I got back.
You see pictures of me from back then — even my smile looks, really, frighteningly, like a snarl. A look into my eyes reveals a glimpse into a world where death walked in the afternoon, or morning, or really, any time he damn well felt like walking. A glance at the words that I wrote reveals the tension of a man trying maximally to keep the shards of his world from falling apart.
And then…and then, they did. All came undone.
My marriage fell apart. It fell apart as I unleashed the hurricane strength of my anger and indignation upon my wife. My wife, who had had the simple common decency to stand by me while I was gone and try, superhumanly, to care for me once I returned, was no match for the fury that I felt at having had to quietly withstand the dead simple savagery of war in a distant land, only to find that people back home simply didn’t give a good goddamn whether I lived or whether I died.