A guest post by Will Cornell
Will Cornell is a Marine combat veteran that suffers from PTSD. Serving is Operation Moshtarak in Afghanistan 2010, and the 11th MEU in 2012.He is an aspiring author and blogger. Will grew up in western Oklahoma, farming with his family and enjoying outdoor activities like hunting, fishing, and hiking. His goal is to advocate for veterans who are struggling with PTSD, and addiction to find purpose and live meaningful lives.
Since I separated from the Marine Corp I have struggled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is a serious and deadly disease and can affect anyone. Most individuals will grieve after a loss or frightening experience, and find closure or acceptance. This disorder occurs when an individual doesn’t process the event in a healthy way. Some just don’t have the time, like most chaotic military traumas. Others simply don’t know how to work through an event in a healthy way. If you are like me and grew up in an environment where you were supposed to be perfect. You most likely have trouble processing traumatic events.
Especially outside of the immediate family. Being tired meant I was lazy. Struggling in school meant I was dumb. Losing in a sport meant I was a failure. Pain is a weakness. Never let other people know that you are hurting in any way, physically or mentally. My family takes a lot of pride in their appearance to the outside world. My parents work from sunup to sundown. To this day I have never met anyone that could outwork my father. Even in the Corp, Marines would have struggled to keep up. He is truly a hard working man.
Spirituality was foreign to me. As a family, we wouldn’t go to church every Sunday, generally, we only went to the big holiday services. But we did make it to a few normal Sunday services. I believe there is a god but in more of a literal, physical sense. It wasn’t a spiritual connection. There was no emotional presence of God in me. Just something I would say in my head, “I believe in God”. This has all changed now, I have a revised understanding of God, and how he works.
All of this culminated in my inability to process emotion. Having a tough rugged exterior, I wouldn’t show emotions like others. Returning from Afghanistan I didn’t show symptoms because I was distracted most of the time. Socializing in bars and with my brothers, singing to girls at karaoke. Down the road when I separated from the Corp I was in a serious relationship, with a girl back in Oklahoma. At that time I started having sleep issues. Trouble going to sleep and staying asleep. A few months after getting out I decided to attend Tulsa Welding School. It was a seven-month course, and they taught all types of welding processes. I excelled in all subjects. Most days I would even spend several extra hours in the booths, burning rod, or walking a TIG cup making shiny pink and blue welds. Soon graduating towards the top of my class I returned home.
A few days after getting home, my son was born. My family were all there, and my fiancé at the time gave birth to a handsome baby boy. We named him Addler. I was so excited. My dad seemed distracted though. He had good reason to be, even though it hurt me some. You see, my grandfather was dying of pancreatic cancer. The day we brought my son home, my grandfather passed away. I was there shortly after his death, being as supportive as I could for my dad. Inevitably time passed, and I began welding on drilling rigs in the oilfield. Making tons of money I decided to start my own welding business. I bought equipment left and right, and paid a few friends that I had met in welding school to help me. I paid them way more than they were worth, and I seemed to always be in debt.
In 2015 oil prices fell and the work stopped. Funny thing about that is, when the work stops, so does the money. I became Idle, helping my dad farm a little, and sitting at home was all I accomplished for months. Money was tight, and my relationship with my fiancé began to fall apart. Eventually ending with us quietly splitting up. She took Addler, and went to live with her mom. My depression had always
been there. Presenting about the time I had left the Marine Corps, but at this point in time it took off. Spiralling me into a deep depression. Feeling bad about myself, I completely shut down. I would stay in the house for days without leaving, avoiding everything, and everyone. Only leaving the house for Dip and Beer. Ceasing all attempts to care for me in any way. If I did leave the house, I was anxious. Looking back, I had nothing to be anxious about. It was just the PTSD talking.
The thoughts of being helpless at times in Afghanistan haunted me. I would often catch myself thinking about what I could have done differently during my time in that hot, arid desert. Regret always loomed over my head. For not taking better care of my family. For leaving the Marines, and my friends. I started abusing prescription drugs to cope with all of these foreign feelings. I hated what I was doing to myself, but I couldn’t figure it how to help myself at the same time. Eventually, I got a job, and I was always in the running for promotions or bonuses. Until I would get bored with what I was doing. Finding a way to sabotage me. Sending me falling ever deeper down the rabbit hole. I would make excuses about this and that, and lie about my drug abuse.
Finally, I had had enough. I went to get help before I killed myself or worse, hurt someone else. I reached out and found people like me that knew what I was going through. Soon I learned ways to combat my symptoms, and slowly but surely I started climbing out of that deep black hole. Regaining my sense of purpose, that I had lost when I left the Corp. I started setting goals. Do everything I can to help veterans that are struggling like I did. Fighting on a new battlefield, leading veterans back into the light and helping them find their purpose. I hope you enjoyed my chaos, and I pray my experiences will help someone suffering the same struggles I have overcome. Remember, you can win any battle. The only thing that is permanent in this life is death. We should spend what little time we have, before that inevitable ending arrives, helping each other live full and productive lives.
You can find Will’s other articles at www.okieschaos.com, on twitter @okieschaos and also by email WillCornell2007@gmail.com
Today Tomorrow Forever
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