A Letter to a Stranger about PTSD

My PTSD Google Alert passes many interesting articles through my inbox. The volume of disturbing articles seems to be increasing over time.

This morning a link from Gawker was at the top of my news feed. I am not a huge fan of Gawker, but I felt compelled to read this article. I read it and was overwhelmed with the tragic stories that are still persisting and were presented there.

I have been avoiding the shit out of many things and unfortunately the pressure has built up too high. The bottom of the article had a link. So on a whim I penned a letter.

Dear Hamilton,

Reading the accounts of other Veteran’s is upsetting to me, but a story that needs to be told.

I exited the Army in 2006 after two tours in Iraq. They were in relatively close order and the ten month break in-between trips was not nearly enough time to readjust. The second trip was worse than the first and exposed me to new and different horrors of war. That deployment compounded what was most likely a case of PTSD from the first tour.

When I returned home I slogged through the VA benefits process with the help and support of my wife and family. For a while I lived away from my wife and newborn son. For a while my father drove me to and from work as the medications I was on rendered me unable to function as I was coming up from them.

Each week for the better part of six years I saw a therapist at the VA and chipped away at learning to deal with a new normal of persistent anxiety and depression. In that six years I fired two therapists and cannot speak highly enough of all the rest.

I quit drinking and all drugs but I am still addicted to work to keep my mind away from the negative patterns of thought that are ingrained from years of training and fighting. I finally got off the antidepressants about a year ago. Despite all that, some days I still break down and cry in the bathroom at work. I consider myself lucky to even have a job.

I wish I could say that after these six years I am an integrated happy member of society, but I am afraid that will not be true for many years, if ever. I can keep the wild and extreme thoughts at bay, but they still linger in the dark corners of my mind. One day seven years ago I took out my gun and considered getting some rest from those thoughts.

That day I doubled down on my family and my therapy and today I am able to survive and more often than not, flourish. I did not do it alone. We Veterans cannot do it alone. It takes lots of hard work and discipline to maintain this steady state. My perspective coming through the other side of this is now valued by my coworkers and family, but only as I am able to present it currently. If it was any rougher or more graphic, I don’t think they could handle nor tolerate it.

I am now dedicated to see my two boys grow up and reach a ripe old age with my wife.

I write a blog about PTSD and my treatment. (my friends were harassing me about not having a post lately)…

Thanks again for raising awareness.

Sincerely Yours,

Michael “Mikey” Piro

It was liberating to write this little summary and confess how I feel. I am still deeply emotional about by my experiences in war, but I have so much to celebrate and be thankful. I am flourishing. These past 16 months have been the best since I came home and each month continues to be better. I could not have done it without you that are reading this right now and this convention of bearing my soul into the internet. I am doing fine, thanks to you.

So here comes the ask, find a Veteran, give them a hug. Accept them for who they are and give them an opportunity to flourish.

4 thoughts on “A Letter to a Stranger about PTSD

  1. Deidre Zbiegien

    I have a son-in law who destroyed his family.He also served two tours in Iraq. His path to recovery was violent and and extremely abusive. He threatened to kill my daughter,granddaughter and even myself. Your stories have helped me immensely. I realize it is a daily struggle. I admire your ability to be open and share your personal struggle with PTSD. I look forward to your next blog.

  2. mikeypiro

    Deirdre,

    I hope you and your family find peace. Thank you for reading and sharing.

    Sincerely,
    Mikey

  3. Bridget Collins

    I’m so proud of you Mike and am inherently grateful for all that have done for our country, for the veterans coming home, and most importantly for being a part of our family. Much love to you cousin!

  4. Bryan

    Mike,

    I have spent so many nights watching in the darkness that I often forget what it is that I’m supposed to do when the sun comes up. What should I protect when everything is okay? How I am supposed to fight when everything is at peace? I don’t think many people realize, aside from those close to us, that we brought a war back with us — one that demands more from us than it ever did over there — one that doesn’t just test our mettle or make us buck up, shut up, drink water and drive on — but one that breaks us, sometimes almost every day. I’d like to say I won those wars, but I suppose I wouldn’t be writing this if I did, right? I think for me, realizing that not only can I not do this alone, but also that I was never in fact alone, was and has been my greatest strength in going forward. I know that I will never be at complete peace, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be happy and it also doesn’t mean I can’t still fight — I will fight, but for something that isn’t on a battlefield. Thank you for continually sharing your thoughts and experiences with everyone. You have my number. You need anything, don’t hesitate. We will catch up sometime. Be well, Brother.

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