The Invisible Illnesses (a personal account)
Real Men Don't Whine... or so I thought
I am 27 years old, ex-military, and a father of 7. Throughout my life, I have always been very good at one thing, doing what was required of me and doing more than most, in terms of work. I rarely complained when schedules were long, as I felt that it was normal to feel worn out.
Being worn out means you have accomplished something, it means your family can have it easier because you are dealing with the hard stuff, as it should be. One thing I did not see was it was driving me into the ground. Being tired became a common occurrence as I worked between 12-14 hour long days on rotating shifts. But that is what life handed me. That was my choice. Just suck it up and deal with it.
I went through a divorce while stationed in England, where I essentially became a single father for a time, working 12 hours, then coming home and taking care of my two children at that time, for the next 12 hours. I did this through my shift rotations until I had a day off. On average during that span, I would go 60+ hours without sleep and attempt to catch up 4-5 hours at a time during my days off, while still attempting to keep an orderly house and keep up with appointments for my children.
This only lasted for about a month until I was able to hire a live-in nanny that forced me to sleep when I came home from work. However, that month was enough to make a deficit it took me over a year to crawl out of, until I felt normal. But the question became, "What is normal?"
- Is it normal to feel tired all of the time?
- Is it normal to not want to do anything?
- Is it normal to not be hungry?
- Is it normal to feel like you are living a routine, rather than making it?
I started to feel as if I was merely existing, no longer contributing to myself. My work was satisfactory. My children clothed and fed, and we went to parks and played. That was enough right? As long as everyone else was happy, then why did it matter?
Don't Ignore the signs
Fast forward a little bit to my next duty station. I found an amazing woman that somehow dealt with all the baggage that is me, and we had 3 additional children together, as well as her own 2, bringing our total to 7. I was a 24 yr old father of 7. I owned my own house, I was a success?
As my separation from the military grew closer, things increasingly got worse. My supervisors made me visit mental health, where I was referred for depression and anxiety. I went through numerous medications with numerous reactions, none of which were beneficial. My reactions to medications were either null, or negative. Between max doses of one with no effect, to time-loss on another, I gave up.
I separated from the military and had no outlet. I ended up sitting at home, not acknowledging my children, and once they went to bed, I would drink. A lot. Due to growing up drinking, I have a high tolerance, so a lot means anywhere from 1/2 a bottle to a full bottle of vodka a night.
I was cornered by my girlfriend, and told that I was avoiding the kids, and not acting normal. I didn't see it. So I got a job, not the one I wanted or was qualified for, but a base level minimum wage job which I did not enjoy. I went through the motions and did as I was told. Nothing improved.
Eventually I bounced jobs, and decided to go to school, as being busy helped me take my mind off of everything. After enrolling I started course loading extensively, purposely making impossible schedules, and yet succeeding, but it didn't feel like an accomplishment. I started to fill out my disability claim for the VA and just over the past couple days I have been forced to see how broken I have become.
Providing is not the only requirement for a Father. You must take care of yourself or others will notice. Looking back, There is one thing I would tell others.
- Real men whine when needed
- Real men are allowed to feel inadequate
- Real men need to feel
- Real men is a process, not a body type.
- Take care of yourself , for yourself, and others.