I spent a year in Iraq in an intense environment with a combat engineer unit. We built the beginnings of a more secure and pleasurable base for the soldiers that were to follow us. Pressure to be a female leader and the pressure to produce was constant factor. You can read a little more here.
Thankfully that journey was over after a year and my commitment for the Army had expired. However, I was to come home a different person. Certainly more grateful of the small things our amazing country is plentiful of. Mostly, I wanted something different.
I decided to finish my degree but didn’t have a clear career direction. I consulted my best friend from childhood via phone. Cyndi knew me better than my husband at the time. She knew I was fearless, full of life, and always seeking a good time. I loved being around people and talking about deep aspects of life.
The humbled survivor in me, revealed how I would like to care for soldiers. I had lamented how lucky I had been for coming home unscathed. But having the courage to help myself would prove to be most of the battle. With her intuitive suggestion I went into Recreation Therapy.
Whether she knew it or not, I was just pretending to be that same ole person. I started losing that fearless girl the day I found out I was to be deployed to Iraq. I all but lost that tenacious life after being there just a few short weeks.
The first vivid memory was sitting outside in the rain on Christmas Eve. If it weren’t for my M16 and combat gear I may have looked similar to child in a school hallway during a tornado drill. Except I didn’t fit inside of the meager sandbag bunker. Mortars were being blown up just a few hundred yards from where we were. It was no World War II and typically the mortars never reached tent city, but the fear was real.
Returning home I was scared to death of everthing. Everything just felt so damn hard. I’m a Mississippian that had come home to the US, still newly marrried to New York City. Of all places on earth God could have placed my husband. It was the busiest, most short tempered, cultured click place on earth. And I felt I had to fight to fit in there too.
After having been unsuccessful to conceive for many months before I left with my newlywed husband, I became pregnant right after I returned home. I had an extremely difficult pregnancy, in which I nearly died giving birth to my son.
Unresolved grief of my grandmothers passing, PTSD, so much time spent in isolation, near death experience, and first time mother of a premature baby.
It was so much to handle. I was miserable, but asking family members to help was out of the question. I developed severe anxiety, bouts of depression and lived with nearly daily debilitating migraines. It took me several years to admit it, even to myself that I had PTSD.
Ironically I was going to college for my BA in Therapeutic Recreation. Which turned out to be an expensive and long road, but the catalyst to recovery.
Recreation Therapy is similar to Art Therapy in that is involves art along with many other recreation tools as therapy. It’s a bridge between physical and art therapy and talk therapy.