Many of us have mental issues, myself included. There are plenty of suggestions as to how we should manage this; including medication, counseling, family and friends. These methods can have amazing results, but they are not 100 percent effective for everyone.
I’m an army veteran, and deployed five times as an infantryman with the 101st Airborne out of Ft. Campbell, Ky. Through my 10 years there, and three at Ft. Benning, I have experienced a lot.
These experiences have caused me to have problems since I left active duty. I’ve been diagnosed with OSRD (Other Stress Related Disorder) and severe anxiety with panic. I also have IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), which basically means that every time my anxiety acts up I have some pretty rough stomach issues. These things have led me to have issues with both keeping a job and staying in school.
I have tried many things to help my issues, including those I mentioned before, yet I continued to have these problems. I’m very lucky to have the family, friends and a strong spiritual faith as they are the main reasons I could never get far enough to do anything too drastic.
Even with such a strong support base, the anxiety and depression has been prevalent in my life since leaving active duty. One of the big issues I face is that I miss being deployed, I truly want to go back. I know that I won’t ever do that as a soldier, but there might be another way.
I have had many hobbies over the years, and gaming is one of the most significant. When my anxiety hits, playing a video game typically helps it. This is a great thing, and might help others for a temporary fix, but unless you’re good enough to become a professional gamer I don’t see it as a final solution.
Don’t get me wrong, gaming is a big part of my life, and has helped me immensely. However, I have found that there are times I used games to escape reality and didn’t face problems that I needed to.
Back in 2008-2009 I was in Iraq on my 4th deployment, and I was finding myself bored. I had a computer to game on, and was working out a lot, but most days I found myself dwelling on too many negative thoughts.
At that time, I had a fairly nice point-and-shoot camera, and I wanted to start capturing all the interesting (crazy) things that us soldiers do while deployed. I was enjoying it, but most of my pictures were not that great. They were good for posting on social media, but I started realizing I wanted to be able to show the world my experiences.
Once I saw that photography could be a good hobby for me, I immediately started researching it. I ordered some books, and while waiting for them to arrive I got online to read about every chance I got. All of this occupied enough of my down-time that we were getting ready to head back home before I knew it.
I didn’t buy the camera I had chosen until back in the states, but immediately started using it constantly. I took some great pictures, and really enjoyed what I was doing. The problem is that I quickly got caught up with all the joys of being back home.
I used it off and on while finishing up my time in the army, especially when I was at Benning and was assigned the extra duty of public affairs officer. I loved going around to all the different unit events and using the photos to create PowerPoint presentations. Even this didn’t make it last.
After leaving active duty things quickly went downhill. I was still in the Reserves, but I hated it.
I fell into severe depression, dropped out of school and worked a job that, although it was a good one, it was not the right fit for me.
I left the Reserves after three years, and quit my job soon after. I was unemployed for a few months, but knew I needed to go back to school. My first semester back I only took one class, but it changed everything.
That class was the basic English course, and I loved it. Writing has been a hobby of mine for a long time as well, and my experienced apparently showed up.
My teacher wrote on one of the papers I submitted that it was good enough to be in a magazine. She also said that I should consider changing my major, which was psychology at the time, to journalism and apply to work at my school’s newspaper. It immediately resonated with me that she was right, so I went and did exactly what she said.
That was two semesters ago, and now I’m not only a reporter and photographer for the paper, but I’m also the managing editor. I’m also taking a black and white film photography class which is the most fun I’ve had at school before.
Although I still struggle with keeping my anxiety and depression in check sometimes, it doesn’t happen near as often.
My suggestion to anybody reading this is to not give up on finding your passion in life. Keep trying new things, or go back to some of the old stuff you used to find joy in and give it another try. Eventually you will find that thing that will not only occupy your time, but bring you true joy in the process.