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James Sveen, OIF veteran and active duty sailor –

When I got back from Iraq in ‘09’, I didn’t think I would be affected by what I saw or what I did there. The colors of the world were the first thing I started trying to adjust to. The separation of my family for so long had done its damage and then I started noticing more and more the isolation from friends and colleagues at work. It took just up to my 6th month back before I had enough. It happened to hit me like a brick and I had no clue what was what anymore. I finally had my breakdown. I had become a walking zombie and had become numb to the world. I was tired of being looked at as if, because I deployed to the desert, I was deemed some kind of diseased alien.

My contemplations of suicide went through my head until flashes of my sons standing over my grave haunted me. I went to A Catholic church and sat and prayed for an answer. I’m not religious by any means but I had nowhere to go. The next day I went to seek what ever help I could possibly find. I was enrolled in EMDR treatment. I made a promise to myself I would not let the military medicate me like they did so many of my battle buddies coming back and only making matters worst. Day by day went by and I would find myself noticing more and more troops come back to a empty land that no one but them could understand. I was still looking for my weapon after 8 months. I found solace in meeting with other soldiers, marines and sailors who have suffered the same way I have.

The heart break for me was that the same command that sent me there was the same command that ensured my isolation with out a care. Now I’m back in the Fleet. I have learned to curve my anxieties. The problem is I will still not allow myself to get close to anyone who hasn’t been there in my shoes because every time I am asked about it and I answer, I am treated like I have leprosy.

I have found out first hand that PTSD is not what you get when you are there in the desert. It is what happens when you come back and you no longer feel you’re making any difference. That you no longer can trust that your command or your loved ones will be there for you in your time of need. I feel betrayed sometimes. By people I love, and by those that were supposed to support and protect me.  I still feel empty and numb these days but I do know as long as I am helping someone who feels the same way I do, then I am making a difference. I can’t rely on the Navy or Army or a chaplain or a loved one to help me. All I can do is take care of myself. But, for how long?

James Sveen
OIF veteran and active duty sailor

3 Responses to Life of an Active duty Sailor with PTSD

  1. Will says:

    Stay strong shipmate, our seas are rough. I am glad i seen this posting on here. I am not a battle field hardened soldier. I did do my time on the CVN-71 in 2000, was doing T.A.D time in the galley. That day i served one of my shipmates his last meal, 20 min later a promise that i had given was broken. I knew he could have used more rations that morning before training operations. Its been 13 years and I still replay the conversation over and over. After that moment life never has been the same constantly haunted. Anchors away shipmates Anchors away

  2. Nicholas morello says:

    I have been there, I have come home from an op and nothing be the same, you feel like the world is out to get you, that no body cares about why you went through you’ve made the first step you know that you have PTSD. The thoughts of suicide are very common in us vets. When I was at my worst stage after getting out of the military I can’t count how many times that gun went up but somewhere the strength in me stopped me from pulling the trigger. You have so much life to live for, your sons you want them to look up to you. I myself have a 4 year old little girl that what’s saved my life more times then she will ever know. PTSD no matter how you treat it it will never just be gone. It comes and goes. I could go a month to six months with no PTSD symptoms. Then that one little thing sets it off and you don’t know what to do except to protect yourself. Talk about everything, you said trust is huge and for any combat vet trust is key. I know what your going through. I talk to my wife about as much as I can. She ,au not understand it all but she listens she cares about me and what happened over there. Stay strong keep your mind open. Live one day at a time

  3. Mark-Francis Mullen says:

    I feel you, brother. This described me a bit when I returned. The answer to your last question is…forever. You found the answer, mate! You can’t rely on anything outside yourself. You must find the peace, calm, control, and connection within. There are plenty of shipmates there to help you. these shipmates are not from the USS Anything, but from Spaceship Earth. Try out the Veterans Yoga Project, Give Back Yoga,or other veterans’ organizations that promote mindful healing, is my suggestion. I am always there for you at oneyoga@live.com…just put VET: whatever in the subject heading.

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