Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

On Acceptance…

As I have passed from my thirties into my early and middle forties, it has become easy to accept the damage to my body from many years in the Navy.  Maybe this is just a consequence of growing older and accepting these limitations.  Or maybe I’ve just grown accustomed to the symphony of pains and creaks that my body plays every morning. (Motrin has been an able Conductor).

Either way, the small monthly checks that I receive from the VA every month for these problems means that the US Government and I have been on the same page for many years.  My military medical record is very thick and is littered with injuries, and the surgeries that resulted from them.  It’s there in black and white.  None of these physical issues has ever been in dispute.

And maybe because these were physical issues with ample documentation, they became easier for me to accept in the long run even though I still hid them from most people. When I was younger I still ran, swam and cycled through the pain and denied that these limitations would ever slow me down.  I treated them as I treated every physical barrier:  Something to be pushed through.  It was my will that would limit me, never my body.

Well…that type of denial in the face of reality can’t go on forever, (however the modern day GOP seems to be the exception to that rule).  Any of you older farts out there probably know what I mean.

So I’ve been able to come to peace with this part of who I am.  There is no shame in growing old and having your body start to decay.  It’s part of life.

However, beneath all of this has been lurking other things.  Things which have also come with years in the military and don’t always get reflected in your medical record.  In fact, I had never spoken about these things or even acknowledged them to another living soul until about 2 months ago.  

The nights that I’d wake up soaked in sweat so severe that I’d have to strip my bed and flip the mattress were physical clues.  The irritability after these nightmares were also signs.  My fear of ever showing anger combined with my tightly suppressed anger was even more evidence.  My withdrawal from those closest to me was slow and insidious. But I could never come to accept these things about myself.  The shame would never allow it.  I could keep this one contained the rest of my life, I felt.  All this one required was mental toughness.  It wasn’t dependent upon the strength of my ever more weakening physical flesh.

Or maybe it was…

At the extreme urging of my ex-wife, I decided to make an appointment over at the dreaded Mental Health clinic at the VA hospital.  A place that I remember feeling fortunate that I would never have to go.  After all, my problems are just physical.  It is the one place for which vets feel the most stigma entering.

I was now going there.  

When I found myself sitting in that waiting room, my stomach was in knots and I almost just left.  I felt like crawling out of my skin.  The nightmares and night sweats were easier to deal with than this.  But where would this lead if I didn’t get help?  If I didn’t deal with it?

Deep inside, I knew the answer to that one already.

So now the VA has diagnosed me with moderate PTSD*, and I’m not entirely sure how to wrap my arms around this one.  My family knows, but my daughter doesn’t.  There are a small number of folks here who know who I really am behind this moniker, but this revelation about myself has still been done in a mostly anonymous fashion.  Maybe that’s also why I’m doing here.

This is a highly private and personal thing for me to reveal, and I really really don’t even want to be talking about it at all…but I’m going to anyway.

It seems like the right thing to do.


*Note:  Okay, maybe I should be even more brutally honest here.  It’s actually moderate to severe PTSD, but I like to think I’m more on the moderate side.


  1. HappyinVT

    You picked a fine time to be open about your condition.

    I certainly hope you don’t think anyone will judge you.  I won’t.  Hell, I didn’t get out of the Navy without a prolonged stay in a locked mental facility.  And I’m not the least bit embarrassed by it.  I don’t know your story beyond what you’ve written but I respect you for your service and for taking care of yourself.

    And don’t be a stranger.

  2. Kysen

    Bro, welcome home. You have been missed somethin’ fierce.

    Mad props for taking the first steps and seeking help…those first steps are the hardest.

    I think you already know that the Moose is a safe harbor…after all, you helped build it. Much of the warm friendly vibe and deep streak of snark that are part and parcel of the Moose…is due to your influence at its foundation.

    I’m thrilled with all the New Moose we have…but, having you back is better (no offense to you new moosies, but, Stipes is the salt of the salt of the earth).

    You’ve made my day.

    Big hugs your way, bro.

  3. sricki

    So wonderful to see you here, even though I know it must have been difficult for you to write about this. I know I can speak for all the moose who know you when I say that we are honored that you chose to share this here.

    I am so very thrilled to see you. You have been missed — a lot. As Kysen indicated, you are such an important part of the spirit of the Moose.

    What you’ve gone through would have a big impact on anybody. PTSD can be debilitating, and it’s not easy for anyone to cope with. But in the end it will not define you. And with help, things can — and will — get better.

    Stipes, you are wonderful, and we are just so excited to see you.

    You’ve made my day too.


  4. dakinishir

    I don’t know you (yet) and I’m brand new here.

    Wanted to tell you how much it touched this stranger that you chose to share this.

    Mad props to you for your courage and your vulnerability. Honored to be a witness.

  5. My man of fine mettle. This took real courage.

    Of course, the bodies accumulates injuries over time. But I don’t think you’re old or falling apart. I think you’re just about to start taking care of yourself.

    The injuries to your body are much less serious than the injuries to your mind, your soul, your conscience. Being healthy, I’m pretty now much convinced, means being healthy in the mind, and that means talking like this: having the immense bravery to admit weakness and seek help. Most of us our lovers rather than fighters. In fact I think all of us are.

    By odd coincidence, I met one of Britain’s most violent gangsters today (retired I hasten to say) for a film project. For all his physical injuries what stood out where the emotional traumas of his abusive father. We talked about that a lot, as it turned out that all three of our fathers (me, him and the producer) had mental illnesses.

    This is where the real hurt is. Forgive a geeky moment, but it turns out that all our bodily reflexes and sensations are actually mapped and felt in the brain (hence phantom limbs). It’s well documented that soldiers who enter extreme combat are more likely to suffer PTSD if they don’t believe they are protecting someone (usually the rest of their buddies) or if they feel the cause is unworthy.

    So the mind, conscience, soul – call it what you will – really matters more than we can conceive. I know you will recover and grow because you’ve got a great soul, and now you’ve realised what is wrong you can heal it.

    There should be medals for humility, honesty and seeking the solace of others.

    I’m touched you would share this with us, and let us know if we can help in any way.  

  6. thank you for sharing.

    mental health is just as important as physical health. i can’t imagine what you have been through as a soldier, but you should never feel shame about yourself and in taking the steps to feel better…

    {{{{{{{ hugs }}}}}}}

  7. fogiv

    what an amazing guy you are, so much perseverance. love to you and yours, bro, and good luck with the girl (hubba hubba, bubba!)

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