Opening Up About My First Psychotic Break

On my second deployment to Iraq in 2005, I found myself cracking under the pressure and stress of being away from home. Spending 10-14 days on the road at a time doing convoy security came with its fair share of physical and emotional triggers.

About 8 months into my deployment, I ran out of meds and wasn’t able to get adequate sleep. I was on the road so much and my guntruck team depended on me, so I didn’t want to stay back long enough to get in with the psychiatrist. The combination of not having access to my meds and not being able to sleep pulled me into mania.

At the time, I was reading the bible on the road. Every time we would bed down, I would read Scripture and on the rare occasion that I could fall asleep, I would have apocalyptic themed dreams. I started believing that God was communicating with me through my dreams and began reading prophetic scripture to try and decode what God was trying to tell me.

Daniel and His Dreams

When I could access an Internet cafe, I would research bible prophecy and the information I was consuming would continue to bleed over into my dreams. I became super manic and started to believe everything was a sign from God. Feeding my grandiosity, I came to believe I was the prophet Daniel reincarnated and was one of the two end-time heralds to usher in the apocalypse.

I spent weeks trying to decode the book of Daniel in the Bible, as if, it was a personal letter that God had written to me. Giving credence to this idea was a verse at the end of the book of Daniel – where it says that, “But go your way till the end. And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days” (Daniel 12:13).

In studying the book of Daniel as if it was written to me, I generated many unique theories about the cast of characters in the Biblical narrative. The wise men or magicians that used spells and omens to interpret signs and dreams became the producers and directors in Hollywood.

This liberal interpretation of the biblical text, led to some rather interesting dreams as the modern entertainment industry became Satan’s handsmaids. I could no longer watch a movie without tying it to a vast end-time conspiracy.

The Moment I FULLY Lost My Mind

It didn’t stop there, though… At the height of my mania, I started to believe I was more than a propet, but that, I was Jesus. At that point, I had experienced my first psychotic break and lost my mind.

I was fully convinced that there would be a governmental conspiracy to try and take me out. In my mind, once I came to the realization of my true identity as the messiah, the “powers that be” or new world order would start conspiring to kill me.

I confessed these things to my wife and told her that her and the kids would need to move to Africa to survive the end-time tribulation. Naturally, my wife was concerned for her husband, but didn’t know what to do.

Thankfully, I was able to hold it together until I came back home in 2006 without making a huge scene or needing to be institutionalized.

Being Home and Seeking Help

When I arrived back home, my wife didn’t know what I was coming back as. Would I be the man she had married 4 years earlier, a prophet, or the Messiah?

Outside of the expected combat related issues most soldiers face when coming home after a year-long deployment, I seemed fairly normal. My wife told me some of the things that had happened while I was deployed and I barely remembered any of it.

It was as if I were different people doing those things. Suspecting I might have some personality issues, I decided to seek help. This is when I learned that I had experienced my first psychotic break.

It was hard for me to confess things that made me feel like I was out of my mind. While my mental health providers were careful to share with me how common these occurences are in cases involving people with bipolar disorder, I still had a hard time accepting that something like this could happen to me.

Acceptance: The First and Hardest Step

When faced with the reality that you have a mental illness, your pride/ego will rear their ugly head. For me, my pride/ego tried to hide behind noble character traits, like honor and dignity. This was very deceptive. My pride and ego (posing as confidence) attached to positive facets of my personality that served me well being in the military.

Honor was one of the 7 Army values I lived by, so, in my mind, fullly accepting my mental illness presented a conflict of interest for me morally. If I were to fully accept my diagnosis, I would be betraying my being. This proved tragic, because, without acceptance, it’s impossible to heal.

Without acceptance there’s no understanding and I spent years remaining naive about my true condition. In dealing with any mental illness, acceptance is the first and hardest step. For most of us, acceptance isn’t just an event, it’s a process. In being a process, acceptance requires maintenance.

To this day, I still have to work diligently to recognize the signs that I might be drifting and remind myself to not be naive about the nature of my mental illness. There are still seasons that acceptance has to become a daily practice.

Unfortunately, at the expense of sanity, relationships, many jobs, financial security, and personal safety, I’ve had to learn these things the hard way.

Ego’s Slow and Painful Death

After I left the Army in 2010, I prolonged mine and my families suffering for 8 years. Rather than pusing my ego/pride asside and accepting the help I needed, I bounced from job to job and self-medicated with alcohol in denial about my mental health issues.

I would get a new job, impress my employers, get promoted quickly, become manic/stop sleeping, and get fired when I came back down. This was a vicious cycle that played out dozens of times. Naturally, this caused a lot of emotional and financial volatility in the home.

With each failure cycle, my pride/ego would suffer another wound and lament its slow and painful death. It wasn’t until 2018, after nearly losing everything multiple times, that I finally plugged in at the VA and submitted my claim.

6 months later, I was determined to be 70% service connected disabled due to PTSD and bipolar disorder. Upon review of my empoyment history, I was considered 100% disabled due to unemployability.

I’m extremely grateful that my wife and children didn’t give up on me. There are many combat veterans that aren’t as lucky/blessed as I am. There are very few wives that would love their husbands through the things that I have subjected my wife to over the years.

In finally putting my ego/pride through the slow and painful death it deserved, I’m now free to focus on doing what I love full-time. I’m able to mind my own madness through these words I share with you now.

Being able to share my thoughts and feelings with others through this creative medium is a true Godsend! If you’re reading this… thank you! From the bottom of my war-torn heart… thank you!

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