Some veterans live “normal” lives post deployment or separation for years, some never adjust. For others the stain of service comes out years later. Here is the story of one such member and her son along with their message “Don’t Give Up.” REMEMBER there are many resources and fellow prior service members (like me) you can lean on.
APRIL 23, 2020
Andrew has seen the changes in his mom.
At first, they were concerning. When his mother, Agatha, returned from her deployment, she isolated herself. She would shut herself off in a small closet and drink. To her son, she gave off a “fearful vibe.”
“[She] was not someone I thought I recognized at first,” Andrew says. “You couldn’t approach her for anything. I would ask her what’s wrong, and she would say, ‘It’s nothing. I can’t talk to you about it.’ And I would get frustrated, because I wanted to help, and I didn’t know how to.”
But he didn’t give up. And the changes, eventually, turned into the positive kind.
Their story mirrors the advice of countless family members who have supported a Veteran facing mental health challenges.
Keep showing up and showing your support.
“Don’t give up, even though it may seem challenging,” Andrew says. “Just keep on talking to the person. Keep on showing support. Don’t give up.”
Don’t give up, even though it may seem challenging.Andrew
It wasn’t easy. “I felt angry. I felt depressed,” Andrew remembers. Finally, it all came to a head.
“You can’t keep sheltering me out like this. You can’t keep things inside, because eventually it will explode,” he remembers telling his mother. “So, I gave her an ultimatum. I said, ‘Either you talk to me, or you find somebody else that you can talk to, or there’s nothing I can really do for you.’”
Agatha describes the moment as a turning point. “My son is the one who had to snap me into reality,” she says. “He was like, ‘You realize that you do things and say things that are not my mom.’ He grabbed me and he said, ‘If you don’t fix yourself, I’m going to leave you.’”
The moment pushed Agatha to seek counseling, to begin to address the anxiety she felt since leaving the service.
“Women don’t talk about these things,” she says. “I have to come back and be somebody’s mother, somebody’s sister, somebody’s daughter. I went in trying to protect, being this feminist person and thinking that I could do it, and then came back home and I was broken.”
From her counseling, Agatha learned to do positive things — writing poetry, reading the Bible, taking a moment to cry but then picking herself right back up again. She found tools for coping.
“First it was challenging, because she would get stubborn. She was like, ‘Don’t help me. I got this. I don’t need your help,’” Andrew says, with a smile. “And then later on, as years go by, she’s like, ‘Andrew, can you help me with this? I need help with this.’ And I’m like, ‘Sure, no problem.’ When she has appointments, I take her to the doctors. Wherever she wants to go, I give her a ride — whether it’s groceries or a walk in the park.”
Agatha, too, has helped pick people up — literally. She’s become involved with her local VA facility and community service. She serves as a chaplain. “That helps me heal,” she says. “I like the fact that I’m listening to a Veteran. … I feel better when I know that I’ve helped someone else get better.
“You’ve got to let it out. You’ve got to talk with someone. Don’t suppress that anymore. It’s part of healing.”