Story of Hope: Meet Jim
March 06, 2023
I am a Special Operations combat veteran with deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as temporary duties to several other locations in support of Overseas Contingency Operations. Upon separating from service, I was diagnosed with PSTD (as most combat veterans are), but I wasn’t given a path to recovery; nor did I think I needed one. Little did I know that I was also battling undiagnosed bipolar 1 disorder. For the many years since my separation from service, I have had my ups and downs, but I always thought I was capable of “reigning it in.” I suffered some very personal trauma the first time I went for help and that trauma stopped me from ever seeking additional treatment.
In the Spring of 2022, I decided and told everyone that I was going to “hit reset on life”, but my real plan was much darker. In the midst of what I now know to be a manic episode, I packed up as much as I could into my car and drove through the night to Denver to be with my best friend. I hadn’t planned on sticking around much longer, so I wanted to be in the company of my lifelong friend.
Fortunately for me, my plan didn’t work. I woke up in a hospital bed at the VA in Denver and that started my long road to recovery. From there, I flew back to North Carolina and went to the VA in Salisbury for in-patient psychiatric treatment. Due to my co-occurring issues, the VA decided to pay for 45 days of residential and 45 days of partial hospitalization treatment at HopeWay.
While at HopeWay, I went through individual therapy in which we did EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) upwards of three times per week. While not an easy process, I saw immediate gains. Traumas that I had held on to for years simply no longer controlled me; they were just events from my past that make me who I am. Outside of the individual therapy, I attended group therapy to learn CBT and DBT skills, such as two things can be true at the same time, your emotions don’t have to control you, and not everything is life and death. While I’m sure these seem easy to grasp, I was in such a dark place that I could not see the world in such a way. I also got to re-learn the joy of being present in the moment while doing integrative therapies (horticulture, nutrition, yoga, meditation, etc.). Throughout all this, I received excellent psychiatric care to make sure I was on the right medications and in the right dosages.
Overall, the greatest lesson learned while I was at HopeWay was that I was equipped with the knowledge and tools to be an active participant in my own recovery. I gained a new perspective on my diagnoses and the fact that they do not define me. Mostly, I learned that, in spite of trauma and my mental health challenges, I can and deserve to be happy.
The standard of care varies so dramatically for combat veterans and, often, they give up just like I did. I hope that sharing my story lets them know that there is a place that understands you and your challenges and shows you how to put HOPE back in your life.