Original article no longer available
“I can tell you that things have drastically changed on how I see the world, and how I see America as a whole.”
By Abbie Pickett
Army Specialist Abbie Pickett signed up for the Wisconsin National Guard when she was just a high school junior, eager to serve her country. When she returned home from combat in Iraq, she was depressed, suicidal and on medication. Specialist Pickett shared her story about living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I came back and I knew something was very wrong. When I was going through my demobilization they gave me an anti-depressant and a sleeping pill. When I got to the VA, they set me up an appointment with psychiatry, I went for a couple months and then in December or January I missed an appointment. It took them about eight months to get me back into the VA.
Meanwhile I’m on medication that wasn’t being regulated. So I was very depressed, suicidal… It’s one thing to die in combat, and to die with some sense of honor and in a blaze of glory. But it’s another thing to come home and be alone with your thoughts and just think about wanting to die. And wishing every night that I would have died in that mortar attack, instead of surviving… Or what if my convoy had been five minutes earlier and we would have hit that I.E.D.
I would go to the supermarket, and I’d be driving down the road, and all I could think about was steering my car off it and going into the bridge. I had a lot of suicidal thoughts and I didn’t know how to deal with it.
I finally started talking about it little by little and what I found was that there were a lot of other people who were afraid to talk about it. Because we really had been away from our lives long enough that we didn’t want it to affect what we were coming back to. We just wanted to be a person like everyone else walking down the street, when our reality was we weren’t like every other person walking down the street.
And that that made it really hard for me to come back and be the student that I know I could be I guess. I was very naïve as to how the world worked. And I can tell you that things have drastically changed on how I see the world, and how I see America as a whole. And the greenness and kind of luster that surrounds my youth is diminished and gone.
And I never, never would have seen myself getting out. I thought that I probably would be a lifer when I came in. Lifer being someone who put in their full 20 years. I loved basic training. I swirled through that, swirled through my advanced training. It gave me a sense of belonging and it gave me a drive. And I had some great incredible leaders that could put all that enthusiasm that you have at 19, contain it, and put it into something that was useful.
After being deployed, I really have been able to see…unfortunately…what happens when you see the other side of things and how terrible war can be.