Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Malmstrom chaplain shares story of contemplating suicide

"Instead, he was met with mindsets that thought chaplains shouldn't need help. They should only give help."
Think of hearing that. I can tell you that most of the time chaplains need help more but are the last ones to ask for it because of this kind of attitude.

When you spend your life as a "helper" you are all too often unable to ask for help for yourself. Once at that point, too many times, the people turned to find it impossible to understand why help for the "strong" would even be needed.

People end up with PTSD and depression because of their own lives but caregivers also end up with it because of the lives of others seeking help from them. Without support it is hard to find God in the shadows of misery. This I know all too well. I struggle everyday with my faith and most days I lose the battle, finding no comfort from God or people but then one day, out of His hands, a stranger lets me know I do matter. Days like that make the emotional burden seem worth the price but the rest of the time, I wonder who is supposed to help me.

If we help other people, there are only a few times when you can see the relief in their eyes. Only rare times when you discover that what you said or did mattered enough to help them turn the corner.

Many times I spend hours with veterans, usually with emails, and I can tell that I am getting through to them but sooner or later, they stop emailing and move on with their lives. I never know if it was because I gave them what they needed or they got it from someone else. I saw the hits on my videos when they were up on YouTube but when they reached over 5,000 hits with very few comments, I didn't know if they mattered or people were just curious. When they were being used by service groups or mental health professionals, I knew they mattered but never knew who they helped or how much. All of this makes this work even harder. There are too many reasons to just give up and move on with my own life. The thing that keeps me doing it is simple. I know what it is like to feel lost and alone, suffering without finding anywhere to turn.

Those days when there was no support living with PTSD in my family dug wounds deep inside of me and I remember those times with heartache. I know what it is like to be alone, so I do the best I can to offer the help I never found, hoping, praying that today I can make a difference in the life of someone else, just like me way back then.

This story is about a Military Chaplain and his struggle finding the help he needed.

Malmstrom chaplain shares story of contemplating suicide

Posted 3/1/2011

by Valerie Mullett
341st Missile Wing Public Affairs

3/1/2011 - MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. (AFNS) -- Chaplain (Capt.) John VanderKaay knows what it is like to contemplate suicide. He also knows what it's like to seek help for his feelings and begin the healing process. He has been there and shares his story with anyone it might help.

Three months after returning from a tour in Iraq, he made a permanent change-of-station move to Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., and started settling in to his new job and new surroundings.

Several months later, he said he started to see "dark areas" of his life and he would react in ways that were uncharacteristic of him.

He said he couldn't understand these dark areas, so he opened up to his leaders about his feelings and they encouraged him to talk to a mental health provider about them.

"John, that sounds an awful lot like (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I think you should go and talk with the professionals," Chaplain VanderKaay said he was told.

The chaplain was diagnosed with PTSD and began attending counseling sessions, but these counseling sessions were short-lived.

Not long into his counseling, Hurricane Katrina struck.

"The hospital was destroyed and mental health providers, among many others, were sent away," Chaplain VanderKaay said. "I was there for 10 months after that and there was no opportunity for me to deal with any of my 'stuff.' There were incredible needs (of others) after the devastation. My 'stuff' had to wait."

After the hurricane, he said he went to numerous houses of wives of deployed Airmen only to witness the same fate -- they had lost everything to Katrina and they turned to him for comfort.

"I did this house after house and it weighed on me," Chaplain VanderKaay said.

Eventually he received orders to a new base. However, the trauma of the Hurricane Katrina experiences led to a second diagnosis of PTSD.

"When I got to my next duty station, I was full; I was over-flowing," he said. "I needed to start taking care of my 'stuff.'"

So once again, the chaplain turned to his leaders and told his story, expecting to get the same support he had gotten prior to his first diagnosis.

Instead, he was met with mindsets that thought chaplains shouldn't need help. They should only give help. That only increased the pressures he was feeling. As a result, he came face to face with the perceived stigma of receiving mental help.
read more here
Malmstrom chaplain shares story of contemplating suicide

No comments:

Post a Comment

If it is not helpful, do not be hurtful. Spam removed so do not try putting up free ad.