I am a female Army Veteran. I served from November 1st, 2005, to May 17, 2009, in the Army.
I had one 15-month tour of Iraq where I was a truck driver. I saw the effects of suicide bombers and IEDs on both military personal and Iraqi Nationals. I was raped halfway through my deployment by a fellow soldier resulting in a pregnancy and had to come home to get an abortion or face criminal charges for getting pregnant on deployment and got sent back on deployment after the abortion.
The Army said the rape never happened. When we got back, I still had to see my rapist. I still had memories of the things I saw while on convoys and missions. I had also gotten injured on a mission and hurt my left shoulder. I had three suicide attempts before I was deemed an issue and given an honorable discharge.
I got out of the military on honorable conditions; I wasn’t a bad soldier, my head was just messed up. I couldn’t trust anyone. Someone I was supposed to have trusted with my life betrayed me and raped me. The world I saw around me was surreal. Watching people in their comfortable false security, not realizing how horrible conditions were in other parts of the world, not being able to truly comprehend what true suffering was, was all around me.
I was angry when I watched the news. I was hurt and felt it was a personal attack any time riots or demonstrations happened because America is such a bad and unjust county in some people’s eyes. I was telling people that I didn’t care if things were bad for me here: I wasn’t deployed, getting shot at and watching kids get blown up, so I didn’t care.
The next ten or so years were a blur of medications and people trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I was given Citalopram and Amitriptyline in August of 2009, Alprazolam in October 2009 through April 2010, Quetiapine Fumarate in February through April of 2010, Buspirone in June of 2010, Divalproex from June to August of 2011, Temazepam for sleep in June through October of 2010, Tramadol for pain in November of 2011, Alprazolam in December of 2011, Prazosin for nightmares in December of 2011, Buspirone (again) in December 2011 and January 2012, Citalopram (again) in May of 2012, Aripiprazole from September 2012 to March of 2013, medication for hormone regulation in September 2014, Adderall from February to April 2017, Hydroxyzine for sleep in November of 2018, Adderall from January to March of 2019, and, finally, Gabapentin from June to July of 2020.
I had really bad reactions to all the medications. Some made me paranoid, most made me depressed and suicidal, and some made me feel like I was in such a weighted fog that I couldn’t function. What were all those medications for? Who knows. It was a different doctor, a different diagnosis type thing. In August of 2009, I was diagnosed with an insomnia disorder, psychotic disorder, and panic disorder. In March of 2010, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. In June of 2010, I was diagnosed with a partner-relation problem and bipolar disorder. In October 2010, it changed to an impulse control disorder. In December 2011, I was diagnosed with panic disorder without agoraphobia, and in January of 2012, I was diagnosed with being a homeless person and having anxiety. Then, in May 2012, I was diagnosed with bipolar depressed state. In August 2013, I had an anxiety state and, in November 2013, an “other specified adjustment disorder.” In January, I was diagnosed as homeless and having adjustment disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct. I was diagnosed with battered spouse syndrome in April of 2016. I was diagnosed with depression in June of 2016, and chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, CPTSD, in November of 2018. In March of 2019, I was re-diagnosed with ADHD and in May, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD.
In June of 2020, they decided that all my problems boiled down to an alcohol-induced mood disorder. In addition to the in-service suicide attempts, I was also hospitalized for suicide attempts in 2010, 2011, 2016, 2017, and 2018. All were attempted overdoses and I was told there is no medical reason I should be living right now. I became a Disabled Veteran, and I got disability pay for my shoulder and for PTSD. I got married and divorced. I had a child in 2012 and twins in 2015.
At first, my now ex-husband got main custody and I had to give him over half my disability pay. The VA wouldn’t help me when I would fall homeless, because I could just “choose not to pay child support.” But, the government said if I didn’t pay child support, I could lose my driver’s license or go to jail. Not much choice.
I had tried marijuana a few times in my teenage years and always became paranoid. In 2019/2020 when CBD really became prevalent, I started researching it and finally decided to try it. My mistake was telling the VA doctors I was because I got put in a substance disorder class. I was then put on Gabapentin and became severely addicted to it. I was crushing it and snorting it at work.
After about 6 weeks, I couldn’t handle it anymore; I was obsessed with getting more and chasing that first happy high. I quit cold turkey and went back to CBD.
CBD has helped make my shoulder pain manageable to the point where I can work out again. I have tried creams, tinctures, and even smoking it. I have tried several brands. Some work, some don’t, but it is usually the cheap ones that don’t. I have become leveled and stable enough to have held a job for over a year now. I see my kids often, and their dad will let me take them really whenever I want since we live fifteen minutes away from each other. I did try to take a hit of someone’s THC joint in mid-2020, but it made me a little anxious and I had trouble falling asleep.
I have had no bad reactions to CBD. If I try to cut corners and save money, I really don’t get any benefits. If I smoke CBD before bed, I become calm and relaxed and can actually sleep. If I take a liquid, I have less pain. I have found capsules with CBD, ginkgo, and ashwagandha that I take daily to help me focus on work. I have even started going back to college. CBD has given me my kids and my life back.
I still get nightmares and flashbacks, and it still takes a lot of effort to trust people, but it is getting easier. I have shared my experience with others I served with and they have started trying it and getting relief as well. It is convenient to get medication from the VA for free, but when the medications cause more of a nightmare than what you are trying to escape, it is just not worth it. Having a natural remedy that is safe and has no side effects is truly worth the cost.