It was something we never talked about growing up. It was hush hush in our house except for the prayerful cry that came from my mother’s bedside in the middle of the night. She was grieving and begging God for a miracle. Even at five years old I could recognize it. My dad had been away serving in the military but he was home now. He was not dead but to my mother he had died. He was now a man we no longer recognized.
My dad told me what happened a few years ago…
“It was a normal day. We would get up and run drills and go through training. We would prepare in case there was a war. This particular day I was having a hard time. I had gotten a letter from my mother a few days prior with news from home that was hard for me to know about. All I could think was that I wanted to be home. Everyone was homesick. I was stationed in Germany at the time and we were preparing for a drill. We were suited up with equipment and given directions. This drill used toxic gas. We went into a building and we were supposed to put our gas masks on. I fumbled with my mask and I was slow at getting it on. By the time I had gotten my mask on my eyes were burning and I could not stop crying. We were directed out of the building and my sergeant was yelling at me to get myself together but I couldn’t control it. I was sent to the medical building where they rinsed my eyes out.
Then two days later I had a massive stroke. I was paralyzed on one side of my body and I could not walk. I had to go in a wheelchair. I was in Germany and there was no one there. No family just me. Then the military decided to send me home. I was lucky because the feeling came back into my body and I was normal again but something happened to my brain. They said I had a chemical reaction.”
My dad is a paranoid schizophrenic. After discussion with some family members the accounts above are true. There are some facts that are left out but this is his recollection of the events. I share this with you because we do not know if the toxic gas or the stroke could have caused the schizophrenia or if the overall event was the trigger. I believe that this tragic event triggered schizophrenia in my father but because of our family history he was already vulnerable to the disease. It could have been triggered at a different point in his life if this had not occurred.
People who have been through a stressful or traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one have a higher risk of developing schizophrenia. However, a positive major life event such as winning the lottery can also trigger schizophrenia in some vulnerable people. There are also some environmental factors that can contribute to schizophrenia but there is a higher probability that a person already has a predisposition to the disease. Yet with study, scientist are discovering that genetics does not necessarily mean destiny. These means that there is hope for my children and yours.
If you are concerned that you, or someone you know, may be developing schizophrenia please contact a health professional. You are not alone.
Do you have a story about a loved one or yourself that was hurt in the military? I want to share your story. Contact me by completing the form below.