A Law Enforcement Office and Army Reservist’s
Personal Mental Health Struggle
By Esperanza Cafuné
I was the only First Responder in the room with a therapist, a dancer, and the instructor.
She said, “Grab a book and find and write 10 words, which could be nouns.” So I did.
Lava, volcanically, smoke, seafloor, eruptions, interior, melting, civilization, run, beautiful – (“Is this even one?” I ask. “That’s fine, there are no wrong answers here. We are just getting you out of writer’s block,” she responds.)
She said, “Put the book back in the pile of books, and find another book, and find and write 10 words.”
Door, exterior, bun, rhyme, folk, functions, fearful – (I fall short…but again I remember the previous… while thinking, ‘How is this exercise going to get down to what I need to know about myself?’)
She said, “Put the books back in the pile of books, and find another book, and find and write 10 words, which could be adjectives.”
Pleasing , blessing, white, fight, rage, sage, pain, green, mean, stress
She said, “Put the book back in the pile of books, and write the following…”
She said, “Pick 4 words from your list and write them in to complete the phrases.”
I am… mean
I am… fearful
I am… pain
I am… stress
I am… eruptions
I think, ‘Man, this is taking a dark corner… Am I really this hard on myself, or is this the perception of how others view me?’
She said, “For a certain amount of time, we will write with the one single rule: to NOT STOP writing, about whatever we want.”
I choose to write all this in cursive to maintain the flow of the pen to paper and began:
I feel like the darkness of my own reality. I feel that my own structure, mind, soul continuously challenges myself and those around me. I feel sore and cold and broken and to the core. I feel raw, empty, and so alone. My heart is of an unforgiven beast that yearns for affection and attention. I scream out silently of this pain and this vision or more so version of myself. It is hard to share the darkness within. I am not a bad person nor do I have bad attention. I am that of a forgotten dog that owners got tired of, left out in the snow on Christmas morning. I joke about this abandonment often and the experiences that haunt me. I have seen the darkness at my window, I have felt him at my side wanting, wishing for me to avoid the great and good in this world. I have been affected physically and mentally by the violence and I want it to stop &/or be addressed…
The above was from a creative writing workshop I attended, and I ended up getting more than I bargained for. I hadn’t expected the internal reflection and insight that this seemingly harmless activity would unveil.
Mental Health, as it stands for me, ought to be quality health care. I am a dual First Responder: military reserves soldier and law enforcement officer. Currently therapy comes out of my pocket, and is filed through my insurance each month per each session. The military will not directly give me free mental health because I am not classified as a “Veteran” by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). I am not entirely mad at this classification, because I have only been serving with the Reserves component with no activations or deployments at this time. The police department I work for offered free counseling through a big hospital nearby, but the mental health person I saw there a few years ago was nothing more than a glorified certified counselor, with no idea of what my job entitles. She told me to go read a book about how my parents treated me and how I was raised. (I cannot make this up…)
I was fortunate to be able to locate a doctor who happens to volunteer his own time with the VA and a licensed therapist who is certified in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). I have had much success in my current mental health care as a result of my treatment. This process of even finding them took at least a year of personal research to realize what it was that I was even looking for. Keep in mind I was fighting suicidal thoughts, dealing with an abusive significant other, and fighting a health condition that has no cure.
Read and know this, I know the hunt is hard and life throws at you unfair and painful experiences. There should be a catalog that categorizes the level of care AVAILABLE and NEEDED, which utilizes the appropriate nonprofits and/or resources to put YOU at ease so YOU can focus on YOUR care. I know you are asking for something, and you deserve the care that is beneficial to you.
I’d like to make this our GOAL: to categorize the level of care available out there, by utilizing the appropriate nonprofits and resources so that YOU can focus on care not research. We are working to partner with those who share our mission: to help those fighting internal wars by connecting them, their families, and their friends, to resources and by providing emergency grants when possible
Fight on, warriors.
About the Author:
Esperanza Cafuné is a pseudonym for our volunteer & writer who wishes to submit blogs anonymously, in order to protect privacy with the agencies they serve as a dual First Responder. Esperanza means hope and Cafuné is a Brazilian Portuguese word that is untranslatable in English or any other languages. By definition it means to “run your fingers through the hair of someone you love.” We can only assume our volunteer & anonymous writer is either in love with head scratches and/or loves giving them while putting the mind at ease from all experiences.