Mental Illness Recovery Story: Chapter 6

“The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.” (Robert Green Ingersoll)

Great Lakes

As the plane headed toward Chicago, I felt both excited and fearful about the idea of training to become a machinist mate / electrical mechanical Navy worker. “Am I going to finally succeed in life, or will I find another way to screw things up again?” Like a fool, I again set myself for defeat in the school, as I put enormous pressure on my abilities to learn the material. Fearing rejection from another potential abuser, like a teeter-totter, my confidence wildly fluctuated, as I experienced the ups and downs of manic-depression as well as obsessive-compulsive behaviors, including getting bogged down in details, when studying. Believing in the lie “Self-worth equals performance plus what other people think of me” seemed to trigger my unstable emotions and behaviors, as I obsessed daily of freedom. I wrongly thought if I proved myself competent, I would be loved – not just by others, but also, myself.

Even though getting good grades was extremely difficult and immensely draining for me, I started off okay. Unfortunately, as the training approached the point where the majority of  students fail, I became even more intensely anxious and unconfident. “If I just tried harder and harder, I will succeed. And if I succeed, I will be great. And If I am great, I would be loved, and then I would be happy”, was my daily thought pattern. So I placed enormous pressure on my efforts to succeed, which only intensified my mental illness.

After a while, the fear of failure made life become real overwhelming to me as I started feel emotionally sick and weak.  One day, I got so frail and scared that I decided to approach my instructor. Petty Officer 1st class Davis, for support.  Unfortunately, before I started talking with Davis, Petty Officer 1st class Konkol reprimanded for leaning my back against the wall. Agitated and frustrated, I told Konkol I didn’t do it. Being physically weary, I unintentionally leaned against the wall as I started talking to Davis. The next thing I know, Konkol charged me with insubordination, and I was getting chewed out by him and then sent to a senior chief for discipline.

As I was being questioned by the senior chief officer, Konkol, who was also present, told the officer “I deliberately chose to be insubordinate and lean against the wall.” I denied it and the next thing I know, “I was charged for lying to a senior chief officer”, which I denied also. In my mind, I didn’t anything wrong.  But Konkol and senior chief did as the senior officer threatened to “send me to captain’s mast”, a serious Navy punishment.

Exiting the senior chief’s office, I walked the hallway in hopelessness and confusion as Konkol started berating me again. I remember him telling me “I was a piece of crap (expletive) and the type to get an entire Navy crew killed”. He also told me “he was going to do whatever it took to get me out of the military before it happens.” As he continued to chew me out for a short time, shame, pain, frustration, and mania ran wild in my mind, as I was being verbally and emotionally abused by “a new stepdad abuser”.  Listening to those damning words, I had to work hard to resist the emotional breakdown that was erupting inside of me.

After he left me alone, I immediately went to the bathroom to heavily release the negative emotions I felt. I was crying so hard, that when I looked into the mirror, I saw my face red and in tears. “Why God, why? . . . I didn’t do anything wrong!  . . . .Why do I have to go through this, all the time! . . . . Why doesn’t anyone love me?  . . . Don’t you love me, God?” Those were the main thoughts of my crying to God.

In anger and in frustration, I screamed out loud: “I am going to kill him”, as I felt the pains of all who rejected and abused me, as well as the incident of Kelly Cook.  Even though my mind was losing control, I had no intention to hurt anyone. Unfortunately, an officer, walking by, heard me say the words, and then next thing I know, I was being charged for “threatening to kill an officer.

I remember answering questions to some sort of military psychologist, and waiting for a couple of days to see what will happen to me next. They gave me a choice: “Stay in the Navy and appeal my disciplinary consequence and live an entire military career doing crappy job” or “sign a paper for me to be released out of the military with honorable discharge, and be disallowed to join any military branch my entire life.” So I chose to “get out of the Navy”.

Even though I was now free from the Navy, I wasn’t free from the emotional baggage it gave me. The shame, guilt, anger, and frustrations involved with again being rejected for making a mistake I didn’t mean to commit, hurt me considerably. The Navy was just another participant who didn’t want me around. This only worsened my obsessions of “don’t make a mistake”. In spite of all this, God never did let go of me.

I guess Konkol was right when he said “he was going to do whatever it took for me to get out of the Navy”. Imagine the destruction someone with a mental illness may have on a nuclear reactor of a submarine, etc. Back then, I was just a nineteen year old, mentally-unstable kid still unaware of his disability; in spite of the fact my discharge papers stated “other personality / psychological disorders” for reason of discharge. To me, though, it was just another cruel joke by an unsympathetic military branch.

Listen to this inspirational song, related to the theme of this chapter:

Hillsong UNITED – Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) (Lyrics)

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