The start of my mental illness while in the army, and after:
- by Michael John Lake

A pattern kept repeating after I was diagnosed with mental illness in the army.  I was
constantly trying to defend against people claiming I was a bad person, a failure, and
"dangerous".  I was punished for things that I could not control, with counseling
statements and threats to "straighten your act".  I tried to do better and failed.  The army
said it was my fault, and as a civilian I had similar experiences with authorities.

In the army before the mental illness
During my first year and a half in the army I did not have any significant "discipline"
problems.  I graduated electronics school at Ft. Devans as a “distinguished graduate“.
However, two issues made me question how I would be treated as a soldier. And a third
issue that made me question how I should look at myself.

1). The third issue-  I had to wait a few weeks to start electronics school.  During this
time, my father asked for permission for me to travel to the Bethesda Naval Hospital.  He
was being treated for being an alcoholic and wanted me to attend a weeklong orientation
on what it meant to me.  I did not know what to think about it, for I did not want to deal
with this part of my father’s life.  At the hospital they claimed that I might have problems
dealing with life from having to deal with my fathers behavior.  I was not sure what to
make of this information, but it did not seem to hurt to go along with it.  After returning
to Ft. Devans, I joined a local ACOA group, and it did not seem to be a significant issue
with my being a soldier.

2). I soon discovered that my barracks at Ft. Devans, Mass., were poorly supervised
during the weekends.  A lot of annoying things were going on. Drinking, fighting, another
soldier had sex with a girl on my buddy's bed.  (My buddy was upset, but seemed to
accept this as a normal annoyance.)  I found myself being bullied by those soldiers who
were getting away with this conduct.  As an escape, I worked on a CB antenna in the
woods nearby.  The unit's staff seemed to know about and was ignoring these problems,
so on the advise of my father, I let the higher commander know what was going on.
Eventually we were all moved to better barracks, and the problems went away.

3). The last issue was the CB antenna, which I had forgot about after moving.  The
antenna was found along with antenna drawings on the back of a piece of graded
homework.  Military Intelligence investigators thought I might be a spy, and I went
through one of the most frightening experiences that I had ever faced.  Luckily, I had
joined the base MARS radio club, and I had discussed the antenna with them.  So, in the
end, I was cleared.  The fact that I got in trouble for a hobby related to my school made
me popular with some of the instructors, taking some of the sting out of what happened.
Still I went through these extreme highs and lows on my own.  Despite these issues, I
graduated as a “distinguished graduate” and was spoken highly of (army-89-0525).

Though I was concerned about my future, medical people suggested that this mental
illness could be treated and that I could stay in the army.  Like a lobster being boiled
alive, I could not see how the effects of this mental illness were getting me in trouble,
despite my desire and motivation to be a good soldier.  I was being given counseling
statements telling me that I needed to "straighten your act and be a soldier or leave my
army" (army-90-0406-p1, bottom right) and other warnings/punishments.  I could
recognize that issues involving my medicine were causing a problem (army-90-0323-p2 -
lithium), which the chain of command seemed to ignore.  However, they had me feeling
like such a failure that I did not recognize my mental illness was the real problem.

(I did not put these issues into perspective until this past half a year, as I put this
information together.  The next incident that I mention is the one that truly sets a pattern
of how I wanted to fight back against the opinions about me.)

Being called a dangerous person
In the Memorandum dated 1 Oct 90 (army-90-1001), on #3 it is stated:

“In addition he had an outburst in the barracks that could have injured
 another soldier, or at the minimum caused damage to personal property”

The truth is that I was depressed and half asleep, sitting in a chair in a common hallway,
and my roommate with his friends wanted to come in but he forgot his key.  I was slow to
go to the door to let them in.  My roommate was upset because I was slow and they
argued with me.  When I tried to escape, they pursued, and ultimately I ran for the
protection of the company office with them behind me.  They apparently claimed that I
went “crazy” and was threatening, etc.  The commander did not believe what I had to say,
and believed my attackers story, despite the fact that they were chasing me!

After this incident it took me several days to get permission to move to another room.  In
the mean time, I slept outside in an unused shed near work, because of the fear that I
would be attacked again.  The chain of command did not seem to care if I lived or died.  I
was late for several more formations as a result of trying to hide from my roommate, and
got into more trouble.  I received an Article 15 punishment before I was finally
discharged for a "non-medical" personality disorder.  So begins my life accused of being a
dangerous person.

I tried to discuss these issues with doctors, but half an hour was never enough.  I gave up.

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(c) Copyright 2005 - by Michael John Lake +