After four combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan, I came home and got a job at a local law enforcement agency and settled in. I didn’t know I was beginning to struggle with issues related to mental health at the time, because I didn’t really know what normal was and moved forward assuming what I was doing was what “people” did. My family began to notice and after a few years I was becoming very worn down, tired all the time and sad often. A couple of years out from the Army and I was in a lot of physical pain. I eventually was diagnosed with medical conditions that explained some of what was going on, but not all. I slept only a few hours a night, was quick to anger outside of work and felt like a cup that was constantly overflowing. Every small problem was catastrophic because I had no reserves left. After around five years in law enforcement I started to have more health problems, and I was convinced I was having heart problems or something similar. I was sure I was dying. The doctors treated me fairly and kindly, ensuring my physical health was good while recommending I speak with a mental health professional. During one emergency room visit, the nurses and doctors told me repeatedly I was having a panic attack. I got upset, I told them I had been in “panic” situations and never panicked before, so it wasn’t happening while I was sitting at home watching sitcoms. Around six-to-eight months of tests and ignoring recommendations later, I finally accepted the offer to meet with Dan Anderson.
Dan worked hard to build a rapport with me and to help me see the forest for the trees. I had no problem with him, but I pushed against any notion that I had mental health problems. I used all the “usual” reasoning; I wasn’t weak, I was “fine”, I didn’t do anything to “deserve” to have problems, my friends saw and did worse things and they are “fine”, my dead brothers deserved better. Really, I was scared, embarrassed and mad at myself. Dan worked to help me get through my fear and understand my biases and beliefs didn’t change physiology and psychology and why things may be occurring. I started to feel better and he gave me techniques to deal with what was going on. Sometimes it was just a conversation where I vented, sometimes it was scientifically proven techniques. As I felt better, I was able to re-start my personal health journeys too, such as eating well, sleeping more, socializing and exercising.
After seeing Dan regularly for several months, my health insurance provider decided Dan was not a “preferred provider” and I would have to see someone else. I knew enough before I got care and even more so then that finding a mental health professional you trust and are comfortable with is difficult and is a big part of the “battle”. I knew, if I couldn’t afford to see Dan, I wouldn’t even try to go to someone else and I was quickly falling back into my shell of bitterness and avoidance. It was a great excuse to run away from something that had been difficult and uncomfortable. Dan didn’t let that happen, he had started his non-profit THE SHIELD and told me he would continue to support me, no matter what, and he has. It is important to note, I have very, very good health coverage, but the company still has their broken system of specific provider coverage.
I knew there was a mental health crisis occurring in the veteran and first responder communities. Soldiers that I knew had committed suicide and I had responded to hundreds, if not more, calls for help for suicidal individuals or to investigate suicides in my current job. I considered myself knowledgeable of the risks and symptoms in others, but I completely missed the symptoms of needing help in myself, and when I did notice I lied to myself and others. Today I am not 100%, but I am a lot better and I have more skills and techniques for caring for myself. I have more knowledge and the comfortability to be open about what is going on and how to talk about it with others. This has helped me feel better and more prepared and it has helped my relationships both personal and professional.
- Logan Bilyeu
Client and Vice President of THE SHIELD
Eight-year police officer
Four-time combat veteran of campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan