From PTSD and Back – A Warrior’s Story
Two back to back deployments in Iraq (2003-2004 to 2004- 2005) took the best out of me. From a rocket launcher explosion that blew me away and caused me temporary hearing loss. To me trying to take my life while deployed by putting the nozzle of my weapon under my chin. To having complications with my lungs because of the exposures of sulfur fires, burn pits and human waste. There’s a lots of invisible scars that us soldiers receive from these deployments. More than physical damage, there’s the mental pain, depression and anxiety of those demons that we need to confront each day when back home. Some of us couldn’t keep fighting, and they found an easy way to deal with all those demons, by taking their lives. My four years of PTSD treatment and anger management were the worst years of my life. Seeing myself in a psychiatrist clinic for two weeks, locked away from my family, that was a low point for me. With both deployments came another condition that I never imagined I’d have.
In 2008 I was diagnosed with Bronchiolitis and Pneumonitis because of the exposures to sulfur fire, burn pits and human waste while in Iraq. I had a lung biopsy and the doctors told me it will be very difficult for me to run more than two miles at that time, that it was a life condition and that it won’t get better, but it can get worst to the point of being a candidate for lung transplant. That was enough to reactivate my depression and my anxiety. I gained 40 pounds, I was overweight at which time I was diagnosed with Chronic Apnea.
I saw myself in the bottom again but I decided to stand up and fight. I told myself: “Enough is enough, I won’t give up this time, I have a lot to be grateful for and I won’t waste that.” I started working out and I turned my life around. I had the support of my family, my friends and my fellow veterans. I changed my eating habits, I went from 210 pounds to 178, went from size 36 in pants to size 32 and I gave running a try again since 2005 when I got out of the military. I enrolled myself on my first 5K and I did it (remember they told me it will be difficult to run more than 2 miles). That was my motivation; I was so depressed about my weight and my PTSD that I took my challenge to change and to motivate other PTSD soldiers. I registered in a 10K, another 5K, a Wounded Warrior 8K and it was a non-stop route from there on. I beat the odds on 2013 when I decided to register in my first Half-Marathon; I trained for 20 weeks, non-stop and by the end of the year, not only did I conquered my half-marathon, I conquered a Full-Marathon on September 2013. How about that Doc???
Even when my lung condition dictates a lot in my life behind curtains, it doesn’t dictate how far can I go, or how far I am willing to go. For me now, the sky is not my limit, I am my limit and this is only the beginning. There’s is hope, I want to be an example to PTSD soldiers and other veterans. I want to tell soldiers that are unmotivated –there’s help. They are not alone and that doctors, depression, and anxiety doesn’t dictate their lives. I am proud to say that on June 2014 I concord my 1st Sprint Triathlon and I am currently training for my Olympic Triathlon on Washington D.C. on September 7th, 2014. What is my biggest goal??? The 2015 Augusta Ironman 70.3 and I will cross that line because for me is not about perfect times or medals, is about finishing, about crossing that line in the name of those who can’t. I won’t stop motivating others; depression and anxiety are not an option. Not only am I on the best shape of my life — I want to inspire others. I want to share my story, I want to save lives, I want to change the world.
Ret. Sgt. Norberto Roman-Perez / Disability Army Retired & Wounded Warrior Alumni
If you know anyone who suffers from combat PTSD or who might gain some hope from this story, please share Ret. Sgt. Roman-Perez’s story with them. Also please use the “Facebook comments” section below to leave some comments of encouragement for Norberto as he takes on his upcoming events. If you would like to support Norberto’s efforts please visit http://www.warriors-4-life.org