“I’m still fighting for a good cause, just on a different battlefield” — Member Shanon opens up for Veterans Day
PTS member Shanon (sgreer) is a veteran of the US Army, and this Veterans Day, we’re sharing his story to honor those who’ve served and spread more awareness and understanding for the millions who are living with chronic conditions.
Shanon is a police officer in Giddings, TX. When we caught up with him, he shared about his passion for video games, tattoos and spending time with his daughters. He also opened up about what it was like readjusting to civilian life after his time in the U.S. Army, and the coping tactics he uses beyond medication and therapy.
Get to know him better below and find out what he has to say about his new normal: “I love my job and can sleep at night knowing that I’m still fighting for a good cause, just on a different battle field.”
Tell us a little about yourself. What are your hobbies and interests?
My name is Shanon Greer and I am 35 years old. I was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and I have two older brothers and two younger sisters. I got married at 22 and decided to join the Army when I found out that my wife at the time was pregnant and I didn’t have good insurance. I always wanted to be a police officer but couldn’t afford to go to college for the required college credits needed to go to the police academy, so I joined the Army as Military Police in 2003. Shortly after I joined, my first daughter was born.
After serving in Korea for a year, moving to Texas because I was stationed at Fort Hood, going to Iraq twice (the first time for one year and the second time for 18 months), and serving honorably for 6 years on active duty, I requested to be discharged. I then started working for Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in Texas in 2009 and worked there for five years while being in the Army Reserves. I started as a Detention Officer/Jailer while working on becoming a Deputy. In 2013, I became a Deputy and then in February of 2014 I got remarried. March of last year I moved up to Giddings, Texas, and became a police officer for the city, and then had another baby (my second daughter) in December.
I have many hobbies and interests. I grew up playing video games so I still do. I have been playing them since I was about 10 years old. I love sports, mostly baseball, football and basketball but I always enjoy a good game regardless of the sport. I love music, I have since I was a child. Pretty much all kinds of music, too. I love movies, mostly comedy, horror and thrillers, but I’ll watch pretty much anything. My favorite TV shows are The Walking Dead and Ghost Adventures. When I was growing up, I loved putting together model cars. I love drawing and am pretty decent as I’m told all the time. I love history, so I love going to museums and historical landmarks. I love exercising and weight lifting, although I haven’t really done either in a little while. I love detailing my vehicles and making them look nice. I love spending time with family and friends, especially my daughters. I love getting tattoos, all mine have meaning behind them. My first tattoo I didn’t get until I was 30 years old when my mom passed away in remembrance of her. I love guns also and whenever I’m not getting tattoos, I’m usually getting a new gun or going to the gun range. I love to drive and go on road trips, sometimes with nowhere in particular but just to drive. I’m very patriotic and am proud of what I have done and am still doing. I love my job and can sleep at night knowing that I’m still fighting for a good cause, just on a different battlefield.
After serving in the Army, what was it like adjusting to everyday life again?
When I first left the Active Duty Army I had a hard time adjusting to civilian life. I couldn’t find a job right away and my girlfriend at the time had just broken up with me, so I had to find my own place to live and it was hard to do with no job. I applied to about 10 or 12 different law enforcement agencies and was only contacted by three. It took about six months to be hired. During the time I was waiting, I finally was hired by an apartment complex to clean the property and complete miscellaneous tedious tasks. I wasn’t getting paid much to work there so my paychecks didn’t even cover all my bills. Luckily, in my second and last deployment I managed to save up about $17,000, so that assisted in paying my bills until I was hired by Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.
Some people with PTS talk about having difficulty seeking out a diagnosis and treatment. What was your experience like?
I was diagnosed with PTSD after my first deployment in November 2006, and because I was afraid of being kicked out of the military I told them that I wasn’t having any issues with it. In reality, in June of 2006 when my truck was blown up by an IED, that’s when I started having PTSD issues. There were many days where I didn’t sleep because every time I did, I would have nightmares of the incident that came really close to killing my friend and teammate. Then in July, my best friend was killed in Iraq (we served together in the same unit), my grandad passed away the same day and I learned I was going through a divorce by coming home for my R&R leave to an empty house. All this really triggered my PTSD and I contemplated suicide at that point. What stopped me was knowing my daughter needed me, so finally, I went to a counselor to talk about what was going on.
Once I left the military, I went to the VA and was prescribed multiple medications for my issues, I think I was given six total. Being put on meds really affected me and I called my mom asking her if she was proud of me since I wasn’t the same person she knew anymore. I only took the meds for a short time because I didn’t like the way they made me feel and I have learned what my triggers are and attempt to avoid situations that will cause me to have an episode (that’s what I call my outbursts). I felt like no one was there for me and I was struggling by myself. This is another reason why I believe my girlfriend at the time broke up with me because she didn’t understand what was going on with me and she didn’t want to deal with it.
When I met the woman who is now my wife, I informed her right away about my background and issues and what happens when I have an episode. She educated herself on PTSD and has been a tremendous help with it all. She gives me space when I need it and helps to stop an episode before it starts and if it has already begun, she knows how to bring me back to reality. She has even witnessed one time when I took a nap that apparently I was having a nightmare but couldn’t remember when she cautiously woke me up. She informed me that I was crying and violently shaking in my sleep but I have no recollection of what I was dreaming about or even all that she told me.
You’ve mentioned having to change medications a few times. Have you settled on a particular treatment, therapy or mix of both? What’s worked best at helping you manage your symptoms?
Medication and therapy are good, but they’re temporary solutions to huge problems. I feel it’s like putting a Band-Aid on a cut that requires stitches. Don’t get me wrong, when my issues get really bad I will use the meds and therapy also but I have found that the best solution for me is talking to non-judgmental people like my wife and other veterans who will just listen and not criticize. Knowing what your triggers are is the biggest thing that will help so that you know when you’re about to have an episode and what you can do to avoid those situations. Find hobbies that you love to take your mind off of whatever it is that may be bothering you. Every time I’m about to have an episode, I turn on music or play a game to distract me until it passes.
Do you think there is stigma surrounding PTS?
There is definitely a stigma surrounding PTSD. Everyone acts like it’s the plague and that’s one of the reasons why I was afraid to say anything when I was still in the Army. Even today there are few people I discuss it with and let them know I have PTSD because I don’t want anything to be a threat to my career. I’ve been with my department for almost two years now and I just started telling certain co-workers whom I trust. But when I worked for the Sheriff’s Office for those five years, I didn’t tell anyone because I knew down there it would have been used against me.
What has your experience on PatientsLikeMe been like so far?
I believe that I have had a pretty positive experience on PatientsLikeMe so far. I try to help encourage others and provide them with information they may not know. I also feel that connecting with other people with similar issues helps me to manage mine as well. I like to help others and if all it takes is some encouraging words from a stranger to prevent that person from committing suicide, then I’ve done my job. I also like the fact that when I’m having a bad day and I express it, someone else always has encouraging words that tend to bring my spirits up some. I feel that’s what it’s all about, to help each other and lift each other up. I know I always feel better when I see someone is having a tough time and I provide them with encouraging words or just make small talk and allow them to vent.