Father and Son: Support Comes Full Circle
April 01, 2019 | 4-minute read
Liam came home from school one day, and his father was gone.
That’s when everyone began to understand.
That’s also when things began to get better.
Liam’s father, Troy, had gone to the hospital. For the next two weeks, the U.S. Marine Corps Veteran received inpatient care. As he describes it, there was just a “heat running through my whole body.” He felt like he was shutting down. He needed to talk to someone. He needed to do something about his anxiety.
Each step of the way, he had the support of his family.
“Every day,” Liam says.
“Every day,” his dad echoes. “He did. He came every day.”
The father and son recently shared their story — about their journey with mental health and what each man’s support has meant to the other.
“That’s been the key to everything,” Troy says. “Without support, I can’t imagine I’d have been able to get to where I am today.”
Looking back, Troy says his time in the Marines tested him mentally and physically, but there was nothing out of the ordinary that presented a challenge. Instead, the challenges came once he left the service, as he tried to adjust to being back in civilian life — a world that seemed unfamiliar after five years.
“I had a lot of anxiety,” Troy says. “I’d worry about something, and it would just — it would be like it was circling the drain and getting bigger and bigger until it got to the point where I lashed out at people. I lashed out at his mom. I lashed out at the kids.”
Troy struggled to sit still. He felt a need to always be in control. If he came home and the lawn wasn’t mowed, he was furious. One time, when he found the kids playing instead of cleaning their rooms, he gathered them all on the couch and yelled at them.
“Everything had to be perfect. And when it wasn’t, I let that really bother me,” Troy says.
“Tried to control everything,” Liam adds later.
“Yeah,” Troy says. “I totally felt like everything had to be controlled by me, and that can be tough — especially for my wife and my kids trying to live up to. And she always told me, she had no idea what to expect when I got home.”
Troy’s two weeks in inpatient care marked a turning point. Group therapy, in particular, was helpful. And later, Troy tried to replicate the sessions by writing out what he was feeling, in the same way that he would talk it out with the group.
“Once he understood what was actually going on, it was a 180-degree turn,” Liam says. “It was great.”
It was eye-opening for the family as well.
“I really didn’t know what mental health was,” Liam says. “I didn't understand what he was going through. I just thought that was normal, you know. … Really, just being so young and naïve, I had no idea what was going on.”
Now the father and son talk openly about what Troy faced — and how his kids can use what he learned in confronting challenges of their own. He tries not to let the little things bother him now, and to focus instead on the things that really matter. And if Troy sees his children stressing out, he tries to share the ways to slow things down that are working for him.
My dad’s my rock, and I know he’s helped me through a lot of stuff.Liam
“I tried to share my plight, because like [Liam], I didn’t know anything about mental health, either,” Troy says. “I just thought I was mad all the time. And then as I spent more and more time, I learned more and more how to deal with my issues.”
Troy hopes that by sharing his story, he’s able to help other Marines. Liam says that joining him in front of the camera was “the least I could do for everything he’s given me.”
“I feel like the VA saved my life,” Troy says. “And … I always want to give back. Being able to make people realize [that we] … can come on here and talk about it, then everybody should be able to.”
And that’s his No. 1 piece of advice: Talk.
“Just say something,” Liam says.
“Yeah, anything,” Troy says. “Just [get] the conversation started.”