Published Date: 2012-07-24
Sarah Paterson, Piner High Class of 2000, served with the Army in Iraq and suffered internal torments she didn't talk much about before now.
Sarah, barely 30, has begun to tell the world about the dark days of her struggle with post-traumatic stress. She's doing it because she can't bear to hear about all the fellow soldiers and veterans who are committing suicide.
Only days ago, Sarah and a fellow vet she served with in Iraq posted their personal stories of mental distress on a website they call Shedding the Stigma (sheddingthestigma.com).
Sarah said it's their hope that if active GIs and vets will begin to speak more freely about stress, depression and thoughts of self-destruction, “perhaps we can slowly strip away the stigma surrounding mental health issues, people will get the help they need and we will see a decline in suicide.”
Today, Sarah is the civilian executive officer to an Army intelligence program at the Pentagon. She recounts in her online story that her rage showed itself one day in a chow hall when she discovered there were no more Honey Nut Cheerios:
A fire burned inside me unlike anything I had ever felt. I wanted to scream, punch something or someone, to push over the bin of cereals. It was an anger that I had never felt. It took everything inside of me not go crazy right then and there. It was my breaking point.
She told how she came to learn that the problem was not the unavailability of her favorite breakfast cereal.
In reality my issue was about being mortared and shot at; it was about detainees describing in detail the atrocities they had committed against my brothers in uniform; it was about the endless videos of beheadings and pictures of dead burned bodies. It was about War.
She said in an email exchange from D.C. that she and her fellow vet were spurred to action by the cover story, “One a Day,” in the current Time magazine. It reports that there were 154 U.S. military suicides in the first 155 days of 2012 — 50 percent more deaths than were suffered in combat in Afghanistan during the same period.
Sarah told me, “It's been six years since I first felt the effects of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) ... It is something I never thought I would admit to openly and, up until now, have only shared the details with closest friends and family.
“However, when I read the article in Time I knew I needed to come forward with my story.” The former Piner senior class president said the new Shedding the Stigma site quickly drew more than 1,000 views.
“I finally feel ready to talk about it, and judging by the views on our site already, people are ready to listen.”
JENNIFER LAVIN, a 1990 Ursuline High alum, worked the royal wedding last year and now she's back to London for the Olympics.
Jennifer is a senior supervising producer for E! News. Said her mom, Maxine, “I wish I had her job.”
MAGS IS OK: Melissa and Mario Gonzalez still have a heap of hardship ahead three weeks after their home north of Santa Rosa burned, but at least their dog is back.
Magnum, a Yorkshire terrier, had run off from Melissa's parents' place near Piner and Fulton roads. The Gonzalezes and their kids were frantic until a nice couple seven blocks away phoned to say they'd found Mags playing with their dogs in the backyard.
ALSO BACK HOME are four of the five concrete garden dwarfs ripped off from Arthur Schattie's yard in Rohnert Park.
A neighbor spotted one of the hefty figures at the Jewels to Junk shop in Cotati. The shopowner gave Rohnert Park police the name of the guy he'd bought it from.
An officer went to the seller's house and found three more dwarfs. The man surrendered them and said he'd bought them at a yard sale.
It pleases Arthur to have six of his seven dwarfs back, though a happy ending awaits the return of Sleepy.