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How One Veteran Decoded Her TBI Symptoms and Found Support

“There was this part of me that still wanted to present as highly functioning in the world.”

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Amanda Burrill, a Navy veteran, suffered two traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) during her eight years of service. While what had happened to her was physical, it wasn’t always treated that way. The suggestion of a mental health disorder was always present in her journey for the truth.

Misdiagnosed TBIs

Burrill visited several doctors and was officially diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This diagnosis is very common for veterans, but she knew PTSD wasn’t what she had. As time went on, her symptoms kept getting worse. Learn more about her symptoms and why she tried to hide them here.

She received four different mental health diagnoses, various prescription medications, and even an additional suggestion of fibromyalgia. However, Burrill noticed things weren’t changing. “When [therapy] wasn’t helping, there was a feeling of panic, and we’re talking several years of being panicked,” says Burrill.

Now, she regrets not advocating more diligently for herself. “I could have been more assertive and I could've been more sure of myself when I said ‘I don’t think this is what it is," says Burrill.

Journey to Acceptance

The topic of mental health support during Burrill’s recovery was particularly difficult to discuss. Amanda wanted to appear normal and pretend she was still functioning at full capacity. The combination of her numerous surgeries, lack of work and achievement, and the realization that she was going through all of this in her mid-30s finally got to her. For the first time, Burrill came to terms with the fact that she needed real mental health help to cope with the aftermath of her TBIs, as well as to help find her voice once again.

Instead of choosing to view therapy as a weakness, like she did before, Burrill decided to embrace it. “It turned out to be the most empowering part of my recovery,” says Amanda.

She finally felt heard and quickly realized that advocacy and speaking out about what she was going through was the best thing she could do. “The biggest thing I’ve learned is to ask for the help that you believe you need.”

How to Find Support

It is important to speak up about your problems. If you or a fellow veteran feel like you need mental health help, let someone know and schedule an appointment with a therapist. The  U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs can help you get started and the Veteran Crisis Line and Veterans Families United can also offer support.