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History of abuse / family dysfunction and joining the army


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I'm going to keep this as short and to the point as possible. This isn't going to be about seeing if I can get in or not (that is what recruiting is for), but rather, a thread which will ask if any of the people viewing this if they know anybody who has served or who is currently serving with a prior history of child abuse / family dysfunction. I'm going to give a bit of my personal story below so that other people here (guests and registered members of this forum) can see where I'm coming from, understand me and potentially relate to me.

I have searched this forum for similar threads and was unable to find anything concrete like what I am currently posting, other than this: https://army.ca/forums/threads/80108. However, that situation is not all that similar to mine. I also assume that there are those out there with backgrounds like mine who are interested in military service in this country, so this post can potentially be somewhat of a guide for them, should they stumble upon it while browsing this forum.

So, without further ado...

I myself come from a background of going through child abuse and social dysfunction within my family growing up. My family is lower middle class. I am now a legal aged adolescent (19 years old) and have long distanced myself from the bad apples of my family. My abuse was physical, sexual, psychological and emotional but mainly the latter two. It went on from around when I was 5 - 17. I partially removed myself from that situation in August 2015 as 17 year old (without legal emancipation; I lived with an abusive control freak and they threw me out. I house hopped in the end) and I am now fully removed as of June 2016 when I was 18.

I lived with a substance addicted relative for 10 months and worked on repairing my mind to the best of my ability despite my deplorable living accommodations. I physically moved away from that residence on the 10th month and have been away from it since June 2016.

I have had to pursue and reach many goals laid out for myself, required to break my family's cycle in order to prevent me from continuing it, over the past 16 months and I am going to keep powering through it.

I have one more goal in mind for fully breaking the cycle and that is to simply find myself a peer group and to get to know people in the locale in which I reside. Given how much I've been working lately, I've only had a work life; not a social life.

I have people who I grew up with and who met along the way who are supportive of me and are backing what I'm currently doing, as well as what I want to do with my life in the near and far future. I've cut all of the toxic people from my past out of my present life and they're never coming back into it.

I've been working for the past 6 months; I worked with a home renovation team for 3 months and then I worked at an automotive mechanic shop for the next 3 months. So, I've got work experience and financial stability.

My career goal to start me off is going into the Royal Canadian Medical Service as a Medical Technician in the Reserve Force, but if this does not work, I will look at other options (law enforcement agencies, EMS, fire rescue, etc, or simply studying psychology in university). I'd not only like to be a Medical Technician in the Reserve Force, but I'd like to become a PhD in psychology in the civilian world while serving so that I can get a career in healthcare going for myself. Helping people in the military with health issues as well as helping those in the civilian world who struggle with getting out of situations like mine greatly appeals to me.

I joined the Royal Canadian Army Cadets at 16 and only recently aged out with the rank of C/MCpl aka Cadet Master Corporal. I was in 2 cadet corps over a 25 month-long period and I was a section commander for one of my platoons. I've done numerous other things with cadets that include travel to two different CFBs, drill team competitions, FTXs, expeditions and I did a lot of foot drill (I touched base with flag party, but I didn't really learn much drill with the .303 Enfield rifles), among other activities.

My 1st Army Cadet corps was located at a Reserve Force armoury, so I was in and out of a defense establishment for the majority of my Army Cadet career. This has given me more of an inside look into how the Reserve Force operates. I also caught a glimpse of how the Regular Force operates while on 1 of the CFBs (the other one was actually decommissioned but had Reserve Force elements currently there).

Army Cadets was probably one of, if not the most best times of my life, given the darkness in all other areas of my life at the time.

I've never abused alcohol (I have been drunk only once underage and it took place outside of the context of alcoholism), tobacco products, marijuana or hard drugs. I have never engaged in reckless one night stands in places such as dive bars and I have never purchased the services of prostitutes or escorts.

I do not have a juvenile criminal record and I have never been arrested before, as a juvenile or as an adult. The only run ins with law enforcement that I have ever had were related to domestic violence incidents at home in which were the police were dispatched to my residence at the time in order to resolve the situations that involved not only me but other people there.

I was, however, on prescription medication for a cocktail of psychiatric illnesses growing up. I was diagnosed with ADHD, OCD, Tourette's and mathematics disorder.

However, I have since got a letter from my current doctor (GP) which has declared my childhood diagnoseses to be invalid. I have spoken with the people who diagnosed me with those psychiatric illnesses and put me on medication for them and they told me that since it is a childhood psychiatric health record, it is only valid for 2 years (and I got it when I was 13 - 14, so it is already invalid). And finally, the Royal Canadian Army Cadets has cleared my need for medication and medical limitations from my Cadet service record in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

I should note that I was in the intake of a psychiatric ward for around 5 - 2 hours a couple of months ago after I forced childhood memories of abuse to resurface into my conscious mind. I began acting out in a rage and was taken there by EMS. I was never given medication, I was scanned and very briefly re-assessed for any psychiatric conditions and there were none found. It was determined that I do not have psychiatric illnesses but rather behavioral issues which were rooted in my rough upbringing. Self help and psychotherapy were recommended treatments; I have done the former and it has already worked wonders. I am still working on getting the latter arranged and I, as a matter of fact, already have an appointment set up for it in the New Year.

So, I have a few mental health professionals who have declared my illnesses to be misdiagnosed. The diagnosises have also been cleared from my Cadet service record. I never had these mental illnesses in the first place. I needed a lot of psychotherapy growing up, but my family took me to psychiatrists instead, and I was diagnosed with a bunch of bogus and subsequently pumped full of unneeded meds.

I have a scheduled appointment with my GP and a psychotherapist in regards to all of this coming up very soon. So, I will be discussing these matters with my GP and a person who is a professional within the field of psychological and therapeutic care. I will be able to get more documentation from them which will confirm what I have stated in this post.

Note: I have been off of any and all medications since August 2015, so it has been over a year since I last took them. None of my now invalidated symptoms have resurfaced. As a matter of fact, I'm doing a lot better in terms of eating more and sleeping more. Before, those two things were difficult to do.

I have job references lined up and I've got a CIC (Cadet Instructor Cadre) officer who has told me that I can use them as a reference for future employment and for military service, or for that matter, other civil service such as law enforcement, EMS, fire rescue and etc.

I went to a Reserve Force information session when I was still 17. I visited a Reserve Force recruiting detachment when I was 18. During my move away from where I used to live, I unfortunately lost all information paperwork from the information sessions and recruiting detachments which pertained to recruitment. So, I will have to travel to the city again after Christmas in order to get the information that I lost a while ago.

I plan on enlisting before I turn 20. I want to go somewhere with the military, other than Army Cadets, while I'm still a teenager. But given my medical history and my current predicament, I don't really envision myself getting in within a mere couple - few months time. It'll probably take years if I do find my way in but that's just the way it is.

This all really boils down to me trying to work my way out of the bad hand that I was dealt in life.

I laid down my initial footprint with the military in a sense by joining the Royal Canadian Army Cadets in 2014. I'm now trying to become known to the military, as an applicant to start off (irregardless as to whether I get in on the 1st time or not) so that I can actually try going somewhere with aspirations for a military career.

I've got career aspirations as it comes to the healthcare industry and I figure that the military is a great place to start.

So, does anybody else here have any experiences similar to mine, or know anybody who does? If so, do you know how it affected your service and/or their service? Did it ever come up during the recruitment process, specifically as it relates to medical? Is there not a Chaplain's service in the military which deals with family issues or something of the sort? Other than social workers, is it possible to become a therapist, counselor and etc in the military and/or Veteran's Affairs? Is it that uncommon for military personnel to come from backgrounds like mine? I saw the statistical study of Canadian Armed Forces personnel and their childhood upbringing, but I saw the thread about it on here and the statistics seem to be gathered from rather vague lines of questioning.

While I cannot answer your questions, I will say that that was one of the most coherent and well-written posts that I've seen here, especially given the length of your post and complexity of the subject - and you searched before posting, too, which is rare.

I hope that you get in, just for those things.

You may have some obstacles to overcome in order to get in, but you seem to have a good grip on your situation and are dealing with it well.

I know a few people who suffered horrendous child abuse, and some endured spousal abuse right afterwards. They function well despite the mental scars - they have much strength. One is now a social worker in a high-stress environment.

Why not Regular Force, though?
Loachman said:
While I cannot answer your questions, I will say that that was one of the most coherent and well-written posts that I've seen here, especially given the length of your post and complexity of the subject - and you searched before posting, too, which is rare.

I hope that you get in, just for those things.

Thank you.

[quote author=Loachman]Why not Regular Force, though?[/quote]

I like the idea of serving among the civilian populace with the Reserves. I dislike the idea of being away from my family (the good ones in it). I like the idea of being able to attend university and whatever else in terms of jobs while I'm not doing one-day-a-week service. And finally, I like the idea of voluntary deployment and being able to leave when I wish.

Also, Reserve Force also gives me a taste of the military without having to sign a 3 year contract. If I join the Reserves and I dislike it, I can leave at any time. If I join the Regular Force and I dislike it, well, that's likely to be more complicated from what I know. If I like the Reserves enough, I may end up considering the Regular Force to be a viable option sometime later in the future but definitely not right now.
I forgot to mention that I have very mild eczema that was worse in my childhood but has gone away with pediatric medication (liquid based medication that was applied to affected areas on skin) and aging through youth. I have keratosis pilaris but it is restricted to my arms. I have not used any pediatric medication for either of these skin conditions since around late 2014 - early 2015. Neither of them affect my day to day life because nobody sees it on my body anyway and it is so minor right now that not even I typically notice it.

I put down eczema on my Army Cadet medical conditions when I first joined but I made the honest mistake of forgetting to put down keratosis pilaris. Regardless, eczema never affected my Army Cadet career and I had no medical limitations placed on me because of it. Nobody even noticed that I had it, either, and this includes other cadets and CIC.

I do have quite bad acne on my back but on my face and neck it is subsiding. However, other than my outward appearance, this doesn't affect me in day to day life very much at all. This never affected my Army Cadet career, either.


I missed out on some other important medical information relating to hereditary stuff:

I have a history of cancer in my family, though only one side of my paternal family has it within their genetics.

An uncle of mine (who was also in the Reserves / Armoured Recce in the late 70s and eary 80s) died from a form of cancer before I was born.

However, none of my direct descendants have cancer to the best of my knowledge. And, if they do, they are separated by a couple of generations (great-grandparents I would assume).

Nobody else in my family has a genetic history of cancer at all from what I know, except for relatives on that one side of my paternal family that I have never even met before and still haven't.

One of my grandfathers was apparently ("apparently" meaning unconfirmed, as only 1 member of my family told me this. My grandfather wasn't the one who told me.) institutionalized for bipolar disorder sometime in the late 60s and early 70s but managed to live a normal life after he was released from committed care. I lived with him for some time before he died and he never exhibited any classic signs of the disorder such as mood swings from rage, to depression and finally to mania. He was an enabler of my own poor choices in life at the time, and didn't do much about his own either. He engaged in one-off instances of physical abuse, albeit it was rare as implied by "one off", but that's it.

Both of these relatives are now deceased and I cannot ask them about it (obviously) but I can reach out to their still alive relatives in order to find more on this information.

I can only assume that others on my paternal side of the family suffer from personality disorders of some sort, but I cannot make any diagnoseses as I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist. I assume this because they are abusive control freaks and they were the ones who I lived around while growing up. I've taken a look at some psychiatric studies of personality disorders (of the anti-social type, narcissistic, obsessive-compulsive, sociopathy, psychopathy) and I've made up some informal checklists in terms of their behaviors that match those afflicted with such illnesses, but there is no 100% concretely matching up signs/symptoms. And again, I'm not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, so my informal checklist really means nothing in a diagnostic sense of the term. Moreover, these relatives refuse to seek psychiatric or therapeutic help because they refuse to believe the fact that something is clearly wrong with them. Thus, asking them about it goes nowhere. I've gone no contact with them because I've had to cut them out of my life so I won't be getting any information from them anyway.

Alcoholics and heavy smokers exist for as far back as I can count within my family's generations but that's because they went on the bottle or lung darts in order to cope with their own life's problems. Any illnesses that they themselves had (the drinkers and the smokers) were likely caused by bad lifestyle choices or because they were simply down on their luck and couldn't properly cope. But genetics (genetics can apparently predetermine addiction in a person) may have played a role, but I'm not certain about how exactly they play a role here. And, of course, all of these descendants of mine are long dead. So, I can't ask them about it either.

There are no hard drug addicts in my family. Some may have used drugs when they were younger, but they weren't addicts. They are not a part of my ancestral bloodline either. I only have heavy smokers, heavy drinkers, abusive parents, other abusive relatives, potential cancers and an unconfirmed bipolar disorder sufferer in my ancestral bloodline. Nothing else.

My family has a history of military service and law enforcement membership and so they were potentially put through psychological, emotional and physical trauma. This may very well have contributed to this cycle but I can't say for certain.

I have met other members of my family (both immediate and extended) and I've spent enough time around them to come to the conclusion that I can't see anything off about them in terms of abusive behavior, psychiatric illness or physical illness. They actually seem like pretty normal people who are fully functional members of society. It just seems as though it's only my own direct ancestors that have caused me to be caught in this cycle and not really anyone else within my family.

I've heard that a family history of psychiatric, physical or cancer illnesses may hamper the medical eligibility of an applicant, and so I figured I'd fit this in here.
TheFourSeasons said:
a thread which will ask if any of the people viewing this if they know anybody who has served or who is currently serving with a prior history of child abuse / family dysfunction.

You may find this discussion of interest,

Soldiers more likely to have experienced childhood abuse: study 
3 pages.

As always,  Recruiting is your most trusted source of information.

I also replied in the Emergency Services forum.

Just thought I'd drop an update.

I've been doing light PT for the past couple of months and my medical diagnoses from past years are pretty much cleared up by mental health professionals and my GP as being bogus, which is what I knew all along.

However my eczema remains somewhat of a concern but I'll be enlisting in the Reserves fairly soon, so I'll get things sorted then.
Hi TFS, thank you for sharing. I feel your words will be helpful to others who might be concerned about their past and/or medical issues combined with the process of joining.

I won't go into detail about my own personal history or health concerns when I joined, but I'll simply say that it was colourful at certain times. I'd say pretty much all of us have areas in our pasts that we'd rather not have had to deal with, but c'est la vie--such is life. I was open with the questions presented to me during the medical portion of the hiring process. I'm not a healthcare professional to any degree, so I can only share my own experiences. Just be honest with the information that they require from you when asked.

Each person is different and we handle things differently compared to how another person in the same situation might handle it. There was a very specific period of time since my enrollment where I became more susceptible to a myriad of negative issues, simply because of certain experiences in my younger years and my chemical makeup. I will not say that it was easy for me to get through, and at times it's still an issue if I let it become one. My point is, the health and family/upbringing challenges you've experienced so far, should you get in, can work for you and against you depending on the circumstances. But, at least in my case, I was very aware of the tools the military offers and I was in a position to be able to take advantage of them. It also helps to have as many people in your corner as you can during the rough times.

It certainly sounds like you have been through a lot, but along with that comes a certain maturity that some won't obtain for several years to come. Wherever life sends you, good luck going forward.

TheFourSeasons said:
Thankfully, I was told that I'm medically fit. All of this worrying can be put to rest.

Great, but don't "rest" Stay on top of it, keep improving.

Good job.