JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas --
During a 2006 deployment to Afghanistan, MSgt. (ret) Adam Boccher attempted to mount a weapon on top of a Humvee when he heard a rocket launch headed in his direction. Leaping for cover, he fell off of the vehicle. Boccher suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Upon return from his deployment, he noticed a difference in himself, both emotionally and physically. He felt he was living in a state of extreme-hypervigilance when he heard noises outside his house and became more aggressive and argumentative with family, friends, and strangers. He also noticed a dramatic change in his sleep.
“I had multiple vivid deployment-related nightmares on a nightly basis which significantly impacted my daily quality of life. I woke up each morning exhausted and irritable,” said Boccher. “I expected a degree of sleep disruption after I redeployed; but after a month or so of fighting nightly in my sleep, I developed a 'Why me?' attitude rather than looking for ways to improve my sleep.”
He was given an ultimatum by his wife who was exhausted from dealing his behavior and lack of control over his emotions. He was told that he either seeks treatment or she would make an appointment to meet with a divorce attorney. In 2008 Boccher decided to seek treatment.
At the first appointment, Boccher only told the provider what he thought they wanted to hear in order to protect his clearance, arming authority, and to ensure job security. “I was not ready to discuss my deployment related experiences or non-deployment job related traumas. I was worried about my job and being judged by peers for seeking help,” Boccher said.
Looking back on that appointment, and his recovery journey, he strongly encourages individuals who feel that they may be experiencing potential signs of an invisible wound to be proactive about their mental health by making an appointment with a provider.
“I definitely was avoiding the physical and emotional pain by keeping myself occupied to the point of exhaustion,” said Boccher. “It was a great way to mask what was going on; I allowed people to see what I wanted them to see and I hid the rest.”
After an alcohol related incident in 2017 that ended a career and job that he loved, Boccher learned about the Air Force Wounded Warrior (AFW2) Program. Before joining the program, Boccher practiced unhealthy coping mechanisms such as spending excessive time at the gym and throwing himself into work. As a result, his relationship with his family suffered.
Since becoming more involved with AFW2, he has switched to healthier coping mechanisms like fitness and holistic wellness such as yoga, meditation and mindfulness exercises. He credits several Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) senior leaders, his wife and caregiver Brittany, and AFW2 staff for helping him through his recovery journey.
Another avenue in which Boccher shares his recovery journey of living with invisible wounds is through his YouTube channel, PTSD & Me, and his Instagram page @officialptsd_me. With a background in investigating suicides in the Air Force, and losing a close friend to suicide, Boccher realized that he needed to use his voice to not only share his story, but create a platform to talk about difficult topics like mental health. With no prior experience in social media or graphic design, he utilized the internet for free courses to learn how to use YouTube and design software, as well as the help of the AFW2 Wellness and Resiliency team on suggestions for content, delivery, and messaging.
“I want those that are suffering in silence to know that they are not alone. Simply knowing someone else has/is experiencing the same physical or emotional pain eliminates the feeling of isolation. Normalizing mental health is just as important,” said Boccher. “I try to eliminate the stigma of seeking mental health services through shared experiences. My hope is something I said or did resonated and inspired an individual to make positive changes in their life.”
Wanting to normalize the discussion of mental health, Adam Boccher believes that the first step to doing so, is to hold conversations. For individuals who know someone that is diagnosed with PTSD or suffers from an invisible wound, he shares that a great way to show support is to provide empathy and compassion to show that they are not alone.
Throughout the month of June, AFW2 continues to display social events on Facebook to bring awareness and reduce the stigma of PTSD. Visit the program’s Facebook page to hear stories or resiliency and engage in wellness and activities hosted by Air Force Wounded Warriors. For additional information, to refer an Airman, or learn more about the program, visit www.woundedwarrior.af.mil for additional information and resources.