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After almost 20 years of silence, a local veteran is raising awareness on a debilitating mental illness that has affected every aspect of her life.
It’s a continuous challenge for Marle Gaudet to live with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
She’s suffered from uncontrollable thoughts of strangers entering her home and harming her family, violent images when closing her eyes, triggers and panic attacks.
“Missions I served on – right here in Canada – caused me to have PTSD. I was supposed to be deployed a few times but kept coming back to the missions in Canada. I was trained as a dangerous goods driver, and I worked with a Special Investigative Unit (SIU),” Gaudet said, without going into the details.
She explained there was an uprising in Canada during the 1990s that grabbed international headlines known as the Oka Crisis.
“I worked with a small team to help with the transition and the cleanup crew. My job was to do a variety of things; I was a driver, courier, and I made sure things were paid and done. As a specialized team, silence meant keeping everyone safe,” she said.
But this silence impacted relationships and turned into one of her most damaging decisions.
“Isolation with PTSD is one of the first things. The mask they talk about, you’re smiling on the outside but just a mess inside is real. I never realized the pain this inflicted on my family. I’ve been painfully divorced and I have no relationship with one of my kids,” she shared through tearful eyes.
“I never wanted to talk about the details of my day because if I did, it became real. For me, it was a job and I didn’t want to be on welfare like before. It was the hardest thing to live in projects and have no money with three children, so I had to stick with the Forces because I had no other skills.”
Gaudet joined the Canadian Forces as a young cadet, saying it was an honour and privilege to serve her country. But through her work, Gaudet said she suffered harassment and threatening phone calls.
“It took me 20 years after to realize my PTSD was a result of these issues, keeping silent for so many years, and worrying about the safety of my family,” she said.
Towards the end of her career, she suffered a serious fall resulting in 16 surgeries and the diagnosis of lumbar disc disease. There was no help or even rehabilitation to transition back into civilian life, after spending almost 30 years being involved in the Canadian Forces.
“You’ve lived your whole life in your sub-culture, being told what to do and suddenly you’re supposed to slide into ‘normal’ life. Suicide is always in the mix of your head, disappearing or just running away from life. It’s something you have to fight every day.”
Recently Gaudet adopted a new mantra: “Pride instead of shame.”
Gaudet turned her life around, remarried, and is helping other veterans despite still fighting emotional and physical pain.
“I didn’t get here on my own and going forward I’m not going to be alone. This is my driving force to help others silently suffering. If you are a veteran in need of information on how to get pensions or benefits or just need to talk, I’m here for you. We come from a place – the military – that does not leave anyone behind.”
Gaudet is a member of ‘Brave and Broken,’ a non-profit peer support group for local veterans in Summerside.
Brave and Broken is gearing up to host its first annual Remembrance Day spaghetti dinner, to raise funds for veteran wellness programs. The dinner is at the Wilmot Community Centre on Friday at 4:30 p.m. For tickets call, 902-940-4140 or visit Brave and Broken Facebook page.