That Night

As night set in, we came under fire. The ensuing firefight was terrifying! Every round we put downrange came back at us from multiple directions.

I heard the wet “thwak” of rounds hitting human beings…my friends, my brothers in arms…my comrades. I know their families, their children, even the names of their pets. Yet hearing the rounds hit them and their muffled cries for the medic…

I relive that night every night. I relive every such firefight every night. What should we have done differently? How did we miss this intel? Why did we get caught in that trap?

I feel as though I am going insane at times when I hear the echoing voices in mind. The hollow ring of the firefight. Then the sweat begins. And my hands shake so badly I have to sit on them. Clinching my teeth until my jaw muscles knot and cramp.

What’s to become of me?

I Am Broken

PTSD1

The call came in at 7:05 last night.  A 13 year old boy had completed suicide by shooting himself in the head.  When I arrived, I was greeted by the Deputies who were already on scene…..and then, I saw the devastated family sitting in the drive.

I have seen this type of scene too many times.  I have witnessed, and caused, the death of others too many times.  Insomnia has been a companion for over 25 years now.  Stress, from the traumas, which I have attempted to hide/deny/ignore/self-medicate away, is one of the many voices screaming in my head.  Social Anxiety clings to me like a second skin, hoping no one will see what is really happening to me and attempt to “rescue” me from what the creature which lurks noisily behind my eyes.  Social Anxiety feeds and fuels my Introvertism which makes me want to hide from the world until the screaming stops!

I am exhausted!!  I am tired of getting out of bed every morning so I can vomit in the bathroom sink.  Usually there is nothing within to vomit out so I am merely retching painfully over the sink.  When I look at my face in the mirror, I see the reddened eyes swollen from the effort of trying to expel the shrieking monster between my ears.

Sleep, if you can call it that, is seldom more than a few minutes here and there between nightmares that only seem to become more vivid with the passing of time. The nightmares where I have been unable to move, speak, or even wake up.  The nightmares where all I can do is lie there tensed like a rubberband stretched too tightly and sweat profusely.  Far too often I have finally been released in the middle of trying to remember the Lord’s Prayer.  Concentration is difficult at best and impossible at worst.

Yet, I am the one who has to maintain so that I can be of help to others who are, in the moment, worse off than I.  I am expected to have answers for those who have been traumatized.  I am the one who gets to hear their stories, all the while being terrified that my story will somehow leak out, so I don’t like talking to people.  There are VERY few that I will consider a true friend because I don’t make friends easily.  I don’t want others to get too close.  I don’t want my demons to infest anyone else.

Yet, what option do I have other than slap on a “Happy Mask” and pretend all is well?  There are no employment opportunities for the broken.  There are only more horrors and nightmares.  There are only more tortures!  The most I can to is continue to exist with this nightmare and try not to be put off when others keep me at arm’s length.  Honestly, while that stings, it’s for the best.

Forgive me, but I must close this entry as it is time to paint on the “Happy Face” and start another day.

There Will Be Days Like This

days like this

One of my favorite songs during my growing up years is “Days Like This” by Van Morrison.  At first I thought the song was about sad and negative experiences.  That is…until I actually read the lyrics.  It was then that I realized the song was a reminder that no matter what kind of day you are having, there will be days like this and there will be other days that are not like this.

“When it’s not always raining….There will be days like this.
When there’s no one complaining….there will be days like this.
When everything falls into place, like the flip of a switch,
My Mama told me….there will be days like this.”

Whatever kind of day I’m having, there will be more days like this.  Go figure.

I Wish

PTSD

I wish I could understand why I cannot stop these nightmares that paralyze me and leave me soaked in sweat more exhausted than when I went to bed.  I have come to fear getting sleepy!  I have come to despise going to bed.  I have become terrified of my own thoughts and memories.

The anxiety of the inevitable nightmares, with all the smells, sounds, sights and emotions, have left me a mere shell of my former self.  There are times when I cannot even remember what sort of person I was before.  And I dare to hope that someday, somehow I can find peace.

I cannot unsee the faces.  I cannot unsee the carnage.  I cannot unsee anything.  My mind will not permit the memories to fade, choosing instead to keep them vividly intact and replay them over and over, day or night!  Yet I don’t understand why only certain memories are reserved to be replayed.  Why not the happier times of camaraderie?  Why not the memories of my childhood where I didn’t have a care in the world?  Why the violent and horrific ones?

My own worst enemy is my memory, and, to be honest, these memories knock the wind out of me making functioning in the world (pretending to be okay) more and more difficult.

thousand yard stare

At work this morning, I sat in my car for over an hour just letting the tears flow.  I am exhausted!  I am so very tired.  I was sitting at my desk and had a flashback.  One of my coworkers came by and told me that I had been staring into nowhere for over an hour.  She asked if I was okay and I felt the need to lie and tell her I was just lost in thought, all the while knowing I was trapped in combat again because my mind won’t release me.

Will I ever be normal again?  Am I going insane?  Is there no way to stop this?

I Can Learn!

coffee-and-writing

I have been dealing with nightmares, flashbacks, and PTSD/PTSI for years now.  My current counselor advised that I write down the usual (date/time/weather/food/drink) but also include such things as what I was watching on television, music I listened to, what I was reading, was I stressed (always), was I anxious (always), how was I feeling, any other information I could remember.

I have faithfully done this for 3 years now and began to notice a trend, the flashbacks can happen at anytime, that much I get.  They have happened while I was drinking coffee in a diner and they have happened sitting in a restaurant having dinner with a beer.  But the most interesting trend…the nightmares seem to happen after I have watched programs on the History Channel regarding warfare or programs like Band of Brothers.

However, the WORST ones occur when I am extremely stressed, anxious, and distressed. Which almost always happens to me when there is someone near me who is insistent on jabbering on and on to me even though I try to ignore them or politely let them know that I am not interested in chatting (being an introvert, I am NOT one who enjoys shallow chit chat).  I don’t understand people who simply feel compelled to talk constantly to people who have given every indication they don’t wish to be engaged in conversation.  Yet they just go on and on, oblivious to the all signals.

I actually told one such chatterbox, as politely as I could, that, while I am flattered she found me worthy of her attention, I wished to be able to sit quietly and enjoy my own personal space.  This person either did not hear me, ignored my statement, or felt she had the right to invade my personal space because she continued on and on.  I finally looked her dead in the eye and said, “May I ask you a question?”  She stopped talking, smiled and said, “Sure.”  At which point I got up and left.  Honestly, by that point I didn’t really care if I had offended her or not.

I understand that I am an introvert and that not everyone is such.  However, I cannot understand why others seem to believe that introverts should become targets of their aggressive personal space invasion and to be tormented by there nonstop chattering.

The Darkness

The Darkness seeps into every cell and synapse of my mind. Like an oily mist slowly engulfing every thought until no longer has a spark of light remaining.

Paralyzed! Unable to move or think or breathe. Only the droplets of sweat are able to move. Eyes cannot unsee the memories of the evil deeds done, which can never be undone. Scars that still seep blood. Screams which cannot be released…stuck in the throat, choking….suffocating.

Every appendage trembles as they straining to escape, yet the electricity of horror refuses to release the mind or body. Eyes open, unable to close, forced to bear witness to the carnage rendered by these unmoving hands.

Is there any relief to end this cycle? Will death end these horrific scenes? What is a quick and painless way to cease to exist?

Sleep is always elusive! During the day, The Darkness is always just within the realm of consciousness waiting for the chance to invade again.

Sitting at my desk, driving to another meeting where I am expected to help others, staring into my coffee, while staring into my computer screen, I still hear the screams spilling from The Darkness into my mind.

Would that my mind would snap and be done with this torment! Would that my heart would cease to beat so the pressure would not suffocate any longer.

Release! Sweet permanent release of death. The cold silence of the end.

Slogging

flashbacks

The darkness was so dense it clung like skin.  My feet felt as if I were slogging through swamp mud.  Just ahead I could barely make out the backs of First Squad as they moved with precision and stealth over the dune heading for the village.  In my mind, I could not keep up.  My legs felt like lead and I could not move any faster.  As I struggled, my own squad moved past me.

When they crested the dune, in the night sky I saw an even darker entity and I heard a deep, evil chuckle.  As soon as First Squad reached the village center, I heard a rifle crack.  I finally managed to reach the top of the dune just as Second Squad reached the outskirts.  Then all Hell rained down!  The village had been emptied and set as a trap!

From over the rise came the mortar shells. They came crashing down into the village destroying everything in a maelstrom of death.  I was forced by this dark entity to watch as my Squad and First Squad were shredded, shattered, and destroyed.  Only two out of 10 managed to escape and they were badly injured.  I tried to shout commands and tried to scream in frustration, but nothing came.  I smelled the death in the air as the faces of those I knew, my brothers, were dying.  The blood was horrifically splashed everywhere, the coppery smell filled my nostrils, yet I still could not make a sound or move.

Finally, the insurgents came down the far dune firing their AKs into the bodies to make sure they were dead.  Finally, as if to show the evil disdain, I was released to move and speak.  I stared at the carnage and could not believe that humans were capable of such horror and carnage.

I was soaked with sweat, every muscle in my body was tense to the point of knotting, and I woke as I was halfway through the Lord’s Prayer.

I hate flashbacks!  The older I get, the worse they get.  There are times when I cannot discern what is memory and what is happening now.