Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is real. Many try to dismiss it, many try to ridicule it, and some distance themselves from people suffering from it. All I can say is this:
You lead a very sad life, because you are missing out on the friendship of a lifetime!
Sound rather strange? Not really, especially if it has happened to you. This is one of those times where I could insert the old saying – “Been there, got the t-shirt” – but I won’t. One important thing to remember is that PTSD is not contagious. Never has been, never will be. I can tell you what it is though. It is real. It is/can be depressing. It is/can be detrimental to one’s health. Let me take you on a journey. Grab some popcorn, candy, your favorite drink and settle down in a nice comfy chair.
This journey starts on the 23rd of September in 1975. A young man leaves home and joins the Army. His first stop is Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Basic training as an Infantryman which culminates with advanced training as an Infantryman at Fort Polk, Louisiana. During this time the young man becomes proficient with firearms and explosives, which lead to a few side trips to hone these skills. You see, his Drill Instructors saw something and figured that the special training just might be worth it. And I will gladly tell you – the special training was worth it.
In January of 1976, I arrived at Fort Hood, Texas. Just in case you missed any points so far – This is My Story. Fort Hood was and still is a great and wonderful place. Lots of time to train and become the best that you can be at whatever it is that you do. For me, that entailed shooting and anything that involved explosives. Booby traps, mines, explosives (especially C4), and weapons became a very addicting hobby and my Sergeants afforded me many opportunities to feed my addiction. Unfortunately, this would come back to “haunt” me later in life. But if I had it to do all over again, I would have, more than likely, delved deeper into my “hobbies”.
Many years have gone by since September of 1975. I have traveled quite extensively during the 20 years of my Army career. But just so you know, I had no intention of staying for 20 years. Life was good and I was getting paid to do what I thoroughly enjoyed doing. In 1980 I met and married the love of my life. By 1987 we had 3 loving children (2 girls and a boy). For 15 years my wife followed me wherever the Army sent us. Our children tagged along for 13 (daughter number 1), 11 (daughter number 2), and 8 (our favorite son) years respectively. They all have many fond memories of our travels, and have endured the many months in a row of being without Dad. My wife made home a safe place to be. Especially for me. Home was a place where I could step away from the Army and just be Dad.
After Desert Storm, it became evident that there was an underlying current, if you will, concerning myself. Nothing you could physically put a finger on, but there none the less. Kind of like the Desert Viper in Iraq – always there, but out of sight until the strike. For me that time of strike, if you will, comes at night during sleep. It started simply as “don’t touch dad while he is asleep”. Over the years it has become the norm for me to be awoken by my dog – Snoopy used to bump the side of the bed, Duke used to stick his nose in my hand or up against my arm or chest, and Bandit (my current buddy) will stand with his front paws on my back or lay across my legs if I am sleeping on my back. Trust me, 105 pounds laying across your legs or standing on your back will bring you out of your slumber. With my furry buddies, one thing is always the same. They can sense when I am not 100% and when they wake me, I know exactly where I was in the dream. Of course the dream is simply me revisiting some place that I had been in a previous time. And none of these places involved 5 star hotels and restaurants.
It is kind of like walking around in a funk, if you will. But I have always managed to play it off and for the most part, pretend that everything is just peachy. Even though the peach is a little rotten.