I guess the most frustrating part of it all for me is not being able to get past it. I absolutely hate that a years worth of memories are dictating how I react to things for the rest of my life. I can be at work, playing with my daughter, or driving and it grips me. That is the best way to explain it. It grips me.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
You see how these two phrases play with time? I know I’m dealing with memories and experiences from years before, YEARS before, but sometimes the memories are like overlays on the present. I’m not back in the desert with a rifle in my hand, but I am here and there. There are some moments in my past that were so intense they branded themselves a place in my brain.
Writing about it helps me. The book I wrote is about how I reenlisted in the service the day after 9/11, memories of when I was in the Haitian Revolution in 95, Iraq 2004, and then in Katrina. So much destruction and so many dead. Writing helps but it isn’t a cure. My publisher has put in for a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts so I can go and read my book to soldier around the country. I really hope that comes through. I think it would do so much good for others and selfishly it would help me as well.
My ultimate goal is to have a workshop or teach a class for people who have lived through traumatic events and want to write about them. All people, not only soldiers. I’m working on that now with the fine people at Maintstreamed Media. In a month or so I will have my first workshop to help people with disabilities write thier stories.
In April I will be going back into the desert, carrying a machinegun, and leading a squad of men, but this time I will do it to help train Oregon National Guard soldiers. I am on John Bruning’s opposing forces team. We dress up like terrorists and shoot blanks at them in different scenarios designed to teach them how not to die when they deploy. I take great pride in this and believe it or not this helps my PTSD as well.
I read recently that one in five soldiers coming back from today’s wars have PTSD. I don’t believe this. I say it’s half the soldiers in my experience, maybe more, but they haven’t been daignosed because they are highly functioning. I didn’t want to admit it to anyone, not even myself, when I came back, but I have it and I found many ways to treat it while understanding that there is no cure.
I’m having lunch with a good friend today. A friend who checks after me everytime I post something cynical on Facebook or send him a frustrated text. Friends help too. Friends probably are the biggest help and I’m lucky to have a good network. I have a good network because I admitted to myself I have PTSD and actively found ways to help it. I hope to do be able to help others do the same.