What is PTSD?
Do I have it? My wife is concerned and thinks I have at least some form of it. I don’t know, I don’t think I do, at least not in the “normal” sense that people think when talking about it.
I don’t wake up in cold sweats, with my heart racing from nightmares, reliving traumatic events. I don’t have flashbacks or triggers that take me back. I don’t drink, abuse drugs or beat my wife and kids.
I do tend to be more hyper-aware: scanning my surroundings, a hatred of sitting with my back to crowds. Am I different from before I deployed? Sure I am. War has transformed me.
No one who witnesses the simple beauty of war will ever be the same. The beauty of ‘kill or be killed’, or training to exhaustion because if you don’t give everything, it could result in you or your teammates paying the iron price. Knowing that you always have to be better than the other guy, and sometimes, even when you are better, accepting the fact that when it’s your time, there is nothing you can do about it. Not only accepting it, but embracing that knowledge and taking comfort in it. Being freed from fear and willingly running to the gun fire, because you know that is where you belong, and feel the most alive.
Do I have PTSD?
As I am getting ready to retire, I am struggling with the transition much more than I thought I would. The saying ‘PTSD: When you realize you will never be that cool again’ takes on significant meaning now.
I find myself reconnecting with old friends who went through the fire with me. Each new loss hits me a little bit harder. I struggle to decide what I want to be when I ‘grow up’. I feel overwhelmed at the responsibility of providing for my family, but simultaneously not knowing what my next step is.
I know that 99% of Americans will never understand what I did, why I did it or why I miss it so. I have family who thought I was a bad dad because I kept deploying over and over… never understanding it was a calling of almost religious proportions.
What do you do when the god of war no longer needs you?
These are the things that haunt me. When I dream, I dream of failure, of letting down my family or brothers, not being prepared or everyone waiting on me because I can’t find my gear. The anxiety of not being prepared.
Do I think I have PTSD?
No. I have been tempered by the fire. It has hardened and changed me. I am different… a weapon who needs to find his place in this strange world of civilians and peace. I may not be as sharp as I once was. I may have a lot of dings, but each ding was earned, and will be remembered with a smile and serenity in my soul. A weapon does not question its purpose, because it knows why it was created. For although I am an old weapon, I sit in a place of honor ready to be used when I am called once more.
Do I Have PTSD?
I emphatically state “I DO NOT HAVE PTSD!” What I have is PTS. I do not have a disorder. I know who I am. Even though I may be different than before combat, I understand that. That is normal. Life is change and how could something as intense as combat not change me? I have evolved. I am aware. Those changes kept me alive and I will always be different. I embrace the difference and own it. I feel sorry for the 99% who live in safety and comfort and do not know that the lions are at the door.
They try to label me, and say that there is something wrong in my head. It’s easier for them to try to throw medication at me, and pay me off than it is to except the new me. For many, there is a readjustment time because normal life is boring. Every emotion in combat is just…..more. Everything is extreme: love, hate, loss, anger, joy. All greater. That is why the bond between brothers is stronger than any other. It was forged with an intensity.
For some it is hard to adjust back to “normal” levels of emotion, because everything seems so dull. Paying bills, walking the dog, or playing with the kids pales in comparison to not knowing what is waiting for you on the other side of the door you are about to go through. When it’s over, the relief, excitement and pride of knowing, once again, that you and your brothers were the better men. It was not your time.
Do I have PTS?
Yes I do. I wear it with pride because I fucking earned it.