I saw someone today who looked like you and my heart stopped. Suspended for a few beats like a bird caught in a cross-wind, hovering…
But will it change anything?
I’m not as ‘together’ as I used to be. Sure, I’ve been knocked out of my bunk by incoming and escorted hundreds of caskets of my fellow servicemen and women but I wasn’t a sniper. I wasn’t a Team Guy kicking in doors. Most ‘action’ I ever got was pulling watch on rooftops or in the gunners turret. Well, then there was D-Day in 2003. Flying slow and low, Bombs over Baghdad while they tried to knock us out of the sky. But something in me changed over the years. I’m volatile. My coping skills are shot. I don’t like loud noises. There are more ‘triggers’. More anxiety. Things that I could bounce back from in the past are kicking my ass now. I didn’t just hit a wall, it crashed down and buried me under the rubble when I hit it.
Oddly, I’m calm while deployed. Functioning efficiently in a surreal environment until I get home.
So I think continuous deployments to stressful environments wear us all down.
I am a bowl that has been dropped and dropped and dropped again. Glued and glued and glued back together again. But there are chinks missing. Pieces disintegrated. My durability has been compromised. Tears leak out from all the cracks.
I’m not crazy. I’m just another sensitive, lonely, struggling human being who gets so tired of life being a battle that I just want to tap out…
Can you understand that?
An Unexpected Response. ..from one who has abandoned me:
It’s not about loneliness although I have no doubt you feel lonely. You date, you have an amazing family and a strong circle of friends. This is deeper than that.
If you think for a second you are not suffering from PTSD because you never shot someone in the face, you are horribly wrong. Frankly, these deployments have been tougher on you than many who have been in direct combat. Let’s look at Chris Kyle. Chris had the camaraderie of the SEAL Teams to support him through combat and between deployments. While engaged, he was able to physically see the immediate impact and importance of what he did every day while saving the lives of Marines. He also had Tanya and an incredibly supportive family with both his biological family and the SEALs who even in the rear know what he’d been through. Not to take anything away from his pain but compared to many, Chris Kyle had it easy. Many of us don’t get to come home to Tanya. Many of us come home to families who don’t get it and refuse to try. For Chris Kyle, home was not a battle ground. Home was a refuge although it took him a while to accept it. Chris Kyle only deployed four times and came home to the perfect situation every time.
You deployed 10 times… Despite the fact that we laugh and joke about IDF and we downplay the emotions of escorting remains, your brain is still dealing with all of it. For you it’s been dealing with it for over 10 deployments (and that does not include shit like Katrina, Saudi and Turkey.) The effects of long term exposure to continuous, albeit low-grade shit and low-grade levels of adrenalin is just as debilitating as the effects of a few gunfights.
While you do have a family that appears supportive, I doubt they truly get what you go through down range. There’s no way they can. Also, you work as an individual in an organization of individuals. Although many have been to combat, and or have deployed, the empathy a SEAL gets from his comrades does not exist where you work except with one or two individuals who may or may not be there when you hurt and their experiences differ.
Sadly when you’ve been deployed as often as you, being deployed becomes your “normal.” Being deployed becomes simple and “calming.” However, as “normal” as it seems, you are still dealing with a tremendous amount of low-grade shit. Worse yet, as a woman in the organizations you’ve been in, you are isolated. There are no SEAL buddies to carry you emotionally when you stumble. Not that there weren’t good people but there was no support. It would have been better had we all shared a B-hut with no individual rooms. You can only withstand isolation like that while your brain normalizes IDF and the occasional green on blue threat before you start to chip. You’ve been chipping for a while and you’re right, your durability has been compromised. What is crushing you is your brain believes that constant low-grade IDF / VBIED threat and isolation is normal and it is rejecting being home. Let’s not forget the shit-storm of RTF 2010. That’s isolation at its worst. One of the people who was supposed to have your back became your antagonist. You were horribly isolated and had absolutely no one to turn to. While Chris Kyle had fellow SEALs and Marines to lean on, you had to lock your doors. Don’t downplay the amount of damage that created to your emotional infrastructure.
Yes, I know there are other factors that are driving your ability to cope. I know I’m one of those factors and I truly apologize. However, your constant exposure to shit has had an effect on your ability to cope as well and it’s something you should take seriously. Don’t let your pride and the paradigm of “It’s just the guys who have seen close combat that suffer” keep you from addressing your pain. It’s real.
Goodnight. Haven’t said that in a while.
Did something else I haven’t done in a while too. Meditated. Prayed. Ritual. Anointed, engraved “YWH” and his initials into a white, a black and a silver candle (silver for the moon). Also took a ritual bath. I didn’t try to focus on anything in particular but rather NOT focus on certain things in particular. I didnt even write out a prayer for the altar.
The new foster dog was mesmerized by the candles. Stared intently into them. I thought “Ritual meditation. A 7 month old puppy is doing it right and im not”. Struck me funny.
The candles have about an hours life left. I let them burn down. Its part of the process.
My skin is warm and smells of neroli, rose water, lavender, doves blood…and some other oils and herbs I steeped into the bath. I almost considered adding a teaspoon or two of Winterberry green tea from Teavana into the tub. Ive become a tea whore since cutting back on coffee. Someone could literally drop a car payment in that place. Its ridiculous. And Im drinking their kool aid. Er, tea.
In bed now. Dog is passed out and I should be too.
A friend asked why I hadn’t blogged in a while and its because rather than being cathartic, to write about what I am going through is more like slicing open the fresh sutures of a deadly wound.
So for now, I will simply wish you well on this Leo Moon and goodnight…