Private Wounds: The Legacy of PTSD

The author finding shade among the Hesco barriers in Afghanistan.

The author finding shade among the Hesco barriers in Afghanistan.

During my radio interview with Eric Farris on his talk show that aired Sunday, November 17th, I revealed my own experience with PTSD. This revelation may not have surprised some, but many have privately messaged to express their concern and offer their appreciation of my openness about the subject. This openness is a new trait for me. It isn’t something that I announce to people and I certainly don’t wear it on my sleeve. I have never wanted to be seen as “the disabled veteran who also does some occasional writing.” I don’t want that “sympathy purchase” of my books. I want people to read them because they find the story compelling and the writing unique.

I come from a long line of men who are experts at concealing their pain. Our emotions and our struggles are our own and we typically don’t give a good god damn what you think about it. “Get in touch with your feelings,” yeah. Not with this bloodline, my friend. But, it is a different world than the one I knew as a young man. Today, people announce their daily lives and frequent bathroom breaks on their Facebook page and Tweet their lab results after leaving the doctor’s office. I don’t want to be that guy. At least not regarding the inner workings of my psyche.

I talk about these things now, and only on occasion, because it may help someone else. Someone is out there right now having the worst day they can possibly have and they need to know that others struggle with the same things. They need to know that there are people out there who not only understand it, but have been there. Many of those who suffer with PTSD are the same age as my own children. I wouldn’t let one of my children go through that alone. No one should go through that alone.

As with anything else, we have good days and we have bad days. Some bad days are really bad days. Today wasn’t that great. I have been dealing with my own affliction for more than 20 years. You would think that after this much time I would have discovered the secret to dealing with it, defeating it, overcoming it. You would think that. You would be wrong, but you would think it.

My personal experience is that my PTSD is not unlike pouring water into a glass. You see, I never changed my pursuits, my habits, or my adrenaline junky ways once I was diagnosed. I didn’t go out of my way to avoid stimuli of any certain type. Quite the opposite, I embraced it. But, over the years, I realized that the water in the glass never evaporates or get siphoned away. It just stays there. With every new experience, every new trauma, the level within the glass rises. How much the glass will hold is the question for which none of us have an answer. It differs from person to person.

If you have never seen your dining room wall dissolve into a different, far away landscape, heard voices long since gone, and seen images from the past as clearly and distinctly as the day they occurred, you are one of the lucky ones. Be thankful. If you are one of those who knows exactly what I’m talking about, there is help out there. Find it. Have your family help you find it. There is no cure, but there is help. Talk to your doctor, the VA, one of your brothers or sisters in arms, hell, talk to me if you have to. But, don’t try to manage it on your own. You aren’t that strong. None of us are.