When I originally wrote, “The War at Home,” I was in a strange place. It began as a way of putting my thoughts on paper. I had many conversations where these three themes kept coming up. As anyone who sits in a therapist’s office will tell you, writing down your thoughts always comes up as a way of identifying and then working through those feelings. I didn’t have a therapist then but it turns out I really probably needed one.
Once I wrote the original entry, I was given a lot of positive feedback. The final version I posted to this site was a third or fourth crack at it. What started as me writing down my thoughts then became an article ready to be printed in a publication if necessary. Rereading it today, I find I hate the preamble. It is trite, overly dramatic, and sounds like someone else’s voice. I wish I never wrote it. The rest of the piece is truly mine and truly eye opening looking back.
The Time Machine Effect
Time was the cure to most of the time machine effect it turns out. I love irony. The more I integrated back into life at home the more I started filling in the gaps of time and began to understand what 2005 was like for the people around me. There are not many songs or movies worth catching up on that I haven’t. Most importantly, seeing my Godson grow up to be an amazing young man made me forget I wasn’t there to see him when he first came home. We’ve had enough time to build our own traditions (drive-in movie night every summer vacation) that the other things seem inconsequential.
But time can’t fix everything. I find missing Kay’s last days are still an open wound in me. I remember her so fondly and even talking about her now is still hard. This may be one thing which there is no cure. Losing a friend always leaves a hole. I have a lighthouse in my home which she made for me years ago. It always helps to have a reminder of her and I love talking about it. I feel like it keeps her memory going.
The Pariah Conversation
Well, this didn’t get any better! Ultimately, many of the aspects of the pariah conversation have not changed but how I view them has. My family still doesn’t ask and over the years I became more and more comfortable with it. In fact, I started to look at it fondly. My family doesn’t need to know what I did over there. I was a soldier who did his job. They don’t need to know more than that because it won’t ever change how they see me. I didn’t realize it then, but their silence is a solace. I never have to explain a thing.
My friends have mostly kept to the same tact. Recently, during a whole different major life change, my friend Mike actually started asking questions. I asked him why he never brought any of this up before. His response fell along the same line of a lot of people when it finally comes up. Some people feel like they don’t have a right to ask. My experiences seem like something only I can let out. Some people are worried they may ask something to set me off. Which leads me to…
The Letdown of the Middle
This was a cry for help and I didn’t know it. This entire part of the piece is basically me screaming at the top of my lungs, “I have PTSD!” Luckily, I figured it out. This year. 2019. I never said I was punctual. (Want to know more? Go here where I wrote an article for a friend’s healthcare website about PTSD. Stay and read more because Claire’s stuff is amazing.) Rereading my words all those years ago make me feel like a complete fool for not realizing a lot of things. In fairness to myself, PTSD is still something mental health professionals are figuring out. However, when giving my personal history to a psychiatrist he did tell me I had very bad PTSD at this time in my life. Now, it’s better and I am dealing with it. But back then, hoo boy.
A lot of big red markers are here. Self-medication? Check. Avoiding social situations? Check. Ruining relationships? Check. Depression? Do I need to continue? These years later it’s easy to spot someone like me who just cannot deal with all of the trauma themselves. And there are a lot of us. I wasn’t letdown in the middle. I was just plain lost.
And thank God I am getting better. Having a mental health professional confirm a diagnosis of PTSD was a relief in a way. Those times where I don’t react the way a normal person would makes sense. Now when I get that tense feeling or end up way more agitated than appropriate, I know how to handle it. I don’t beat myself up. I face what is happening, own up to it, and plan for the next time. It makes the “Moving Forward,” section all the more poignant. I was in pain but not ready to admit it.
I still have a very long road ahead. I described myself as “broken” for a while after my diagnosis. Someone has the temerity to correct me. I’m seeing she was right. I may be a bit beat up, earned a few scars, and have some healing to do but I’m not broken.
Gigantic history nerd? Oh, you bet your ass that’s still true.