Personal Post Traumatic Stress
Oh Lord, what am I doing here? This place is such a dump. Although I must say it was very kind of that relative stranger to give me the key to his hunting shack, so that I could get out of the public eye. My nerves are completely shot. All this shaking makes me feel like a Parkinson's patient. This place smells of mold and piss. The floors are rotten and the mattress feels like a dirty hot dog bun. What a dump, I feel so alone. God, I want to go home, but I am afraid he will try to kill me again if I do. Please damn the doctors for mixing his medication; they have stolen the man I have known away from me. His brown eyes are gray now and his skin is speckled with white spots. His face looks like someone else's. God, please keep my daughter safe, I cannot look at her right now. As a matter of fact I think I might just lay here and die. God, I am unable to write. Will you please tell my family I love them? I know nobody will understand. But my heart cannot beat anymore tonight.
My veins began to feel like ice on this hot summer day, as I fell deeper into shock. I really meant it; I couldn't take anymore of the crazy traumatic events. My life had become a shamble since my husband's arm went though that meat grinder. Surgeries, doctors visits, more meds, insurance companies, bills, mental illness and suicide seem to have become more
frequent than not. Ironically, I lay here wanting to die because I saved my love from his own hand, only for him to try to kill me for getting in his way. He was the only person in my life that I have ever trusted, and he put a large butcher knife to my throat and he meant it. I bashed his head in to escape.
Oh God, I sobbed; I can't believe I busted his head open. I want to be dead. The revolver I found in the drawer was becoming my new lover. I caressed it gently. My life had become a shamble, a joke, an absolute joke. I no longer felt any hope. The blood gushing from his head, replayed again and again as if it were right in front of me. My body was unable to walk or hold down liquids. I have lost so much weight that I look like an Ethiopian. I have gone to the E.R., four churches and called a hotline. What a joke. Nobody really gives a shit. They are all in their fields to stroke their own egos, not help someone like me. I can't even look at myself. When I try, I see eyes that are vacant. There is nobody home.
Settling in to do the dirty deed, I realized I was not alone. A shape, a shape of a man with ears that stuck out just a little, stood there. He had a firm jaw line and a small but muscular build. He wore a white tee shirt, blue jeans and had a lit cigarette.
"Really…great I truly have lost my mind, now I see a smoking ghost, okay fine, I had better do this before I get committed." Strangely though my veins suddenly became very warm, and I felt a profound indescribable love and well being.
"Are you an angel?"
The man found that statement overly amusing. Laughingly he replied, " No doll I'm no
angel. I am just your guardian."
He sat down beside me, and the warmth became more intense. As he came closer I saw his eyes were blue. He reached over and touched my hair in a matter of fact way.
"Such a pretty, pretty little girl is all the paramedics are going to say as they shake there heads and haul you away. They will all wish they could have saved you and then go to bed thinking what a damn shame."
He went on speaking, "You cannot die tonight. The others on the other side will view ending your life in poor taste. They will label you a coward and they are not at all kind to cowards. Besides, if you are not afraid of dying, you should not be afraid of living. What is the worst that could happen? Maybe die?" He then chuckled at his own funny.
"At least if you die in battle you could say you at least had the balls to try. Besides I believe you have a mission to complete. Even if that mission takes your life, you must complete it."
"Who are you?" I blurted almost in a panic.
"Robert Freeman, Lt. Freeman, other wise known as Airborne one."
"Why are you here?"
"I'm stuck, why are you here?"
"I have no where to go and what do you mean your stuck?"
"Well apparently when I died on September 7, 1943 in that attack over Italy I wasn't ready to go. It was a huge explosion. There were pieces flying everywhere, but I couldn't find Mary." He paused and looked sadly at me.
"You look just like her, she was a hell of a pilot. I was in love and I couldn't leave because I had to find here. So now I am stuck, co-peach compadre?"
"I'm sorry, how old were you?"
"Did you ever find her?"
"No apparently she crossed before she hit the water. She always was smarter than me." He flicked his cigarette in an agitated manner.
"Why can't you cross?"
Mockingly he chuckle and lit up another cigarette, "because I'm no angel."
"You on the other hand, have to do what it is you have to do. First, you have to believe in me. I will help you. Me and my boys."
"Honey there are more dead soldiers roaming the earth than you could ever conceive. We help our own kind. You are a leader; we will be your army. You're a tough little girl. I saw the brut strength you have. Why do you collapse? He fucked up, but he is not well and you know it. You know what the doctors have put him through; you cannot abandon him or your daughter. Go rescue him, rescue your one true love or neither of you shall ever find peace."
"The counselors and reverends say I should leave him. They say he will try to kill me again if I go home."
"Don't fear death doll. We will protect you; nobody can harm you. Now get up and eat, shower and get some sleep. You look like shit girlie."
Strangely, my body was no longer shaking and my legs worked long enough to rinse off in the shower, but I found no food. At four a.m. I dozed off.
My eyes fluttered open to the sounds of cows grazing not far from the house. The sun was shining brilliantly in a crystal clear sky. I sat up and wiggled my toes. "Sheesh eleven o'clock. I can't remember the last time I slept until eleven. Okay I guess the first thing I need to do is clean up around here, and then go and buy me some clothes, shoes and makeup." I had been run out barefoot with just my purse and keys.
"Don't forget the beer!"
As I spun around there stood another soldier.
"Who are you?"
He was a bit of a round soft man with a baby face, blue eyes, a very short crew cut and a gentle grin.
"Oh and cigarettes, but none of those light ones, those things are like smoking air."
Stupidly, I stood there in disbelief. Okay fine I have lost my mind. Beer and cigarettes. Anything else?
"No nothing else. Yeah, Robert told us your were a little freaked out, it's okay, we love you anyway. Hey, don't you remember us? Or don't you remember the attack in the freight yard in Italy?
"Excuse me?" was all I could manage.
"Yeah you know when I got shot in the belly, I begged you to go on without me and tell my mother I loved her. But no, not you. You drug me all along those tracks and tried to patch me up. I remember my head kept getting banged on the tracks and you kept saying oh, I'm sorry, please don't die, don't fucken die on me! I was really touched by the sincerity of your tears, I remember wanting to reach up and kiss you. Is that wrong?"
Dazed I realized he expected a reply of some kind, "Is what wrong?"
"That I wanted to kiss my best friends fiancé?"
"Under the circumstances, I guess one would be forgiven."
"So you really have no memory of it?"
"No, no, no I…I don't, not at all."
I edged out the door and got into the car, this week was getting really weird. I went and dressed my self properly, although the looks I received going into the shoe store barefoot was a bit amusing. Thank God for credit cars, but I think the store clerk really thought I had stolen it. I brought back a carry out hamburger plate from Applebee's and a few groceries. I ate and slept for the next five days to rebuild my strength. The conversations were endless.
I also got to know Scotty, a small man with sandy hair, brown eyes and freckles across his nose. He had been a cook and had the sweetest disposition; he tended to be easy going. Then there was Vern. Vern was a trip. He was a large man with thick unruly dark hair and just one large eyebrow and dark framed glasses. Vern rarely smiled and seemed tense. He was the troubleshooter, the mechanic. He was somewhat an idiot on the matter of emotions but he was extremely intelligent in the laws of science. Then there was Richard who had been a bomb technician. He was a rebel. He was too tall, to thin but possessed a devilish grin. Richard was fearless and energetic, with dark hair and crooked teeth. He could pry from me a grin every time I saw his pale gray eyes light up at his own warped sense of humor. They were a good crew full of humor, and in their presence was an infinite love. Words cannot possibly do this feeling justice, but I would compare it to the feeling of holding your own baby for the first time, there just really is not anything else like it.
I did return home as a warrior. Many of those I had known swore they no longer knew me; they said that I was different. I could not tell them why. That was in 1996. I had become fearless with my boys at my back. They had my back. Many more came to call. Often they would just rattle on and on about everyday things and most seemed totally amused by new technology. Robert sat on my bed at night and rubbed my hair. Every time he touched me I felt warmth flow through my veins.
It was with their help I saw my husband make a full recovery and I was able to provide a stable home for my daughter. It was not an easy endeavor, it was a war, a battle that required not stepping on the land minds and making things happen that might ultimately led to peace. I often did not think I would live, but I seemed to be okay with that. My boys always talked me through the tough moments. They gave me information, warned of danger, and reminded me I was protected. They humored me, pushed me to do more for myself and it seemed I had become indestructible. They brought to my life a profound faith in God and the element of hope. I often had seizures and felt rage that made me beat my head out of frustration. But my boys were there every time to pick me up, they said they understood the pain, they always told me that they cared. They loved me and tended to me when I became ill.
PTSD became the diagnoses in 2000 following a trip to my hometown for a funeral. As I tried to integrate back into society I also tried to rationalize that my soldiers were not real. I mean society just could not accept my experience; instead they would look at me as if I had three heads, so I felt it should be done away with. I sent them away telling them I had to do this alone. I was grateful to them but felt it was time to regain what is considered a normal life. The more rational I became the more depressed and lonely I became. When I severed my ties with my boys at the bidding of society, in order to find acceptance, I lost my faith and my hope; life felt empty and barren. Then I found they were still there, I had just chosen not to see them.
Society in general seems to believe that insanity is always bad, a thing to be cured. I think maybe it is not insanity, as much as maybe there is more out there than a rational mind can possibly understand. Why is that insane? Why should that be cured?
I will always love my boys; to me they are as real as anything anyone can touch. They are as real as God. They serve God. I cannot have faith in one and not the other. I owe them my life. To be so called cured would be to not believe in anything.
I went to lunch one day and entered the “twilight zone” I’ve
been trying to escape from ever since.
On May 3, 1991 I was working as a floating/relief receptionist at a
law firm and going to school at night. If you’d asked me then where
I’d be in ten years I would’ve thought I’d be done with
undergrad, done with law school and working as an associate in a law
firm, on the track to partnership. But here I am and I still have not
even finished my bachelor’s degree because of what happened to me
The short version is: 2 days after my 22nd birthday (May 1, 1991) I
went shopping on my lunch hour to buy something to wear to a birthday
party that weekend (a friend at work had a birthday too). I went to
Carson Pirie Scott on State Street in Chicago. The clerk forgot to
take a sensor tag off something I bought and they thought I was a
shoplifter. I had no idea what was going on until I was almost back at
work, five blocks from the store. I didn’t hear any alarm or
anything. Two plainclothes guys (who didn’t identify themselves)
grabbed me (I thought they were muggers—one grabbed my purse) and
beat the shit out of me right there on Michigan Avenue in the middle
of a beautiful spring day, at the bus stop at the corner of Michigan
& Washington. Everyone who was out to lunch, passing by or waiting
for a bus just stood around and watched like it was on TV. No one came
to my aid. A tourist or student journalist or somebody, I never found
out who, even snapped pictures. Then the police came and took me back
to the store, where they hauled me into a small room and handcuffed me
to a desk. They interrogated me, went through the contents of my bag
and purse, established that I had NOT stolen anything, that it was
paid for with MY store credit card, not a stolen one, etc. I thought
they would let me go back to work when they realized they’d made a
mistake. Instead, they called my employer, told them I’d been
arrested at got me fired (when I tried to go back to at least get my
belongings from my desk, they treated me like a criminal and I never
got everything back). They took a Polaroid of me, told me it would be
posted in the security office at their store and that if I ever set
foot in any of their stores again I’d be arrested for criminal
trespass, despite the fact that I had not DONE anything. Then, instead
of letting me go, they put me in a paddy wagon and took me to 11th
& State (common criminal lock-up) and literally THREW me in a
They told me I was being charged with battery for RESISTING the two
thugs who beat me up ( I later had to have a criminal trial for this,
but fortunately the charges were dismissed by the judge, who thought
them outrageous, and the record expunged. At no point did anyone read
me my rights. They didn’t let me make a call and told me I’d be
locked up for at LEAST 24 hours until they checked their records
database to make sure I didn’t have a record anywhere else. They
also told me I’d have to pay $1,000 bond to get out. All I knew was
that I was an innocent, law-abiding citizen and I’d been snatched
off the street, beaten an imprisoned and no one knew where I was or
what happened to me. I thought that kind of thing only happened in
third world countries, and I didn’t know what to expect next. I was
afraid they might decide to rape or torture me too, and I wasn’t
going to stick around for THAT, so I was about to try killing myself
when they finally came and got me out, let! me call my parents.
Fingerprinted & mug shot me, then let me go. By that time it was
11:00 p.m. I’d been beaten and traumatized and released late at
night in a bad neighborhood. Fortunately a guy I’d dated lived
nearby and though he wasn’t home, the doorman knew me and let me
stay safe inside the lobby until my parents came to pick me up.
The store declared bankruptcy within the year and I have never gotten
any compensation for pain, suffering, lost wages, medical bills, etc.
or even an apology or admission of error. For years I tried to get a
radio, TV or newspaper to report on what happened to me, but
apparently the Carsons stores give everyone so much advertising money
that no one will say a word against them.
Over the past ten years I’ve suffered nightmares, flashbacks,
insomnia, panic attacks, agoraphobia, claustrophobia, paranoia,
hypervigilance, extreme startle response, inability to concentrate,
hopelessness, suicidal depression, inability to maintain a job,
relationship, etc., you name it. These things combined are known as
PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is usually associated with
Vietnam vets. Though the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) is
supposed to cover it, I have been fired from several jobs because of
it. Every day I go to work in downtown Chicago and am confronted with
what I refer to as “the spot where I was killed” (because surely
whoever I was until then died that day—with all my hopes, innocence,
idealism, ambition, dreams—and what was left was this empty shell,
nothing but a caged animal intent on survival) and so many other
painful reminders on a several-times a day basis. Every time I walk
within eye-shot of that corner, which I have to do !
to get to and from the train to the office, and often when going to
lunch, too—it triggers primal, life-and-death panic in me, as it
does every time I enter that building and have to walk past security,
remembering how I was barred from retrieving my possessions from my
old law firm job.
Over the past ten years, excluding temp assignments, I have had
fifteen “permanent” jobs, some lasting only a week or a month to a
few months, the longest lasting not much more than a year. Only four
of these I left by choice; all the others I have been fired from for
absenteeism. Inevitably I use up all my sick days on those days when I
am afraid to leave the house, and then I am canned. I hate myself for
it. I’ve had numerous short relationships, some only one-nighters
(though I wanted more). I have lived in thirteen different apartments,
twelve in Chicago, one in Minneapolis, and with numerous
room-mates/friends/boyfriends. One lasted only a month, the longest
will be five years in August (my husband). In short, I’ve had no
virtually no stability in any area of my life, at least until my
husband came on the scene in 1997. I’m still not sure sometimes why
he continues to tolerate me, I feel like such an utter failure as a
human being. What with constant firings and !
subsequent ,unemployment/job searches, evictions, breakups and various
other crises, I have had neither the money nor the physical or mental
energy to finish school, though I would only have a year or so were I
to go full-time. I’m afraid to go out places by myself sometimes at
all, but especially after dark, so night school is out. I used to work
out and walk much more but when you’re afraid to go places, even if
you do have a health club membership you rarely go. I’ve become
increasingly sedentary and have gradually gained eighty pounds or more
(from 160 to 170 when I was working out, going to school and my job in
’91 to 220-230 now). I’m afraid if I don’t lose weight and get
in shape I’ll wind up like mom, diabetic amputee, hypertensive,
cardio risk, etc., and will die young. But until recently I always
thought I’d die by my own hand before any of my bad habits caught up
with my body. Now I need to re-evaluate.
For the past eleven months I’ve been going to a trauma survivors
group, when I am not too scared to leave home. This week two other
women were both were talking about something I had been
thinking/writing about recently, the before and after phenomenon. Who
we were before anything happened to us, the freedom, effortlessness of
existence, the “lightness of being”, joie de vivre, youthful
spirit, inquisitiveness, fearlessness, idealism, etc. of children and
what it’s like to be robbed of that innocence, to feel heavy,
trapped, tense, frightened, closed off, shut down, paranoid, to have
every moment be an ordeal, a constant struggle to stay on guard
against any and all possible dangers, and how sapping, how deadening
that is. I’ve been thinking precisely about this, especially in
light of having met someone recently who knew me before (John, the
high school boyfriend), someone who does not (yet) know about any of
the things that have befallen me since we knew each other last, !
in whose mind I am perhaps still the strong, outgoing, positive,
forward-looking, intense, energetic girl he fell in love with when he
was a boy and we were young and had our whole lives spread out in
front of us like a wonderful, exotic adventure and anything seemed
possible. I want to be that person again. Or maybe I am deep down
somewhere still. Or maybe she is dead, maybe she was killed
completely, utterly and finally that day (almost eleven years ago!)
and there is not nor ever will be any hope of resurrecting her. What
do I do with this shell that is left behind, and does it contain
anything worth salvaging? How did I get to be this jaded, stagnant,
stultified? When did life stop being something to look forward to and
become only either a struggle to dread facing every day or else an
endless grind, drudgery to endure hopelessly until someone or
something (maybe myself) ends the misery? How do I try to get back to
where I started or at least some mid-point where I ! can see my way
clear to a road that looks worth taking? As long as I don’t write
back to John, that girl still exists somewhere, held inviolate and
pristine, somewhere, somehow, even if only a figment in someone’s
mind half a world away...
I am a 25 year old woman and was diagnosed with Chronic PTSD last
summer. I have always known from childhood that there was something
wrong with me emotionally. I have always had problems with
irritability, temper, and anxiety. I have a hard time expressing my
anger, and panic over little things (like not being able to find a
shoe, or burning dinner).
I grew up in a very dysfunctional family. You could say that my family
was non-functional. My mother was a drug addict, and my dad seemed to
live in denial about my mothers' behavior. He knew she was addicted to
drugs, but gave her chance after chance to clean up, subjecting my
brother and me to some pretty brutal treatment by her. Because of my
parents' irresponsible behavior, I was left in some pretty dodgy
environments, and subsequently abused by whoever happened to be angry
or upset at the time.
By the time I was 10, I had been molested and abused by more than four
people (never intercourse, just touching). When I was 16, I found out
my mother had been murdered by her pimp in Las Vegas. She was
strangled and beaten and left in an alleyway to be found later by some
high school students. Shortly after this event, I began having
nightmares that an intruder was sneaking into my room to strangle me.
It was at this time that my panic attacks got worse, and I attempted
suicide (never serious, just cries for help). At this time I felt very
alone and depressed. I had no friends, came down with the Chicken
Pocks and was sick for weeks.
When I was 17, my father suggested that my mother had molested me. He
came to me one day, and out of the blue, asked me if I remembered my
mother molesting me when I was a little girl. He said that my mother
liked to watch me do things to him. My father placed the blame
entirely on my mother, but it is typical behavior for my father to
blame everyone else for things. I have a gut feeling (though I have no
clear memory) that my father was as responsible, if not more
responsible than my mother when it comes to the molestation. To this
day, my father never elaborated on the subject, though I have asked
him on several occasions to tell me exactly what happened, as it is
very important to my healing. I have not spoken to my father in almost
I began consistent therapy one year ago. I see a wonderful therapist
once a week who I trust and admire. I still have several issues I am
working through, including irritability, sexual dysfunction, anger,
struggles to be perfect, self doubt, stress, and occasional panic
attacks. I am working hard on these issues and am confident that with
frequent therapy and stress-relief practices (yoga, walking,
meditation), I will be able to move on, and overcome these obstacles
that are preventing me from living to my full potential.
About 9 years ago, my husband and I were attacked in our
bedroom by an intruder. We were both stabbed multiple times and
hospitalized for several days. After the hospitalization, we spent
a month recovering in my parent's house. We then returned to NYC to try
and live and work again. It didn't work. Although we moved to a
different apartment (one with a door man), my husband slept with a
baseball bat and I had to tour the entire apartment when I would come in
to make certain no one was there. Eventually, I got fired from my job
because I just couldn't concentrate on it anymore.
We next moved to Vermont and took whatever jobs came
along to try and forget.
A few years later, we moved to New Haven, CT as my husband was accepted
at Yale Divinity School. My PTSD symptoms had mostly disappeared.
Then they came back with a vengeance. I wanted to die. I wanted to
kill someone. I spent a lot of time drinking. A friend recommended a
therapist who specialized in PTSD and I made an appointment. I have been
working with her ever since. In our last session, we talked about the
stabbing, how I locked my self out of the apartment as I went to get
help from the neighbors, as my husband struggled with the intruder,
alone. It is the one thing I will never be able to forgive myself for
doing. It's the one thing that probably
prevents me from moving on.
Bi-polar: As my PTSD symptoms raged, I was referred to a psychiatrist
for meds. We started with all the usual. An anti-depressant (Paxil)
which I hated, then Trazadone, which was okay except for the thirst.
Then, I went on a spending spree, became hypomanic. Was diagnosed BP II,
given depakote. In between, I got addicted to Klonopin, smashed my car
up because I fell asleep on the highway on the way to Law School. I also
fell asleep in therapy, was taken to the hospital, and then
institutionalized for a few days as I slept off the Klonopin.
I am a rapid cycler, and my moods are mostly down. I had a psychotic
episode and was "papered" and put on zyprexa. I gained lots of
weight. I have been hospitalized five times. Twice by my own doing with
my therapist for suicidal ideations and three times -- Klonopin,
Psychotic episode, Suicide attempt (lithium overdose) against my will.
Now, I take Effexor, Lithium, Klonopin, Sonata, and Synthroid for my
Eating Disorder: Two years ago, I was diagnosed with EDNOS when I
stopped eating and got down to 110 pounds. That incident may have
precipitated the psychotic episode (my therapist would say yes, I
don't think so). The zyprexa made me gain back the weight I lost and
then some. I was seen by a counselor at the Yale Center for Eating and
Weight Disorders, and later a nutritionist.
Today, I eat less than 1000 calories a day. I am back at the Eating
Disorder Clinic. Because my metabolism is all screwed up, I have lost
much weight. I am in starvation mode, and my excessive exercise doesn't
seem to be helping me lose weight, either.
I am fortunate to have a supportive and loving husband and family. I
have a supportive work environment. I have a fabulous psychologist, a
great psychiatrist, an interesting eating disorder therapist, a great
nutritionist. Somehow, I have managed to put together a great treatment
I suffer from PTSD, officially diagnosed through one
therapist, as well as through a study at the national center back in
My condition goes back to my childhood, where there were a few
incidents. I grew up in an very seemingly average middle-class family.
My parents were both working, successful professionals.
When i was about 3 or 4 years old, my mother would go off to work, leave
me in the care of an older cousin who was in college and lived with us
to save on expenses. This was a goodwill gesture from my parents, this
cousin came from a home which was very mentally and physically abusive,
they were hoping to give her new start into adulthood. To break away
from the horrible environment she came from.
At first, things were okay, but gradually this cousin became a likeness
to what she came from. I can only remember, some of her violent shaking
and being literally thrown about the house. there are only a few
memories which are crisp, to this day.
One involved going somewhere with her in the car, she parked the car in
a no-parking zone. When we returned ten minutes later, there was a
ticket under the windshield wiper. She was like a jekyl-hyde, calm, and
collected as we got into the car. Then her deeply repressed fury
exploded, and her anger directed at me. She pounded the heck out of me,
until she felt exhausted, then drove home, where the terrorizing
When my mother would ask about the bruises, the story was that i had
"fallen down" or "run into something"....the story
stuck through intimidation, almost systematic.
Eventually, my parents evicted this cousin, after a few years,
"something didn't jive". I cannot recall if there was any
attempt to seek counseling, i'm guessing it was a matter of family
pride. To stay mum about it.
When i was about 5 or 6 years old, i watched a friend get struck by a
car and killed on her bicycle. The "thud" sound still echoes
in my sleep.....a frequent trigger is the sound of a refrigerator or
freezer door slamming will bring it back for a split second.
I often compare the reaction, mostly internalized, as like "life
flashing before me" in a split second. My blood feels as though it
runs cold, like going into shock for that split second.
When i was 8 or 9 years old, two friends and myself were playing where
we should not have, like lots of kids do....at the site of an old house
where only the foundation remained. Maria and Scott were neighborhood
friends, Maria was in gymnastics and very good at the balancing beam. On
that fall late afternoon, she was "practicing" along the edge
of the concrete foundation. The foundation, an 8 by 8 section gave way,
she lost her balance, falling down into the hull of the foundation...the
wall fell on top of her. I don't remember much, of waiting for the fire
and police depts to arrive. But i do recall the smell of musty concrete
dust....a quick trigger for me, which i only discovered last summer.
Through research and reading, i learned to write about the incidents,
along with self-comfort measures have helped. Like allowing the storms
to churn up, then finding peace when they pass. And in some ways just
learning to accept these experiences as part of my development, forever
learning. Learning its okay to think about them, and knowing i am only
PTSD isn't something where there is a magical cure, but learning to live
with it, honestly. When new triggers are discovered, its a matter of
finding personalized tools to work through them. At least that's what
works for me.
Like last year, i started a flower garden, found a great sense of
accomplishment and peace in it. It works like a tranquilizer. Sometimes
just listening to relaxing music helps, with candles, and no time
Often times, its a struggle, takes work to stand up to the PTSD ghosts,
the disturbed sleep, the "triggers", the aftermath of those
triggers being provoked.
Again, i am grateful for finding this site, and to all the people who
contribute....and make it seem like a less lonesome battle.
When I was about 14 years old I found out that my Father
had been questioned by the police about my mothers death. It was a big
family secret that she either committed suicide (she loved me that much
huh?, asked my Dad to help her to die, or my father killed her. Of
course she may have just died but I'm still not allowed to know.
I wasn't allowed to see my brother or sisters until after I left home
and traced them. I only found out about their existence through another
family member asking me about them.
I am thirty four now and I have recurrent flash-backs to being told my
mother has died. I was there at the time of her death but don't seem to
remember much except in night-mares. I suffer from depression, fatigue
and a total despondency to do anything. I have two failed marriages.
I am still fighting, I am trying to find out the truth about Mums death
and maybe then I will confront my Dad with what he has done to me. I am
still terrified of him.
This all seems very garbled but I have never sat down and tried to put
it into words before. The anger I feel as I am writing this is so
tangible I can almost taste it and yes I am also crying. I know other
people have had, and are still having it harder than me but this is what
I am living with.
It hurts but I hope one day to sleep properly and not feel scared when I
hear a man shouting.
Coming from a family with an alcoholic father, sexual and mental
abuse, makes me wonder. I was touched on my waist and just prior to that
the same man asked if he could touch my breast. Just so happens that
this man has also been convicted of child abuse, (sexual) He isn't even
allowed to be at his house when his grandchildren are there or if his
son has friends over. Ironically, he is also one of my boyfriend's best
When I discussed this with my boyfriend he explained,
his friend did not mean to do it and it was due to the alcohol not
something this man would do sober. (I find that hard to believe). This
happened about 5 years ago. It is hard for me to let go of and when I
try to talk to my boyfriend about it and wonder why he didn't come to my
defense, it only angers him. As he says, "It's my fault."
On this particular day we were going to the races, his
friend rode with me only a short distance, about 2-3 miles. It's my
fault because the sleeve holes of my blouse were too large and a man,
being a man could look into places that were not of his business. So,
not only do I live with trying to forgive my Dad now I find I must
forgive my boyfriend's best friend in order to keep peace around here.
Get this, my boyfriend even called me a hypocrite due to
the fact I asked his friend for assistance in erecting a storage
building that would both benefit my boyfriend and myself. Yet if I'm a
hypocrite, if so, why would my boyfriend ask me if I care to join his
friend's family for dinner and eat tamales they sent to HIM. I don't
understand this at all. Is my boyfriend in love with his friends or me?
They spend more quality time together than we do.
Our evening consist of a couple of hours of him watching
TV and then sleep or he falls asleep before it's sleep time. According
to my boyfriend we have plenty of quality time together, although he
spends 7 days a week at his shop. I do document our daily activities and
it appears that most of it is for his needs. I have grown children and
so does he, mine visit here at home and call here. His visit him at the
shop and call at the shop. Even when he gives or writes down his address
he puts his shop number. I really feel this is a very much a one-sided
being in love thing.
I will, as every night be home after work waiting until
around 7, unless his family or friends call or come by his shop, then of
course it's a bit later. Am I conditioned for this love, accept it
because it's what I'm use to?
As for help here at home, you can blow that off, it is
my responsibility, not his. STUPID, the things love will make a person
tolerate. The criticisms, put downs and all the hurt feeling, I guess it
is just my way, a way I'm either use to... Or this is not a two sided in
love situation. It hurts when he considers his friend's needs and his
desire to be with his friends, rather than mine. If I bring it up then
I'm accused of trying to control him. That he will let me know right
off, that no one will ever control him, he does as he wishes.
I'm really to the point of not caring, not caring for
anything, not anymore. If it weren't for my children and grandchildren
I'd much rather be in heaven with my parent and husband, why should I?
He still had strings with his ex. and not a word of it makes since to
me, just his reasoning. So, be it................
Living with personal dragons in your daily life by
Russ from PTSD
At the present time, I have a Veteran's Administration
Service Connected disability rating of 100% based on PTSD. The primary
trauma accrued within a 48-hour period while on active duty in Vietnam.
During this time I, along with my unit, was bombed by our own B-52's.
Ending up walking next to an unexploded 750-pound bomb. Then walking
into an ambush that took most of the lives within my unit and watching
while rescue helicopters were being shot down trying to remove me and
other wounded from the battle zone where I had received combat wounds.
My family background is traditional and is based on an
extended family that included a great deal of interaction between
grandparents, uncles/aunts and their children. Family get-togethers and
family picnics during the summer stand out in my mind the most. Although
my father died when I was only 9 years old, the "Father Role"
was filled by one of my uncles.
Since leaving the Army, I have found life difficult and
trying for me. Many times over the last 30 years and even more often in
recent times, I have felt that ending my life would be best solution for
me. After losing my teaching job at a college I returned to the travel
industry where I have been employed for most of my adult life. But only
after a short time (3 months) I lost this job because of an angry
outburst on my part. I have looked back on my life and feel that I have
accomplished little in my life, my depression has taken its toll, and
I'm very tired because of this depression.
Through therapy I am learning to recognize many of my
PTSD problems (Dragons) that I was not aware of before starting. These
symptoms, listed at the bottom of this report, have been so much a part
of my life that I did not recognize them as being out of the ordinary.
Since November 1996 I have emotionally continued on a downward spiral
fighting this ingrained PTSD.
I will emphasize my deficiencies in the areas of work,
family relations, and lack of anger management, plus other areas. I am
unable to accept authority in the workplace, which is very stressful to
me and I get feelings that it’s necessary for me to change jobs
because of the lack of satisfaction where/when I have worked.
Even though I’ve had many personal relationships,
lasting several months, I still feel that I am isolated from people and
the communities that I have live in. I feel that every time that someone
has tried to be a friend, I push them away so that they don't learn of
my past or for fear of losing them later as it happened so many times
during my tours of duty in Vietnam.
I do not socialize well nor do I like to interact with
most other people around me. For most of my life I have lived within a
closed world. I have only one true friend, who is also a Vietnam vet,
and I do not allow people to get close to me. This way I do not expose
myself to inquiry about the war or the part that I played in it.
For the last 30 years I have not lived a normal happy
I have repeatedly moved around the country looking for
the “right” place to live, never being happy in any one place for
longer than two years. I’ve been married three times. I’ve had 20
plus live-in girlfriends plus hundreds of short-term/one night
relationships. It seems that anytime a woman tries to be close to me
emotionally I push them away and I look for someone else. I try to find
contentment, satisfaction and happiness with women but all it turns into
is sexual gratification and escapism for me. I have found that I do not
allow anyone near me on a personal/emotional level and still do not
allow it today. These relationships, for the most part, have been for
sexual gratification or emotional numbing only.
I am always looking for a better life, the right woman
to be my wife, a better job, or place to live. I have, for many years,
believed that I won’t live past the age of 62. It’s my belief that I
will not retire like normal people do.
I am a person, who would rather be out in the middle of
nowhere than being forced into socializing with most, if not all people.
This has caused additional problems in my relationships and I do not see
any future change.
Within this 30-year time frame I have had and lost many
jobs, quitting most of them, and I have never been successful in the
business world. I feel that I have had many good ideas but have never
followed through with them to completion. The fear of success can be
I am an “Emotional Stuffer” in the true sense of the
word. I do not convey my feelings nor do I express my feelings to anyone
very well. I have a difficult time being open with people and not
wishing to hurt other people’s feelings I seldom express myself
openly. During several times of great stress or anger, I have lived in
isolation away from everyone, preferring to live in the mountains. I am
much more comfortable living in small towns and even more so in a rural
setting like a farm or ranch with no neighbors close by to my family or
Anger is the main controlling force in my life and I use
it as a tool to protect myself from harm, which has accrued or may
accrue in my life since Vietnam. This perceived danger can happen even
in my life today and has been reflected in daily events as simple as
yelling a people for blocking an aisle at a store while I'm trying to
I must admit that I do spend time confused as to the
date, place or time that I'm in. Finding it necessary to relay on others
for appointments, I'm usually at least a day or two off but its not
uncommon for me to be at least a year off when trying to remember events
in my life. While teaching, it was necessary for my secretary to keep
track of events I needed to go to since I would forget where I was
supposed to be.
I find it difficult to adjust to changing events or
circumstances around me but especially in the business world. I either
have quit or have been fired from many (30) jobs since 1967 when I
returned from Vietnam. I have found that the stress of working and
making business decisions or the responsibilities related to work is
very frustrating for me. Its common for me to have anxiety attacks at
work, worrying about if I'm doing the job correctly and if so will I
remember to continue that way. It is not uncommon for me to start a new
job, find it enjoyable, work hard and learn about the position I'm in,
than become bored in a very short time. I have even received promotions
and than become so concerned about my performance that I quit and move
to a new location just so people would not have to trust me.
I have been in combat situations over six times. Since
going into the Denver PTSD program even more events and their related
flashbacks have been added to my memory as each recollections happen.
Each flashback event presents me with their own images and many are now
on a daily basis. Most flashbacks are vivid when they occur. With people
dying, trees blowing apart and my fears and terror. Some are seen as
in-complete events and I'm not seeing all that had happened nor with
other people in them. Others visions are only images viewed through a
small window of the fight. Many nights I find it hard to go to sleep,
stay asleep or I wake up with cold sweat nightmares that I do not
I have to live with anger and irritability on a daily
basis. I am now dealing with frustrations over my “missed” life, a
life that I’ve craved for and will never have now because of my age. I
am bitter with the government and the Veterans Administration for the
lack of insight into PTSD and the effects that it has had on my life as
well as others that experienced Vietnam and the reactions of people upon
my return from service there. When PTSD became a recognized disorder,
1981 (?), I personally feel that not enough effort was made to evaluate
Vietnam Veterans for PTSD.
I do have a BA degree in geography. The major difficulty
is that it is very non-specific in subject content and has not provided
me with useful tools for outside employment after graduation. But now I
feel so discouraged and depressed in life I will not go any further in
my education. This is based on my lack of concentration, retention of
material, memory problems, plus personal concern in my ability to study
During my time in Vietnam I got into the habit of going
to sleep on my left side. The reasoning for this is to get my heart as
close to the ground as possible. We had the feeling that during an
attack the first rounds from the VC would be high so I wanted to protect
myself as best I could. That is one habit that has carried over to today
and I still make every effort to go to sleep on my left side.
I wake up in the middle of the night on many occasions
with unknown sweat dreams. This is an ongoing problem that I have had
for many, many years. I jerk awake in the middle of the night soaking
wet, or at the very least, wet around the neck and shoulders. I have
caused bruises to several girlfriends and wives waking up this way.
One of the most vivid dreams and recurring dreams deals
with my exposure to leeches after being hit and lying in a rice paddy
for a night. When I woke up I had many, many leaches on me. I spent
almost an hour looking for leeches then burning them off of me with
First, Flashbacks: I experience them. They can occur for
no reason and without warning, coming from out of nowhere, or during
times of stress. Secondly, Sounds: Sometime with a backfire, helicopter
fly-byes, hail bouncing on a roof, close hitting lightning or distant
thunder will produce a flashback. I return to Vietnam and my experiences
come back to me. Thirdly, Smells have an effect on me: There are several
smells that can cause an event but the most forceful smells are: Diesel
fumes from truck exhaust or the smell of vomit.
I deal with anxiety attacks that can be rather forceful
at times. They develop at any time and can last up to several days. Many
others of these attacks are short in length and can be produced by the
following: Diesel fuel smell, stress, anger at a news story that I feel
there were injustices being done to someone. Grief or sadness for
someone that has had a loss of a loved one or by watching a happy ending
movie will have an effect on me. Sometime even bringing tears to my eye
or a full outright crying session.
I will usually have an anxiety attack after bouts of
anger. I wonder what the outcome of this anger will be in my personal
life or business life. They have occurred in both, which has led to
breakups of relationships, marriages and loss of employment.
I have a very difficult time controlling my anger.
Recent events illustrate this, in August 1997, during a presentation to
a travel group I lost my temper because the group could not make a
decision on a departure date. This cost me another job and increased my
negative outlook about myself in general and about my life as well. My
self-esteem is pretty low at this time.
I wish to list here is my aversion of being in any crowd
or people in general. I do not do not do not like, nor enjoy crowds of
people. This includes movie theaters, cafeterias with long lines, long
lines of any kind, sporting events, or malls. A simple example of this
is that I did not go to any of my school graduations while in college.
It seems that I’m always on guard!
Because of thoughts about Vietnam and my past, I have
difficulty falling and staying asleep. I have remorse over what I’ve
missed because of my PTSD. Even though the knowledge of the effects have
come to light only over the last two years, I realize that it is
something that I’ve had since discharge from the service! I experience
a great deal of irritability and outbursts of anger over this fact!
Most of the PTSD events listed above recur after I have
experienced some form of stressful situation or I have become angry over
something that has occurred that day. At other times, I can experience
them with no forewarning at all. I seem to have no control over these
things when they happen anyway. I have had little success in getting my
anger, frustrations, short temper, nor my disappointments with life
10 Ways to Recognize Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
After a loss, it is normal to go through a natural
grieving process. Sometimes, however, after a tragedy, such as a sudden
traumatic event, feelings of loss surface several weeks or months after
the tragedy occurred. This is called post-traumatic stress disorder
(PTSD). Recognizing these symptoms in yourself or others is the first
step toward recovery and finding appropriate treatment.
1) Re-experiencing the event through vivid memories or flash backs
2) Feeling “emotionally numb”
3) Feeling overwhelmed by what would normally be considered everyday
situations and diminished interest in performing normal tasks or
pursuing usual interests
4) Crying uncontrollably
5) Isolating oneself from family and friends and avoiding social
6) Relying increasingly on alcohol or drugs to get through the day
7) Feeling extremely moody, irritable, angry, suspicious or frightened
8) Having difficulty falling or staying asleep, sleeping too much and
9) Feeling guilty about surviving the event or being unable to solve the
problem, change the event or prevent the disaster
10) Feeling fears and sense of doom about the future
Russ also says” My PTSD is combat induced, while a rape/incest/abused
person would have different trauma reactions. For your information,
traffic accidents are now the greatest producer of PTSD in the USA
I am a 55yr old gay male. Grew up in southern Mo. And it
was difficult - never felt excepted.
When I was 30 in 1976, I moved to San Francisco. For
once I was home. The seventies were the most outrageous time of the gay
freedom movement. I developed a surrogate family really close friends
that thought would be with me through my life.
I am a nurse. In the early 80's we began to hear stories
about another gay man is in the ICU on a ventilator, with the ??????type
of pneumonia. They all died. By 82 it was a full blown epidemic. It was
hell at work, all the pts. were on complete isolation, most of the
nurses were terrified of this unknown disease. And I was terrified most
of all. As it seemed to be taking every gay man of my age group. I'm
attempting to cover a period of yrs here, that included assault from the
religious right, parents who didn't even want to claim their sons'
bodies. To all those guys I bonded with, by sitting on their beds
discussing dying, and their right to refuse further treatment if they
chose. And as I slowly began to break down, I refused to be tested for
HIV, became totally celibate, to this day.
All my friends tested positive, and died one by one,
sometimes in multiples in one week. I quit my job, and worked for a
nursing registry, just enough to keep body and soul together and cared
for my best friend until he died on May 11, 1990. For many yrs I had the
flashbacks to scenes in the hospital, of patients dying in hideous
circumstances, and rejected, by family, friends. It was so painful to
watch, and then the survival guilt, why me, why did I live when all my
friends died and left me alone? I often think it would have been better
had I died with them.
One of the stories I just read on the site was from a
V.N. VET. and he talked about his anger and inability to manage it. In
1992 I thought I thought I was recovered enough to go back to a full
time job in a outpatient clinic at university. I thought I could handle
it as we didn't have many AIDS pts. and it seemed low stress that I
could tolerate. But in just a few months, we were hit with managed care,
threats of layoffs. When nurses left they were not replaced, and our
work seemed to increase a hundred fold. My patients and tolerance for
sick people period, just dissolved. There was always 10 people around my
desk all wanting something right now, and the phone was ringing. It was
a battle to keep my anger under control every single day and I began to
recognize the signs they wanted to be rid of me.
When I would have these anger bouts at work my heart
rate would shoot up to 160. with a blood pressure of around 220/130.
Eventually it was suggested I go out on retirement disability. With one
part of my income coming from my retirement plan one part from Soc.
Security, and one part from a pvt. but through the university insurance
plan. It was $700 of my monthly income. After a year, I learned that the
pvt plan would drop me in 24 mts. because that's all the covered on a
psyche. disability. Fearful they might do it I moved back to KS to be
near my sister, and sure enough in August without any re-evaluation,
they cut me off.
I hired an attorney and we appealed, and yesterday I
learned my appeal failed. Now I'm 56 ys old, in an environment that
knows little to nothing about PTSD. With barely enough money to survive.
Yet, I still suffer from all those symptoms, can't stand large crowds,
loud noises, horrible short term memory, soooooo insecure about trying
to go out and find any kind of work, need to find cheaper apt. no car.
And feel like a stranger in a strange land. I don't know what I am going
to do. firstname.lastname@example.org
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