The Memories I’ll keep forever
The following post I wrote originally appeared on The Warrior’s Pointe. It is a blog hosted by Warrior Pointe, Inc and is written by Veterans for Veterans.
One of the reasons it took me seven years to come to terms with the fact that I have PTSD is that I didn’t get it in combat. I wasn’t shot at and I never went to Iraq or Afghanistan; I just floated off the coast on a carrier. I have made many friends over the years that did serve in actual combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. I know that they were shot at and that they lived in situations that I could not dream of. When I thought about having PTSD myself I felt like, and I still feel like, acknowledging my issues was/is somehow discounting theirs. None-the-less, after seven years, a deteriorating marriage, and an incredibly kind but firm push by my soon to be ex-wife (who remains my best friend) I went to see a psychologist and the fine folks at the VA.
It was incredibly difficult for me to talk to the psychologist at first. It’s still incredibly hard for me to talk to anyone about it, even those who now know the details. I have worked hard to bury much of how I felt. I became a very good actor and I always gave vague answers. It’s not easy for me to dig up my demons that I have kept hidden. As I let them out of the shadows, they made the demons I wasn’t able to hide that much more prevalent. I must say it helped that the psychologist was able to guide me and help me say the things I struggled with. She was often able to piece together bits of information to help me understand the entire series of events so I didn’t have to say everything. It made it much easier. It’s only been a few months, but talking to her helps. Not with everything, but with a lot of things. I’ve learned a lot of coping mechanisms and ways to handle how I feel, and they work sometimes. Going to talk about things every week also keeps everything that happened in the forefront of my mind. Each week I learn something new about myself, and each week I struggle with keeping control of my feelings and myself.
It’s still difficult for me to talk about why I developed PTSD. I’m going to summarize it here, because I feel like I need to, and because I think every time I talk about it, it helps. You also never know who else may benefit from hearing your story.
Over the course of the first seven years of my time in the Navy, my career pretty much paralleled someone who became a close friend. While stationed at our last duty station together, he was lost at sea in a plane crash with two other people. It still affects me because I feel that I killed them and that I destroyed a very expensive airplane. I was one of the last people to inspect the plane before it left. It crashed within hours of me working on it and inspecting it. I’ve read the accident investigation and I know I had nothing to do with it. I know what caused the crash. Despite knowing that, I can’t change how I feel. No matter how hard I try, and how many people tell me otherwise, I cannot convince myself it wasn’t my fault. I constantly think about it. I have daydreams about it. I have nightmares about it. I even have visions of being on the plane with them as it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. For something I wasn’t physically there for it’s a very vivid memory, and the whole thing is something I’ll carry with me forever.
I learned I have anger issues: anxiety (it’s pretty bad sometimes), depression, and PTSD (and all the issues that come with it). What makes it worse is that as my marriage broke down, so did I. I held myself together for seven years, but I just couldn’t do it anymore. I all but stopped sleeping. I retreated inside myself in a world I’m only just beginning to come out of. I actually got lucky with a good Doc at the VA who started me on meds that help, not completely, but they are better than taking nothing. I have good friends that keep an eye on me, and some productive things to keep me occupied–my favorite being Warrior Pointe’s new website.