So this is gonna hurt a little. No matter how hard you tug it’s not coming off fast. I been picking at these scabs awhile.
Every now again I’d get good and drunk and start walking down memory lane with someone. Enthusiastically recalling my glory days. By the end I’m half (maybe a lil more) crying about how I shouldn’t have come home. The enthusiastic civilian is a little jarred and probably walks away questioning my sanity. I go to sleep and shove all those little demons back into their cage. Rinse and repeat every few months or weeks depending on my drinking cycle.
The first time I reached out for help it was because I was being pushed to do so. It was after a compensation and pension appt. with Veterans Affairs. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but something along the lines of needing some mental health support. I ended up waiting several hours after my appt. to speak with a nice lady who may not have been prepared for what I had loaded up.
I told her about a gentleman in Ghazaliyah. He crosses my mind more often than I’d like. I think partially because I understand, as a father now, the calculated risk he took. I wasn’t a leader at the time, and during my deployments only led a fire team. So my knowledge of what was said is nil. Plus I’ve been blown up a few times so it can get a little fuzzy up there.
I know he had spoken to us at some point and we returned to speak with him again. When we got there his wife informed us he had been drug out into the street in middle of the night. He was doused in gasoline and set ablaze. It was our job to police up any bodies in our sector. We did so. When I finished telling this nice lady my story, with some of the finer details intact, I looked her in the eyes. The expression there, I’m not sure if it was disgust or horror, but I ended the session than and there. It was over 5 years before I’d reach out for help again.
In all honesty her being a mental health professional at a VAMC (veterans affairs medical clinic), I’m sure she has heard some horrible things. She very well may have been a vet herself. I wasn’t ready to tug at those wounds. Saying it out loud, sober, hurt me in a way I wasn’t expecting. I probably rationalized to myself she didn’t want to hear what I was saying. I knew I didn’t want to do this at that time. I was still trying to figure out life. I had a young family, and was trying to use my GI bill. I had to put the lid back on things, and keep myself together for my family.
I still felt like nothing bothered me than. Being hyper alert is something I don’t think I’ll ever let go of. To quote General Mattis “be kind, be courteous, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.” Just in case they try to kill you, you can be ready. Knowing where the exits are isn’t a bad thing either. In case of fire. At that point in my life I didn’t feel I had too many issues. Underneath though were things that I hadn’t even put words to yet.
One of the issues I have to put behind me the most. One of the ones I know is less rational. Is this survivors guilt. I was fortuante in my tours. Only one soldier from the two platoons I was with didn’t come home. From the trips with me anyway.
He was my team leader before I deployed to Afghanistan. He picked me up as a soldier at a rocky time. A time when I had just gotten UCMJ and he could have wrote me off. He dusted me off along with my platoon sergeant and taught me to drive on.
When I got in country I moved over to the weapons squad. When the incident happened weapons squad was rotating with the squads on local patrols.
I’m going to digress. I was going to explain some of the ways it could have been me. I have sliced it up so many ways in my head. I’ve tried to think of ways I could have been there and he could have come home. None of them work. They just eat me up. Make me feel like nothing I’ll ever do will be good enough to justify the life I still have.
That fucking hurt to write. It’s a Thursday Monday it’ll be 4 weeks I vape not smoke. I could use one now. I try to honor him. The other soldiers we lost along the way. Rational me knows there was nothing I could have done. E-I owe you one, I was where I was told to be. Sorry to any of my Outlaw brothers reading this. I know we all have some version of this wound. Scar or scab. Hope I didn’t get yours. Wasn’t my target when I started.
Honestly when I started writing this I was just gonna talk about how when you start to address it, it’s gonna hurt. It might seem like it’s getting worse, but it has to come up before it comes out. I’m hoping that making this journey will be worth it. That I’ll be able to control my panic attacks and let go of my guilt.
They say insanity is doing the same thing repeadtedly while expecting different results. Bottling and repression just lead to explosion. So I guess I need to try something new.
Thank you to those of you who have taken the time to read. I hope your journey finds you well.