I explained in the previous post that I was getting really amped up and didn't know how to shut it off. Well, as the day and night unfolded yesterday, the reasons for this became abundantly clear. My body was preparing me for action - action that had the potential to go on for a long time. There was no saying how bad this storm was going to be in our area. I didn't know if I was going to be taking my family on a flight to safety, if I was going to have to deal with potential looting, if my friends were going to need my help, etc.
What I realized is that I was amped up, not anxious or nervous. I was just ready. When I say ready, I mean READY. My body saw the potential threat in the coming storm and started priming the system for action days in advance. If something would have happened yesterday, I would have acted immediately to resolve the situation, no hesitation, no fear.
This effect on my body was predominantly primal, physiological. The docs at the VA and elsewhere have been talking about the 'battle brain' or 'fight or flight' and how that part of the brain taking over is what causes some of the issues we have with PTSD. While I understood the argument intellectually, I didn't fully understand the depth of what that meant until my body started amping me up in preparation for this storm.
Many of us can turn this on, short term, when the need arises, but there is still a lag before the clarity of purpose sets in. Getting amped up days in advance for what could happen reduced the lag created by needing to 'flip the switch' down to near zero. Hence the pre-storm build-up. I would have been ready for anything - running for cover, protecting my family from the elements, protecting my family from people, killing if the need arose to protect me and mine. Morality and gray areas be damned. Yet through it all, I knew what was happening this time. I knew the necessity of it and I knew that it could scare people to see the side of me that allowed me to survive outside the wire in a hostile environment with just three other guys to watch my back.
It was surreal. I was just along for the ride yesterday. I could freak out in my head all I wanted to and still trust that instinct would direct my body to make the best choices to ensure my survival and those I choose to protect.
Today, the threat ended. My body turned it all off and I crashed. I slept almost 10 hours during the day AFTER I woke up to start the day. The adrenalin dump was so extreme that my kidneys hurt and I felt like a junkie coming down off a high.
Then came the fear and anxiety, the anger at myself. How could I lost control like that? The thoughts of what I could have done yesterday (and the things I did have to do in Iraq) haunt me. This one is going to take some time to work out. I am just glad that it's over and I can start to work through the new wrinkles that this experience has introduced to the party.
I know a lot of my readers were in the path of this storm. I hope this finds you all well and in good health.
Well, it looks like the worst of the catastrophic thinking from yesterday is behind me. A special shout out to Rod Deaton for letting me vent to him. There is nothing that I can do about the evaluation now except wait and see what happens. I have to keep on reminding myself that I have an amazing support network. Others aren't so lucky. Regardless of how stressed I may be, others have it much worse.
That being said, Memorial Day Weekend looms. I know it's going to be challenging this year. I am thankful that I came home in one piece but I know that the guilt will be there. Guilt that I made it home an others didn't. Guilt that I am thankful for being alive and that it wasn't MY mother that had someone knock on her door. This is a celebration of summer for so many and they grill food and drink and celebrate. How many remember the purpose of this weekend? How many honor the fallen, go to parades, even put out the flag? I would wager my readers do. If my apartment complex would allow it, I would. This coming weekend is a time for reflection. Maybe this year the guilt will let me remember and honor those that have fallen. I guess we will see.
I meet with a member of the Lehigh Valley Military Affairs Council this morning. I am going to talk with him about what I can do to assist with advocacy locally. Wish me luck.
OK, I'm back and blogging. And my topic today hit with a wallop. Someone I knew died yesterday. He was in his early 20's. I had gotten used to seeing his face every day. Now I never will again. For obvious reasons, it brought right back to the forefront all of my least favorite memories and all of the trauma I experienced over in Iraq. Here's the killer, I had to pretend that everything was normal and that everything was OK. I was at work all day. I made it through most of the day before the anxiety caught up with me. My hands were shaking so badly that I couldn't write, couldn't type. I didn't have my anxiety medication with me either. It was a great feeling. I felt like an eight hundred pound gorilla was kneeling on my chest. It past quickly, but all I could do was stand there like a post and hope no one noticed (which, thankfully, they didn't). My wife had taken our daughter to visit her grandparents and didn't return home until later in the evening. That was a blessing. I was so scared that Caley would be able to sense there was something wrong. She it so aware of the emotional state of the loved ones around her, my intense emotional state would have scared her. So now I am sitting here up late in front of the computer when I have to manage the department in the morning. Woo.
I was at work and I saw someone who looked a lot like a soldier I knew from Iraq that didn't make it home. I don't know how I didn't lose it right then and there. I was hyper vigilant for the rest of my shift, checking my corners and evaluating everyone that came through my area for threat level. It was ridiculous. I work in a freaking grocery store! I don't know how my co-workers didn't notice my change in demeanor. Well, maybe it did and it scared them. I guess time will tell. It's hard for me to ascertain for myself how my PTSD affects others in a situation like that. When I got home, I took an extra dose of my anti-anxiety medication. I was so amped up I couldn't sit down for the first 30 minutes I was home. I did eventually calm down, but thinking you're seeing a ghost doesn't help your mental stability. But hey...I made it through and tomorrow's a new day, right?
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.