One of my readers, Josie F., wrote some questions in the comments to A Loving Call For Help From A Reader. The questions were pointed and earnest and I felt I needed to address her questions as soon as I could. Here's what she wrote:
I've reread this a few times Max; you tell a lot here about the psyche of a returning soldier - perhaps you say it all. What about getting through this? Are you through it; have you addressed your guilt and if so, do you feel in a better place.. are you easier on yourself or for others to live with? Or, does the power of the guilt drag you back no matter how good your life, your support system? When you are in your cave, do you lose track of time? What turns this around for you, ie, does something happen to start to bring you out? Do you forgive those who may have unknowingly triggered you into the darker thoughts, or hold them hostage... make them pay some penance too, thereby alleviating some of yours? I hope these questions aren't too harsh to ask but would shed a lot of light onto the behavior of other vets, such as mine. Thank you.
Getting through it? No. Learning to live with? Yes. I have confronted the guilt I feel for having survived and know that I will still feel guilty for the rest of my life. It's whether you let that guilt motivate you that is the question. I remind myself that I would be dishonoring their memories if I refused to live my life to the fullest. It doesn't mean I don't have my bad days and weeks. Anniversaries are particularly hard. It rends the heart because you are forced to remember. I tried ignoring anniversaries in the past - that backfired...BIG TIME.
Hiding in the Cave: When I am in 'cave mode' I definitely lose sense of time. This past time was particularly bad. It wasn't only the passing of time that was skewed, but events from the past year's place in the timeline were screwy in my head. As for what brought me out of it? My love for my family and fear of losing everything in my life that has redeeming value.
Forgiveness: I never got mad at others for triggering memories or my sense of survivor's guilt. I have always been my own worst enemy and never blamed others for putting me in my current situation. That may be due to my introspective nature. I am not sure. I know some vets, when they are feeling this way are feeling emotions so toxic that they lash out and 'blame' others, but it's less blaming than trying to push a person away. It's as I said in the comments of the earlier post. Sometimes the toxic nature of the emotions a vet is feeling are so diametrically opposed to the love you are showing them that they feel compelled to drive you away - they can't handle the intensity. If you feel like you are being held hostage for unwittingly triggering this behavior, that's not healthy. I would never make someone else 'pay penance' for me. That penance is mine to serve.I hope this answers the questions you asked Josie. I can only tell you the answers from my personal experience - every vet is different, yet the same. Ultimately, you are the only one who can ascertain whether your relationship with your vet is something he wants to salvage/maintain.Thank you for your questions and never be afraid to ask the difficult questions. Sometimes people ask questions I have to answer for myself too!
Yours in Health,
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.