Here I am, trying to gain composure sitting in a car parked in a lot at Lee’s, a produce mart outside Conshohocken, PA. Don’t know how many customers have come and gone, seeing this middle-aged man with eyes closed silently breathing, trying to erase what he did just a few short moments ago. Actually, some 10 minutes have passed since I had “collapsed” from the latest “spike” of uncontrolled adrenalin.
I feel I just went a little “mad.” Shot out of a weapon like a bullet. Wanting to strike the nearest enemy, to do harm, to hurt some one for hurting me. I had driven reckless, tail-gating a guy who did not slow as I tried to merge into traffic as I was leaving a CVS pharmacy. He speeded up. I could have just “eaten” that slight done to me. Brush it off as just an inconsiderate gesture done in an inconsiderate world. But I was stressed-out already, and I made a federal case out of his bad behavior by making mine worse.
The post traumatic stress disorder, a.k.a., “PTSD,” kicked in. I gunned the engine, raced my car to catch up to his vehicle, coming dangerously close to his rear. He was no dummy. He applied his brakes to scare me off. I do it when someone is tailing too close to me. But, I didn’t bite, I sped up, and screeched to halt at the last possible moment, causing heads to turn by pedestrians as well as those in cars at my side and to the rear. It shook him. But not completely.
Both cars started again immediately after the near collision. I tried to see the guy, make out his features, but couldn’t. Must have been in his 20s, no more than 25. I just want to teach him a lesson about rules of the road.
There’s daylight in the passing lane. Now, I’ll slip by him . . .
And cut in front of him . . . not knowing what he may do next, because I can not look at him . . . I have to keep all of my attention on this frenzy driving. Now, I cut in front of the next car, but not as abruptly. He didn’t do anything to me. But here I am endangering everybody . . .
My God, what am I doing? Who the hell am I? What have I become?
Get away; must pull over. But not here, a little further up the road. Lee’s Fresh Produce. Pull in, Michael. Seek refuge. Seek help.
But there is none, really, is there? You’ll have this sickness the rest of your life. You should not drive. Should not deal with stress. Should be put away for your own protection . . . to protect everybody closest to you so that you won’t try to hurt anyone again. Should not have lived to come home from Vietnam. There, you finally said it. Again.
Therapy the next day helps. The psychologist, Dr. Howard Cohen, says there’s been improvement. That I “saw” the hole I had dug and jumped in, but was able to “get out” and look back to know exactly what the “it” was: PTSD. Some veterans believe it is “themselves” causing this bizarre behavior. That the rage they now feel is just part of their makeup. That they’re made this way, and that nothing can help them. They’re wrong, and I hope we can help them. Acknowledging that there is a problem is generally a good first step.
Damn the war. Damn the military. Damn the PTSD.
Please, my United States of America, stop all the fighting, before the fighting stops all of us.
Hey brother. I just found your site. Thanks for it. I spent a year in Iraq, the first year we were there. I left with a diagnosis of major depressive disorder and, while my civi therapist has diagnosed PTSD, the army and VA refuse to recognize it. I don’t have much to say other than “thank you” and to let you know I hear you.
Contact someone with the DAV (Disabled American Veterasn) if you haven’t done so. I found half of them knew the name of my therapist because he was so respected in the field of PTSD and TBI. Ask for possible references from the DAV.
My doctor was able to draw things out of me that others were unable to, and he knew how to present those findings within the medical ranges VA personnel sought when deciding on disability ratings.
It’s uncomfortable to read the report he submitted. Difficult to drive away from his office during those intense questioning sessions, one with my wife along, and I found I had to pull over to the side of the road after being “led” to recall triggering events from combat and superior, I forgot what the military jargon was for such people . . . oh, yeah, superior assholes.
They’ll force anyone to get PTSD.
Keep trying . . . keep appealing . . . If you get your just award, it should be retroactive.
It’s tough, though. Some guys have died before their cases were approved by the VA.
Have you ever tried NET(Neruo emotional technique) I know a DR here in Texas that practices this and it works for a lot of trama..you might check it out!
I’ll try anything. Might mention NET the next time I visit a Veterans’ clinic. Thanks.
Big Hug!. . .Truly it is process, but i agree with your therapist, to bring awareness and see it happening is truly such a positive step. I so trust you and your healing process Michael. . .
Experiencing PTSD is one thing. Writing about it, is another. Both hurt. But in different ways. And being able to see it “on paper” is very therapeutic. (Did i spell that right?)
Now don’t get me in a rage here. (Just joking. 48 hours after the fact.)
WOW– What an eye-opener. Michael, I have never understood this kind of rage, but I encounter it on a daily basis at work. It really helps to hear your perspective on it. You’re doing good work here. 🙂
I wish Icould control it. I could, up until 15 years ago, when it “creeped up” on me. It’s gotten a little better because I avoid stressful situations. But, having to deal with an eye injury, a whopping increase in the cost of Medicare deductible, as well as PTSD all in the matter of minutes sends the “joker” running wild.
Have hope! The more you can get to know this “joker,” with great compassion and what appears in meditation, the less fearsome this dragon will become. This isn’t me “rah rahing.” It really does happen.
I have some horrific trauma in my past, and only as I’ve learned to be with my “dragon,” to befriend all that energy, have I been able to tame it and have it serve me, rather than seem to devour me. It can be done. But, it’s pretty messy, and many a time, my dragon incinerated everything in sight. LOL! (No, my dragon, no, no, no! Come here; when you calm down, let me pet your big, fierce head. Was it nice of you to eat that guy? Sure, he was a jerk, but I bet he’s had suffering too!)
Now, at least this one particular dragon (habit energy), has shrunk down, as I’ve assimilated its energy, and its just sits on my shoulder, sometimes chirping, but no longer is it a Destroyer of Worlds. 🙂
May you make peace with your dragon, too, my dear friend. Love will finally conquer all.
May the wars end – those out there and those in us.
That would be Utopia, wouldn’t it?
Or, perhaps, Nirvana.
Ah, dear Michael! That sounds so damn tough. Can’t even imagine what it must be like, unless I recall my worst moments of rage, but then, that would only be a brief visit to hell, not an ongoing, day-to-day challenge.
It’s clear you are doing everything under the sun, medically, physically, spiritually, to help yourself, and what’s amazing is the light in you is breaking through and breaking out *in spite* of this disability. That’s really something. And it’s an inspiration to me and to others I’m sure.
We may not be able to end the pain of some trauma in this life—but I would never give up hope of that, myself, speaking of my own disabilities—but we can live lives of incredible value and worth. And that’s no small thing. And that is what you are doing.
Big peace and love to you, brother. You are so much more than your reactions and reactions. Look deep enough, and any one of us can finally see the “face we had before we were born,” as Zen puts it, smiling at us and say, thus you ever were and ever will be. Welcome home.
Thank you brother veteran for letting me share this weakness. I hope that another person with PTSD will be able to identify their own monster and call it by name, a disorder from a traumatic experience (that does not necessarily have to come from war), rather than think the rage and irritability is just part of themselves, their make-up. It is not.
Most welcome, my friend. You’ll always finding a compassionate ear with me.
Yes, seeing the nature of a problem is a huge step toward healing, and all kinds of people have PTSD who aren’t veterans of war, but “veterans” of horrible families and marriages and relationships.
All the best,
The Won Institute is an Acupuncture School in Glenside, Pa. We will be having a low cost clinic for veterans and their families every Thursday beginning 3/11. Group treatments will be at 6p and 7p. The cost is $5-10, whichever you can afford. This treatment is helpful for PTSD and other psychological effects of service. Treatments will be given by Faculty Volunteers
The Won Institute
137 S. Easton Rd.
Glenside, Pa. 19075
Sign me up for the veterans’ accupuncture treatment in March. I need it!
Anything to help with a detached retina, bad back, and last, but certainly not least, PTSD.