The medical community definition of PTSD;
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or violent personal assaults like rape. People who suffer from PTSD often relive the experience through nightmares and flashbacks, have difficulty sleeping, and feel detached or estranged, and these symptoms can be severe enough and last long enough to significantly impair the person's daily life.
PTSD is marked by clear biological changes as well as psychological symptoms. PTSD is complicated by the fact that it frequently occurs in conjunction with related disorders such as depression, substance abuse, problems of memory and cognition, and other problems of physical and mental health. The disorder is also associated with impairment of the person's ability to function in social or family life, including occupational instability, marital problems and divorces, family discord, and difficulties in parenting.
Pretty neat and clean isn't it? Well I can define it for me in a different light. It has been like I died 22 years ago and have been trapped in a body not capable of the simplest of emotions or recall, I may be able to move and I am thankful for that, I am truly thankful that I am not dead and have seen the birth of 2 more children and 2 grandchildren. But then there are the days I wish I had died so my wife and older children could have lived without seeing me like this.
Within days of leaving Beirut and heading home I started becoming angry for no reason, I was in arguments with my LPO ( leading Petty Officer) everyday. I felt the rage when I woke and kept it with me until I passed out from pure exhaustion every couple of days. When we reached port I would drink until I passed out to stop the rage I felt, but the anger was always just a click away.
Back at home I continued drinking myself to sleep everynight, usually would take a case of beer and a quart of whiskey between two of us. My family suffered, my career was over but I didn't know it yet and of course I was hurting myself with the everyday drinking.
I was diagnosed with PTSD in late 1984 after I begged the Navy for help, the rage had beaten the alcohol and I my life was in danger. I felt it building in me, eating away at me everyday, it was a cancer that had spread from me to my family. My wife watched as I came apart and sat on the brink of death, ready to take my own life. I didn't fear death then, I feared myself and what I was doing to my family. I hadn't seen what was causing the anger, it was locked under the alcohol and the denial. All I knew was that I was hurting and wanted to end the pain for all of us.
Well I got the help that was available at the time, some words and mostly medications to replace the alcohol. It didn't do much good, I saw what was causing the feelings, Beirut and the death and destruction. Myself and about 23 percent of the Beirut Veterans suffer from PTSD, why only 23%? Modern medicine really doesn't know what causes one person to develop PTSD when another doesn't. I have a theory that it is related to additional disorders, such as Bi-Polar.
I am not a doctor but I have talked to enough PTSD Vets within the VA and a lot also suffer Bi-Polar Disorder, and most suffer the effects of Chronic/Severe Panic Disorder. I developed the panic while in the hospital, I was headed home and was leaving a place I became safe. It was like setting off a nuclear device in my mind and now that I had some control over the PTSD it had been replaced by panic and a new group of fears. The worst was an overwhelming fear of death, not all death but dying in peace. I would without a doubt go out in a blaze of glory without any problems. I lay awake still everynight counting the breaths I have left and everyday that I wake up I feel blessed then I see that I am a day closer to the end and it starts all over.
22 years have passed and I have no better handle on the PTSD than the day I walked out of the hospital for the first time, most psychiatrists I speak to only want to know what medications I want, not what I truly need. I need justice for the murder of all 273 men killed in Beirut. My PTSD is based on the BLT HQ bombing at the message I have spoken about, others suffer from PTSD stimulated in many different actions. The WWII generation were afraid to speak of it, afraid to be labeled as weak so they drank and remained untreated. PTSD places a label on those already suffering, people refer to us as psychos, I hear he might go Postal, I wouldn't want him around me, etc. I have yet to go "Postal" or even raise my voice without provocation ( toward someone outside my home ) since I was discharged in 1985.
My wife and children have heard the rage, I did my fair share of yelling but I do not hit my family. That was taught to me before the PTSD, I was told never hurt those who depend on you for their safety, always protect those who are weaker or in danger.
Now I live everyday waiting for the next, waiting to see if I can make it one more day without the rage, the lack of emotion has been the only way I can keep the panic at arms length. But that same tool is what hurts my family, I either suffer or they do, neither of us can be comfortable at the same time.
As I said before I am still alive, can walk and have seen my grandchildren and for this I am grateful. My wife mourns the loss of the man she married 3 years before Beirut, we knew each other in High School and I was in love with her from afar then. I was lucky to marry her and now I have wasted 22 years of our life together by holding my back against a dam of emotions and fears. I know it was selfish but yet I still did it.
October 23rd 2005 I decided that enough was enough and I would seek justice for those men and their families, maybe the path would also allow me and my family to rest, maybe this is the key to the chains that bind my soul to that one moment in time. I have decided to pursue this in the political arena and to pay a tribute to my fallen brothers every chance I get. This Blog is just one of those tributes.
For more information on PTSD click here