Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Beyond Beirut: PTSD the Begining

Upon my return from Beirut I went into a deep depression, this led to excessive drinking. What I didn't know was that drinking was a way to self medicate, and medicate I did. I drank every day, lunch a 12 pack, dinner a 12 pack and a large glass of Jim Beam. After dinner I would drink until 2 or 3 am then I would get up and go back to work at 6 am. The drinking and my mood swings were destroying my life and that of my family. One morning I said enough is enough and I stopped drinking, the first day was smooth but on the second I started feeling anger welling up inside. It was on the third day when I took my new car back to the dealer and they didn't want to fix it that all of this came to a boil. I came home and called the owner of the dealership, who was foolishly listed in the phonebook, and told him either he fixed the car or I would drive it through the showroom windows of his Mercedes Dealership. He agreed to have a tow truck pick it up in the morning.
That night sleep was fraught with angst and fears I had never felt before. Death was something I had not even thought about but now as I laid there the thought of my own death was starting to drive deep into my soul.
When morning came and the tow truck towed the car away I decided I wasn't going to work, which is not just a bad idea in the military it is illegal, but I was cut slack for reasons I was about to understand. By noon and the dealer had not called me I was feeling that rage building again, so I asked my wife to take the kids and go visit a friend in another apartment. Well being the loving caring woman she is she left and called the police telling them that I was depressed and a Beirut Veteran. They arrived with a Priest in tow and asked me to seek help, I had ripped a couple of cabinet doors off and was dripping with sweat yet the A/C was set at 65 and doing a good job.
I was seen at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital and promptly admitted, after 2 admissions I was told I had PTSD. Everyday since has been a struggle, one to explain to people I am not violent, I am not crazy I am just someone who has seen the worst humans can do to each other and I was touched deeply and it appears the impact is permanent.
Now I will not go into every detail of my life but I will say this, I do not see things the same way everyone else does, there is very little joy in my life, I don't feel warmth on my face in the sun, I cant remember what love was truly about and the biggest loss I have had was that I cant remember a lot of what happened after I walked off that beach in Beirut 23 years ago.
When I left for Beirut I had a 2 year old son and a 9 month old daughter, today I have a 25 year old son, a 24 year old daughter, a 18 year old daughter and a 9 year old son but they have not had much of a Father. I have not gone back to drinking, but I have been consumed by the memories of those days digging bodies out of the rubble, placing them in body bags and then those bags into containers and shipping them home. I remember taking incoming fire while we tried to dig hoping to find a survivor and I remember the smell of Beirut. To this day I can smell it and I can hear the screams for help, I can feel the dust upon my skin. I am not the only one, there a lot of us who live everyday with these feelings and it is for these Veterans and their families that I planned this walk.
A very wise Veteran once said for those who died the war is over for the rest of us it is only a nightmare away.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I KNOW SOME WHAT HOW YOU FEEL. I AM A BEIRUT VET ALSO .FROM 3/10-3/8. WE FLEW IN AND OUT.FEB 1984-AUG 84. 20+ YEARS LATER. I TO HAVE REMEMBERED WELL. WHEN ISREAL STRUCK AT THEM I STAYED A WAKE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE, I WISH WE WOULD HAVE LEFT THAT PLACE AS MUCH OR MORE MESSED UP THAN THEM.SEMPER FI.BUY THE WAY DONT ASK THE VA FOR HELP I DID, THEY SAID IN ONE 10 MINUTE QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION.THAT I AM FINE BECAUSE IAM A STABLE MARIAGE AND HAVE A STABLE JOB. HOW EVER ASK MY EX WIFE AND SHE WOULD TELL ANOTHER STORY ABOUT NIGHTMARES AND TELLING HER TO REPORT FOR DUTY AT TWO IN THE MORNING.OH WELL .IAM SANE I GUESS.SEMPER FI

SM2_Ayers said...

I was lucky I guess, I was diagnosed with PTSD in 1984, right after I quit drinking. Had no idea what it was but they said I had it. It was called PTSS I believe back then. I was not allowed to remain in the Navy and the VA had to deal with me and it took me from 1985 till 2004 to get unemployability. I guess you have to have and lose 40 jobs or so.
Good Luck Brother and Welcome Home.
Semper Fi from a Swab Jockey :)

Anonymous said...

My name is Ernie Brown, USMC
HMM-165 USS TARAWA 31st Mau
Beiruit Sept10- Oct19 1983. We left 5 days before the barracks was destroyed.
I am crying right now, not that I saw the lost lives, the destroyed building or the detruction in the lives of the families who lost loved ones, am crying because we were not allow to go and do some thing to help. The guilt I have delt with over that has takin' me down the road of alcoholism also. I am now sober for 13 years, but I will never for get those brothers who gave their lives for Peace. I want a copy of your book when it is done.
My son is now at Camp Lejune now after his first tour in Iraq. Pray for those boys.
Semper Fi
Ernie brown
ewbrowniii@twcny.rr.com

Vicki said...

You are a good writer with a fine and honorable topic. Please don't give up on writing it. May you find peace through the writing process. God Bless you and thank you for serving so that people like me live in freedom and safety.

sam risney said...

still being treated at the omaha va
for ptsd
in hmm 162 helicopters 24 mau beirut from may to november 1983.
spent time living on rock base at the north end of the airport.
immediately after the bombing, worked checkpoints searching cars while barracks was being dug out.
would sleep in same hangar as body boxes were being staged to load on the next c-141 that came in.
TO NEVER FORGET SEMPER FIDELIS
samuelrisney@yahoo.com

SM2_Ayers said...

I returned from the 25th Memorial Service and again lapsed into another funk. But I renewed feelings I have not had since 1983.
I thank all of you who have posted and I promise to update this Blog more often.