Monday, May 17, 2010

Foreseen Subject: My Soldier Babies and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Prologue Post

If you're weary, it may not be from what you're doing. Your weariness could be caused by what you continue to put off doing. Having an uncompleted task hanging over you, day after day, week after week, wears on you constantly. To free yourself from that burden, go ahead and get it finished.

Wise words posted by my friend Lynellen have motivated me to free myself from a burden. Or at least, to start talking about a subject that weighs heavily on me.

You know I knew it was coming. Being a worrying Mother, I've steeled myself to deal with this issue probably since the day Brian enlisted, when I was still selfishly, naively hoping that he'd end up with some pencil-pushing job in a closet-sized office somewhere out in the sticks (on U.S. soil, of course).

Some news reports about these wars are unbearable to me at times, and I'll admit to not being able to handle it and turning the television off for my own sanity. It is always with a deep sense of guilt, as I know that there's a family out there that is living with, or dying with, what I can shut out.

Still, I watch and read the articles, stories, and documentaries on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the issues that our men and women have to deal with when they come home. I think that most of us have probably dealt with some avenue of  post-stress. I think about times in my own life when I've reacted to an event well after the fact.

  • I have shaken like a leaf a week after my son was in a life-threatening accident, falling 2 stories to large landscaping rocks beneath the waterslide.
  • Amusing now, but two years after my divorce, I got stuck, home alone, in my attic, and dealt with it by having a screaming tantrum directed at my ex-husband. After all, if we'd worked things out, I wouldn't have been stuck in the damned attic hole with a giant piece of plywood lodged between me and the ladder, would I? It was all his fault, and I couldn't have been more surprised to find that out!
  • While sis and Mom fell apart at Dad's death, I held it together to take care of all of the business and legal aspects of his life, his death and finances, and rental properties and tenants. 6 months after it was all settled, I crashed, becoming so numb and sleepy that it took walking into a moving car to alert me to the fact that I needed to see a doctor.

I know that these are everyday events, that happen, eventually, to almost everyone. There are accidents, and deaths, and disappointments and crises in everyone's life, as natural order. My reflections on my own minor-serious post-dealings only serve to put into perspective the magnitude of what our soldiers are coming home with.

Three years into starting an organization that rotates around happy little plush toys, I am beginning to talk to and meet more and more soldiers that are sharing stories about their PTSD issues, and about their deployments. I have corresponded with injured soldiers, some briefly and some at-length. I've passed names on to others that want to help, and have lost contact with a few still important to me. I am, for the first time, hearing their stories, stories they are telling, also, for the first time.

It has taken me months to start writing about this, I simply have not been able to find the words, or the mood.

I have, at the recommendation of one, been reading a book that is issued to many soldiers upon coming home, to prepare them for future issues, Down Range: To Iraq and Back, by Bridget Cantrell and Chuck Dean. It's taking me too long to get through the 150-page book, because I can only read a few paragraphs before I hyperventilate.

It's taking me months to write about something that has never happened to me.

I can very well understand how it takes them months or years to deal with, discuss, acknowledge what they've been through. I can also understand why some never do.

And I still know very little, but I'm going to write it. Because it wears on me. It wears on me that I have friends dealing with horrific issues, and it wears on me that my son is in a war zone, and experiencing issues from his first tour. And it wears on me that people are afraid to get help.

Mostly it wears on me that I haven't been one more voice, however small, on one more issue that needs to be screamed from the rooftops.

It's a burden I need to unload. Stay tuned.