PTSD veteran Rehabilitation

The Precipice of PTSD

The Precipice of PTSD

 

The Precipice of PTSD

Most people don’t understand PTSD, the change that happens within a soldier that just gets back from war. Everyone comes back changed, whether they’d like to admit it or not, some worst than others.

In my case, I was the worst.

Not a day has gone by in these past 13 years that I haven’t thought about Iraq and the messed-up things I saw and did there. I have only recently started moving on with my life with the intent to show America what it’s like to be on the battle front, fighting for our country and our lives only to come home to a never-ending battle.

This scene from the first chapter of my book Combat Medic takes place at the precipice of my PTSD, the worst moment of my life.

Preface

Slamming the door, I locked it and rested my head against the wood frame, trying to regain my thoughts. You’re home…you’re safe.

Sunlight is beaming in through the blinds, making it hard to see. Leaning against the marble counter in the kitchen, I set my keys down before wiping the sweat that wasn’t there from my brow. I wondered, Does it ever stop? My angst was making me feel cold. No…it never will. I stared at the floor. What if I was dead? Would anybody really care? I wouldn’t have to deal with this pain anymore. The thoughts; the nightmares…

My lower back throbbed. I pushed myself up on my hands, thrusting my hips back and forth, waiting for the pain to go away. I closed my eyes, put my head down, and started taking deep breaths, trying to calm down.

Standing up I grabbed a glass of water when a loud bang shook the room. My heart started racing; a chill ran through my body. The hearing in my right ear fell out, leaving a high-pitched ringing in the background. My heart jumped then started beating faster. I closed my eyes and saw flashing lights and heard gunfire – echoes and bangs.

I squatted to the ground behind the counter with my eyes wide open staring at the door. A chill ran through my back, into my heart. My jaw started shaking; teeth chattering like I was stark naked in a blizzard.

Someone kicked down the door dressed in battered, torn clothes with dirty rags covering his face. He ran towards me with an AK-47 rifle pointed at my face, shouting gibberish. I felt a rifle in my hand, the weight of the barrel upon my fingers; but it wasn’t there. I felt naked without a weapon, cold and unsafe.

My heart felt like it was being pulled in four different directions. It thumped, pumping me full of cold blood and adrenaline. My mind raced. What should I do? I smelled gunfire and smoke, but I could see that I was in my apartment. Is this real? The back of my throat was sore; there was a bad, acidic taste in my mouth.

I took in a couple of shallow breaths then jumped up and ran over to the kitchen. I grabbed the handle of my 8-inch chef knife and pulled it from the drawer figuring it would be better to have a weapon in case it wasn’t my imagination. I turned toward the door crouched down, waiting for anything that came through.

A minute slowly passed. “This isn’t real.” I thought out loud, “What am I doing? This is crazy.” At that moment excruciating pain shot from my mid-back down to my left foot. It was like someone had sliced my back in half with a searing hot knife. I tried taking a deep breath in, but stopped short when pain wrapped around my lung.

I dropped the knife. Feeling dizzy and nauseated, I slowly walked over to the bathroom, flipped the light on, and stood over the toilet, holding my stomach and head. I was sweating hard now. The room started spinning as an overwhelming smell of gunpowder filled it.

Images from war started shooting through my mind. In one, I was holding pressure on a wound, trying to stop the bleeding from a severed leg. In another, blood was splattered all over a sand-covered ground. Specialist B pointed to the blood, then over to a building. I raised my weapon as we went in for the kill. The last image was of eyes. A pair of glazed over, hauntingly sky blue eyes. They were staring directly into mine. I stared blankly into the toilet, engulfed in those eyes. The sight of death captivated me. I wanted it; it wanted me. It almost had me.

My focus shifted from his eyes to his head. I started to see blood running down his face as it came into focus. A green aid bandage was wrapped around it, attempting to hold his severed skull together. I looked down and saw blood covering my hands. I knew it wasn’t really there, but it all felt so real.

At that moment I felt numb, emptiness grew inside; my chest slowly became cold. Icy blood pumped through my veins. It felt like I was dying; like life was being drained out of me. I started shaking as a chill crept through me. Death enveloped me, clutching my soul with a wanton lust. My spirit quaked as my heart blackened.

Tears started falling down my cheeks as the visions slowly faded away. I felt like a hollow shell, void of any substance of life. Shaking my head I wiped the tears, but kept crying; unable to stop myself.

I walked to my bedroom, empty except for a small dresser. It’s been 7 months since I moved and still no furniture. Saddened, I closed the door and opened the window. A cool breeze blew through. The sun was bright, warm, and comforting. I took in a couple deep breaths; my jaw still jittered from the flashback as I let it out. My shirt was drenched in sweat.

I opened the drawer of the dresser and grabbed my pipe and weed. I ground some up, put it in the pipe and took a couple of long, slow hits. After about 15 minutes I was fully medicated, seeing everything in a haze. I stared out of the window and looked down at the courtyard. A young couple sat at a table drinking wine; talking… they looked happy. I could see smoke rising from the grill next to them and smelled the scent of barbeque.

Everything I was worrying about started to fade away. The pain in my back turned into a slight annoyance. I smiled a grin ear-to-ear and started beat boxing and singing; doing anything and everything to stop thinking about things – the nightmares from hell that still haunt me.

I poured a glass of cold water from the tap. After slamming a couple, the blue eyes started haunting me again. I felt myself sliding back into the other place when my phone snapped me out of the fall.

I looked at the screen and saw that it was Jessica; I answered annoyingly, “Hello.”

“Hi, what are you doing?”

“Just got home from work,” I said sharply. “Why, what’s up?”

“I don’t know; just seeing what you’re doing. You never call me just to talk,” she said, waiting silently for an answer.

I didn’t know what to say. “Sorry, I’ve just been busy.”

“Doing what?”

“Working. You know my hours at work.” I got upset. “Is there something you want?”

“Yeah, I was wondering if you would like to come over and eat dinner with me and Aleah tonight and this weekend? You know… have some family time.”

I was torn, feeling deep in my heart like I wanted to. But then I start thinking about what had just happened. The pain, the flashbacks, I was afraid to leave the house. I missed my daughter so much but I couldn’t drive like this. I lied, “I can’t, I have an appointment later today and I have to work this weekend.”

“Really? You told me you were off,” she said angrily.

“Well Mick asked me to work a couple extra shifts and I said yes.” I got upset again. “What do you want me to do about it? I can’t just say ‘No’ now; it’s work.”

“You never want to spend time with us. Aleah is always asking about you. What should I tell her?”

I felt awful. My heart started to burn.

“I’m sorry, Jessica, but I have to work.” I gave in a little, “I can come over after my shift is done. We can eat and play games. You can tell her I have to work and I’ll see her later.”

“Ok. Whatever,” she said.

Then it went silent for a minute.

“How come you don’t love me?”

“I never said I didn’t.”

“Then why did you leave?”

“Because we argue too much.”

“We argue because you don’t even try to listen to anything I have to say and you yell,” she said.

“You do too!” I quickly chimed in. “All you do is yell and I can’t take it. I don’t need people around me yelling all the time. I can’t handle it.”

“If you loved me you would try.”

My gut started hurting. “I do love you, Jessica; I just don’t know what to do.”

“Talk to me.”

Silence fell again, I felt so bad that we couldn’t get along. I do love her, but the arguments and fights, yelling in front of Aleah… it was too much. I don’t want her to think that is how relationships are. She should have a happy life.

“Ok, Sam! Bye!”

“Tell Aleah I’ll call her tonight. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Yep, bye.” She hung up, her tone saying all she needed to say.

The room fell quiet. I looked down at the phone and thought of all the good times I’ve had with them. The times I’ve curled over laughing when playing with Aleah. Hearing her laughs echoing throughout the house when I tickled her, I loved it… missed it.

How did I get here in this empty apartment, feeling sad and numb inside? I’ve tried my whole life to feel alive; to feel wanted, to be someone special. I joined the Army because it was where I belonged. Fighting for America, saving lives and making a difference, proving to myself that I could do anything, go anywhere.

Now I’m lost, stuck; sealed away in a cave at the center of a deserted world. I want to feel normal again; feel alive, not numb. My past keeps taking over my mind, flooding it with blood and explosions. I want it to end. I want everything to end.

How did I get here?

It was because of the war. Why did I ever sign up to go in? I don’t want to feel like this anymore; alone, struggling to hold onto reality day in and day out. I want a life worth living.”

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Author of Combat Medic : A soldier's story of the Iraq war and PTSD.Served as a combat medic on the front lines in operation Iraqi freedom/ enduring freedom. Medically retired from the Army in 2006 with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, retired from the VA hospital since 2013. After struggling with PTSD and suicide for twelve years I have made it my priority to share my story with as meany people as I can to help America understand what it's like being a combat veteran back home from war. It is my hope that other veterans can relate to my life and take use the same tools as me to live a better life with PTSD.

107 comments on “The Precipice of PTSD

  1. Thank you for your service… I have PTSD from something else. Keep hanging on and thank you for sharing your experience, strength, and hope. I am going to go buy your book.

    Darlene

  2. you are incredibly brave to share this. It cannot be easy. There is no way to appreciate what it is like for you and the other soldiers fighting and experiencing these things. I have read a bit about how service dogs are helping vets with PTSD. I hope it helps you too.

  3. wow, this is just incredible. I’m going to grab it off amazon.

  4. Firstly, thank you for your service and your sacrifice. I appreciate you sharing your story as I can only imagine it is difficult to not only relive but also bare yourself in a raw way. Very interested in reading your book and I know a few others who would be too so I will share.

    Both of my brothers have been soldiers in the Australian army. One brother has since left the army and thankfully wasn’t deployed but my other brother is about to be deployed to Iraq. Although tensions may not be as high now it is still a volatile place and I have seen the pain and suffering our troops endure.

  5. Thank you for sharing! This is something that is hard for me to relate to but I want to be better equipped to understand.

  6. We thank you for your service. And, sorry you had to go through so much. They should have more therapy when people return or have you stay in a place to recover first. The book seems very interesting.

  7. I love reading and would definitely like to read this. I am so sorry for what you’re going through, even though these words don’t mean a thing from a stranger. I have family who served the military and I even attended a military school for 15 years, was in the JROTC program and ALMOST enlisted. I by no means know what you’re going through, but I am very proud of what you were capable off and for fighting with this syndrome alone. THANK YOU.

  8. Wow, Sam, this is powerful stuff. I have dealt with PTSD too and I know how challenging it is when life turns into a waking nightmare. Thanks for being so open and honest about your experience! I hope it’s gotten better for you.

  9. You’re a very talented writer. You had me captivated from the very beginning. I even started getting anxious while reading. I’m so sorry to hear that’s what you’re going through, but I’m happy that you’re bringing more awareness to PTSD. Maybe the more other people try and understand what PTSD survivors are going through, the better we can help in whatever way is needed. Thanks for sharing your story. I’m going to see if I can’t find it on Amazon.

  10. Thanks for your service. This is powerful reading and heartbreaking. It really gives us civilians a clearer idea of what it was and is like for you. Please know our prayers are with you and all of our active/vet military.

  11. Its so emotional Reading!! Will grab this from amazon !! Life is more worth then anything else

  12. I can’t even begin to imagine what you went through back then, and what you are experiencing now. I tip my hat to you for sharing something so troubling.

  13. connectedcolleague

    Your writing is very powerful, I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to hold onto all of those feelings and memories. I’m not sure where you are at now but as a mother/wife all I can say is that both Jessica and Aleah want you around no matter what, no matter how damaged you think you are. Love in unconditional and I hope you are able to see some light through their love. All the best and I’m glad you have found writing as an outlet.

  14. Thank you for your service and Thank You for sharing your story. I have PTSD from something else but I can not imagine what war must be like. Your writing is very clear and vivid. I wish you all the best in your healing from PTSD.

  15. Thank you for your service and sharing this very personal post with us. I can’t even come close to imagining what it would be like to be in your position. Keep going cause you got this

  16. mymommaheart

    Thank you for this. I appreciate your vulnerability in writing and know how hard it can be to share your story.

  17. jvankleeck

    Thank you for sharing your story. This is a riveting preview to your book and I could not
    Stop reading. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for your service.

    Jessica

  18. Damares

    Such a story !
    I’m leaving with some traumas from past experiences too, far from war…
    I can’t imagine what you have to go thru. :/

  19. Thank you for your service and sharing your experiences with us. My brother is in the army, and I would like to read this to get a better understanding of what happens when you’re deployed.

  20. Thank you for your service and for sharing your story.

  21. I can never begin to comprehend how you feel…howevet, thanks for letting us into your life.

  22. This post was awesome. Thank you for sharing. You are very brave, not only to go to Iraq, but to share your experiences and how you were affected. God bless.

  23. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and not being too afraid to let us into your world.

  24. Thanks man I’m a Canadian infantry veteran from Bosnia conflict. I been living with ptsd for about 25 year . I just finished a trial treatment of prolong exposure in Melbourne Australia where I live now I think it’s making a difference. I couldn’t read this post in one sitting I’ll try again a bit later . You know what i Mean.I’ll go to any length to stay alive

  25. You are a brave soul, and I thank you for your service. I’m also glad you are at a point where you can speak on your experience and your dealing with the matter in an effective way. Stay bless and strong!

  26. myneisslife

    This topic can’t be discussed enough. Thank you for sharing your story to help others!

  27. What a powerful post. PTSD is such a hard disease to live with and to explain to others. Great post.

  28. Oh my, I can’t even imagine everything that you went through in the war. I wish things would get well with you and your family soon.

  29. You are a great writer! I am sorry that you have had to go through so much though. I think more should be done to support veterans who have come back from war.

  30. politicallycorrectparent

    A truly touching story. Thank you for your service. I don’t think people really realize that your service doesn’t end after you get out, your mind and body continue to serve for years and sometimes a lifetime. We appreciate the sacrifice that you have made for us and please know that as a politically active person I am continually fighting to make sure that you are afforded the rights and supports that you need now that you are out of service. THANK YOU!

  31. I can’t begin to pretend like I know what you went through, and continue to go through. I commend you for sharing your experiences and for your service to protect your country!

  32. elizabethbrico

    Wow, this is excruciating and heartbreaking. I can’t imagine what it was like for you to go to war. I cannot imagine…I do have PTSD, so I understand that part. People who have never experienced a flashback cannot fully comprehend how utterly terrifying it is. Even after it’s over…knowing that it could happen again; that suddenly, without warning, you could lose track of your surroundings and be transported back to a place of extreme danger…it’s a terrible way to live. I still have a lot of really difficult symptoms, but it’s been a few years since I’ve had a full-on flashback, and for that I am grateful.

    I blog about living+parenting with PTSD. If you’d ever like to do a guest post exchange let me know..I also do book reviews every other week; if you’re interested in having your book featured, contact me. I would just ask that you provide a complimentary copy and be available for a brief emailed author interview as well? I also have a monthly parenting interview for parents with PTSD or other mental illnesses…so far they have all been mothers. I would love to feature a father, if you’re at all interested in that. Anyway, I’ve left a lot here, I’m sorry! Oh also I have a biweekly linky that converts to a permanent link library once it closes…basically amounts to free blog traffic; if you’d ever like to leave a link I’d be honored! The current one is themed “recovery.” All of this is on my blog, bettysbattleground.com

    Anyway, I am really grateful to you for sharing your experiences. People need to better understand the intense struggle that those of us living with PTSD go through on a daily basis.

  33. This post goes on to show that you are such a brave man to have fought the war as well as everything from the war! This post gave me goosebumps!

  34. Wow thank you for sharing this, it’s something that I’d like to read more about.

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  36. From the bottom of my soul, thank you for your service. My heart breaks for anyone who fights so hard to have to deal with this. We’ll never be able to repay you.

  37. ohshesahotmess

    My heart aches. My whole heart. I am not going to lie to you. I WANTED so bad to stop reading. I normally make it half way into a post and get somewhat bored. I have never wanted to look away so bad. But your story has brought out a fear in me that I thought was buried. Hmmm. Time to examine that huh?

  38. Thank you for your service… And fr being brave enough to share with us…

  39. Thank you for your service to our country. This isn’t an east topic so thanks for sharing this. Your writing is powerful and hits the heart.

    Kimberly
    http://www.brunchandgloss.com

  40. You are brave to have shared this piece.

  41. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.I really needed first hand experience from a soldier’s POV and I got what I needed.

  42. And your story teared me up.I am pretty sure you will get your life back soon.Healing takes time.I suggest you take things slowly day by day.

  43. Thank you for your voice and your courage both! I am glad this topic is getting more mainstream exposure. I have been thinking lately about this topic, though its really not the right direction for my own blog. I think, as controversial as it sounds, that there are some things that PTSD can actually teach us. If you had a recommendation of where I could submit a guest post on, I would greatly appreciate it!

  44. Reblogged this on Art by Rob Goldstein and commented:
    from Combat Medic

  45. I posted this excerpt on FB. I wish you the best of life. I also wish I knew how to achieve that for you.

  46. You are a brilliant writer and it takes a lot of courage to write about something so painful. I admire you!!

  47. Thank you for your sacrifice and service. I lost a beloved nephew seven years after his return from Iraq to cardiomyopathy related to his service, He suffered terribly from PTSD as well. My heart goes out to you and your family. You were asked to give your souls. I will get your book.

  48. Damn man, that was powerful. Thank you for sharing your experiences, it takes balls to put yourself out there like that. I wish you the best of luck in the future. I have to share this on FB.

  49. Well written, Sam. You really have a way to make the dialogue come to life.

  50. I am so pleased you are sharing your story. It is important to get it out there, blogging about it. I have a friend who just filmed a short (a 30 minute film) about a woman who was in Iraq, lost a limb and what it was like for her to adjust to not only that but PTSD, He is still raising money to promote it, but it can sometimes be a slow process. Glad you shared your story and thanks too for your service.

  51. Thank you for your service. I hope you’ve found somewhere you can get help for the PTSD. I’ve never known someone with that problem. My husband had bipolar disorder and suffered from it for years. It was made worse by the fact he refused to believe he had it even though he was diagnosed by three doctors at a mental health facility. Take care and I’ll pray for you and your family. —- Suzanne

  52. My heart goes to out to you. This is such an incredible story that needs to be shared. You are definitely not alone in your struggles and triumphs, and I’m sure your book will connect with many.

  53. Thank you for your service. It’s a such a different thing to read – because it’s hard to hear that people go through what you do. I hope you are able to recover soon. Good luck on your novel!

  54. Thanks for your service brother. I finally got help through our local VA. I resisted but my wife insisted. I had reservations about my therapist, what could she know about what I saw, lived every moment of every day? But she introduced me to Cognitive Behavior Modification Therapy and it changed my life. It was the most difficult and rewarding experience of my life.

  55. What a post… Post of full emotions, this is sad. I hope for you and for everyone who live the situation that things would get well soon.

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  57. Very powerful writing. I hope you find a way through all this. Take care.

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