My PTSD Journey has been difficult this month. I don’t know if you have ever been around explosions or been pursued by packs of starving feral dogs. That is part of my life experience that gave me PTSD. Explosions move the air. They shift foundations. You can feel the air move and the ground shake at times even before the sound snaps your ears with pain. You can’t speak or hear without screaming. And, if you fall down, the dogs will eat you. Snap, Crackle, Pop.
Construction, jets plane, large dogs (with inconsiderate owners), and fireworks…all in the merry month of July! And so, my PTSD Journey has been difficult this month. Surprisingly and gratefully, the Stalking Horse has remained stabled in its barn and that is a relief. Yet, other aspects of the PTSD Identity have surfaced due to some hard triggers.
Some of the “interesting times” I experienced in the military took place at and around construction sites. Construction sites and construction noise serve as PTSD triggers for me. For about 20 years I would make a point of making a lengthy detour away from construction areas. As I have lost more of my ability to walk, and there is ever more construction, this has become more and more difficult to avoid. The street in front of the house where I live has been under construction for almost four weeks. At times the hole has been 100 feet long and 30 feet wide as sewer mains are replaced. The jack hammers, shouts, and dirt begin at 7 am and go until 4 pm.
Screaming jet engines from the Air Force Thunderbirds kept me on edge Wednesday through Sunday. Several days of rehearsals as they buzzed the residential districts for the oohs and ahhs of the crowd and the weekend show itself. The air shook. The house shook. One could not talk or even yell to be heard. A brief phone conversation with an Iraqi veteran between low passes by the Air Force informed me he was having some of the same problems. Screaming, low flying, jets trigger some of his PTSD as well. A lot of us thought once we got back to earth from our deployments we would be safe. But we are trailed by our PTSD triggers.
The construction needs to be done. Not a lot I can do beyond ear plugs. But it keeps me from work and productivity, it takes my mind and then my heart rate to back then. The never ending fireworks of July 4th and beyond is not a cause for me to think about democracy. If the Thunderbirds are the best pilots that the Air Force has, then why are they not flying missions in Iraq or Afghanistan to keep our troops alive, missions that matter? Instead we get a dog and pony show that costs a lot of money, diverts resources from soldiers who are in combat, and re-intensifies PTSD triggers for soldiers with PTSD. Thanks Air Force for the Extra PTSD! [Given the AF is more committed to flash and high tech than supporting troops and mission (see any discussion of the F-22 Raptor) we are not surprised.]
It has been a hard month of PTSD triggers. The PTSD has made me less effective and that endangers me due to self-worth issues. I really would prefer to be productive and not so fragile. Teaching theology helps me cope. Talking about this with my wife and other veterans helps. Writing the PTSD Spirituality blog helps. Keeping in relationships helps me stay alive and thrive.
This blog post is really a PTSD success story. While the construction, fireworks, explosions, screaming jets, and unsupervised dogs have triggered my PTSD, the PTSD has not destroyed me. The PTSD Identity has made me harder to live with this last month. I have been less productive this month. But I am alive and the destructive behaviors that go with PTSD have not entirely swamped me. Only a few years ago this would not have been the case.
One might say that it is PTSD 3 and Dr. Z 5. I would have preferred to have aced it 8-0 in my favor. But I know that it could have been 0-8 against me. There is hope. PTSD damages my soul. It does not have to destroy my soul.
This PTSD Spirituality blog post was written while construction equipment shook my house and parts of my soul. And, yes, I am still writing the PTSD and Shamanism posts. They are currently in draft. PTSD does not have to destroy us. Hope gives life. Semper Pax, Dr. Z