The day has finally arrived.
I had a friend recently tell me that I should “get over my bullshit”.
I’ve been afraid of this day since I came back from Iraq.
Before going to Iraq, I was dating a girl who saw her fiancee blow his brains out in front of her. This was years before I had ever heard the term “PTSD”.
I suppose it’s my lot in life to deal with it since I was so unsympathetic to hers.
I tried. I spent 4 years getting drunk with her every weekend and listening to the story that I can now recite verbatim. After two or three years, I said, “Hey, have you ever thought about getting help for some of this shit?”
She said “Yeah, but I thought I could deal with it on my own.”
"Well, obviously, you can’t, because we’ve been talking about it every weekend for the past three years."
I remember watching “The Deer Hunter” one night with some friends when she was about to show up from out of town. I had a brief moment of panic, followed by the thought “Fuck her. I’ve been dealing with this shit for 3 years. Do I now have to tailor my cinematic experiences to her as well?” She showed up just in time for the big Russian roulette scene and it was just as uncomfortable as I had imagined it would be, complete with the requisite drinking and crying at 3am that I had envisioned.
I struggled with that relationship for 4 years before I finally had to say “get over your bullshit”.
I’d like to say that she eventually got over it but I looked her up a few months ago and saw a police report from her county in PA saying that she was arrested for public drunkenness on a Sunday afternoon.
It’s ironic that I’m now dealing with the same shit.
When confronted with my “friend” saying “get over your bullshit”, I asked him if he had ever watched anyone die.
I was understandably defensive, because it’s not something anyone wants to hear.
Maybe he was right.
Maybe I should just get over it.
I wish I knew how.
I’ve been to groups and individual counseling. I know there’s something wrong. After years of punching walls and running people off the road, I know there’s a problem.
I went everywhere they told me to go.
Most recently, after trying to attend Obama’s second inauguration, and smashing my bike on the lawn in front of the Washington Monument, I again sought counseling. I never realized that I had such a problem with crowds. I’ve done some reading, and I hear it’s common, but I never realized that I had such a problem with crowds before that day. I was with my girlfriend at the time. The crowds were immense. I was feeling uncomfortable all day, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was that was bothering me. After stopping a few times and being asked, “Do you want to keep going?”, I hesitantly answered “Umm… ok.” My eyes darting around, feeling worse than I had in as long as I could remember, I made my way closer, through thousands and thousands of people. It was important to her, and I wanted her to be happy. Finally, my pants got caught in my bike chain and I screamed, throwing my bike down on the lawn and bending the seat. We had an awkward ride back to my apartment as I apologized profusely.
I went to the VA the next day and asked for help.
I was no stranger to counseling. It’s a fucked up thing to tell your life’s story to a complete stranger. I’ve done it at least five times.
The first time I went to the VA, I was greeted by a man who had absolutely no interest in me and looked up at me over a disheveled desk full of paperwork and said, “What do you want?”
"Umm… I was sent here by some people because I was in a blast and they said that I should probably talk to someone about it…"
"Do you want any medication?"
"Well, then I can’t do anything for you."
I left feeling confused.
I eventually was put in touch with another guy, Dr. Krishnamorithy. I went to see him. I was really freaked out by the whole affair, and sat nervously in a chair while a group of Vietnam vets that looked like extras from Sons of Anarchy conversed in the room next door. A couple of people poked their heads in and asked me if I needed anything. I said no. They told me that “Dr. Krish” was a good guy and that he could be trusted.
When I eventually met him, I wasn’t particularly impressed, although he had many accolades on his wall given by various veteran’s organizations than mean more to me now than they did at the time.
He wanted to know about my childhood and my parents. I was resistant.
"What the fuck does this have to do with Iraq?"
"Well, it’s important to know who you were before in order to find out how the trauma has affected you."
I saw him once a week and didn’t give him shit for a good three or four weeks.
Eventually I started to open up.
I’m looking at his notes as I write this.
"31 year old male active duty in the reserves and in a program now. Pt been treated for some shrapnel injury to 1 cheek and getting treatment for it."
"pt has some flash backs on and off denies being depresed. reports some bad dreams on and off. denies any other PTSD symptoms. pt enjoys music and plays drums and has a girlfriend. denies past psy history."
I read on.
"As is common following emotional trauma, SGT Maiella, despite recognizing that he has been altered by his military experience, is uncertain how seriously he has been traumatized. Since he is in inactive reserves and his physical injuries are healing fast, he expects to regain fully functional emotional status as well. He is impatient and seems to rush head long into a process to get himself well mentally."
It’s been eight years and I’m still impatient and waiting.
"SGT Maiella is beginning to appreciate that trauma counseling will be a lengthy process. He is willing to return for future sessions."
"Overseas duty as follows: Kuwait, Camp Arifjan 10/2004; Iraq Camp Taji/Camp Cooke, (between Baghdad and Fallujah) 2 months, Baghdad 3 month at Camp Liberty, (previous name, Camp Victory). MOS 19D, Reconnaissance."
It’s all so clinical. I’m just a number.
"In Taji, SGT Maiella and his men patrolled the area in a convoy of three armored Humvees. For 3-4 weeks in November-December ‘04 there was no action which was ‘a little disappointing’ but they started to get hit with IEDs."
"Veteran admits to feeling more relaxed, with reduction of all PTSD symptoms. Has not had further episodes of rage."
"Spooked, he asked to be placed on meds, only to stop after a period, due to denial and distrust."
"SGT Maiella has difficulty grasping how profoundly he has been affected by his combat exposure. He seemed to expect that treating emotional trauma should be like fixing a piece of broken machinery. It was noted that he had become emotionally numb and unavailable to meaningful relationships."
It goes on and on.
I won’t bore you with the details.
My point is just that I’ve been asking for help. I attended a 12 week behavioral therapy program after the episode at the Washington Monument. It didn’t save my relationship. It didn’t save the one before that.
Don’t tell a smoker that it will kill him.
Don’t tell a drunk that he’s wasting his time.
Why don’t you ask him why he’s a drunk?
Maybe I’ll never be normal.
To anyone who says “get over it”:
Fuck me for saying it to my ex.
I had no right, and neither do you.
Fuck all of you.