PTSD & the Crap that comes with it.

 I used to love going to concerts and festivals. I loved the atmosphere, the buzz of people going here and there. The energy and the excitement in the air. The smell of food vendors cooking the laughter of friends reliving old memories. YEA… I loved these things.

I can remember when all that change for me. I went to pain in the grass at White River Amphitheater when I had just come back from deployment. The things that I had once enjoyed had now become overwhelming and frightening. The hustle and bustle of the crowd no longer exude excitement for me, but anxiety. I had once enjoyed the business and people and the chatter as they walked by but now that was replaced with a sense terror. A sense that I had to be on high alert watching every possible person because they could be a potential threat. Their movements their hands who they were talking with what they were saying it all became overwhelming. The smell of food vendors that I had once enjoyed and now been replaced with the smell of body odor and trash. The body odor, trash and Porta-Johns had always been there. But somehow I had never noticed them before. But the smells I think we’re the worst, they triggered memories of my deployment that had been seared into my brain. The memories would come back as a rush flooding through my mind and overwhelming my senses. I would feel almost in a daze as if I wasn’t quite in reality. Like I was on some obscure edge of reality looking in, coming in and out have a Consciousness I did not understand. The uneasiness gave way to anxiety and then panic, and I can remember leaving before the headliners even took the stage.

So some Ten Years Later here I am. Standing at the threshold of what I will be my first concert experience since the amphitheater. Some very good and well-meaning friends head got me and my wife tickets to the Willie Nelson concert. I love Willie Nelson I grew up listening to his music so I was conflicted about the evening. On the one hand I was excited to see Willie Nelson perform, a man who had only heard through the radio and had listen to my entire life. But on the other hand I felt panic. Would I be able to make it through the concert, what if I have a panic attack, would I embarrass myself and my wife in front of my friends? I thought perhaps I will just graciously accept the tickets and at the last minute back out come up with some reason why I couldn’t attend and apologize profusely. You see it’s just not the panic and anxiety that I was worried about. For me and my PTSD it betrays my body. I’ve learned to manage the anxiety so that it does not lead into a panic attack. Well for the most part anyway. But I still cannot fully control the way my body malfunctions. Anytime I’m under high stress or anxiety the diarrhea kicks in. It’s almost instantaneous. I know it is coming I can feel the shortness of breath the heart palpitations and I can breathe through a those. I can calm my mind and bring myself to a place I’m calm. Well for the most part anyway. But with a panic and anxiety I know but the diarrhea is coming.

As you can see I keep my truck well stocked with various remedies for such a problem. With all the overseas travel I have done I have had many opportunities to fine-tune the medications that I take to alleviate this problem. I had I even have prescription strength medication for serious bouts. I keep them on hand and at the ready never knowing when I may need them. Tonight would be no exception. I research the tickets that my friends had bought they were good seats. It was a private section with private bar private food and private restrooms. It was off to the side away from The Fray of the crowd. Large Lounge seats and an older crowd. I couldn’t have asked for a better seat for the concert. The anxiety I once fell at the gate as we entered quickly dissipated when I assessed the seating and the venue. It was an outdoor venue surrounded only by a 6-foot fence it would be easily scalable in an emergency. Two exits to my rear and one to my right. The main body of the crowd to my left and front. If there was an emergency I would be well out of the way of the oncoming crowd. All of these things I assessed at a moment’s notice. I was able to calm my mind and put myself at ease. That is except for my digestive tract. Within just a few minutes of being inside the venue I felt the call. I made my way to the private restrooms but there was already a line 10 people deep. I was thankful for the private section and private restrooms so I could only imagine what the rest rooms look like for the main menu. I popped 2 prescription strength pills to alleviate the issue, but it was already too late, my guts are already churning. I made my way to the grey little porta john trailer, rolling blue paluka, whatever you call it. They were more upscale then your standard porta-john but still had a cramp feel and overwhelming stench one would expect. As luck would have it the door install that I selected did not have a lock. You could tell that one had once been there and since been broken off. So there I was half panicked, bubble guts, fumbling around in the crampness of the porta-john attempting to use it all the while holding the door shut praying that no one would try to open it. As I sat there all I could do was laugh. Laugh so I wouldn’t cry. Why did I let myself get to this point? Why had I not just stayed home? Why am I still here? As the pressure in my stomach subsided and I left the cramped quarters are the porta-john I did feel some relief. But there was a twinge of worry. What if the pills didnt work fast enough and I ended up running to the bathroom all night.

Well the pills did work. And I didn’t end up using the restroom again that night. The concert was actually quite enjoyable I had fun with my wife and my friends I enjoy the evening and toward the end even got close enough to the stage to where I could see the wrinkles on old Willys face. I’m glad that I just sucked it up that I pushed forward and I didn’t allow my previous failures to dictate my future

Will I attend another concert? I dont know. But I will at least consider it. I can not limit myself based on my fears.

What I have learned while living with ptsd is that I have to push forward and challenge myself daily. If I am not advancing, then I am retreating. Marines never retreat, we never surrender.

Sgt Q -Out

Self doubt.

This is a problem I have had ever since returning from Iraq. I will worry and stress of every decision I make. It used to be a crippling issue for me. It would alway give way to a panic attack.

I never had this problem before the war. I was a go-getter. At 17 I joined the Marines. 5’5 and 125 lbs, and I joined the toughest military branch in the world. People would often look at me sideways when they found out that I had joined. It was a look of “are you sure thats a good idea.” I guess I never really noticed my small stature, but now as I look at my 16 year old son, who is the same size I was when i joined, I know why people looked at me funny. I often wonder how I made it. How I was able to join 1st Anglico, become a master parachutist and close combat instructor.

I had no fear, no worry. I never douted I could do it.nothing seemed impossible for me. People would stand around and talk about doing something, but I was the guy who just jumped in and started doing it. Im not sure why, I was always wired that way I guess.

I remember driving to Mainside with my Sgt. Sgt Wade. While we were there camelback was doing a demo for the now standard hydration packs we carry. They were doing a pushup competition and you could win a camelback if you placed in the top 3. There was a croud of Marines standing around watching 2 or 3 guys pumping out reps. All talking about the 2 or 3 guys participating. All talking about how they would do it different or how they could do more than the other guys but they werent going to try because they had already lifted for the day.. bla bla bla. I stood around for about a minute before joining the competition. It was simple, whoever could do the most pushups without quitting. You could rest, but only the front leaning rest. (Pushup position)

All said and done I did 217 consecutive pushups and won a camelback. I still have it today and take it sometimes on the missionfield.

Think about that. 217 pushups. How many of us could do 50, or even 20 right now? Looking back I even have a hard time believing I did it. I had no fear, I never douted I could do it, and win.

But all that changed when I came back from deployment. Anxiety, panic, nightmares. They slowly chipped away at my self confidence. I nolonger felt invincible. I began to question myself. Question every choice I made and run it over and over until I completely shut down. I dont know if you do the same thing, I dont know if you lost that fearless side of yourself, but if you did… getting it back will be a long arduous journey filled with highs and lows. I have never gained back that fearlessness. I am still afraid when I do most anything. Leading teams on the missionfield, presenting Operation Restore Hope or even going to a grocery store can and do often strike the fear chord in my heart. I will second guess myself. I lay awake in the early mornings worried I won’t be able to preform. Asking myself why am I doing all this? Why dont I just quit and walk away?

The fear of failure is a heavy burden.  Before Iraq there were no real consequences for failure. But in Iraq, failure meant death. This became all to real on deployment. I guess that is why I am now so afraid of it. ( this is a revelation I am making for the first time. It is strange to share it with you in its raw form. A thought that reveals a darker part of myself that I didnt know was there.)

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.            2 Timothy 1:7

This is Paul writing to Timothy to encourage him as he went out to preach the gospel. He knew Timothy was afraid but he went anyway.
I still do things. I still accomplish goals, but I am almost always afraid when I do it. I used to think I was brave because I was fearless. Now I know true bravery is being afraid and moving forward anyway.

-Sgt Q

 “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”…He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.  You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.  A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you…For he will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways…“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.  He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him…” from Psalm 91:1-16