A note: There’s a lot of trigger-y, very heavy material in this particular essay, including descriptions of graphic fictional violence (in nightmares) and mentions of sexual violence. I included it to paint as clear a picture I could of what it feels like to have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. All respect given to those who wish not to read that sort of thing: You take care of yourself however you need to.
“Wild,” the film adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, came out this weekend and I know I’ll see it eventually, but it’ll probably be with a pretty heavy heart. I never read the book, either, although I read Tiny Beautiful Things and loved it.
I could just about write a eulogy for the 2014 that wasn’t. In February, I started making plans to quit my job and travel by plane, bike, train, and bus all across the United States. It didn’t work out. Right now, I was supposed to be in Florida visiting an old friend and her baby and trying not to get eaten by alligators.
That was all for the best, as long as “the best” is held to a moderate standard. I’m glad I got to spend my year with my lovely boyfriend and work on our relationship. I’m glad I got a therapist. I’m glad I got off of medications that were doing more harm than good. I’m glad I started writing and ultimately got a full-time job doing it. I’m glad I live in a nice new apartment and have a pretty good idea of what my boundaries are and how to keep myself healthy. That is a textbook definition of “a good life.” Keep reading »
Desperation, depression — and an overwhelming feeling of desertion — are the dangerous components that have contributed to the rising tide of suicide and mental health problems in the military. Just this week it was announced that for the sixth year in a row, suicide among members of the armed forces is on the rise. Mental health has been a growing problem in the military, as waves of soldiers continue to return from Afghanistan and Iraq in much worse shape than they left. New statistics reveal that for the second year in a row, more soldiers have killed themselves than been killed in active duty. July 2012 was the worst month for military suicides to date, with 39 self-inflicted deaths reported. That’s up from 24 the month before. Suicide is now the leading cause of death among soldiers.
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It can be something as little as the time I was standing in a hotel parking lot while on vacation one summer, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man walking toward me. He looked exactly like my father. The closer he got, the larger the lump in my throat became. Or, it can be something a little bigger, like the few dozen times I’ve walked past the building on the campus of Northern Illinois University where my father worked and pictured him galloping up the stairs with a huge smile on his face. Or, even the time when I found the blue-knit cap he wore during the course of his chemotherapy and radiation to treat an aggressive form of sinus cancer and up until the day he committed suicide two weeks after finishing treatment. Or, the smell of his clothes and how they’d remind me of his big bear hugs.
That’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in a nutshell. It’s the body’s way of trying to process the massive stockpile of emotions left in the wake of a traumatic life event. Keep reading »