Photo credit: Paul Townsend
Editor’s note: Go here to read parts I-III.
By 1980 I had learned to cope with my PTSD and didn’t need the alcohol crutch anymore. I still had anger issues and did some pretty crazy things mostly because I didn’t fear death. I felt then, and still feel, that I have been living on borrowed time since my combat in Vietnam. I’m amazed that I lived through those times and often feel that my name should be listed on the Vietnam Memorial. I mentioned doing crazy things and I’ll give you a few examples. I was cut off in traffic by a car that had five guys, all younger than me, in it. I forced them to the curb, got out of my car, reached in the window and grabbed the driver by the hair and began yelling at him. I told him “if you ever do that to me again, I’ll rip your head off and shit down your neck”. Then I yelled “you got that punk?” They were staring at me like I was nuts, the drivers only response was “Yes, sir.” A guy behind me at an intersection honked his horn at me as soon as the light changed, I put my car in park and walked back to his car and told him that if he beeped at me again he would be honking his horn every time he farted because I’d jam it up his ass. I then got back in my car and waited until the light began to change to red before I drove away.
There are more things similar to this that happened but I think you can see how irrational I was. I couldn’t keep a job for any length of time. The longest stretch until after 1980 was for about a year with most lasting just a few days. I always had anger simmering just below the surface. Once I had on the job training for four days and when I was preparing to start my first unsupervised day on the job the boss started going over everything again. I said “Fuck you, you already told me all this shit, I quit,” then I walked out and never returned. Some little thing would happen that I didn’t like and I was gone.
I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t learned to cope. … Now you know what a person with PTSD goes through on a regular basis and why it is so necessary that they be treated well. I’ve talked to quite a few counselors, including psychiatrists and psychologists, off the record even though I have never undergone counseling. Unfortunately many of them believe that the best way to treat PTSD is with drugs such as Prozac which just turns people into zombies. When my PTSD was finally diagnosed in 2000 one of the first things I told the psychologist was that I wouldn’t take any medication for it.
By that time I had figured out how to cope with my PTSD and live a normal life or at least a semi-normal one. I could have probably gotten a diagnosis much earlier in life but, like the majority of veterans, was leery of the stigma attached to a disease which is listed in the DSM, a manual used to diagnose mental problems. One of the most difficult things for people who suffer from a traumatic event or traumatic events is that having PTSD does not mean that you are crazy. Many, including me, were afraid that people would judge them harshly if they admitted that they had PTSD so years pass by before they are willing to admit it. The worst thing about it is that, as I did, they see themselves as normal with the rest of the world being screwed up.
Lots of love and big hugs,