I have PTSD. We all know what it is, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I am one of millions who are affected by it each and every day. Millions of men and women who have varying symptoms yet manage to maintain a normal lifestyle. I, along with my cohorts, have been classified as a potential powder keg just waiting on that spark to set us off into a murderous explosion of ire. This is not the case as I am just as normal as you.
At the end of every day I lay my head down in an attempt to sleep. That in itself is no different than you. But when my eyes close and I should be drifting off into a peaceful bliss, my mind takes over and I am tormented in my dreams with a vivid and exaggerated version of every combat encounter witnessed. There has been nary a night that I do not have this, and have not had an uninterrupted night of sleep for years. Yet in the morning, I rise with the consistency of the sun, roll out of my sweat soaked bed, and shake off the remnants of the nightly battles and start my day…just like you.
I am functional in society, but I am a little more vigilant than you, always on the look-out for danger, avoiding large crowds and loud places. But somehow, I can still manage to go out to eat, shop for my clothes and drive my car. I pay close attention to those around me, see the drug deal that just took place on my right and notice the people who just don’t belong in a certain situation. You may not have evil intentions, but I will notice nonetheless.
I have guns. As a matter of fact I just about always have one on me. You see, even though I have PTSD, I am still a Sheepdog watching out for my flock. I don’t brandish my weapon and most of the time you won’t even know I have it on my body, but it is there. I also carry a large knife in my pocket, one that could cause serious injury or death if used improperly. I have never used any of my weapons in a malicious manner and never will, but in my duties as a Sheepdog I will not hesitate to draw down on you should the circumstance warrant it. I am armed, but I am not dangerous.
There are times that I am medicated. My PTSD comes in cycles and when things get bad I need that extra chemical push to regulate me. I accept this and because of it I do not drink. I have other physical problems that could easily warrant an addiction to pain killers, but just like most of us with PTSD, I avoid it.
I have never committed violence in the workplace, just like the vast majority of those who suffer with me. My co-workers know I spent time in the military but they do not know of my daily struggles, and they won’t. I can still communicate with my subordinates and supervisors in a clear manner. I have never physically assaulted anyone out of anger or rage.
It pains me when I listen to the news and every time a veteran commits a crime (or commits suicide); it is automatically linked to and blamed on PTSD. Yes, there are some who cannot control their actions due to this imbalance in our heads, but don’t put a label on us that we are all incorrigible. Very few of us are bad. There are more of us out there that are trying harder to do good than the lesser alternative.
Do not pity me. I know who I am and recognize the journey that has shaped me into what I am. I have no regrets about anything that I have done in the past and look forward to many wonderful years in the future. I freely take every step of life during the day knowing that there is something that will haunt me at night.
For those who are like me, there is help. Seek it out. You were strong enough to make it this far, don’t give up. Dig a little deeper and make that final push. If you do not know where to go or have fallen astray, contact me. I will help. We are all brothers and sisters in this battle that will rage invariably for eternity and the one constant is that we have each other.
To the rest of society and particularly the media: I have PTSD!