It was this moral injury which initiated my rapid downward spiral into the PTSD symptoms which I started experiencing mere months into my deployment to Iraq.  But I was already predisposed to PTSD from some childhood trauma, family problems which I do not want to divulge here to avoid embarrassment to anyone in my family (to protect the innocent as well as the guilty).  According to one study I found during my research, that childhood trauma made me four times more likely to  develop PTSD from my combat experiences.  I was already emotionally wounded with the wounds lying just below the surface, barely covered over by various coping mechanisms I had adopted over the years, some good and some very dysfunctional.  I know that I probably put my poor wife through a lot of grief over the years as I was trying to grapple with these issues that, at the time, were beyond my understanding or power to resolve.  In the early days of our marriage, I did not deal very well with those times when I felt emotionally wounded by her actions, real or imagined (negatively interpreted in my ignorance).  In those days, I had absolutely no notion of how two people in a relationship were supposed to work through such emotions.  I guess we are all a little naïve in the early days of our marital or deep romantic relationships.  There is so much to learn in life. 

I really did not desire to hurt my wife, but the emotional wounds that I had deep inside made me so vulnerable that it was almost impossible for me to trust enough to share my feelings or thoughts with her.  Furthermore, at those times of emotional wounding, I was plunged into a dark world of despair each time, thinking that no one in the world cared for me.  Most likely Satan was egging on those thoughts because He is quite good at leading our thoughts astray and an expert at making us miserable.  The good thing is that God has been at work in me ever since I was saved at the age of eight.  And every time that I went into these emotional whirlwinds, I would eventually turn to Him in desperation and ask for His help.  I would confess to Him that I was hurting but that I really did not want to hang onto that emotional pain.  However, I just didn’t know how to let go of it or how to cope with the seemingly overwhelming pain, so I needed Him to change me and take away the pain so that I could simply forgive my wife for whatever real or imagined injury that I believed she had caused me at the time.  Praise God that He is supremely faithful.  He did answer my cry for help every single time.  And over the course of so many years, He has replaced my pain with the strength of His spirit and replaced my wounds with His peace that passes understanding.  He has also matured me well beyond the power of that pain and the fears.  His perfect love truly does "cast out fear" (1 John 4:18) and emotional pain as well.  Unfortunately, in order to heal me, He had to allow me to be completely broken, to be plunged back into complete emotional turmoil from my combat experiences.   He had to reopen the wound completely to begin healing me from the current wounds from those experiences in Iraq and to heal the deeper, older wounds that fed into and were the genesis for my PTSD.

I have written previously about one of the sources of my moral injury while in Iraq:  the constant reporting of the combat deaths from our soldiers and the enormous pain I felt at delving into the lives of each one as well as the tremendous guilt I felt from being alive while these brave men and women died, bringing unspeakable pain to their families.  Another source of the moral injury was from the completely harrowing experience of living in and working in a combat zone.  I was away from my family and I missed them so desperately.  I hurt even more about the separation because I needed their presence and their comfort to help me cope with all that I was going through in Iraq, but they could not be there.  And being in a combat zone is hard on almost everyone.  There is, of course, the constant danger.  Moreover, there are the long, exhausting days with little or no rest.  Most of us worked ridiculously long days, often beginning work at 5 or 6 AM and, with short breaks for meals (which I often skipped in order to keep working at whatever critical problem my boss had laid upon me), we continued working until 10, 11, or even 12 at night.  At most we would get a few hours of sleep at night, and if you were in a leadership position like I was, you didn’t sleep well because of all the worries about the various problems on the job and worries about your people.  Additionally, leaders such as myself were frequently woken up during the few hours of sleep we had and required to return to the operations cell in the bleak hours of the morning to deal with some critical problem that seemed to be above the capability of our teams to resolve. 


I pray that God's comforting presence will be with you, strengthening you and encouraging you throughout your day.

 


Comments

04/20/2017 3:53am

I need to to thank you for this fantastic read!! I certainly enjoyed every little bit of it. I have you book-marked to look at new things you post.

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    I'm a retired soldier, having spent 23 years of my life serving our country, actually 30 years when you count the reserve and National Guard time as well.  I believe in servant leaders, following the example of our Lord, and I believe in giving back to the troops once one has attained a certain status or level of success in life.  But I also believe in fighting back against corruption and incompetence wherever you find it if it hurts people.  Our national values were worth dying for.  They are also worth living for.  A man or woman can actually live a life by these principles of humility, service, love, duty, and honor, and have a significant impact on the world around them...if you have the dedication to see it through. 

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