I took a walk this morning in the crisp fall air.  This is such a beautiful time of year, and at one time, it was by far my favorite time of year.  Since Iraq, however, it has become bittersweet with the painful anniversary memories.  Unfortunately, it was this time of year that many of the most painful experiences of my deployment and my subsequent PTSD occurred.  So, I most certainly enjoy the brilliant, contrasting tree-bouquets of vivid, lively orange, yellow, and red leaves which brightly reflect the slanting fall sun-light, the waning light which gives sweet whispers of promised, quiet, peaceful rest, the novelty of the cooling weather after a long, hot summer, long walks in the forest with my heart and soul soaking up all the peace and beauty, the woody smell of the dying leaves lying all about, the clean, fresh, crispness of the air, the crunchy crackling sounds of each step crushing the fallen leaves in my path, or the swhooshing sound as I plow through the ankle-deep blanket of curled, jagged leaves, the coziness of being wrapped up in a soft, warm blanket on a cool fall evening in the dwindling hours before I retire for the night, and so many other sweet memories and experiences. 

Yet, lying among these beautiful memories, hidden away like many coiled-up, angry, serpents on the verge of striking, there are so many strong, painful memories during this time of year. The separation from my family was one.  Another one was having to quietly, stoically bear the tremendous stress and pain that I already felt even before deployment thanks to two very demanding bosses, one of which was supportive of all my efforts, the other, however, being a very critical, legalistic, perfectionist.  Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting to do a good job and to provide good services to those many thousands of soldiers that were affected by the work and decisions of me and my team of soldiers and civilians.  However, some military leaders never learn the lesson that those people “out there” are certainly important, but those people close around you, helping you to accomplish the mission, are also important.  I think, maybe, that these men and women may forget about the feelings, welfare, and morale of those working closest to them because they narcissistically view these people, not as independent, autonomous, sentient, emotive beings, but rather as extensions of their own ego.  It’s just a hunch.

In any case, I subconsciously and spontaneously fall prey to these lurking emotions linked to unpleasant memories which reactivate, triggered by the sameness of conditions (smells, sights, sounds, feelings, etc.).  Many times, they take me unaware.  Sometimes, I can feel them coming on, building up, like the “cup filling” metaphor used by the late David Hackworth (1930-2005).  I was trying to describe my PTSD to a student this week comparing it to ADHD.  Sometimes my PTSD experience is akin to that of people suffering from ADHD.  There is a certain point at which too much interaction with people, too much stimulus, or too much of intensive or emotional experiences can overwhelm me.  I can sense when I need to just get away from people and go to a quiet, safe, secure place so that I can stop the cup from filling any further, certainly before it overflows and I do something drastic or over-the-top, and so that I can, perhaps, let the cup drain out a little until I feel calm and confident enough to be among people again.

I did not intend to wander into such negative territory with the subject matter, but perhaps these explanations may help someone to understand a little about themselves or a loved one who is suffering from PTSD. 

I pray that you will be immersed in the peaceful, warm, tender, comforting love of our Glorious Lord and Savior Jesus who loves you far beyond what you can comprehend in this temporal world.

 


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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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