Our Lives With Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury

What I learned from being shot, my PTSD

This past week in treatment here at the hospital has been exceptionally difficult for me, I have really been letting the environment cloud my mind and hamper my recovery. It has severely constrained my thinking and ability to address my issues at hand. Instead of the facing the issues and problems,  such as; taking someone’s life, that I have severely damaged my marriage through bad decisions, and that I live in constant pain from being shot.  Rather, I have been focusing on the small things, the enviromental distractions, hell I was blaming Elizabeth for stuff and shes 1000 miles away. But I have realized that I choose to focus on little things: like the bathroom door being locked, not being able to throw a dip in, no hot water in the showers, crappy food, and even yelling at Elizabeth because she went to a concert.

So why did I do these things?…that is the sixty four thousand dollar question.

I will tell you why,  I did those things because I didnt want to face my deamons, which ties directly to PTSD.
I started my inpatient treatment here with my doctors relatively light, but then ramped it up significantly in the very next session. I sat down with them and explained to them (seperately, i have a social worker and pychartrist) almost all of my problems, from having volatile outbursts, a shitty father, to a having killed other human beings, I told it all. I have never done that with anyone, never, and honestly, it was brutal, it felt like I was being stabbed in the heart with a rusty screwdriver. To sit there and listen to myself say all those things I had done was horrible, but whats worse, was knowing that my wife and kids were on the receiving end of that.  But it was worth listening too, because I discoverd something, something  I think is at the core of my PTSD. It is that I am using other things around me, kids fighting, bad dreams or whatever I can think of to not have to actually deal with my issues. Does that make sense? 

Basically, it boils down to this, I’ll use my being shot and being in pain for an example.  My pain level directly correlates to my behavior and attitude, so if my pain level is high so is my irratability, if the pain is low than so is the anger and so on an so forth.  But  when my anger is high I blame my behavior on something else, my kids being loud, fighting, they are running in the house, anything. When really thats not the issue, I’ve just made it that way because I can not control my pain and anger, which comes from being shot.  But the crazy part is, is that it’s not actually about the physically pain, which I am able to control now through meds, it’s about that anger and hopelessness when I was actually shot.  

I have learned that everytime I feel that pain in my leg, I go back to that horrible place, laying there in the street of a third world country,sweating, filthy, bleeding, in excruciating pain, wondering if I going to die, if I’m ever going to see my wife or my son again (Tristan was the only one at that point). It’s a horrific feeling, but one that I have never been able to let go of, hopefully, until now. 

So every time my pain level goes up in my leg I associate that with the fear, anger and hopelessness of that moment and then I externalize it towards my environment around me. And instead of facing the pain and anguish of being shot, I pick out other things, such as the bathroom door being locked, not being able to throw a dip in.  So for all this time I was trying to address being angry at those things and trying to fix my environment, when all I really had to do was address my actual issue, of being shot and the anger and hopelessness that i felt at that time, and the things around me will become less of a burden and will most likely not cause all those problems. 

So for me this is a huge step in realizing how severly PTSD  can affect you when it goes unchecked or untreated.  This is not to say that I am fully recovered and am healed, no, but know that i now what i need to address, i can curtail my symptoms and hopefully they will not affect my daily life as much anymore.

9 responses

  1. haagx5

    I’m so proud you of, you’re making true progress! I love you.

    July 1, 2012 at 9:17 pm

  2. veteranscourtsnationwide

    Hello my brother…first I want to tell you that you have people out here that are praying for you even though we have never met we will always have a connection to each other. I know and I mean I can honestly tell you I do know how you feel inside. Please I know right now it’s hard to trust anyone more less someone you have never met in person. I want you to know I am not here to preach to you but to be totally honest with you. There will be times what I say might piss you off but Marine Up. Here we go hang on for the ride of your life.

    When I read your posting I started having flashbacks and thinking about when I was in your shoes. I blamed everything and everyone about my own issues not even knowing it. My pride and addiction to pain pills and anxiety medication almost killed me.

    I gave up on everything and lost everything I have ever loved or owned. I became homeless living in a shelter here in Dallas thousands of miles away from my hometown in Indiana where all of my family was not even knowing what happened to me. I was in and out of mental wards at the VA, five times since 2007. I knew I had to do something and I just got tire of being sicken tired. All my life I was this professional soldier who would never ask for help because of my pride.

    It took me to hit rock bottom and to lose everything including my family, kids, car, and house. I blamed my pain on everything just because I could not blame anyone else anymore. You must remember this is not the man who left for combat. That man will never come back but I give you my word you can become a new man and even a better person than the one before. You have got to find your new purpose in life and live it. Do not look back.

    Today I like to say I don’t regret one thing in my life not one. I am the man I am today because of my past and the actions I took. You take one part of that good or bad out and I am not the man I am today. I no longer look through the rear view mirror or the side windows. I keep my attention to the front windshield never looking back. I promise myself first I will beat this monster there is no way in hell it’s going to take the most important things from me again. That is my family and kids…today grand kids.

    You must pull yourself together, fight and I mean fight with everything you have in you, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER give up as we say it in the Rangers. I know you believe in that part.

    Do NOT EVERY LOWER YOUR HEAD TO NO ONE… do you hear me. You are a HERO you did what you had to do and you made it back home. You owe it to your fellow brothers and sisters to fight…to every last one that could not come home.

    You want to talk about pain my brother we can talk that is not the real problem here. It is something right now that you only have to blame. I gave 24 years of my life to the army and worked with many of my fellow brothers like you who saved my ass many times. GOD BLESSES MY FELLOW MARINES.

    You are now at a point in your life that you know why you feel the way you do. That’s the good part and I am proud of you. It takes one hell of a man to understand what you wrote and another one to post it on line. You are on your way my brother. Your family and friends need you and want you. Yes we will always have to deal with these issues, but they do get easier day by day…step by step.

    I will let you go for now. I know you are going to beat this and this time next year you will look back and remember this letter that some dumb ass soldier wrote to you and you will just smile. Life will get better…never forget where you came from but more important
    remember what you have waiting for you.


    HOOAH !!!

    July 1, 2012 at 10:10 pm

  3. You don’t know me or my family, but you can be sure about one thing: we’re cheering for you! Best wishes in your recovery from Joint Base Lewis-McChord!!!

    July 2, 2012 at 10:59 am

  4. Takes alot to get to the point that you are at in this post. One step in the right direction. Just take it a day at a time. We are here for you and Elizabeth and the kids whenever you need us.

    July 2, 2012 at 12:38 pm

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  6. You have come a long way to find healing. You are doing great and never doubt how much support you have out here every day. We are all here for you and that is never going to change. Know that you are in my prayers and I have no doubt that you are going to beat this thing and overcome it too. You have overcome a lot of obstacles in life and this is just one more. I admire your sharing your journey with others. Even by doing that you are helping others from that hospital. God bless you sir. You are an inspiration to all by fighting this battle. And we are all going to keep fighting for you with our support and being there for you. Please let us know how you are doing. Sometimes the hardest thig to overcome in life is ourselves. I am so proud of you for facing all this. And as it has been said before, you will look back on all this one day not so far off in the future, and remember with sweet bitterness the pain that introduced you to a brand new life. You have so much goodness awaiting you and the future is full of promise. You are a hero to me and again, I am proud of you man. You are awesome! God bless you!

    July 3, 2012 at 3:04 am

  7. veteranscourtsnationwide

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Try and stay positive as much as you can. You have a lot of people who are thinking of you. Rick and Millie HOOAH !!!

    July 4, 2012 at 10:43 am

  8. Jason, there are so few men who can really reach deep down and face their demons. Men who haven’t even been through a quarter of what you’ve been through….I know you aren’t completely healed, but you are *heal-ING”…which is HUGE. And….you’ve made the *choice* to. There are people who are forced into healing kicking and screaming and it doesn’t go anywhere because to truly heal you have to want it for yourself. Thank you for sharing your heart with everyone. It’s encouraging!

    July 4, 2012 at 5:00 pm

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