Emotion, PTSD, and common misunderstanding

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…

#PTSDDaddy Emotion, PTSD, and common misunderstanding.

I am taking a moment to break away from the “Triggers” discussion. First off, thank you to all of those who have read and been reading my posts. It’s important to me to put these together to help unite. All I can do is tell you how it is from my perspective, and hope it helps others 1) understand a bit better and 2) realize that PTSD is our own personal enemy, with the right tactics, preparation, training and conditioning, we can win. I do not know about you but I did not live through countless firefights and IED’s to come home and be defeated by PTSD! You shouldn’t either!

Emotion, PTSD, and common misunderstanding I have been in deep thought lately about emotion and my “lack of” emotion. A few days ago I told my wife that I loved her, and that has been the first time in YEARS that I FELT that word when I said it. Love. It’s funny how perspective on life and war changes the basics of how emotion is interpreted by a somebody. This had me thinking a few different things so hold on for the ride, and try to keep up.

I was thinking about death and how I view death vs. the rest of my family and friends who haven’t served or who haven’t deployed before. Often times I see how I can come off as “heartless” in a situation where someone dies and it affects other’s emotions. The first time I have broken down about death in a long time was at my father’s funeral. To this day I don’t know what happened in that moment but I was completely broken down and it was not in my control. This is important to mention because one of my issues because of having PTSD is control. Mental control, physical control, control of situations, it’s all the same. I HAVE to have control. I have a great story for why this is so that I am putting into my book because I do not think anyone would read the entire post. The internet and blogs are more of a short post kind of deal but I promise this story will not be excluded in the book. It was one of my beginning stories of discovery of PTSD and why I have it. It’s the foundation to much of why I decided to work hard on treatment, and it was a huge factor in the convincing to myself of having PTSD.

Outside of breaking down at my father’s funeral though death doesn’t typically hit me emotionally like it used to. Here is why I could be referred to as an asshole when it comes to death. I have spent a long time with death. Both on the dealing  and receiving end of it. I have been through times of living hell with men I highly respect and admire, only to come home and have silly things end up killing them. I have come to this determination about death and God. You see death is just a servant of God. He is not to be feared, he is not to be loathed, he just does what he is supposed to. He goes to those who he is supposed to collect souls, and he collects. Death doesn’t determine anything. I’m a big believer in “don’t shoot the messenger” and Death is just that, a messenger. With all this time spent hanging out with Death I realize that when it’s time it’s time. I could spend the rest of my life mourning all those who have been collected by Death. I could easily waste all my time worrying about Death coming. I could put a great big armor shield around myself and my family and not do anything in life in order to stay away from danger so I do not expedite Death’s timeline.

None of these are the answer though. God never put me here to spend all my time worrying about Death and his schedule. I have plenty of other things that are time better spent, such as raising a couple great kids, being  a good husband, son, brother. I could do things that I feel would help my veteran community, I could teach my children to appreciate the little things God has given us in life, like this beautiful ocean view every day. I could teach them to hunt and fish and enjoy out surroundings. You see it’s not that I don’t care about people dying. It’s not that I am heartless or a cold bastard. It’s that many of my friends have died to make sure that me and my family can live. As sappy as it seems, I see my life not as “heartless” but as Pvt. Ryan in the movie “Saving Private Ryan” hearing the Captain at the end say “earn this.” I’m sad for losing so many that I love and respect, but I am so happy to have spent time with them. I am happy they get to take a break. You do not know how much work there is in life  until you serve and spend all of your time “protecting” then PTSD keeps you in a constant “protect mode.” I see some of these guys as now having time to be rewarded. Now is their time to take a break, they have completed a “job well done” and it’s time for those of us remaining to take up the slack.

I don’t fear Death… And that often times comes out as heartless or offensive. I told my father about my feelings on death slightly before I found out he was sick. He understood, and I am not so sure the rest of people I know family wise could understand what I am attempting to say.

The final thoughts I would like to share is on my “emotionless” state. I will be the first to admit that I don’t “feel” alot. It’s not me purposely going out and trying to be a complete and total asshole. The bottom line is that the only emotions I can pinpoint a majority of the time within me is anger, pain, and exhaustion. My father always told me (see I was never the most confident as a kid and I was really shy) “if you aren’t confident, pretend you are… nobody will know the difference.” My senior year in high school many of my classmates acknowledged my confidence as a quality they admired. I had to laugh to myself because I knew that I did not have confidence so I pretended. I knew that nobody knew the difference and, in so, the pretend confidence became real.

I bring this up because there are many times I do not feel excited about going somewhere or doing something. I do not feel “happiness” about things. But there are many times in life where it’s almost expected to be excited or happy. I pretend. I pretend because those who need me to be excited or happy need it. I do it for them and someday it will be real. Do not get this confused with me being “unhappy” or “unenthusiastic”. I am not unhappy about the situation that others wanted me to be happy for. I just don’t feel at all. You see necessity changes in life for everyone. I spent a lot of time where food, water, shelter, sleep, bullets, and a weapon were all necessary. Back in the day I was totally and completely excited for the new gaming system that’s out. I wanted it, I needed it, and getting it made me sooooo very happy. Now, who friggin’ cares? I can get a new game system, or I can get a new part for the car to keep it going. Either way my judgement on necessity is what keeps my family happy, healthy, safe, and well taken care of.

Many don’t understand the lack of emotion in us folks with PTSD. It’s not that we’re assholes, or that we are putting down what you are happy and excited for. Honest to God I am thrilled to death that I can take a shower when I want/need to. Being happy with the fact that I have running water makes many other things seem as though they are just that…. “things”, “stuff”, “extra crap to carry”. Live for awhile with whatever you can carry on your back, and then come tell me about your idea of happy, tell me how excited you are to get that “one more thing to carry”. Then we’ll have a beer and talk.

Next article will be back to triggers…. My wife pointed out one that will be a great one to discuss… the fact that I have to finish things. I cannot leave things undone… I will try to get this up tomorrow.

Emotion, PTSD, and common misunderstanding

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