In My Darkest Hour-PTSD

August 5, 2011

When I returned home from Vietnam, I realized that something was just not right with me.  I was the same person and I was really excited about not only being home but being out of the military.  I had been dreaming about being home for weeks and then it was finally true.

Everything and everyone looked the same.  My nieces and nephews had grown a year older as had everyone else but other than that it was all the same.  But somehow it was different.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, at the time, but it just felt different.  It was like the pod people from that science fiction movie the “Body Snatcher” they looked the same, talked the same, and acted the same, but something was different.

Very few asked how it was in Vietnam and those who did, I could see, really didn’t care.  I distinctly remember running into an old and dear friend at a bar. “Hey, where have you been I haven’t seen you in a while” asked my friend.  “I just got back from a year in Vietnam” came my reply. “Oh.” and he turned around and walked away. 

Vietnam was an unpopular war but right or wrong, I didn’t start it. All I did was to chose to attend and do my duty which was my choice.  I didn’t so much care about celebrations or the kissing in the street, well maybe being a single guy, at the time, I wouldn’t have minded a little more of that latter choice, but I was feeling like a pariah. 

It started to occur to me, more and more, what was different.  It was me.  I had just experienced a year of stress and pressure.  Every day I knew how long I was “in Country” and how many days until I could be done with the ordeal and return home.  I hadn’t been a hero or done anything special.  Hell, we didn’t even win the war.

In my later years I spoke with my cousin who was dying of cancer.  I asked him, “Have you considered that you might die?”  At that he burst out into tears and said that no one had allowed him to talk about dying.  Everyone wanted to change the subject or say, “Don’t even talk about that.  You are not going to die”  Of course talking about it wouldn’t magically make his dying any more real but it would allow him to do some talk-therapy.  It was the most real conversation, I think, that we ever had. 

This is primarily what I felt like.  No one knew how to address this issue with me, nor I with them.  If I did bring up the subject I could see their eyes glaze over as if to say, “I’ll be patient for a few minutes but get on with it and move on.”  I was alone with my feelings with nowhere to go with them.

I would love to hear other returning veterans to compare notes.  I wound up just talking to myself in a diary.  I realized that I was agitated always, suffering from what I later found out were PTSD flashbacks.  I felt numb and always alert to my surroundings which again is a PTSD symptom.  Depression and feeling alone is a terrible feeling and so I artificially treated myself with writing. I did not know what PTSD was nor did I know that what I was doing was a possible cure for my PTSD disease.

I urge you to seek help with your feelings and visit the Military PTSD Forum site and join in any conversation or respond to any post already listed.  If you wish to start your own thread with your PTSD story feel free to do that as well.