I finally did it! After eleven long years, I finally attended a fireworks display with my kids! Guess what?! I survived not only the fireworks, but navigating the crowds with three little ones…by myself!
All in all, I actually enjoyed myself! The girls were able to play on the bouncy houses, get their face painted, and even stood in line for patriotically over-priced snow cones! The girls were able to get those twisted balloon things that end up being made into all kinds of things (one had an alien that rode on her shoulders, one had a sword, and one had a flower). Granted, none of the balloon characters made it home, but they were free, so I wasn’t terribly heart broken (especially since I’m allergic to the stupid things).
I had originally decided to attend because my teen invited me. I figured with her there, I’d be able to get through the fireworks. Well, she went AWOL with her friends and I only saw her once the entire evening. Thankfully, my best friend and her family showed up just minutes before the show started. Between her and Chauncey, they got me through. I purposely sat far enough away that I couldn’t hear them launching, and I enjoyed all but the absolutely largest shells. Those were the ones that I could feel the repercussion of their explosion in my chest and that would trigger me, but as I said, my service dog Chauncey (who did amazingly well with the fireworks) and my best friend saw me through.
I definitely think we will do it again next year. Perhaps I will be able to convince a couple of my fellow veterans to attend with me. Just showing up was a huge step for me and I hope I can share that with others next year.
Moral of this story: don’t be afraid to face your fears…you may be pleasantly surprised at the results. If they aren’t what you expected them to be, you will at least know that you tried. Perform an after action and see if there is anything you could do differently next time to improve the outcome!
In the PTSD community there seems to be a discord between those who’s PTSD was caused by combat action and those who saw no direct enemy action but were deployed and lastly, those with PTSD who never deployed. It is a longstanding view in the military that those who have never deployed are somehow less of a soldier than those who have and that lends greatly to this problem, but what about the group who has deployed but never once had to fire their weapon?
I will readily admit that I am a part of the second group. I deployed with a Combat Support Hospital. I never once fired my weapon; not that we were ever issued ammunition to defend ourselves if we had to…in fact, for my entire deployment, I never had a single round issued to me, even while I was outside the wire in Iraq (but that’s an entirely different story, the majority of my PTSD symptoms are related to multiple mass-casualty incidents throughout my career and an MST in 2002).
Excluding TBI, the symptoms of PTSD are the same, regardless of what the stressor was that caused the disorder. Some cases are much more severe and debilitating than others. That should not change the way we support each other. With all that we have endured, all that we still endure (our own demons, respect and common courtesy from our chains of command, the fight for our hard earned benefits, VA backlogs, etc) we should find a way to come together. The fact that we do have PTSD should be a uniting factor, not an issue that further divides us. We need to come together, support each other and work toward finding a way to heal, to remove the stigma, remove the barriers to effective treatment, fix the VA’s backlog and staffing issues, and to work to find a way to help those who will come behind us. Our predecessors have set the stage for us, it is up to us to carry that torch forward, but we cannot be divided in doing so. Its time for the pissing matches to come to an end. Its time to form a unified front and fight that battle that lies before us… The fight against PTSD.
I have struggled for the last month with a potential post. It has bounced around in my head repeatedly, sometimes angrily, others sorrowfully. I have continually talked myself out of posting it because I have this horrible habit of not wanting to offend others. Today, I have come to the conclusion that I am done renting space to this situation in my head.
I realize that everyone reacts to their stressors in different ways. Some people internalize, some people actually ask for help and I had the unfortunate opportunity to experience others lashing out in response to their stressors. While I will freely admit that I did have SOME part in what transpired, I am by no means the villain in the situation.
Anytime you get multiple people with PTSD together, there is always the possibility of volatility. When it’s a group of women, you also have the possibility of cattiness, cliques, and more drama than a prime-time soap opera. When one member of that group arbitrarily decides to play the mother roll and then step-child another member, well, things are bound to get ugly eventually.
I will admit this…I had some problems adjusting to this group dynamic. I know I have issues with isolation, I have different cleaning habits than others. For example, I eat a meal, step outside for a cigarette while others finish eating, THEN I go back inside to clean up. It is not my fault if you have differing habits.
I also have a HUGE problem waking up in the morning. At home, I have a couple alarms, a husband and several children who make sure I’m up on time. I mentioned this issue repeatedly and was repeatedly told no one would (not could, would) help me with that issue. Not only did they refuse to help, they (I’m using ‘they’ generically, in reality, it was one single member of the group) proceeded to cuss me out and verbally abuse me when I overslept. I am a grown adult. I also have PTSD (as do the other ladies in the discussed group) but it effects everyone differently.
I was, on more than one occasion, cussed out, made to feel inferior and ultimately called a hypocrite because I was “acting like a victim”. I’m sorry if my honesty as to what was going on with me (at YOUR inquisition), my inability to overcome some of my shortcomings, and your obvious problems with people who don’t measure up to YOUR predetermined stereotypes makes me a hypocrite. If you ask me what is wrong and I tell you, that does not make me a victim. If I ask you for help with a problem (again, at YOUR inquisition) and you refuse to help me and I can’t overcome that problem, that also does not make me a victim. It makes you a bully and honestly, I should have told you that to your face, especially after you lashed out at me while I was trying to do a nice thing for you.
During this whole experience (regardless of the above discussed issues, the intended purpose of the group was exceedingly and overwhelmingly positive, especially in the long run), and in the month since, I have allowed this situation to fester in my head. In doing so, I had forgotten something that I was taught while I was there…I can’t let the problems of other people rent space in my head. I can only control my own actions, not others reactions. In this situation, I can only control my reactions, not another person’s actions. I can honestly say I left knowing that I did not levy a single ounce of the abuse I received.
Considering all I gained from this very short period of my life and since, I am hereby serving a notice of eviction. No longer will I allow your abuse, your dual-faced friendship and your holier-than-thou attitude to continue to bother me. From this day forward, I will strive to remind myself that I did everything I needed to do, that I set out to do and I have improved because of and since that experience. You have only served to show me how to be grateful for those who have left my life, and to finally get me to stand up for myself. I know I was not fully innocent in the entirety of the situation, but I also know that enough other people saw the real you to know that they don’t believe I was the bad guy either. For that, I thank you. I wish you well in your life and hope you find some peace so no one else ever has to receive the abuse that I had to endure in your presence.
For those who have read this, thank you. I do apologize that this is not the typical post that I intended for this blog, however, for me it is something that I need to do to be able to move on. Sometimes we just need to get something out of our heads in order to view it for what it is and move on. That is what this post is about, nothing more…nothing less.