Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Diagnosis: PTSD

Someone once told me that 'We are merely a threat in the tapestry of life. We have a beginning, an end, sometimes we break during our time when we are woven, at which time we either are repaired or sometimes we are tied into a knot with another threat, this is marriage. But when the spool runs out our life is at its end'
Friends our spool is getting lighter, make the most out of it!

My last post was my second encounter with the tragedies of the Vietnam War. The blog consisted of Chapter 8 of my book Force of Fate - Letters to Oma. I always understood that what happened to me was not the result of an assignment, TDY or other connected excursion. It was the boredom of the type of assignment I was experiencing that caused me to seek out friends and fun. In the mean time Fate had other ideas for me. Certainly my first day trip to Vietnam was exciting and fun. It was a life lesson without many twists and turns. The second day-trip was the exact opposite. From the arrival at Da Nang to my departure some 22 hours later. Fate threw everything possible at me. This became a life-changing trip. My stepfather had trained me years earlier to be the best soldier, in retrospect a killing machine. After boot camp I was asked many times why I did not become a sniper and even today my answer is the same; The US Government decided  my Fate the day I raised my hand and became a soldier. No matter what I did , right or wrong, there was no deviation from their expected goals. How many soldiers have you heard of that struck a superior officer and remained in the service of Uncle Sam? Probably not many, but I was told to be more careful.

So time passes and I return home and slowly I sink into a place that is dark, bare, cold and lonely for me. After 4o years it takes a military friend and my wife to convince me to go to the VA for treatment. Reluctantly I go and I begin a regiment of psychological treatments augmented with constant changes of doctors. No sooner did I take to a doctors and he or she would be transferred somewhere else. Finally in 2010, I had a psychiatrist and a psychologist which I trusted enough to confide in. The psychiatrist was the first to wonder if it was PTSD that I was suffering from? Of course being a proud man I denied it to myself every chance I got. Some notes were made in my medical records and upon my next visit with my psychologist the subject was brought up and I was instructed that I would begin a 12 visit program to address my problem.
It all began with my "Stuck Points". I had to go home think about them and write them down. That's better said than done. The dog ate my homework. So when I arrived for my first encounter, I had not written one line. I had no 'stuck points'. So the doctor began writing down my problems and each time she wrote a line, I just smiled. She knew me better than my wife. OK, so you call them stuck points, to me they are survival points. Her answer was: Why do you need survival points now? You are home, you are safe. " Doc, have you picked up a paper lately or turned on the TV, we are far from safe. " That didn't phase her, she continued and ended up with a long dozen. I was to focus on these and change my outlook. By week seven some points stuck with me or perhaps I became unstuck from them. On of them did not budge, I could not stop it from blaming myself for the death of my best friend.

For those who read my previous blog, you will remember that after I returned to base aboard the Spooky, I waited for my friend to return. Than did not happen. When automatic beacon signals were picked up in the jungle a Search and Rescue Mission was initiated. Pulling some strings I ran out to the helicopter only to be told that I could not travel on this mission without proper equipment. Flak jacket, helmet and a M-16. They held the chopper until I returned and we were airborne. When we arrived at the crash site, the VC had moved their prisoners to a nearby hiding place. When the chopper landed and we disembarked we heard gunfire coming from a path nearby. Without retelling the entire story let me just say this. Since that day I have asked myself constantly why him, why not me. Then the guild would strike: was it my fault, because I held up the helicopter because I was not prepared and that caused the loss of life? I might sleep a little better because with medicine and constant discussions I have done away with some of my nightmares but the one question still hangs over me. Was it my fault.

In 2012 another change took place when a new psychiatrist came to our little outpost here in Delaware. Reluctantly I went to my first appointment with him. Now friends you all know by now that I am 100% German. Born in the Vaterland, raised there and I speak the language. My name gives me away, especially if whoever sees it is a history buff. In 1945, when I was given this name I was only the second child born in Germany with such a name. The first was the son of Rudolf Hess. I will let you research who he was. I stay out of politics. Turns out my new doctor is of Jewish descend. With these facts people right away thought we would have problems. Not so, at all. He was very professional at first until he got to know me and our conversation became personal. At one point he read in my records that I still suffered from 'self blame'. He looked at me and asked point blank: " Why do you blame yourself?" Now I am used to have psychiatrists ask me question and then ask me to give them the answer. He was different, he looked at me with a frown on his face. When he spoke again these were the words that came out of his mouth: "Did you ever think that had you been prepared and the helicopter was on time that your helicopter may have been shot down and all of you may have died that day?' I almost fell off my chair. The fact that he answered his question was unique but the answer itself was so to the point. Its taken me 6 months to accept this theory but since I can't answer it with any certainty, I have to accept its possibility. Blame is not gone but has been diminished. maybe 2013 will be better for me and I can make it better for those who care about me.

Maybe now I can allow love to come into my heart again and let it surround me with a new light.

1 comment:

  1. Rudi

    I know you have been through a lot. I think many of us with mold exposures and subsequent losses and traumas suffer from some form of PTSD. I am glad that you are making progress toward letting go of some of the demons that are haunting you.

    I wish you the best in 2013 and may you continue to push forward in this healing.