Anniversaries for a Veteran with #PTSD

Most people mark anniversaries with thoughts of joy and celebration. A card, out to dinner, a gift. You can even look at Wikipedia for traditional anniversary gifts by year. For me, and other Veterans, anniversaries carry a special weight. An alive day, the loss of a friend, the time where you treated a civilian casualty, I have them all in my mental calendar. I had deployments that overlapped during the calendar year and anniversaries from both deployments speckle my brain.

IED blows up. Complex Ambush. Mortar attack. My subconscious seemingly sends out messages in the form of depression, extra anxiety,anger, you name it.

I kept a journal both deployments and have specific dates for many of the big events, or a span of time when a collection of events went down. To this day, my mood is affected by those “traumatic” experiences.

Last October my wife and I were chatting and trying to keep each other in check. She turned to me and bluntly asked, “What is your deal these past couple of days? You have been acting like a complete dick.” I took the hint and adjusted my attitude.

Both my deployments to Iraq were shitty for different but similar reasons. When I looked back in my second Iraq journal i figured that since it was closer in dates, those experience would be stronger. But, I could not find a date in my last deployment that matched up. Then I found my first journal and there it was: a week from hell of mortar attacks and close calls.

Now, I am not trying to blame away acting like a dick. I very often do that of my own volition. Also, I am not claiming any scientific support for this, just my own feelings. But, the longer I do this therapy and the more data points I collect, the better I am at avoiding spiraling depression or angry outbursts related to the ghosts of my past. Life often dictates other things to try and focus on, but being conscious of the past stressors is at least helpful to me in heading off destructive behavior. I try now to not let those issues impact my relationships. It’s not easy, and I’m not always successful.

With each passing anniversary, or holiday, I get better at preparing and bracing for what has yet to be anything but a roller coaster of emotions.

This year marks seven years from the end of my first deployment and five from my second. I guess I owe myself a desk and pen set and some silverware…

10 thoughts on “Anniversaries for a Veteran with #PTSD

  1. Eric Balough

    Mike, you are spot on with this one.

    There are a number of days that are burned into my mind, and sometimes everyday things triggers the memory of those events.

    One of those days is an alive day for me. It’ll be four years this year, and like the last three years, I’m not totally sure how I will handle it. Some years are better than others.

    The other interesting thing for me is that some of these dates tend to be clustered… so I almost go through a “gloom” period. Its even worse than intersession at school.

    I look forward to reading more from you.

    Eric

  2. Keith

    Wow cuz. Amazing powerful stuff. Very intense. Thank you for sharing and for all you did. I am always here if you need to chat or just come over and get away and chill for a little!

  3. ptsdsurvivordaily

    Eric,

    “Gloom Period” is right! What a great reference.

    My wife and I talk about whether or not I psych myself out now, having a number of years under my belt. I think maybe a little. But, I am working on that too.

    It takes a lot of hard work and focus to recognize that the feelings are there, but not be controlled by them.

    If you ever want to chat, hit me up!

    MP

  4. Mike Gruber

    Mikey,

    I totally know what you mean,, The other day I woke up as usual,,hit the head, and started shaving,, and out of know where I realized that this day was my half way point,, half civilian,,, half military it was my anniversary of ETS,, no that might not seem like a traumatic event,, and given my experiences in Iraq,, it should have been met with joy and thankfulness.. but over my years I’ve figured that some of my stress wasn’t just due to the SIG. EVENT.. it was the period of time proceeding the event,, the time in which i felt totally USELESS, having no control. for me my sig event resulted in MEDEVAC, away from my troops,, and away from the unit.. then later having left active duty, finding a job , then being laid off,, i found my self yet again USELESS, separated from the unit.. and almost ‘re-injured”,, now working in cubical land, worrying about layoff from a job i don’t much care for, watching my balls get smaller with the day,,, my anniversary of gloom is the day I left the service… a reason i’m abstaining from the reunion

  5. ptsdsurvivordaily

    Mike,

    First off, I won’t tell you how to feel, but I can tell you you are not worthless.

    I can sympathize with having feelings come down like a hammer. I used to tell my wife our code phrase “bottom dropped out” pretty often. When I said that to her, it indicated that something, and I wasn’t always able to put my finger on it, made me feel like shit, or feel like bugging out of where we were.

    I have found that the different emotions are like a rats nest of 550 cord. You start chasing one down, and run into knots of others. The therapy, and some significant meds, helped me keep some stuff at bay while I untangled all the bundle of shit.

    I, along with a bunch of our classmates, have very mixed emotions about the reunion. We’ll see…

    I hope we can all get past this shit.

    MP

  6. Eric

    This time around, I’ve actually been hom long enough to process what has happened on both of my tours.

    After my tour in Iraq, I came back angry, suspicious, nervous, and generally screwed up in the head… although, I would try to convince myself otherwise.

    My tour in Afghanistan took me to the ass-end of a forgoten war (I went to Afghanistan for the Iraq surge), and no had to deal with all of those other issues on top of feeling abandoned by our country. Fuel, water, ammo and medevac assets were at a premium.

    We didn’t get into contact alot like the guys out East, but for us, it was just as dangerous because if you got hit, your’d be waiting for a minimum of 4-8 hours for medevac.

    I was a mess and it almost ended my marriage.

    My gloom periods and 550 cord rats mazes have gotten a little easier to deal with over time and with an initial treatment of meds and counseling.

    Mike, I agree, the reunion sould be interesting because it won’t be full of a bunch of idealists looking to go forth and kick butt. It will be full of a bunch of hardened war vets with a variety of issues and baggage. However, it is also a common bond because we are the “war class” of our generation.

    I think it will be a good experience.

    My next personal challenge will be getting in a good mental state prior to my next tour. Fortunately, it is only six months and I will not be kicking in doors like the last two.

  7. Pingback: The Sleep Game and #PTSD « ptsdsurvivordaily

  8. Mike Gruber

    I feel like a clique’.. I knew in the back of my head (the rational part) that other people were going through what I was going through,, or worse,, but its Been very enlightening to hear your stories and perceptions on things.
    I am not currently going to Therapy,, VA hasn’t approved my claim, and the free stuff people flat out told me I’d get lost in the system because i was a relatively low risk patient. (Thanks,, I think) I did find a therapist through my employer (a police organization) who could most closely approximate what a soldier goes through, and being a veteran himself did make building a re pore with him easier, but since having lost my job there and again relegated to cubical land, I’m not sure where to turn to for counseling,, I am on medication but lately i don’t think it’s as effective as it used to be,, I see anxiety, sleeplessness creeping into my life, and i am trying not to fall in to my past pitfalls of self medicating with alcohol. so This blog has been very helpful.
    ERIC good luck. I don’t know that i could actively address PTSD while preping for deployment. of course not dealing with it almost resulted in a fatal confrontation with police after a night of self medication.

    I don’t know if I’ll go to the reunion, some of my closest friends are not, but thinking about it and Erics insight as a group of vets, might actually make it feel more like a homecoming. I don’t know how much interaction we’d have with the CADETS, and i’d almost be afraid that any interaction might taint their perspectives, I’d almost rather spend most of the time with my class mates, not that i have any kind of chip on my shoulder toward the cadets, but more for their own good.

  9. Deidre Zbiegien

    Thank you for sharing, it means a lot to me. I know there are good men out there that fight the good fight. My daughter and i have been dealing with the fall out of her husbands physical and emotional attack on her, my granddaughter, and myself. Halloween marked our two year anniversary of his violence. He will not face any of the charges, or address the permanent damage that he has done. I thank the powers that be that you are facing your demons, and making strides. Your progress gives me hope that other men will be as strong and as valiant as you. Once again i thank you for sharing your journey with me.

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