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…