Its not you, its me: Anger and #PTSD

And once again I find myself in a familiar place: staring at a blinking cursor in the middle of the night and wide awake.  I am alert.  Angry.

I think the ghosts of years past, especially my time in combat, echo this time of night.  In the bustle of work and family life each day I cannot hear them.  Hell, my wife will tell you I cannot hear anything.

But here I am. In the quiet and it is like they are screaming at me.

I have gotten use to being awake.  Well, that’s not true.  I think I have managed to cope with being awake.  Apparently the brave face I put on each day is a veil that is cracking.

It’s not you, its me

I have been told by no less than four different people in the past week I come across pissed off most of the time.

Them: “Are you ok?”

Me, fake smiling into the phone:  “Yeah why?”

Them:  “You just seem so pissed off and I want to make sure it is not me…”

Me: Sigh…

To be honest, I was surprised the first few times I heard it.  And here I thought I was blowing sunshine out my ass most days.  In combat I started “False Motivation Fridays” because false motivation is better than no motivation.  In the work place, with civilians who offend easily and most times have little clues or reminders about my plight, I work hard at pretending I am not angry most of the time.  I thought I was putting on my happy face.  My patience, after days of little sleep and stress from work and family, wears to a nub and the anger seeps through.

I need my job.  I need to support my family.  I am grateful, in a crap economy that I even have one.  I am even more grateful that I have one that really fits with my lifestyle given my new normal.  It gives me something different to focus on.

I try to execute patience with a deck stacked against me.  Ninety-nine percent of the time I don’t want to open up to my experiences in combat that keep me awake and on guard.  That is for my therapist and a select few who genuinely care.  Some days though, I want to drag everyone down into the mud and gore with me for a peek.  I want them to see the bodies just long enough to get me some breathing room and lend explanation to this fact:  I was not always like this.  War made me this way.

So, I thought about what is it that is really making me pissed?  I think it is that I am still wrestling with a lot of emotions.  My therapist had once said that men who are angry are really just depressed about something else.  On the surface, I really cannot think of anything that I am depressed about.  But, down in the deep, there is plenty that is still being resolved.

And so, on many days, I can dissipate the anger before it shows.  Unfortunately, there are some days when I cannot stop the bubble to the surface.  Please know that most of the time, it’s not you, it’s me.

5 thoughts on “Its not you, its me: Anger and #PTSD

  1. Lanzillotto

    Wow, I hear you Cous. In the cancer world I am up all night lately crying in physical pain and the mental agony that years and years of physical pain is too much to bear. I pray the Lord to take me, some nights. Tonight I found help from my Long Term Survivors List Serve who have found names for some of the pain. This time “Trigeminal Neuralgia” — radiation related. It’s amazing you have any patience for the civilian world. I lost mine long ago. I am done. For now. For me of course, as a civilian, civilians are people who don’t have compassion for suffering. Civilians are the smilers. The fakers. The chat makers.

    I heard this poem on the radio that helped, cause it’s everything I want to say, in a peaceful way, to my civilians:

    The Invitation
    by Oriah Mountain Dreamer
    Canadian Teacher and Author

    It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living
    I want to know what you ache for
    and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

    It doesn’t interest me how old you are
    I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
    for love
    for your dreams
    for the adventure of being alive.

    It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon…
    I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow
    if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
    or have become shrivelled and closed
    from fear of further pain.

    I want to know if you can sit with pain
    mine or your own
    without moving to hide it
    or fade it
    or fix it.

    I want to know if you can be with joy
    mine or your own
    if you can dance with wildness
    and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your
    fingers and toes
    without cautioning us to
    be careful
    be realistic
    to remember the limitations of being human.

    It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me
    is true.
    I want to know if you can
    disappoint another
    to be true to yourself.

    If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
    and not betray your own soul.
    If you can be faithless
    and therefore trustworthy.

    I want to know if you can see Beauty
    even when it is not pretty
    every day.
    And if you can source your own life
    from its presence.

    I want to know if you can live with failure
    yours and mine
    and still stand on the edge of the lake
    and shout to the silver of the full moon,
    “Yes.”

    It doesn’t interest me
    to know where you live or how much money you have.
    I want to know if you can get up
    after a night of grief and despair
    weary and bruised to the bone
    and do what needs to be done
    to feed the children.

    It doesn’t interest me who you know
    or how you came to be here.
    I want to know if you will stand
    in the center of the fire
    with me
    and not shrink back.

    It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom
    you have studied.
    I want to know what sustains you
    from the inside
    when all else falls away.

    I want to know if you can be alone
    with yourself
    and if you truly like the company you keep
    in the empty moments.

    � 1995 by Oriah House, From “Dreams Of Desire”
    Published by Mountain Dreaming, 300 Coxwell Avenue, Box 22546, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4L 2A0

  2. Lanzillotto

    of course, re-reading this poem now, pisses me off and it seems like not the right thing to share with you at this time. this poem seems too healed. too civilian. apologies

  3. Mikey Piro Post author

    No no my dear, it is perfect. I think though that for me, I can cut right through that bullshit with a pretty good guess that people don’t know the truths about themselves. The run and hide. They stick to the chit chat. We dilute ourselves with work and other made up excuses of what is important. Until you have stared at blood flowing on the ground or the reaper at your door the veil of importance is still mixed up with the mundane. I love you. You were missed Saturday.

  4. Juliza Ramirez-Wylie

    Mikey, thanks for sharing your thoughts in your blog. It reminds me of the previous blog when you talked about PTSD as it related to superheroes. You spoke about the “Hulk” and his anger exemplifying the anger related to PTSD. In the new avenger movie, Captain America asked the Hulk how he kept his anger under control – and he responded, that it was easy – The Hulk is always angry. You bring up a good point, what does the anger cover? If your therapist and other researchers are right then maybe it covers feelings of depression. However, I often wonder if this depression is directly related to grief. I heard during a PTSD webinar that veterans often mourn their humanity. I am wondering what are your thoughts on this…

  5. Mikey Piro Post author

    Juliza, first of all, you win the gold star and geek crush of the day for your Avengers metaphor. Seriously impressed.

    As for the loss of humanity, I think your question has inspired another blog post all on its own. But, I will say that I struggle with the things I did in combat, even though they were just and legal. The frailty of human life combined with evil or desperate men taking advantage of that weakness left me wondering about the fundamental questions of if man is good or evil.

    I read a lot of geekery and one such book has a mage named Raistlin. In the book he took the trials to become a sorcerer and when he failed the pupils of his eyed took the shape of hour glasses. As punishment for failing, he was forced to see the world in constant decay. When I first returned from combat, I felt similarly. Everything was decaying. I still have fits where that is how I see the world. But, at the same time I am able to now use that view as motivation to live life more fully and in the moment.

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