When I was younger I had a serious anger problem. So much so that I was put into anger management through my chain of command. I was subsequently kicked out of class for telling some whiny Private that his NCO’s weren’t singling him out but that he was a dirt bag and should be pulling his head out of his 4th point of contact (backside). So much so that my first four or five years of marriage was abusive. Not physically, I could control it that much, but both my wife and I traded insults with wild abandon. We were very much both at fault.
Then something strange happened. I went to war. You may not believe this but that is where I forgot where I locked feelings away. From 2003 until 2016 the only emotion I have felt is anger. No love… no compassion… no empathy or sympathy… nothing. During Operation Iraqi Freedom I had taken my emotions, except the ones that helped me keep me and my men safe, and locked them away in the back of my mind somewhere. For good measure I constructed a brick wall around them and then lost the map and key. I was cold and calculating but not super angry any longer. My anger dispersed into some sort of machine that schemed and plotted.
I got to return a bit early from OIF 1 because my mother had passed away from cancer. So I was back stateside and getting ready for a trip. My wife and I loaded up our young daughter and started our trek to Tennessee. Unbeknownst to me this is when another battle started that I knew could happen but was totally unprepared for. During our drive we were on I-40 cruising along and somewhere along that line a car beside us backfired on the interstate. It would be an understatement to say I lost my crap; for lose it I did. I ducked down low in the driver seat and swerved the car over all the while searching with my hands for a rifle that I no longer carried with me.
I became completely hyper-sensitive to my surroundings. I could not sit in restaurants unless my back was to a wall and I could see all the entrances. No one came in the establishment that I didn’t know about, I saw where everything was. I even went as far as plotting how best to kill people if they became a threat to me or my family. Crowds of people became, and still are to a degree, a huge problem for me. I would have anxiety attacks and begin to panic.
When we arrived in Tennessee we went straight to my mom’s viewing. There were no tears or sadness. There was just cold emptiness. I felt nothing. It seems I have entrenched myself completely into a mindset of war where everyone was the enemy unless they were really close to me. I have seen too much. I had Post Dramatic Stress Disorder. Now luckily for me it was a mild to moderate case. I didn’t have nightmares or flashbacks but it did make my everyday life very stressful and me personally very mean and standoff-ish. It also gave me a serious case of insomnia. I averaged about 2 hours a sleep a night.
I didn’t know why I did not feel many emotions. It took years for me to realize what was going on. I didn’t start seeking help until around 2008. Five years passed before I decided I needed help. What happened you ask? Glad you did! Well two events convinced me there was a problem. The first was me waking up in my backyard in Arizona laying on top of a hill of fire ants at 2 A.M. with a loaded M1A with a 30 round magazine. That is a .308 caliber for those who don’t know. There was nothing going on but there I was in the prone fighting position. I don’t remember dreaming. It was very strange. The second was one night in Arizona I was in bed with my wife not asleep as usual and thinking “I wonder if my wife and kids would be taken care of if something were to happen to me?” WARNING! RED FLAG!
I immediately recognized that thought process as being pre-suicidal. Me being the man that I am this thought shook me up enough to go get help the next day. Years of therapy put a Band-Aid on my issues. I only really helped me to see what was really going on. Fast forward to 2016… I have prayed and prayed for God to help me find what I lost. He has come through for me even of it wasn’t what I intended. My past came back to haunt me and when I had confessed my sins to my God and my wife the floodgates were opened. I cried for the first time in more than a decade. I felt shame and guilt. Then I felt love. True and real love. The kind that comes when you are forgiven and you in turn forgive.
Nothing can truly prepare you for such a thing. It is monumental and stands out in my life. I rank it somewhere below the birth of my children. In my mind it was nothing short of a miracle. This doesn’t mean that I am cured but it does mean I am well on the road to a healthier mental state. I no longer view the people in the world around me as enemies. I feel love again. I also feel pain and torment over things I have done and things I have seen. Day by day I am becoming whole once more. Once again it is God who deserves the credit and glory. Thank you Lord for everything you have given me. Thank you for life.