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how many more times can you die?


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This battle with my PTSD is killing me slowly, i am constanly working on it. i meet with a chaplian three times a week, a combat stress team once a week, an anger and stress management group twice a week; and on top of that i write and read my stories over and over and over again. the only way for me to sleep at night is to take 1,000 miligrams of pills. i woke up this morning with my fiance turned around on the bed so that her feet were at my head, and her head at my feet.

She said that it was because i kept swinging my arms around last night hitting her in the face. when things like this happen i feel depressed enough to....well, you know. i have woken up many a night and had my family or ex wife moved across the room from me in fear of what i was saying or doing. i remember one night after i got back from iraq the first time when i was in a hotel room with my parents and my now ex wife. i woke up and she was sleeping on the floor by my parents bed, because apperantly i had woken up and yelled at her sking if she was alright.

she told me that when she answered yes i grabbed onto her and rolled her body over repeatedly patting her down, and then she asked me what i was doing. she told me that i answered saying; "Because that grenade went off way to close!" i was rolling her over and patting her down looking for wounds. i used to wake up at my house in california just standing in the door way or looking out the window. if touched in my sleep i would react violently to whoever it was that had touched me.

the worst part of this PTSD is not what it does to me, but what it does to those around me that i love. there are many times where i wonder why i had to live through my three tours of combat in iraq. things would be so much easier for eveyone if i wouldn't have made it back. i honestly feel like i have died over there, three times i went.....and every damn time that i came back, i left a huge part of my mind and who i was over there. i remember the plane ride home from my first tour, when an old chief warrant officer came up to me out of nowhere and said; "Make friends with you deamons now son, because they are going to haunt you for the rest of your life." and then he just walked off, and it was as if when he passed me, he could see my soul.

I don't know what to do anymore, i am falling apart at the seams. i'm not holding on with a grip......i'm bairley hanging on by my fingernails. i'm tired of feeling like i'm in everybodies way. i'm tired of not feeling like a normal human being, i'm tired of hurting others with my problems. i don't know if the people in my life that coudn't understand my PTSD pushed me away.......i think that i pushed them away, and i think that i did that by just being the person i am because of the PTSD. I remember patrolling the streets of Fallujah for seven months in 2005 while on my third tour of combat, and i din't give a shit if i were to get hit.

i would smoke on post in the middle of the night inside of my bunker not caring if the enemy saw the cherry of my cigarette. on one occasion i was sitting there smoking in my bunker at night when i heard the familiar "SNAP!" of a bullet breaking the sound barrier. i climbed out of my bunker and looked at the sandbags that made up the top of the "window" where i would look out of, and sure enough there was the snipers bullet hole, the sand leaking out of the sandbag. i cussed at the idiot for missing and went back inside my bunker, and lit another smoke to give him a second chance that he never took.

There was a quote carved onto a wall at the school of infantry that said; "IN THE DEPTHS OF THE MIND GONE INSANE, REALITY AND PAIN ARE THE SAME." I remembered the quote all through my time in the corps, and realized what it truly meant the more insane i went, and abnormal i felt. What now yah know? how the hell much longer does one have to live with the pain and guilt that i feel? why is it that in a room full of hundreds, i am still the only one in there? i would love to hear back from anyone.

Edited by USMarine
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I've watched my Dad struggle with his demons from Viet Nam for the past 33 years. He wakes up in the middle of the night, re-living a firefight that took place in 1974. He spends hours thinking about what happened, what could've happened, what should've happened, what shouldn't have happened, and so on. He struggles to make sense of it all, and constantly falls short. The reason he falls short is because there is no sense to it. It just is what it is. I don't mean to sound all zen and out there, but there are things that you simply cannot make sense of. All you can do is make peace with them. But, you cannot force yourself to make peace with them. They will heal in their own time. Just like a physical wound, you have to let it heal at it's own pace. If you keep picking at the wound, it will keep bleeding. If you put too much pressure on a broken bone before it is fully healed it will break again. Does that make sense? The difference between physical and psychological wounds is that you cannot "see" the progress in your healing. Plus, unlike physical wounds, there is no common course of healing. In my own recovery from anxiety and panic, which is distantly similar to PTSD, I had to come up with my own ways of dealing with the symptoms. I had very little help in getting over my symptoms because nobody could relate. Doctors had their theories, but none of them truly got it. It wasn't until I really started listening to myself and doing whatever I thought I needed to do that I started getting over things. I don't know if I'm making any sense, but what I'm getting at is that you have to let yourself hurt in order to let yourself heal. My Dad has always held on to this idea that he is weak for letting things get to him, and therefore he has never been able to let go of his demons. Personal demons are strange creatures, they attack you only if you fight them... if you submit to them, and let them wash over you they start to lose their strength. If you constantly run from them, they constantly chase you. You will never be able to forget what you went through in Iraq, it is now a part of your history, your life, your experience of yourself, but what you can do is learn that the memories of what happened cannot hurt you... they hurt now, because the wound is fresh. I try to explain it to people by having them imagine running through a battlefield... bombs are going off all around them, bullets are flying by, the sounds are deafening, and all they can do is run, trying to escape the hell that they are in. Then, suddenly, the battle is over. All the sound stops, and suddenly, you are able to stop and realize what you've just been through. It isn't until you stop running and let the horror of what you experienced wash over you that you can start to get beyond it. Another analogy I use is the worm in the apple theory. Right now, you are like a worm in an apple ( i know, bad image right? ) Inside the apple, all the worm can see is the darkness. All he can do is twist and turn, but he never escapes... he just eats, blindly, unsure of how big the apple is. It seems like his whole universe is this same, stupid apple. It seems like he's never going to know anything other than this darkness... then suddenly, he breaks through. He's eaten through the skin of the apple and is out in the real world again, where it's bright, and clear, and it isn't until he's out of the apple that he can see how small the apple was when compared to the world around it. Right now, you are twisting in the darkness, trying to find your way out of the "apple". You can't know how long it's going to take to get out, but you WILL get out... the strange thing about the apple and the worm is that all of that darkness he was twisting through and struggling with was the very thing that was giving him the strength to move on. If he didn't eat away at the apple, he would've just died of starvation... my point being that, even though you can't see it right now, this darkness you are living through will someday give you a strength you didn't know was possible.

I hope some of this makes sense to you, and that some of it helps... if nothing else, know that there are people out here who care, and want to help. Even if the only thing we can do for you is write back...

You will get through this, and I promise, it will get better...


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Wow, the both of you Marine and JimmyFay have written really good stuff here. Marine, you are very good at communicating your suffering, and I mean that as a compliment and as a sign of strength and resilience in case you are wondering. When you can describe something, you gain just a little handle on it, and sometimes you can use that handle to move it a little. JimmyFay is quite correct I think, however, that this hell you are living through is not something you can control. Rather, it is something that you have to figure out how to accept and cope with. there are potentially two (at least two) things that can happen now. One is that the intensity of the emotion and pain you feel can diminish, and with that lessening, can come a lessening of the frequency with which you experience the replays of what you've been through. the other is that you can learn how better to cope with the memories and the intensity as it is presently.

In the imperfect world of psychotherapy one of the big breakthroughs of the last decade or so is the recognition that powering though stuff doesn't always work well, and that sometimes the best way to help people cope is to help them accept what they are dealing with. Like the "chinese finger puzzle" toy (where you put your fingers into a fabric tube and then you can't get them out if you pull fast - only if you relax and pull slowly), the more you resist what is coming at you, the more difficult and entrenched those things can become. Jimmyfay said that well here in this passage:

Personal demons are strange creatures, they attack you only if you fight them... if you submit to them, and let them wash over you they start to lose their strength.

The repetition of the story is important becuase it helps to diminish the charge of emotion that the story contains. But also important is stuff like meditation and exercise and other physical activity that loosens up and relaxes the body, diminishing the muscular tension that comes with constant vigilance. Stuff like meditation helps people to learn how to "witness" the contents of their minds - to stand separate from that contents rather than to be embedded in it. A little distancing can help in such cases.

In therapy, acceptance and meditation-like stuff has been incorporated directly, for instance, in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and the self-soothing exercises that they teach their patients, and in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. I have not seen these approaches applied directly to PTSD therapy, but it seems like a ripe opportunity for application as I think about it.

Please keep writing, both of you. there is some comfort in expressing yourself and in being heard.

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