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Editorial: Returning from deployment with ‘landing problems’
By Tim Lynch
This column was shared by Michael Yon, a former Green Beret who sends dispatches from Afghanistan. Here, fellow writer Tim Lynch -- a former U.S. Marine -- shares his experience of returning home to Texas to cope with the aftermath of war, something many returning military members are facing.
This will be the last post I write for my blog. It started out pretty damn good, but the quality has declined and my heart is no longer in it and here is why.
I suffer from both PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder] and TBI [traumatic brain injury]; these are facts that I denied for a long, long time.
It works like this: You get hit, and then you start to worry that the damage done will be permanent, but after seeing a specialist learn that it was minor so you say to yourself, “Pffft, that was nothing and I’m as right as rain.” But you’re not; your friends tell you that you need help and you tell them they’re crazy. I’m fine. I didn’t get shot at that much. I didn’t have too many missiles land that close to me (which a friend reminded is not true; I had one land so close that it knocked me flat on my ass and my clothes were smoking from the heat the blast had generated). I have good friends who have gone through much more combat and trauma and have been wounded much worse than I have, and they seem to handle it with no problems at all. I thought I was doing the same.
But I’m not OK. My father told me I had serious problems and needed to find some way to treat them, and I told him he was nuts and that I was fine. Herschel Smith, a man I consider a good friend but one I have never seen face-to-face or even talked on the phone with, told me the same thing my dad did and I told him the same thing I told my dad. Some of my regular readers have seen the change in my posts and they send emails asking if I’m OK and I tell them of course I’m OK, I’m just a little off on my writing game, but it will get better -- you’ll see that in the next post.
So you take a hit, you go back into the game, ignoring the advice so many people have given you to seek help and heal yourself on the inside. But you ignore them and refuse to admit that you have changed. Then the dysfunctions and stubborn refusal to acknowledge the fact you need help drive the woman you love and cherish more than life itself away. Never to be seen again, never to be heard from again, and you know that it is all because you wouldn’t listen to the people who love and care for you and seek help for your problems. And there is nothing -- not one damn thing -- you can do to bring her back, because all communications with her have ceased.
This is a vicious cycle that so many of those who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq are going through. They come back, think they are fine but aren’t, and their instability drives away the one person they care for more than any other. I know this is a huge problem for many vets, and I know I’m not alone in struggling to cope with the loss that has ripped my heart apart.
So what do you do? I have no idea. I run every day (and that hurts, because I still have two cracked ribs) and am rapidly getting into the best shape I have been in since I retired from the Marine Corps in 2000. I try not to drink too much or too often and fail at that, too frequently if you ask me.
I am trying to stop smoking and that is a nasty habit I started in 2005 when I first went to Afghanistan. I started because I was scared. I cannot seem to quit because now I’m even more scared. But it is a different kind of fear. It is the fear that I am not worthy, that I do not deserve to be loved or adored, the fear that I will never heal. It is the fear born from rejection by the one person you thought would always be there. And it is the fear of knowing you did that to yourself and you were the one responsible for this loss. I’d take going toe-to-toe with the Taliban and their *** IEDs any day of the week instead of facing this kind of fear.
A wonderful friend has taken me into his home and he and his beautiful wife and their awesome kids provide me the love and support I need to make it through the day. I wake up every morning and get on [my] knees and pray to thank the Lord for blessing me with so many good friends and for the many blessings I have in my life. That seems to keep intrusive thoughts away for a while, sometimes for most of the day.
My regular readers know that I have a brave heart but it is a tender one, full of insecurities, and it is now broken and I fear it will never heal. I know intellectually that is not true; I know that someday it will heal, but I also know I need help and have no idea what kind of help I need or where to go.
I started this blog for her. I wrote every post in this blog for her. I know I will never see her again and I know it is my fault, because I was too stubborn to acknowledge the fact that I have serious issues that I refused to deal with until now. I lost her, I have strained my relationship with my parents, I have lost some of my closest friends, and I know it is because I refused to acknowledge the fact that I have PTSD and that I am completely dysfunctional.
The Dalton Thomas series [on my blog] was my attempt to heal my brain-housing group by being creative, by forcing myself to sit still and concentrate, and it worked for a while. But it is not working now and, quite frankly, most of my last posts have sucked anyway.
So it is time to move on and I want to thank all of my regular readers and my friends for the kind emails they send and the donations they have made and the cool comments they leave on the posts.
But this is the last post. I have serious issues and no idea what to do about them or where to turn. I live in Corpus Christi, Texas, now and if any of you know of support groups that deal with PTSD, send me an email because that might be a good place to start. But I have to move on and part of moving on is leaving the blog that was created for her.
And again, I want to thank all my readers for their support over the many years I have been writing this blog. Dalton Thomas may be back in book form and that is what I will be doing in my spare time now, because it is one of the better ways I have to cope with the fact that I am damaged goods. But I’ll get better someday and pouring all this crap out on a blog that I know people around the world will read may not be smart but it is making me feel better already. Self-pity is a trait I despise, yet here I am, posting the fact that it is stalking me every day. Pretty pathetic, isn’t it?
But like I said so many times before -- I just don’t know what else to do.
Read more from Tim Lynch at www.freerangeinternational.com/blog.
Dispatches from Michael Yon are available at michaelyon-online.com.
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