I find the fact that war can do so much damage to even the most well developed and strong psyche that we actually have allowed PTSD into our national lexicon. It's so hard to explain and actually define. I mean sure, there is a CLINICAL definition for it, but when was the last time you ever heard a veteran wax eloquent about what the inner workings of his/her mind? Putting a description together is like typing a manuscript in sand, trying to finish before the tide rolls in.
That being said, I've heard several descriptions. One person told me it's like a house you KNOW you live in but some rooms are locked and every time you get the key the lock is changed. I was told by my 1SG from this tour it's like keeping an angry little man in a cage and every now and then you poke him. These descriptions and several others range from one end of the spectrum to another. The only middle ground comes from the feeling of desperation and uncertainty, longing for what was all the while reconciling the fact that what was is no longer there. See, in losing a part of yourself somewhere, you always keep it in the back of your mind that you can return and in returning, reclaim what you've lost. But it's not that simple...and even if it were, I can now never go back there. Never try to make myself whole again. Never have a chance to balance my Karma against that which I've done.
Watching yesterday as we officially Cased the Colors and ended our Iraqi operations, I was struck by a feeling of apathy and longing, an incessant, insatiable need to have it not end. As I watched places I'd seen hundreds of times on missions or the simple day to day I realized what has been the defining factor of my life the past 4 and a half years is now resigned to the annals of history. How does one retcon history to fix their own mistakes of the past? My story, like so many others, is but a thread in a larger tapestry still unwound and unsewn. I sat transfixed and gripped by an intense feeling of both anger and detachment as this was merely a story in the ongoing news cycle. Like a lost love or death of a person close to your heart, the emptiness left now has a name.
What makes the whole matter worse is that we basically accomplished nothing there. We toppled a monster and his progeny only to create a vacuum into which others will gladly fill. We lost so many lives of dedicated military personnel and and the wounds, both physical AND mental, are legion. When looking at the lives of all the Iraqi civilians lost it makes one wonder and question what righteous path were we on? I watched one President state "Mission Accomplished" while another now waxes poignantly about his role in the wars end. But it never does end, not for us, not for the veterans. As a child I watched in wonder as the veterans of Vietnam had that quiet detachment, that look as though there was a missing piece they would never find. Now...I understand it. I not only understand it, I live it. My neighbor is a Vietnam vet. He endured the horrors of the war as an 11B. To this day, he carries the mental scars of that war. Beside the fact that we're neighbors, we're also brothers. Sharing in a kinship that only those who've seen war and combat can understand. I'm not about to deliver the whole St. Crispin's Day speech here, but there does exist a bond of brotherhood amongst all of us.
I accept the fact that my perspective is forever altered. I accept the fact my nights will always be a gamble of sleep vs. nightmares. I accept that I actually seek to not be recognized for things done in name of God and country, deftly yet uncomfortably deflecting the "thank you for your service" comments. I accept the state of my emotions as being like the sea, constantly rolling and never settling. I accept all of these things. But in accepting this, I can still never find the peace of mind that eludes me,nor can I find the PIECE of mind either. And that, I am afraid, is the truest definition of PTSD. Or at least the closest I can get to it.