The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.


November 15, 2006

Name:  SPC Jami Gibbs
Posting date: 11/15/06
Returned from: Iraq
Milblog url:

I think my mind has definitely hit the "rough patch". I've never been one to know what depression is. Yes, I have always been moody. Yes, some people have described me as an "asshole" (I have no idea why I wrote that in quotations). But I have generally been a very pro-life person. I've always been able to see bad experiences as just something along life's journey. Lately, though, I've been starting to feel this very dark sinking dread. Not having any prior experience with the feeling, I suppose I can only associate it with depression.

I hate feeling sorry for myself. I've been letting myself get into a cycle of feeling self pity, then getting mad at myself for feeling pity, then getting upset that I'm angry that I'm feeling self pity, etc. etc. etc. I think after a week or so I realized that many other people in my unit are feeling the exact same way as I am. They are feeling trapped. They don't know what more to talk about. They can't find anything that will make them truly smile anymore. It's hard for me to describe the stir-crazy feeling because it tends to be so overwhelming.

A couple of weeks ago I noticed a little miracle. Underneath a bench surrounded by sand and concrete was a tomato plant. It was growing in seemingly barren ground. I was astounded. It was over a foot tall and had three little white blooms. I picked a leaf and smelled it, as if my eyes were deceiving me. The telltale aroma of tomato plant was overpowering. I pointed it out to my roommate later, and we stared at it for a minute together in awe.

The next week it wasn't there anymore. Some Iraqi laborers had come by and chopped it down. They were hired to come around our area and pick up trash and pick weeds and such. For some reason I felt a profound sadness for this stupid little plant. I told myself that it didn't really belong there in the first place. It had no place flourishing in this wasteland. And I convinced myself that it wouldn't have survived long in the 100 degree heat anyway. But as it turned out, it had a better chance of surviving mother nature than the hands of a laborer.

Sometimes it's all the little things adding up that have the biggest effect on us. But I'm still grateful that all I'm mourning are tomato plants. I hope it stays that way.


Hang in there, Jami.

I've not been to Iraq but have delt with problems in my life. I'm a recovered alcoholic sober a very long time. I need help and got it. Reaching out was great for me.

My daughter, who hates tomatoes, was in a township in South Africa as an exchange student for a year. It was a brutally poor, dangerous place, though it sounded as though more died from AIDS than guns. The food was a greasy mush, with a nasty sausage for flavor, no vegetables at all. (Yes I worried!) There was little in the way of plants or gardens; just dirt, broken glass and piles of radioactive mine tailings. I am still surprised at the excitment in her vioce when she told me she had found a tomato plant for sale by an old woman at a market. She brought it home, planted it, and ate the tomatoes.

Jami, Yes you are depressed, which is perfectly normal considering that you are in a very depressing situation. And everyone around you feels the same. Sometimes it helps to acknowledge to others that you are totally bummed, & in turn accept their parallel situation. And keep looking under benches; never know when you'll see another tomato!

situational depression sucks. It's a perfectly normal responce. Just keep in mind, even though it probably sounds ridiculous right now, that you will be a more empathetic person for having survived it.

In the meantime, take every opportunity to find at least one good thing every day. On rough days, waking up can be your one good thing.

Keep your head down and come home soon.

Hang in there, Jami! I think it's a good sign that you noticed that little tomato plant... keep your eyes peeled for more little pick-me-ups like that :) And if you ever need an anonymous "pen pal" back home that you can vent to without having to worry about what you say or how you say it, I've got plenty of time to kill ;)

Thank you so much for being over there and doing what you do. You can be sure that you and your fellow troops have plenty of positive thoughts and prayers headed your way on a daily basis.

Jami, whatever else may come your way, don't allow yourself, or your brothers and sisters, to get sucked into the "mindf---".

Can I mail you a tomato plant? Would that even work?? :)

Reading your story- at this late date- I hope you have found another miracle plant. they remind us of the Life Force all around us even in the most remote places..

Thank you for your sensitivity and caring and sharing.. thank you for your aliveness and compassion.....

You're quoted in Sunday's Doonesbury. Were you able to see it?

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