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.


February 06, 2008

Name: The Usual Suspect
Posting date: 2/6/08
Stationed in: Iraq
Milblog url: theunlikelysoldier

All right, before I bust another literary nut with reckless abandon and no consideration, I think I owe some of you an explanation.

I'm not a hateful rebellious little bastard 24/7. I've still got the ol' priorities straight, I still stay as sharp as I can out in sector, and I know better than to get myself in trouble with my superiors. It breaks down like this, chief:

This was a nice, heartwarming little blog all nice and generally innocent and tongue in cheek. But shit started to catch up with me. I was having nightmares about Iraq every night, not sleeping for shit. Getting stressed the hell out over stupid shit, losing my patience, damn near having anxiety/anger attacks. Heading towards a level of crazy that Pink Floyd could never fathom.

It got to the point where I said "Fuck it." I told my platoon sergeant that if he could let me stay back, and count it as an off day, I had something I needed to take care of. I didn't tell him what. Then I took my raw nerves and rabid ass to see the combat stress docs. I filled out paperwork, answered literally hundreds of questions, I threw it all out there for them. Opened the floodgates. Talked about explosions and whizzing bullets and dead bodies and losing guys, the kind of guys you wish would always be around. I straight up popped a verbal X-Lax and went to town on these guys.

They stood there, nodding, and then they gave me fucking Benadryl as a sleep aid. I could have gone to the PX, bought some myself, and been done with the whole ordeal in a half hour. When I came back for a follow-up, they told me I have some PTSD symptoms (nothing too extreme thank God) and a strange case of depression in which I have absolutely no feelings of sadness. Granted, the questions they have you answer on paper don't leave much room for explanation, so I brushed that one off.

Here's the kicker. You know what they told me?

"Suspect, what you should do, is you should start writing about what you experience here. You'll find that it's a great outlet and it's very therapeutic."

I'm reminded of A Perfect Circle's "The Package" as I nod and nod and acknowledge and try to get them to get to the point, the end result, so I can go on about my business. Where they stop jerking me around and tell me "This is what's going to happen." I nodded my head through two hours of foreplay to find that it was all just a cocktease.

The Benadryl left me groggy and feeling like shit the next day. All that horseshit about Combat Stress Control being a great program and really helping soldiers, all the pamphlets and smiling Joes shaking hands with Majors and everyone's completely carefree, it's all just another handjob for the mind. In the picture, everyone's happy and having a great time, but where are the guys that were killed out here? Where's all that baggage that brought Joe in there?

Maybe I just wasn't sent to the right exorcist.

I finally just got fed up. I sat down at the computer one night and realized that I wasn't even being honest with myself, and as a result, I wasn't being honest with anyone who reads this. So, ladies and gentlemen, the gloves came off. I stopped pulling punches and I let it all out, full bore, Shotgun Journalism, raw and full of piss and vinegar, with a lot of ignorance and lack of wisdom, because that's what Joe is. He's uninformed and sees only the little picture, and it's a fucked up little picture too, and he gets pissed, and he bitches and fumes.

This shit-for-brains blog became a drain, and as a routine, I'd sit down and cut open that putrid vein and bleed all the bullshit out. And you know what? Since taking off the Disney label, I haven't had one nightmare about Iraq. I've slept like a baby, and I haven't come even close to losing it.

The downside is, as great as I feel, you hardly ever get to see it. You get the Hate, the dump. Because if I wasn't writing about that, I wouldn't be writing at all. Nothing interesting has happened lately.

So there you have it. With that said, let's move right along for your Feel-Good Moment.

I was behind the wheel of a God-knows-how-many ton green monster, flying down the road past districts and towns and villages, eyeballing the sides of the road, avoiding anything that might even be confused as something suspicious, checking out the people outside, looking at the rooftops, the windows, pretty much everything you can take in while traveling forty miles an hour.

We turned a corner and passed a bunch of Iraqi Army vehicles, something we normally look down on, when something dawned on me.

They had the area cordoned (blocked) off, and they were clearing an entire village. By themselves. No Americans helping them out. And it looked like they were doing it right. I was blown away. I did a double take and damn near went off the road.

It wasn't monumental, but dammit, it was something. I felt good about that. So who knows, maybe there's still hope for this hellhole.


Another excellent post. Don't stop the music. Glad to know blogging has helped you out. It's definitely helped me from being bored out of my skull.

Don't hold back on my account. And the mind-job psychiatry? Like you expected military psychiatry to be like civillian psychiatry?

Uhmm, ah, "How's that working out for ya?"

BTW: can you get the herbals; Melatonin and DHEA? It takes a week or so to kick in, but lots of guys say it makes some difference

Dear Usual, Glad to see you are back to your usual.

I've been reading Sandbox from day one, and had to smile when I read Suspect's Creed just a few days after Clara Hart's 'The Faces'. Different emotions, but the same pain of the same war. And both a very real, and very needed. Sometimes you need Rage Against the Machines Killing in the Name Of, sometimes you need Metallica's Orion. Keep writing, your words effect people in a positive way, and help some of us pray effectively. Be safe.

Suspect: Keep venting if you need to. We're listening.

Venting is always one of the healthiest things you can do. People in the know will know that is what and you are doing and understand why you aren't being all fuzzy. Just as long as it works is all that matters.

Don't knock it back any notches on my account; let it all hang out. Better out than in...I am pretty sure anyone who keeps reading here can take it just fine.

Your postings are what keep me coming back. Don't hold back and do not apologize. Honest truthful emotion - raw, hard, soft or sweet. Own it.

I hope the writing is worth as much to you as the reading is to me. Thanks for your honesty, tough as it may be.

Wow. That's it, isn't it.

Honesty is good, buddy--pour it on and pour it out. I'm a writer working with a trauma specialist to write a book about a new method of trauma psychotherapy, and I kept contending to my partner that we needed to encourage people to journal. It wasn't originally part of the method, but I think it helps the overwhelming, mostly phsyical and subconscious memories integrate in a way that other processes don't. After reading your post, I'm even more convinced. Zen monastics have a saying: "Thank you for your practice."

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