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.

MASTERING PTSD |

February 26, 2013

Name: Ginger Star Peterman
Returned from: Iraq
Hometown: Milwaukee, WI
Email: gsgunnip@yahoo.com

Day fades. Darkness prevails and the weeks quickly melt. I lack sleep. I refuse to feel. I avoid that which I cannot change, but is real. I must choose to face it; reestablish control. He took it from me, about 260 weeks ago, and I need it back. I must say it, out loud. Let the world hear my voice.  

His job is to heal wounded soldiers, Doc Lemieux. I should have stayed outside his CHU, in mid-day Kirkuk, with the summer-sun beaming down upon the empty gravel. A CHU, containerized housing unit, is what the more fortunate soldiers live in. Others share 30-man tents with cots, if they are lucky, and have hot showers with toilets. If not, the lowest ranking personnel are put on shit-burning detail involving a 50-gallon metal drum cut short enough to squat over, JP8 diesel fuel, matches, and a stick for stirring. Soldiers go to FOB Warrior for mini-vacations, resupply missions, and healthcare. I’m here for an x-ray. Doc Lemieux is my NCOIC, non-commissioned officer in charge.       

I am a wounded soldier. My ankle throbs with no respite. My wrists are sore, from maneuvering crutches through gravel and balancing on one foot. The rubber pads are warped and scratched from the jagged, hot rocks. Everywhere there were rocks stretching miles wide, and likely deep, into the nothingness below. The rocks sink down into the powdered dirt they called “sand” after soldiers march it forcefully into the forsaken ground. The heated rocks soften our rubber soles.   

It was the first in a series of bad days. I glare up at the harsh sun. No amount of daily sunscreen can protect my Ginger skin from the UV rays on this side of the globe. He insists I go into his CHU. I have no choice. I don’t know where I am or where else I can go. There are three awkward steps leading us up into the aluminum box.  

I complain, “My wrists hurt from these stupid crutches."

Invading my space, he smiles: “Let me take a look at them.”

“Why?  There is nothing to see,” I say, laughing with reservation.

He insists and grabs my aching wrists one at a time, without even looking at them. He glares into my eyes and throws me at his bed. I bounce up, utterly confused.

“Ouch! Why would you do that? I just told you I was in pain. You twisted my bad ankle, too!” 

He doesn’t acknowledge my plea. He throws me back down again, laughing like it’s a game; he is winning. He doesn’t let me bounce back this time. Now I am trapped between him, the bed, and the four walls inside this tiny container in Northern Iraq. The CHU is centered within a matrix of many rows and columns of lifeless CHUs. He is strong and I am weak. The more I fight, the more he gets off.

“You like this,” he demands. “You’re a dirty girl.”

I close my eyes and see his, pervading evil within. The image of his nametape is branded onto my inner eyelids, reinforcing the memory: his intent to violate my pride, to take my life, and to force his body onto me. The neuronal synapses of my subconscious established a direct route through the maze my conscience built to avoid such thoughts. Yet he is steadily there, a constant, revisited daily. The side effects are what doctors call post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, as a result of military sexual trauma, MST: irritability, hyper-vigilance, anxiety. 

Avoidance is like pouring JP8 on PTSD. I stay at home and cry. PTSD gets off even more when I can’t enjoy sex with my own husband. He leaves me for a woman who actually enjoys sex with my husband.  

My marriage failed. 

Who to trust? How to survive? Is it even possible to get my life back? Suicide is an option.

Right?

No.

Fight!

Many veterans are suffering from PTSD. We are staying “safe" in our homes, drinking, playing video games, watching TV, self-medicating, attempting suicide, avoiding our potentials, and letting PTSD win.  We are not alone in this fight. I know that transformation doesn’t happen overnight, but the possibility of achieving control of PTSD is real. 

He can no longer harness the power I give him. I must get it back. I must achieve my potential to the precise maximum. I am an American soldier. I’ve been to Hell, and I’m not going back. 

Comments

Ginger - you have been so terribly wronged by so many, I can only hope you can take this pain and use it. Your writing is very strong - can you use it to your benefit and to the benefit of others? You are not alone and thank you for the courage of sharing your ordeal - you have already helped others. It is one day at a time - and with each day - do try to find a little joy - even if it is the joy of breathing and screaming out loud. Good luck!

GOOD STUFF GINGER! Hats off to you for your courage and handling this trauma. You are a rockstar even though sometimes, Im sure, you may not feel that way.

Thank you for bringing the suffering of so many to the forefront of my brain yet once again. As a Christian, it is so easy to not remember to pray for those who suffer... for healing, for peace of mind and heart, for a way of escape that offers hope... Amen.

As a senior saddened by much of what I have learned along the way, I am angry about this thing I can't understand, feeling helpless rage at this criminal, and MST. It's presumptuous for me to even comment, but I want to say I hope your powerful story helps many victims, maybe prevents some crime and pain, and that peace and stability come to you with help from all the good people who truly care.

I'm so much less restrained than the commenters above. But perhaps I will not make it past the internet censors if I am too honest. So, here goes. Can I say I hope the ******* drowns in noxious effluent? Maybe. Hoping he gets blown up is more iffy, but very satisfying. Well, maybe not so satifying. Too fast. So, I will wish unspecified dire doom upon him, and hope that some day you will come to see that you are strong, you have no need for shame and in fact can take pride in what you have survived, and how well you have survived it. We admire you. We loathe him. And really, that is as it should be.

Your PTSD is telling you that there is something
that you need to do and the fact that
you have yet to do it is just building up stress on top
of the basic issue. Sure you are heavily stressed
but part of the stress is your response to what happened
& the way that you feel about it.

You need to cut through the rational response and get
in touch with your inner being.
True, the past is in the past,
and now you have to think rationally.
Ok, think rationally.
Is the past ever really "in the past"?

If the past determines the present and the present
determines the future, then the past merely ripples on out
like the waves in a pool of water, after a stone
has been dropped in it. You can't control that energy.
You can only reflect it in a different direction.

You have been trying to keep that energy inside your head
for years...and it's beating you down from inside.

You need to find a door, a port, a gap in the wall,
something that will let you get that energy out
of your head.
Even if you don't direct it back onto the source.

Though the wisdom of not doing that is debatable.
Because if you don't, that will just generate more
energy in your head.

A certain amount of payback is required.

Some of you know GIs and/or vets with invisible wounds who are reluctant to seek or accept help. 400 families living with PTSD last year had luck with a paragraph I wrote as a veteran and retired counselor, so I made a 2 minute video of it, now on YouTube, called "To Veterans with Invisible
Wounds". PSYCHIATRIC TIMES, the most-read psychiatric publication, has made it accessible to 50,000 psychiatrists, many of whom work for the military or VA.

Please give it a try.

I'm very open to improvements and suggestions at vandeusenn@aol.com

Ginger:

I am proud of you. It took courage to share your nightmare with us. You're strong and determined and you will get your power back.

Hell,you already have.

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