Saturday, March 30, 2013

Dead Man Talking

Dead Man Talking

Triggers, flashbacks, nightmares, isolation, panic attacks, anger, heightened arousal response and survivor’s guilt. Those are some of the topics we talk about every Friday at the V.A.’s East L.A. PTSD. (Post-Traumatic Stress) group session. I’m the only Vietnam veteran in the group. The others served in Iraq or Afghanistan or both. Some of them are angry with themselves for not being able to leave these things behind — after all, some have been back for several years. It doesn’t help when I share stuff that I’m experiencing 44 years after I came back.

Some of the triggers are embedded in the calendar. We all remember the dates we deployed or the dates that all hell broke loose. PTSD counselors know some of the important anniversaries as well. They know they may have to work overtime to help the veterans find ways of coping.

One of the guys told us that he dreads the anniversary of the day his unit began the ground offensive. Immediately, my pulse started racing as I said to myself, “February 23rd!” That was the day in 1991 that U.S. troops invaded Kuwait in Operation Desert Storm. And even though I was at home in Burbank, that day will forever be etched in my mind. It was the day that a broken radio took me on an eerie, maybe even supernatural journey — a journey that encompassed my entire being.

It was all about triggers, flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks, anger, heightened arousal and survivor’s guilt. That broken radio delivered it all.