First off, my inspiration for this blog post was initiated by reading another authors post about a relationship with a friend that passed away before her time, and the conversation that ensued between my wife and I. As I have stated before, I lost both of my parents to suicide. My Mom was first, I lost her at the age of 13. I have yet to completely wrap my head around that. I was told by my father after her death to lower a shoulder and power on. My desire in life is and has been to be a man. Not just any man but a power player. So I did as he told me and compartmentalized my grief and turned to face my next challenge. There were many, and I thought my job was to absorb them with as little outward expression of pain as possible. I was being hurt and the little boy inside me knew it. No pain, no gain right? Or how about, “Pain is weakness leaving your body?” All a false illusion of my bad-ass complex! Which was by proxy my Fathers bad-ass complex. Did I mention he was suffering from PTSD due to Vietnam? Begin mission impossible, making a 13 year old boy as tough as a Vietnam Veteran. Because that was my yard stick I intended on measuring myself with.
I believe I began a life of dual self images when my Mom died. On one hand I was a young boy trying to find my place and on the other a warrior in training. Through the rest of my life that little boy has never really gone away. I can summon that person almost at will. However, that child has become somewhat distorted by life events and trauma due to my burning desire to be this mountain of a man. I have always been competitive, fiercely so! As I got older and the stakes got higher, I realized that the person who would be willing to go farther toward the edge of no return would win. I have never appreciated playing the game, I am only interested in the win. I figured rules in games were made by people who didn’t like being dominated. The ends always justified the means. I began to live my life with that motto. I would go longer, farther, faster and harder than anyone I knew. Sounded like a recipe for success I thought. I was becoming a predator. Part of me loved it, I had a hunger for something. I needed to feed that hunger, so I descended into a world of violence seeking and self sacrifice in order to find that primitive essence of manhood.
I thought the more I hurt that child inside me the better my training for manhood was progressing. For some reason I was still scared sometimes of the situations I found myself in. Then I heard someone say that “Courage is not the absence of fear, but a measure of your actions in the face of fear.” Well that was perfect for me, I could justify my fear and force myself to face whatever came along. Not just face it, but seek fear and force myself to engage and conquer it. The little boy continued to suffer. At 19 years old I was getting to be a handful for most anyone to handle. I had been in the far east for over a year and had seen and done some pretty intense things. I mean intense even by my definition of the term. I came home on leave and my Father being who he was recognized that edge I was carrying. He got drunk and decided to test the waters with me. Sadly, even though he had abused me and my Mom for years, I delivered a beating that the UFC would have been proud of. A beating that would haunt me for years. Hero’s are hero’s for a reason, it is very inappropriate to engage your hero in an act of violence! I can’t possibly describe what that did to the child inside me.
I think my Father thought I got lucky in the exchange. He didn’t realize I had been planning that beat down since the days of him torturing me with the notion that he was friends with the monsters that lived under my bed and he could ask them to attack me if he wanted to. I spent countless nights laying completely still and quiet believing that the monsters wouldn’t get me if I didn’t give away my position. That to me was weakness and I wanted to purge myself of it. Due to his alcoholism, we would face each other several more times with similar results all the way up to 1995 when he took his own life. Now that my yardstick had fallen, I needed a new goal. I found that goal many times in the form of an overconfident and undertrained individual looking to prove his worth. I was a predator, no question!
As I have matured beyond those days I have realized that I wasn’t really a man, but a childish predator. I had totally missed the mark! Was I mean? Certainly! Was I capable of hurting people? Absolutely! Was I damaged? Without a doubt! Its time to transcend the realm of predator and move on to the original goal of manhood. PTSD was my wake up call. What will be your wake up call? Think your a bad-ass? Be glad we didn’t meet a few years ago, I would have considered you an obstacle to be conquered. Now my goal is to heal and nurture my inner child and rest my inner predator. If you are willing I would like to help you do the same. A real man is neither a child nor a predator. I have come to realize, its somewhere in the middle. I am still capable of both, I can laugh and giggle with my wife like a little boy, and take out an intruder with absolute bad intentions.
Pain is an indication of something that requires your attention. A little pain is a normal part of growth. Intense pain is an indication of damage. Results of intense physical pain usually have visible scars. If the scars of emotional pain become visible then it is time to look inward and evaluate your condition. I am beyond the stigma, no one can tell me I am weak. I have scars from emotional trauma and I am so relieved to finally know what it is. I can use that same determination to push things to the edge for a greater purpose. Finally embracing my dream of manhood. Are you ready to make that claim? If so, lets bring about change together and bring others along as we go. Stigma meet my inner predator!
Monday, October 12, 2009
Due to the overwhelming response and operational commitments I will be posting all further posts at http://www.operationptsd.com/ starting November 11th. Thank you so much for your interest in my opinions and perspective. It is a great privilege to be in a position to advocate and educate on the topic of PTSD. The website is up if you want to stop by and sign up as a member.