Friday, April 15, 2011

A Fantastic Voyage


This is me on vacation. See the joy, the bliss? Yeah... I know. I'm a little broken on the inside, but we won't go too far into details about all of that today. Let's just say that most people have no idea what I've been through. In fact, I'd even forgotten a lot of it until just today. Unfortunately, those parts I forgot were probably the good ones, if you could really call them good.

There are things we do in life that define us. If we forget those things, we start to lose sight of who we are. In that respect, I believe that only my wife really knows the sacrifices I've made and the tolls they've taken on who I used to be. I've spent the last few weeks putting together a conglomeration of medical records and statements. The hardest part of it all was writing my own and reading some of my old journal entries and then dealing with the emotional consequences of facing that demon. I'm not sure yet who won, the final count hasn't been tallied. It's off to the Department of Veterans Affairs now. I'll leave the burden in their hands for a while.

Tara and I actually have a very touching story. It's one of those epic love yarns that has all of the twists. Young, forbidden love. Running away in order to be together, then coming back to face the music. Living free and then learning the hard lesson that everything has a cost. Separation. Independence. Sacrifice. Greed. Envy. Lust. Heart break. Love. In the end it's always love.


I really wish I could tell the story, what I remember of it, but there are dark chapters that I don't think I'm ready to face. These last few weeks were the closest I've gotten to it in years, and as a result my anxiety and insomnia raged unchecked. I'm not a combat veteran, so the very nature of my troubles troubles me. Throughout my time in the military I found myself in some unique situations with unique health problems. I can't say I know what it means to kill a man or to be physically tortured, but I'm sure there are other ways to break a toy.

Imagine being called a liar long enough that you eventually start to wonder if it's true. "You should stop this act of being sick," they say, "it'll hurt your career." After a while you begin to question yourself, you dance with the devil and come out wondering if you aren't the person that other people hate you for.

You don't remember things like you used to. Conversations slip by. Your wife serves up dinner and you ask why she made it, it doesn't seem like something you'd like. She tells you that you said you enjoyed it the week before. This doesn't sound familiar. You don't feel like you can trust anyone, least of all yourself. Is it all a lie? Is this just some elaborate dream, the result of some scientific experiment loaded on tape cartridges with scenarios, characters, and plots that are fed into a machine some doctor has jacked into your brain? How will he react if we do this? What happens if we strip away everything he thought he knew? What does this button do? If it is true, what happens if you decide not to play? Nothing good, you concede.

One day you wake up to see all of your coworkers standing above you. The world is spinning and you wonder why you're on the floor. Your face hurts. "Don't get up!" they say, and when it finally registers you stop struggling. They ask you what day it is and you don't know. You look at your watch and tell them it's Friday. The paramedics arrive. They can't get the vein to hold. You can't stop saying you're sorry but all you know is that according to your watch everyone should be home by now. The lump on your hip feels familiar. It's the on-call phone. You reach for it and someone takes it from you. You won't be taking the phone this weekend.

After hours at the base hospital you finally get home. A few hours later a spike of pain rips up your neck and into your brain. This is it. This wasn't supposed to end this way. There was more love to the story, there was forever. You drop to your knees and tears stream down your cheeks. You try to hold on long enough to hide, they shouldn't find you like this. Your kids, your wife: they deserve better. It seems like an eternity has passed but your heart slows and the pain in your head subsides. What the hell was that? You decide not to make an appointment, they'll just prescribe Motrin anyway and you've got a whole cabinet full -- pick your dosage.

Keep your head down. It'll all be over soon. You tell yourself that every day. You hope it's true, that things will get better. Some rational voice tells you that you have the power to change it, but you know it would take a bigger man than you to climb that mountain. You get by by getting by. It's what you do. Keep your head down. It'll all be over soon. Just get through the week. The month is almost through. It'll be winter soon. Summer's just around the bend. It'll get better. Some day.

For any interested, here is a follow up post.
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