Warrior

I am an Afghan War veteran.  I spent 10 years in Special Forces, and, of course, it was horrific at times.

I retired from the Army in 2010, and a lot of bad things happened to me from 2005-2010, but I was not physically injured.  There is one shooting I cannot remember, and several pals died in various incidents.

I had a flashback that lasted about 5 minutes--about 8 months after I got back.  I thought I was in Afghanistan again, but I was in Arlington, Virginia, at work.  It got triggered by me kneeling and typing on a laptop, like I often did during a fight, and my boss yelling expletives.  The walls disappeared, the trees outside the windows became mountains, and it was like a camera started and was filming the whole thing.  What I remember was the charming thing I said to my boss (in my flashback):  "I am going to fucking kill you."  Needless to say I did not let anyone in on what happened.  But I did tell one person later.

In another experience I had no idea where I was, outside my house.  It was terrifying.  I walked to a store near my house, and it was like I was seeing it for the first time.  I had been there hundreds of times.  I was scared out of my mind.

And recently I am experiencing terror for no reason, and I am hearing things that are not there.  I am ok now, but when it is happening I am really scared I am going to see something that is not there, and I am not sure how I will react.

Time to get help, right?  But what is the terror about?  It lasts for about 20 minutes.  And what does it mean that went to go to the store, but got outside my house and I did not know where I was?  It was surreal and scared the daylight out of me.  Is it PTSD or is it something else? Thanks.

ANSWER

Let me start by thanking you, from the bottom of my heart, for everything you’ve done to serve our country.  I can’t fathom the horrors you’ve been through, but it certainly explains the terror you’re experiencing.

Everything you’re describing sounds like classic PTSD.  The essence of a flashback is that one looses perception of the here-and-now and literally believes that they are ‘back’ in the experience of their flashback.  Would it be terrifying to go back to Afghanistan and into battle?  Of course it would.  And that’s why you’re feeling terror.  You’d heal more rapidly without the flashbacks because the distance between the traumatizing event and today would grow bigger with every day. But when you’re having flashbacks, that 'distance' starts all over again because it’s literally as though you were experiencing the event during the flashback.  You may have retired in 2010, but your last battle was during your last flashback.

We need to get you to a V.A. hospital.  There are no better experts in the world on PTSD than those who serve the Veteran’s Association.  And while it sounds like PTSD, only a thorough assessment can confirm it.  After you’ve been assessed, feel free to email or fax me the complete assessment.  I’ll be happy to take a look at it and see if they are planning to employ some of the newer neuroscience techniques that are used today to (pardon the pun) combat brain trauma.  I learned quite a bit about healing from brain trauma when my sister was hit by a drunk driver several years ago.  The doctors expected her to recover with the brain functioning of an autistic person but because of her treatments, you might not know that anything was wrong with her if you met her today and hadn’t known her before the accident.

Let me know if there’s any reason why you wouldn’t want to go to a VA Hospital.  I’ll be happy to refer you somewhere else if need be.  But you need to take care of yourself.  Don’t wait for the next flashback.  I’m not above nagging.

Writer's Stats: Male, Straight