Daily Archives: August 6, 2009

“You can observe a lot just by watching” Yogi Berra….How PTSD has made me a lot more Observant

human condition

I love Yogi Berra quotes.  Somehow so much of what he said, even most of the things that he never said really resonate with my warped mind.  Somehow the illogical logic makes sense and I stop and say, damn…why didn’t I think of that?

I quote him here because it is absolutely amazing how much more observant I am in daily life having served in Iraq and come home with a nice case of PTSD, a bit of anxiety, hyper-vigilance and insomnia. I used to fret about the PTSD, anxiety and the rest of the stuff.  It did bother me and I guess it still does, but the insomnia gives me time to write and the hyper-vigilance really helps on the Interstate Highways of the Norfolk, Virginia Beach and greater Hampton Roads metro area.

Now I have been noticing this in the past month more than even at the height of my crash. Back then I had all these things but was way too gooned up to even figure out what they meant. I was talking with my Vietnam Veterans of America buddies Ray and John the Beer Men the other night at Harbor Park.  They man the beer stand behind home plate that sells Gordon Biersch Märzen and Bock, Yuengling Lager, Shock Top, Miller Lite and Micholob Ultra.  I of course will have either the Märzen or the Yuengling depending on my mood, since the Märzen is a premium beer you get less of it for the same price.  Anyway I digress….I was talking to these guys, both of who served in Vietnam about how much more aware of what is going on around me than I was before.  And it seems that although I seem to be doing better most of the time that I am more geared up than I was a few months ago.  I am noticing everything and when I’m driving I can sense the danger of the idiot driver careening across four lanes of traffic not signaling and talking on a cell phone while eating a hamburger even before I see him.  This was the case on my way home several times this week.  I could sense things going on before they happened.  It used to be prior to Iraq that Judy would see or sense these things before I ever would; now the foot is in the other shoe. Ray and John tell me, as does Elmer the Shrink, that this is a normal reaction to perceived danger.  Now I do understand his intellectually, I have read books and gone to seminars about PTSD and Combat Stress at the same time what is going on still makes me think.  I was telling Ray and John, half-jokingly that it was almost like “using the force.” I mentioned to Judy and a friend that it almost seemed that I could drive with a blindfold and still get through safely like the Jedi train the Padwan’s to do.  Of course I am not stupid and will never try this out unless perhaps I buy an x-box or wii with a driving program and do it in the comfort of my living room.

1001In a CH-46 over Al Anbar in a rare day flight

So with the hyper-vigilance I am in the zone so to speak. My mind and body feel more closely connected than ever before.  I notice changes in my body, hear better and am alert to anything.  Now lately I must be even more spun up than before and I don’t rightly know what is causing it.  I will have to go down and discuss this with Elmer the Shrink.   The part that is different now is that my spunuppedness now includes a pretty good startle reflex.  This is new, I had a bit of one probably since I was halfway through my tour, and now it is much worse.  So I’ve been thinking about how my dad came back from Vietnam.  Before he left he was pretty intense but he could relax.  Unless he was really provoked he seldom got angry.

After he returned from his Vietnam tour and then deployed again for 11 months barely five months after his return from Vietnam he was way different.  He was much more angry, drank heavily, and his startle reflex was out of this world.  He would talk about being “nervous as a cat.” He never talked to a pastor or therapist about anything, never re-connected with the people that he served with and did not go to veteran groups for any real socialization.  He seldom talked about his experiences and when he did he shared little.  I think I can understand why now, the thoughts, feelings and sensations are intense and often unnerving.  Sometimes they are downright frightful.  Maybe that is why it is so hard to get to sleep.

mental floss

I have become very aware of surroundings as well as myself and that has made me better at my vocation as a chaplain and Priest.  I notice body language, eye movement, choices of words as well as non verbal cues when talking with a person and I can sense things going on in ways I could not have done before.  So I observe a lot more simply by watching and I hope that I have not contributed to any lack of miscommunication by my readers tonight in writing about this rather surreal subject.

Peace, Steve+

Post Script: The Tides might be getting things back together, they won their third straight and are back to 2 games behind the Wild Card Gwinnett Braves and 3 games behind Division leading Durham.

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Filed under Baseball, iraq,afghanistan, PTSD, vietnam