Tag Archives: childhood ptsd

Remembering 37 Years of Military Marriage: Judy, My Own Lili Marlene


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

One of the most beloved songs of love between a woman and a soldier is the song Lili Marlene. Hans Leip, a school teacher conscripted into the Imperial Army wrote it in 1915 as a three verse poem. It was published in 1937 with two additional verses prior to the Second World War in Germany. It was set to music by Norbert Schultze in 1938 and recorded in German by Lale Anderson in 1939, and in English in 1942.

Lili Marlene German- English Translation

 

Lili Marlene (Semi-literal Translation)

Vor der Kaserne, vor dem grossen Tor
In front of the barracks, at the large entrance gate

Stand eine Laterne, und steht sie noch davor.
Stood a lamplight, and if it’s still standing there,

So woll’n wir uns da wieder seh’n
We want to see each other there again

Bei der Laterne wollen wir steh’n
We want to stand at the lamplight

Wie einst Lili Marleen, Wie einst Lili Marleen.
As before, Lili Marlene, as before, Lili Marlene.

Unsere beide Schatten sah’n wie einer aus
Our two shadows appeared as one

Dass wir so lieb uns hatten, das sah man gleich daraus.
That we were so  much in love, one saw immediately.

Und alle Leute solln es seh’n
And everyone should see it

Wenn wir bei der Laterne steh’n,
When we are standing by the lamplight

Wie einst Lili Marleen, wie einst Lili Marleen
As before, Lili Marlene, as before,  Lili Marlene.

Schon rief der Posten: Sie blasen  Zapfenstreich
The sentry had already called out: They are sounding curfew.

Das kann drei Tage kosten.  Kam’rad, ich komm sogleich.
“It can cost three days.”  “I’m coming momentarily, comrade.”

Da sagten wir auf Wiedersehen,
Then we said goodbye.

Wie gerne wollt ich mit mir dir geh’n,
How much I wanted to go with you,

Mit dir Lili Marleen, mit dir Lili Marleen.
With you, Lili Marlene, with you, Lili Marlene.

Deine Schritte kennt sie, deinen zieren Gang
It [the lamplight] knows your footsteps, your graceful walk

Alle Abend brennt sie, doch mich vergass sie lang.
Every evening it is burning, but it forgot about me long ago.

Und sollte mir ein Leids gescheh’n,
If harm should come to me,

Wer wird bei der Laterne stehen,
Who will stand at the lamplight,

Mit dir Lili Marleen, mir dir Lili Marleen?
With you, Lili Marlene, with you, Lili Marlene?

Aus dem stillen Raume, aus der Erde Grund
From the quiet place, out of the earthly ground

Hebt mich wie im Traume dein verliebter Mund.
I am lifted as in a dream to your loving lips.

Wenn sich die spaeten Nebel drehn,
When the evening mist swirls in

Werd’ ich bei der Laterne steh’n
I will be standing at the lamplight

Wie einst Lili Marleen, wie einst Lili Marleen.
As before, Lili Marlene, as before, Lili Marlene.

The German and later the English version was broadcast by Radio Belgrade, under German control began to broadcast it. It became a sentimental hit among British, Australian, and New Zealanders of the British 8th Army in North Africa and it became the unofficial song of the 8th Army and 6th Armored Division. As American military personnel began arriving in Europe and began fighting in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels was infuriated and order that Radio Belgrade cease playing it, but under pressure from Field Marschall Erwin Rommel, Goebbels backed down. Afterwards, until Belgrade was captured by the Russians Radio Belgrade would play it nightly at their 9:55 sign off. Soldiers from both sides turned in to the song. In 1944 the expatriate German film star and singer Marlene Dietrich, for the OSS, and later in both the English and the original German version.

There is nothing political about the song, it reflects the heartache of separation and the anxiety experienced by those separated by military duties, deployments, and war. There is a certain tenderness and sadness that it reflects that that only those whose spouses or loved ones who go into harms way, that includes military personnel, law enforcement officers, Fire Fighters and EMS workers, and others who go into harms way not knowing what that day might bring. It has become popular in countries around the world, even today, were soldiers go to war and leave their loved ones behind.

 










But among these, military personnel are unique because when we go away, we go away not knowing when or if they would return. Most of us who have gone to war over the last two decades have wondered about this because no matter where we fought there was no front line, the enemy could be anywhere even on supposedly safe bases. Honestly I seldom told Judy exactly what I was doing in combat operations I was always the one unarmed dude accompanying small groups of 8-12 advisors to Iraqi forces in Al Anbar Province equipped with small arms and HUMMV mounted machine guns. Then there were the 75 missions I made as an adviser with a boarding team in the Persian Gulf during the Iraqi Oil Embargo, and the time we almost got into a shooting match with Iranian Revolutionary Guard Naval Gunboats who were harassing our flagship, an Australian special operations support ship with little in the way of defensive armament. It was just a matter of minutes until we launched at them when they broke off their attack and went back into Iranian territorial waters, then there was the week we were in between the Indian and Pakistani fleets as their nations sat on the brink of nuclear war.

For 37 years Judy has been my Lili Marlene, and she still is. Back in the early part of our marriage the Cold War was about to turn hot and we never knew when an alert to go to the Fulda Gap to sacrifice ourselves to support the 11th Armored Cavalry. Our casualties were predicted to be 75-90% in order to buy time for troops from the United States arrive. The wives had a way to figure out if it was a real thing or not, especially if the alert occurred at an odd hour, they looked to see if the cars from Air Force personnel were still parked. But I digress, in those days the tensions between the US and the Soviet Union were very high, and there was one day where due to computer glitch the Soviets nearly launched a nuclear strike thinking that our missiles were already on the way.  Add to that the Red Brigade and Bader-Meinhof terrorist gangs that went around bombing and killing American military personnel, NATO and West German Officials.

 

Of course there were the times on stateside duty in non-deploying active duty units, or National Guard and Reserve units with combat missions should war break out where there were always things that kept us apart, field exercises, duty, Death notifications, meetings and planning sessions, conferences, required schools and so on. I figure over the course of my career where we were married, of over 37 years we have been separated for over 14 years due to a combination of everything above, I am probably underestimating by some because I’m not counting the number of days that I spent on call in hospitals, or was at home studying for another master’s degree, other schools, or taking students to Gettysburg,  I have been away for 17 wedding anniversaries and more holidays and birthdays than I can count.

But Judy is an amazing woman, despite the hardships, frequent moves, my time in seminary and my hospital residency where between those things and duties in the National Guard, my mobilizations and deployments she soldiered on. We have had our share of difficulties, especially since we both suffer from different types of PTSD on top of my TBI and Moral Injury. Thankfully we’ve had our long line of dogs to help us through tough times, and were there for each other to the best of our ability, which sometimes wasn’t very good.

But since the day I laid eyes on her she has been the only woman I have ever loved. She is a friend who will tell me the truth and when needed try to keep me coloring within the lines. That my friends can be difficult as my personality type is a Myers-Briggs INTJ, think Dr. Greg House, (House M.D.) Marcellus Wallace, (Pulp Fiction) Michael and Vito Corleone, (The Godfather series) Professor Moriarty, (Sherlock Holmes) Ellen Ripley, (Alien), Gandalf, (Lord of the Rings), Mr. Burns, (The Simpson’s), Sherlock Holmes, Hannibal Lector and Clarice Starling (Silence of the Lambs), Bruce Wayne/Batman, Emperor Palpatine and Count Doku (Star Wars trilogy) and Walter White (Breaking Bad). That being said she has to be a saint to love me the way she does and probably feels the same about me.

But Judy is my Lili Marlene and for too many years she has waited for me, and now my military career is coming to an end. My retirement ceremony will be as much as her as about me. She was there when when I marched to the sound of the guns and volunteered for every dangerous mission I could. When I came home from Iraq and melted down, and occasionally still do from my PTSD, TBI, and Moral Injury, my anxiety and depression, nightmare and night terror disorder, which gets pretty violent at times, she stayed with me, and I can now understand a least some of what she suffered and struggled with for years.

She is the best, incredibly creative and talented, able to see what can be made and how to make it better, and so amazingly compassionate and caring for people, but willing to be honest with people when they are being unreasonable. I am incredibly thankful and blessed that she stood by me all these years.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

 

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Filed under life, marriage and relationships, Military, Tour in Iraq

Sleep is a Unicorn: The Worst Thing is to Try to Sleep and Not To

Pearls Before Swine Comic Strip for August 07, 2017

Pearls Before Swine (c) Stephan Pastis

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote: “The worst thing in the world is to try to sleep and not to.” I have lived

Ever since I got back from Iraq in February 2008 the night has been a time of time of terror. Insomnia, nightmares, night terrors, and dreams that were so bad that I often found myself attacking imaginary images, and more than once threw myself out of bed in the middle of them, on more than one occasion had to go to the emergency room to treat physical injuries from these festivities of anxiety and terror. A lot of time I would avoid going to bed until I was falling asleep.  Back then I could agree with Dr. Seuss who wrote: “Sleep is like the unicorn – it is rumored to exist, but I doubt I will see any.” 

Being career officer and having spent time in the badlands of Iraq I have related to military veterans from previous wars who suffered from insomnia and nightmares. Guy Sajer wrote in his book The Forgotten Soldier, “Only happy people have nightmares, from overeating. For those who live a nightmare reality, sleep is a black hole, lost in time, like death.” United States Army General Gouverneur Warren, a hero of many Civil War battles including Gettysburg wrote to his wife after the war “I wish I did not dream so much. They make me sometimes to dread to go to sleep. Scenes from the war, are so constantly recalled, with bitter feelings I wish never to experience again. Lies, vanity, treachery, and carnage.”

However, things did get a bit better once I was treated for sleep apnea and one of my sleep doctors began treating me for REM sleep disorder and nightmare syndrome. Medications were adjusted, but even so  good sleep was still at a premium but the nightmares and night terrors continued.

Judy who suffers from Childhood PTSD due to being beaten by an older sibling on a regular basis and also suffers. Nightmares and anxiety at night decided to try a weighted blanket, which are advertised to calm nighttime anxiety, and all the body to release serotonin to allow better and calmer sleep. She could not get over how it improved her sleep and let me try hers. I could not believe the difference, so she ordered a second one for me. I have now had about 5 nights of good sleep. My dreams are becoming less nightmarish, and I feel rested rather than exhausted when I get up in the morning. As W.C. Fields said: “Sleep! The most beautiful experience in life. Except drink.” 

Pearls Before Swine (c) Stephan Pastis 

I honestly don’t know who they work, but I don’t need to understand in order to know that for me, and Judy that sleep is getting better, and like Pig in Pearls Before Swine I now find bed to be a place of comparative safety.

So thanks to Judy who insisted that I, the consummate skeptic, try her weighted blanket, I am now sleeping better than I have for well over a decade. This doesn’t mean that I will not have nights where  my PTSD demons return, but I think they will become fewer, and hopefully less intense. As James Spader playing Raymond Reddington on the Blacklist told an agent going through a traumatic event:

“There is nothing that can take the pain away. But eventually, you will find a way to live with it. There will be nightmares. And every day when you wake up, it will be the first thing you think about. Until one day, it’s the second.”

I find that oddly comforting, and hopefully using this weighted blanket those nightmares and that pain will go away, until it is no longer at the first or even the second thing that comes to mind when I go to sleep and wake up. I am glad that Judy pushed me into trying it, I am also glad that I am finally beginning to really take her advice seriously.

So if you suffer similar sleep issues to us, you might want to think about trying one of these out.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

 

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The PTSD Startle Response: Never far from the Surface

Friends Of Padre Steve’s World,

PTSD is an unwanted gift that keeps giving. One of its many manifestations is a startle response. My wife Judy can tell you about them, and it took me many years to understand how inadvertent and programmed they are, she’s had them for decades, me just since returning from Iraq in 2008. Until I started dealing with my shit, I failed to understand hers and many times when she would startle and I wasn’t very sympathetic. She has dealt with childhood PTSD for a lot longer than I have combat PTSD, and even after I came back from Iraq I didn’t understand how deep the trauma she experienced still affected her.

I remain hyper vigilant, have terrible nightmares and night terrors, when I go out somewhere I always stay aware of my circumstances, but it has been a few years since I had something happen like today. I was on my way home from work at the beginning of rush hour and and was about a mile or so off base when a large pickup truck with one of those noice enhanced exhaust systems roared up close alongside on the right lane. The noise caused me to look over my shoulder and I caught the vision of the truck, just big and dark, speeding past me. I went into my automatic response, I swerved to avoid a possible collision, entered the edge of the grass on the median and then hit a curb in a turn lane. The impact blew out the tires on the left side of my car. I didn’t try to keep driving and slowly pulled into the grass of the median and turned on my emergency flashers.

The interesting thing was that hundreds of cars passed me with none stopping to offer assistance until a female Virginia Beach Police officer coming from the opposite direction stopped to help. She got me a tow truck and the car will be in the shop until tomorrow afternoon. I am going to let my insurance company, USAA, know what happened in the morning.

Of course I have no positive identification of the pickup truck and he probably meant no harm, just gunning his engine to get home quicker. The fact that the loudness of his exhaust system and noise enhanced muffler startled me is irrelevant. That’s not a crime. But what surprised me is that nobody but a police officer offered to help. I couldn’t do that. I paid for the tow to a tire store that I do business with and walked to meet Judy at a restaurant where I had here waiting in case I needed a ride.

I have nothing but praise for the Virginia Beach Police officer and the tow service. I also thank all of my friends who have contacted me on social media, and for Judy who stayed in touch with me until she was sure that I was safe. I just knew that the location of the incident wasn’t conducive to her traveling to retrieve me.

Whatever happens next I am glad that I am okay and that apart from some money that it won’t cost us anything. I am safe and have a new appreciation for Judy’s startle reflex.

So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

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Filed under mental health, Military, PTSD, Tour in Iraq

PTSD²: Learning to Live Together When Both of You Have PTSD

Judy and Steve[1]_edited-1The Abbess and Me

The Abbess and I have been married 26 years.  We have dealt with PTSD for all of that time. Now we did not always know this was the case, not until she received the diagnosis back in 1989 and even then we did not really appreciate the effect that it was having on her and us.  She has written a wonderful piece over at her place, the Abbey Normal Abbess’s Blog entitled “The Abbess talks about a household with PTSDwhich I have linked here:  http://abbeynormalabbess.wordpress.com/2009/09/18/the-abbess-talks-about-a-household-with-ptsd/

Any regular reader of this website knows that the host, Padre Steve deals with PTSD, a gift that he brought home with him from Iraq.  There are a decent number of articles here that reference my struggles in coming to grips with this, how it affects me and how I am working with Elmer the Shrink to figure this surreal, confusing, illogical and sometimes frightening mess out.

Now before I came home with PTSD and actually figured out what the hell was going on with me and why I was falling apart I had little understanding of what the Abbess was going through.  She suffers from childhood PTSD, abusive father, generally un-protective mother who probably had her own childhood abuse issues going on and a sister who physically abused her.  She also was traumatized when she was between two and three years old when a Doctor removed a cyst from her face without anesthesia, that is one of her earliest memories and for many years caused her to fear going to the doctor.  When we started dating the family was probably in one of their more peaceful states but there were plenty of times where I saw some scary shit going on.  At the same time the Judy that I knew was the confident young college student, gifted artist and President of the Delta College German Club with a vibrant faith.  There were hints back then that she was damaged by her family of origin but I just took it as something that she would simply grow out of.  I had read about PTSD in Vietnam veterans but kind of brushed that aside and had no idea that someone who had not been to war could suffer from PTSD.

After she was diagnosed with childhood PTSD neither of us really knew what to do with it and most of her therapists did not deal with it and instead focused on depression and one even tried to diagnose her and turn her into a sufferer of Dissociative Identity Disorder the diagnosis formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder.  That was a fiasco brought on by “Christian” therapists who tried to find demons in everything.  Of course if there were demons involved or Satanic ritual abuse that made it easy, you didn’t need to deal with the PTSD or any of the psychological components to what was going on.  I think that these therapists, one of who is now famous for his diagnoses of former NFL star Hershel Walker did great harm to Judy and others in making a psychological diagnosis based on unsupportable “spiritual” causes.  These spiritual “causes” were not based on fact, but rather the therapist’s suppositions which were based on conspiracy theories   usually involving how police worked with satanic groups to conduct satanic rituals and then return the victims to their homes.  If we know what we had known now we would have made a malpractice suit against the therapists and pastoral counselor involved in Judy’s treatment at the time.

It was not until I was on active duty in the Navy that a therapist began to work with Judy’s PTSD.  Even still with her getting treatment I was still learning how to grapple with all the reactions that I had seen for years because to me they were still not logical.  I am a methodical and logical person and if you know anything about PTSD you quickly find that much of what happens to a person has nothing to do with logic, but what the brain and the nervous system are doing and not how a person is deciding to act at a given point.  So when Judy would startle or have some kind of meltdown I would try to counter with logic.  This to my surprise never worked and I was always left frustrated.  Over the years I became a bit more understanding but still would have trouble with the severe startle reflex as well as the occasional meltdowns which over the past couple of years have gotten to be less severe because of a conscious effort to help her work through her PTSD symptoms and become more aware of what was happening and triggers.

Doonesbury ptsd-pmsPMS -PTSD Judy’s Best friend said to me “You’re a girl now”

Then I went to Iraq and came back with PTSD with all the trimmings.  I think that she started figuring it before me so when I finally crashed on June 16th 2008, I do remember the date well, she was not surprised when I came back and told her that the doctors thought that I had PTSD and were referring me for treatment.  The good thing for me was that they did not refer to the Psychology or Psychiatry clinic but to the Deployment Health Office where I met and began to work with Elmer the Shrink.  My first visit to his office I got a copy of the Doonesbury book dealing with coming home from war and PTSD.  I laughed and cried all the way through the book.  Until I went to Iraq I had never been a big fan of Doonesbury but I really appreciate it now.  Military.com has a link to the Doonesbury at War series which I find quite nice to have.

http://www.military.com/warfighters

I appreciate the help and understanding of people that I work with.  That helps; I don’t have the sense of abandonment and isolation that I experienced the first 8 months that I was back from Iraq.  I think that my medications are getting managed a bit better as well.  One thing that is hard to understand when you first start getting treatment is that you are kind of an experiment in progress as the doctor’s figure out what works and what doesn’t work.  This I think can be very frustrating to people who want “fixed” right now.

doonesbury ptsd onsetSome of my dreams get pretty physical

Before I went to Iraq she was the more observant one of us.  Now I am the more observant. The one value of PTSD that I don’t really want to lose is my awareness of what it happening around me.  It has I’m sure been more help than hindrance getting me out of dangerous situations quickly because in many cases I sense things even before I see or hear them.  As I have pointed out in other posts this has come in handy especially in our nutty Hampton Roads traffic and the “kill or be killed” mindset that you have to have to survive on I-64 or I-264.  While I like the ability to do this the startle response that I have now is really annoying.  We have a phone in our house that the ringer sends me into orbit.  If I am sitting in the living room when it goes off it scares the absolute shit out of me as it does Judy.  It is interesting to see both of us almost jump through our asses when that damned thing goes off. Inevitably it is the damned Rite Aide Pharmacy automated line or a equally damned telemarketer that does this.  Other loud noises get me.  I was driving to work and there was a vintage Chevy Camaro just ahead of me and in the adjacent lane to my right. It was still in that morning twilight when the Camaro started backfiring out of its twin exhaust pipes.  The backfire sounded like a burst of semi automatic weapons fire close up and the flashes from the pipes looked like muzzle flashes.  Other unexpected loud noises get me as does the sound of helicopters, especially at night.  I don’t do crowds well unless they are at a baseball game.  I went to do the invocation yesterday at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard to kick off the annual Combined Federal Campaign.  I was expecting a small rather sedate event.  It was nothing of the sort.  There were at least a couple of hundred people in a relatively small auditorium, a band, reports and photographers, a color guard and drill team from a local ROTC unit even balloons and banners.  The noise and light, many moving pieces gave the event a pep rally feel which drove up my anxiety level pretty bad. I was able to keep from having a panic attack or a meltdown, but it took work not to fall apart especially with the week that I had had and the fact that in the previous 31 hours I had only 3.5 hours of sleep.  I don’t like my outbursts of anger which can border on rage depending on the sense of danger that I feel although some expressions that I have come up with in these events are pretty funny as I question the parentage and oedipal tendencies of some people.  Anxiety, tremors, muscle tension, insomnia and nightmares are no fun either.

I guess for me that the war is not over and I know that if I was to go back I would do just fine. I almost think that another deployment to either Iraq of Afghanistan would help me in some ways. I guess I might get another shot at it as things continue to develop over there.  Personally I think I need it to close the loop and one day when peace comes to Iraq to go back there to visit some of the Iraqis that I got to know while there.

Dundas at HitSomehow I was More Relaxed in Iraq than I am Here

So now I am much more understanding of what Judy has lived with since childhood.  She has been a help to me in understanding my struggle as well and what I have experienced has helped me have a lot more compassion and understanding for her.  The only one without PTSD is our little dog Molly so it does make for interesting living around our little household.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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