Tag Archives: dracula

Things that Go Bump in the Night Terrors of PTSD


Bram Stoker wrote in Hamlet these immortal words in his novel Dracula:

“How blessed are some people, whose lives have no fears, no dreads; to whom sleep is a blessing that comes nightly, and brings nothing but sweet dreams.” 

I am getting ready to go to bed, hopefully a bit early tonight and hopefully without the terror of so many nights, but I dread to sleep. I can understand why the savior of Little Round Top, General Gouverneur Warren wrote his wife after the Civil War:

“I wish I did not dream that much. They make me sometimes dread to go to sleep. Scenes from the war, are so constantly recalled, with bitter feelings I wish to never experience again. Lies, vanity, treachery, and carnage.” 

Last night was difficult, the nightmares and night terrors were quite terrifying. Thus I almost dread bedtime tonight. Since the summer my dreams and nightmares have become much more vivid and often so terrifying that I either wake up or am woken up by Judy when she sees me becoming too physically active in them. I have when up several times either screaming or hitting the floor when I fall out of bed trying to attack something in my dream which is threatening me or Judy, or when I am fleeing a threat, usually as I hit the floor or the bookcase that doubled as my nightstand. Judy has woken me up a number of times, once when it appeared that I was shooting at someone. It must be thrilling for her. Of course Minnie our youngest Papillon decided that hanging on to mommy during such times is a good idea, while my unflappable Molly, my Papillon-Dachshund mix who helped get me through many nights after coming home from Iraq now simply looks up and goes back to sleep. Evidently she is used to me now, it is good that someone in our little household is able to not be too bothered by nightmares.

Last night I in a place where Judy and I had been trapped by enemy soldiers of some kind. I was unarmed and to allow Judy to escape up a hill I shut a gate to keep the enemy soldiers from pursuing us. As I struggled to lock the gate, I turned and saw that Judy had reached safety. I turned to join her but found that I could not get up the hill, I struggled and as I did the soldiers broke through the gate and began to shoot at me, I dove to avoid their bullets and was rudely awakened by my chin hitting the edge of the previously mentioned bookcase.

I slammed into it hard, so hard that my teeth cut my upper lip, and that my chin and jaw were swollen and in pain. I got up, walked into our master bathroom where my mouth was full of blood and my chin already swollen from the impact. Because of the hour I did not want to have Judy take me to the emergency room so I rinsed out my mouth, packed it with tissue to soak up the blood and lay back down until my normal time to wake up.

When boring came I got up, unpacked the very bloody tissue from my mouth and lips, showered and got ready for work. As I did so I noticed the damage to the bookcase, my jaw had shattered the pressed wood. I was shocked, evidently I have as hard of head as my dad accused me of as a child. I was surpassed, took a picture of he damage and went to work, where I reported what happened to my dean and went to our branch medical clinic. I spent most of the morning getting my head examined.

Though I hurt from the neck up, and was in a lot of pain nothing was broken so the doctor sent me home. The doctor said that though nothing was broken that I would be in pain for some time, and I am. He compared the impact to being in an auto accident. My neck is sore, the chin, jaw and mouth sore and I do have a pretty good headache.

When I see my new primary care doctor I will get scheduled for a sleep study.

Judy mentioned something that I didn’t think about either last night when this happened or while I was at the doctor. The fact is that had I not crushed the bookcase with my jaw I could have suffered a very severe injury, perhaps even a fractured skull.

I think that most of my current nightmares are triggered by reading about or seeing news reports about what is currently happening in Iraq where I left so much of my heart. But my dreams and nightmares are such surreal mixtures of fact, history, reality and imagination that it is sometime hard to tell where the dream ends and reality begins, or for that matter if there is much difference between the dream and reality, as Edward Allan Poe wrote:

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?”

I make no pretense of saying that I can understand or interpret them. Last night may have been triggered by the F-18s from the USS George H.W. Bush flying in to the Naval Air Station following their return from deployment not far from where I work during the day. The noise of their jet engines took me back to Iraq.  When I was in Iraq, any time that I was going west or east and waiting on flights at Al Asad Air Base in Al Anbar, the Marine and Navy F-18s based there would keep me up all hours of the day and night as I tried to sleep in the tents that transients like me stayed. Of course those tents were only a couple hundred yards from the flight line, so sleep was rare and the noise got into my head.

I honestly do hope that my new therapist and medication manager can find the right combination of therapy and medications to manage this. It would be nice to be able to sleep without waking up in terror with dreams of war and of enemies, both real and imagined trying to kill me.

I have posted the photo of the broken bookcase here just to give you an idea of how hard I hit it with my chin. It shocked the hell out of me when I saw it. Yes that is the damaged that I caused, it is about three inches in size.


So anyway, I am going to try to get some sleep. But as Guy Sajer, the author of the classic account of brutal combat wrote: “Only happy people have nightmares, from overeating. For those who live a nightmare reality, sleep is a black hole, lost in time, like death.” Since returning from Iraq, my nights have been nightmarish. I wish that I never had to sleep, for sleep is far worse than being awake, even awake in a combat zone. Like Gouverneur Warren, my dreams sometimes, in  fact most of the time cause me to dread going to sleep.

All that being said I do not want to lose my dreams, the good, the bad or even the terrifying. The somehow are a part of me, though I certainly would wish that they would not be so vivid that I end up physically bruised and sitting in an acute care clinic. That being said, I have to agree with Joseph Heller who wrote: “I want to keep my dreams, even bad ones, because without them, I might have nothing all night long.”

With that, I wish all of us peace and pleasant dreams, even in the midst of real life nightmares.

Padre Steve+


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

Padre Steve’s Favorite Halloween Horror


“Without me, Transylvania will be as exciting as Bucharest… on a Monday night.” Count Dracula (George Hamilton) on being banished from his castle by Romanian Communists in Love at First Bite

Yes it is Halloween, or All Hallow’s Eve and time for me to share my favorite Halloween horror films with you. Horror movies can be scary, but they can also be funny and even kind of klitschy. I think that is why they have such an enduring fascination to so many people, including me. I love horror, suspense, science fiction and the paranormal. They tend to be less scary than driving to work on the local interstate highways in the Hampton Roads area or going to a Mall or Wal-Mart.

Horror films have always fascinated me, especially the ones that are not simply built around a bunch of slashing and mindless killing and brutality.

Some of the films I like are more dramatic and suspenseful while others are more on the funny side of the horror genre. Not that there is anything wrong with that. There are hundreds of not thousands of horror films out there and many are variations on a theme and many are so bad I will not watch them. That being said there are some that I cannot miss.


I love the whole vampire and Dracula genre. The Bela Lugosi Dracula was interesting but the klitchshy Hammer Dracula films with Christopher Lee were always my favorites. It was always fun for me to watch how some idiot managed to find a way to spill some blood on Dracula’s ashes and re-animate the Prince of Darkness. Of course the fact that Lee’s Dracula was always going after some really good looking girl made the series predicable and enjoyable.


The female versions of the Dracula films produced by Hammer Productions were even more enjoyable for a teen age boy. Ingrid Pitt played a great Carmilla Karnstein, a seductive female vampire who preyed on great looking women in The Vampire Lovers.  In the vampire genre Quentin Tarintino’s Dusk ‘Til Dawn was pretty good and Wesley Snipes Blade series was enjoyable too.


I think that the horror film that still gives me the creeps is another vampire film, Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. I saw it the first time while visiting my wife’s cousin who lived in the Netherlands back in 1985. It was on Dutch television in English and subtitled in Dutch.


Now I admit these are not the best Dracula movies, but they are entertaining. I liked Interview with a Vampire, Dracula (1979) starring Frank Langella, Sir Lawrence Olivier and Donald Pleasance, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) starring Gary Oldham and Winona Ryder were all actually better films.  Other films in the vampire genre that I like included Fright Night and The Lost Boys.


There were parodies as well, my favorites being Love at First Bite starring George Hamilton, Susan Saint James, Richard Benjamin, Dick Shawn and Arte Johnson, Mel Brooks’ Dracula Dead and Loving it starring Leslie Nielsen and Blackula, a blacksploitation parody starring William Marshall.


Frankenstein was okay but I love Mel Brooks’ parody Young Frankenstein starring Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Terri Garr and Peter Boyle.

William Friedkin_The Exorcist_1973

Then there are the Satanic or Demonic possession and oppression films based on actual events. There is the classic The Exorcist and more recently The Conjuring. Both kept me on the edge of my seat and were scarier at home than they were in the theater. Another film which I like but which might better fit into the Science Fiction or loosely based on real events category is The Mothman Prophecies. 


Zombie films have never been that interesting to me but the original Night of the Living Dead is a classic that I will watch and I did enjoy the parody Shaun of the Dead starring Simon Pegg.


In a different class is the cult classic Army of Darkness a sequel to the Evil Dead films.  In this Bruce Campbell plays a hardware store employee who gets transported through time to a medieval castle being attacked by a ghoulish army. It really is a classic full of great one liners and action. I think one of my favorite lines is where Campbell’s character “Ash” answers the leader of the dead army when he is asked who he is: “Well hello Mister Fancypants. Well, I’ve got news for you pal, you ain’t leadin’ but two things, right now: Jack and shit… and Jack left town.”


When I was in junior high school, high school and college a lot of different horror films came out which became cult classics which spawned sequel after sequel. There was the original Halloween starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I never got into the sequels because none of them were as good as the originals.


Another film that I found positively frightening was Invasion of the Body Snatchers starring Donald Sutherland. It was a remake of an earlier film but the whole concept of falling asleep and being replaced with a pod person freaked me out.

Like I said at the beginning of the article, there are thousands of horror films out there. I could go on and mention more but to do so would be to repeat variations on similar themes or to stretch the genre to include various murder mysteries with horror or demonic elements such as Silence of the Lambs or films which are more appropriately classed as Science Fiction such as Alien.


In a totally different category are the Ghostbusters comedies and Scrooged. Both comedies with classic horror twists. I love those movies.

So as Halloween winds down and the trick or treaters go home, while you are snuggled in your bed with your love, turn on the television and find something scary to watch. After all, tomorrow is Friday.


Padre Steve+


Filed under film, Just for fun, movies

Killing off the Undead Tooth of Terror

stooges dentist 2Yesterday I Might have taken these Guy’s Offer

The battle was brutal.  Yesterday the Undead Tooth of Terror held me in its grip more tightly than any time in the past several days.  Judy drove us home from West Virginia and last night as soon as we got back I was met by the on-call dentist and oral surgeon.  They bought me some relief for the night but I still didn’t sleep much having been tanked up on caffeine just to make it through the trip, the whole yin and yang of uppers and downers together.  This morning I got up and went in to work, my tooth and mouth in a bit of pain but not the 10.5 to 12.9 on the scale of 10 that I had yesterday.  The Undead Tooth of Terror may have been down but he was not yet out.

I met the dentist from last night as well as the Oral Surgeon who is the department head.  The people at the desk had no clue that I was coming in and were trying to figure things out by calling to the back when the dentist from last night came out, told them exactly what the plan was and had them check me in.  I was sent to wait and waiting 5 minutes a nurse came out the get me and ushered me into the oral surgery pavilion. Now you might wonder what difference there is in this and a normal dentist chair and treatment room.  So let me tell you.  I work at a large teaching hospital and this includes the Dental Department.  In fact the dentist who worked on me last night was a first year resident by you would not have known by how well he did and how considerate he was of any possible pain or discomfort that I might experience.  Anyway, back to the pavilion.  It is large with a number of oral surgery suites.  In the suite sits a dental chair. Not just any chair but one that looks like a first class airline seat and much more comfortable than a standard dental chair. The arms were a bit different as they had straps to hold down your arms as well as an IV line for the times they put someone to sleep when doing the surgery.  It looked like it could have been like a set up for prison lethal injection room.  I guess if we move to a Soylent Green end of life deal these would be in your neighborhood.  Since I had no need of lethal injection or for that matter being put to sleep for the procedure these meant nothing to me.  However when I have my implant they will do this.  The rest of the room has a good amount of equipment not seen in a normal dentist treatment room.

I got in the chair and they went through the checklist to make sure that I was me and want procedure was being done.  I was read the consent form which asked of potential complications of the surgery.  These were interesting, thankfully I did not expect complications although because the tooth was so weak there was a strong possibility that it could shatter and would have to be cut out.  Preliminaries completed I was given a topical anesthetic followed by about four or five shots into the right side of my mouth, which because of the local I did not feel.  Then they went to work.  I couldn’t see anything but could hear and feel, albeit without pain what they were doing.  Things didn’t take too long, maybe 20 minutes to remove the tooth if that.  It had come out in several pieces as they suspected, but thankfully the roots were straight and they didn’t have to do any real gymnastics to get it out.  I looked at the damned thing which was in several pieces on the small instrument table in front of me.  It was like looking at Dracula after you had staked him and before he turned to dust.  I amazement I asked if I could take it home with me and was told that I could not because it was now “hazardous waste.”  Hell I thought it was hazardous before it was waste.  I told the dentist and nurse that I was hoping to take it home so I could put it under the pillow for the tooth fairy.  The dentist said that he didn’t think that she would give very much for it but I said I thought that it was worth a try.  When all was said and done I was given an SIQ chit for two days.  SIQ means “sick in quarters” and is basically the Navy’s way of saying “Go home dummy.  Follow the doctor’s directions and take care of yourself.” I really only expected one day, but as I started hurting again some tonight I realized that I could not do my 24 hour on call shift tomorrow without making things much worse for me.   Following the surgery the site of the now really dead Undead Tooth of Terror was packed with gauze to soak up the blood.  I ended up changing the gauze three times before the site stopped bleeding.

When I got home I realized that I had forgotten to drop off a prescription for more Vicodin so I had to drive back and drop it off at our pharmacy. Thankfully traffic was light and I got there and back pretty quick and will get the prescription tomorrow as the line was huge and I was in no condition to wait an hour to get it as I had a couple left.  Once I was home I fell asleep for about 3 hours. I got up, had a light dinner and took it easy.  The pain started back up about 9 PM and so I took my meds and am getting ready to go to bed.  I expect that I should sleep well for the first time tonight.  The Undead Tooth of Terror is no more but I still bear the scars of my encounter with the beast from the pit of hell.  Patently the Deity Herself was with me through this and will take care of me tonight even if I don’t get a visit from the tooth fairy.

Thank you for your prayers encouragement and support.  Thanks especially to Judy who threw herself on the proverbial grenade yesterday to drive me home even though she was extremely tired and not feeling that well herself. I have a follow up next week for this procedure and my initial visit for the implant in six weeks.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under healthcare, Loose thoughts and musings, Military