Monday, May 16, 2005

SICK WITH WAR

Today I would like to talk about something very personal. When I returned from Iraq the first time I couldn't sleep. I had this crazy lurking fear that something would happen to my family. Without a weapon I felt naked. After I came back I began carrying a knife on me at all times day or night. It was because I was so paranoid that something bad was going to happen to my children or wife. Tara my wife never called me crazy, ever. She would just talk with me about my fears. She would catch me sometimes, crying or just sitting there for a very long time staring with unfocused eyes because I was lost in one of my war memories. She never pried but waited until I was ready to talk.

When she would see me totally break down she never judged me. Instead she would sit on the floor next to me and just hold me until it passed. I felt so ashamed because I knew that none of my friends from combat were weak like that. They held it together. I told my wife this and she told me how one of her best friends' (a wife who's husband had been in Iraq with me) husband was going through the same thing as me. He and I never talked about it, but just knowing that he was dealing with it like me made me feel better inside. It made me less of a freak.

I drank a lot. I would drink to make myself pass out so that my nightmares would go away for a while. My wife never judged me; she would only stand by my side and tell me how it worried her that I was keeping it all in and drinking so much. After a while I stopped drinking like that and would instead talk with her about my thoughts and memories.

She has heard every gory bloody detail about the war as I saw it through my eyes. I told her of the worst things I had seen. I hated myself and was sick with war. Even after hearing the most horrible things she told me how much she loved me, and I began to love myself again.

I had tried talking to a doctor about those feelings and memories and how they had affected me. He told me that it couldn't possibly be PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) because he had seen some soldiers come home and they had attacked people or had done illegal things. He said that since I didn't do those things that I had a sound mind and was ok. I guess I went to him for the wrong reasons, it wasn't a crazy mind that I was suffering from, it was my shattered soul.

There were things that I had seen and participated in that I could never take back. My wife was there for me every step of the way. I don't know what else to say but that she is the best friend I have ever had. She is a damn fine woman and a strong and wonderful mother. My wife has never been over here in Iraq, but in her own way she has seen war. She has helped me put those shattered pieces of myself back together, and I love her for it.

I love you Tara

22 comments:

Jan Henk said...

Take care of yourself.
I sent you a mail today, and the url of my little daughter.


greetz from holland.....

Jan henk

Anonymous said...

You are lucky to have so good wife. I pray for peace too.

sume said...

Hang in there, Zach. Praying for you and your family. You're fortunate to have such a wonderful wife.

Anonymous said...

Hay Zach,
Hang in there, and stay safe. Lots of love from the Wyoming clan.

tara said...

i love you so much zach! hang in there , you are coming home soon! we all miss you!!!!! tara, linnea, and jake

Anonymous said...

Hang tight guy... And stay safe...

luckyfatima said...

you're a good guy.

Daedalus said...

Hey, Zach, you know your soul is ok, because you can feel it, even if it feels bad. You are not numb, and that is so good, because you can use all of the dark stuff, the stuff that makes you feel bad, and you can channel it into something good. When you finally do get back, you can use it to fight for other soldiers, fight for peace instead of war, so that fewer people ever have to experience what you have. Just telling your story is a start. Stay safe.

Jana Lane said...

I have read a number of books written by soldiers who were in Vietnam. Their stories show that your feelings and reactions are not unusual. I know you are thanking God for your wife and you are right: she is affected by the war in Iraq as much as anyone. I hope you never feel you should keep your feelings to yourself. You were in Iraq for our country and we need to know what is happening for you and your family. Take care of yourself.

hol said...

Zach,
It's Holly, Goetz's girlfriend. I just wanted to say that I have enjoyed your photos and reading your blog. I am so distressed with war, with what it has done to you all - to Daniel and you. Daniel is having a hard time right now and I hope that you and he can support each other. I am so worried about him and I feel helpless. I liked your comment to him in his latest blog entry about how "venting" and/or "writing" about the hard times has helped you. I appreciate your kind words to him!
Hang in there and keep your chin up - your wonderful family is waiting for you!

Umhakima said...

First time to your blog, what a wonderful tribute to your wife. it is nice to know such marriages still exist. take care of yourself.

kayakerpete said...

i hope you feel comfort knowing that others feel the same as you, but most are not courageous enough to admit it. i used to drink too much and felt emotionally bankrupt. once i started talking about the stuff that was in the way of me feeling fully alive, i started to get better. i pray for your safety and your return to your wonderful wife and children.

Anonymous said...

Zack,
Hang in there. While you may feel alone, you aren't. Keep on talking, even if at first you feel as though you can't. Sometimes it feels impossible but after a while of forcing yourself to open up, it helps. Sometimes you need to find another release, working out or writing.
Just know that you are not alone. I have a feeling that soon enough everyone will be talking.

Anonymous said...

(continued, my bad.)
We are all in it together, families and all. We are here for one another in whatever way we need to be.
Stay Safe

Anonymous said...

zack,

you are in my prayers. i know our entire family thinks of you daily (carlson's). take care man...my brother misses you and he can't wait to see you again. i have no idea what you are going through but i can say that your blog has caused me to question my own beliefs and really look at how screwed up our world is...i can't wait til you get home to your wife and kids. praying for your safe return all the time (and all of our soldiers).

Anonymous said...

Hi Zach, Your writing brought me to tears. I remember this transition and the fear around your families safety and how closed in you were...which is not like you at all. I struggled with how to support and connect with you. You were so internal and guarded and in pain and I just wanted you to be at peace and happy. Tara is a beautiful woman and I thank you for for chosing such a wonderful daughter-in-law to love and she is blessed with a wonderful loving husband who is able and willing to trust. I love you all sweet son and cannot wait to hug you this summer. Keep writing..Love and prayers, Mom xoxo

Girl in Progress said...

Wow, that was a raw post. Keep opening up like that to your wife & anyone you feel you can. Coming from a person that does have PTSD (for over 12 years now..not war related) talking & dealing with the feelings when the come up is sooooooooooo important. PTSD is a tricky thing & it catches you off guard.

Even if it's not PTSD, having a shattered soul is equally damaging. What you've seen, been through, and had to do, will linger far longer then anyone can ever guess.

Prayers for a safe return..thanks for sharing your blog.

ErieTimes said...

This is my first time looking at your blog. It's interesting. Prayers for you.

Salaam

dj said...

let me guess...what this a military doc??? this makes me angry... violent attacks or wanting to harm others are just the worst symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. all of the things you described are part of it... it saddens me that you went to get help and some incompetent quack just sent you away...my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family!

Anonymous said...

Never feel weak about your feelings. Admitting to them shows strength, and you may think you are the only one, but that is far from true. The other day I was at the local college looking at the job board and struck up a conversation with a big buff guy who had recently returned from Iraq. We got to talking and tears would come to his eyes. At first he seemed really embarrassed and said he had something in his eye . After that he continued to talk and get teary eyed. I wanted to give him a hug, but .......didn't wanna scare him. He said he couldn't really talk about it but just barely audibly I heard him say "It was so hard to see the dead kids." It reminded me of your experience. I fault the army for not taking better care of you guys, given the situations you find yourself in, anybody (unless they are mindless) would find themselves with conflicted terrible feelings. Hang in there.
And know that you are far from alone in your feelings.

Anonymous said...

We need more patriots like you Zach: strong men who know right from wrong.

braulio_ said...

Sounds to me like your wife has a wonderful husband as well. Keep your wits and sensitivity about you.

Best wishes to you both!