Boss Reed brought something to mind for me, the relationship between PTSD and being a leader. This is a very complicated thing. First off, as a leader you are not supposed to show that you are in fact having trouble, thats typically grounds for losing every responsibility. However, the on the ground leadership tends to be the most affected by the PTSD. Don’t see my logic?
March 5, 2010
The Burden of Chevrons
Myself as a leader always felt responsible for the mistakes made, which was appropriate. The problem was that I started to take responsibility for things that were vastly out of my control. This would lead to a strange form of survivor’s guilt or unscathed guilt. I almost felt as if I had been the one to set the bomb off because I missed it when I was scanning. I felt I had been the one that launched the rocket because I let them go to the gym on a day where the rocket attacks had been light. I have beat myself up day in and day out for every possible thing that could have been considered a mistake. The mass casualty outside the chow hall, had I gotten out there faster that kid wouldn’t have died on me. If I wouldn’t have missed that EFP, Soko and Ham wouldn’t have purple hearts and crazy ass scars. If I hadn’t made the request to kick it up to 40mph Mo would still be dancing on both feet. If I had been faster to the gym when it got smoked in the IZ, maybe I could have saved those 2 or been there for Casper. If I could have got Hyunn out of bed faster he wouldn’t have had a pound of concrete embedded in him by that rocket. There is a million of them, and no matter how fool-hardy it may be I still feel responsible. Its something I carry with me, its one of the things that has motivated me to make this site.
The strange form of guilt is brutal. I blame myself for a lot of the worst things that happened to us over there and that is one brutal pill to swallow. I worked myself over so bad in Iraq I started sleep walking because it was all that was ever in my mind “You Failed, You Failed, You Failed, You have got to try harder, be smarter, see it, YOU HAVE to SEE It”. I worked myself into such a fervor that my brain would never shut off and so I would sleep walk, loading guns or putting on body armor. The amount of pressure I put myself under was incredible, I was so mad at myself for the plethora of mistakes and failures I had worked out in my mind. I would sit on the roof of my truck before mission and force myself to visualize everyone in the convoy dead because I failed. I mentally beat myself into a fury before getting into the truck to roll out on mission… the idea I WILL NOT MISS IT AGAIN burnt into my brain. I started taking risks on my own to ensure others would be ok…. this was the dumbest set of things I did in any combat zone. I started following my gut to where there was trouble. I will leave those stories out.
Have you ever heard of the term burning the candle at both ends, I had thrown the damn thing into a bonfire and called it a day. I can only imagine what impact that experience has had on my psyche now. The feeling of being scared for your life is pretty incredible. The feeling of being responsible for everyone else’s lives and the fact that their ability to go home to their families is a direct reflection of your ability to keep them safe, thats not a roller coaster I want to ride again. Just something to chew on let me know what you think.