When I was in Iraq, I stressed myself out about running the rabbit truck (recon or lead truck). It was kind of a stressful job, and over a certain period of time was pretty good at breaking down whoever sat in the lead truck seat. I would constantly go over routes both on the map and in my mind. I was always trying to make sure I could remember every detail about the route so that I would know if something looked different or out of place. Essentially, I was the eyes of the patrol, and I felt like I wasn’t seeing in 20/20. We made it through that without me going loco, but then as stuff began to settle in Baghdad, I let myself relax a little, but the stress had done its damage. I started sleep walking. Loading pistols in my sleep, laying out in the prone. I was freaking the guys out so I went and got some ambien. HAHA Bad idea, for whatever reason that just locked me into these night terror things. So those hit a trash can and I just started doing some simple meditations and some mind numbing stuff. Mind-numbing whats that? Well I for whatever reason have always used this to calm myself down, even when I was really little and I was convinced there was a monster in the closet. I lay very still and completely relaxed, repeating in my mind ” Cake and Ice Cream”. Ridiculous, I know but it works better than any drug, or any other meditation I have ever tried. I think I started doing it when I was 5. That little phrase can put me out during a full on arty barrage.
Now I have said it before but I will say it again. The place where I truly find my trouble with war is in my sleep. Always have. I think it wasbecause in Afghan, we slept outside the wire a lot so I slept on edge, never really asleep. Then we went to Iraq and the stress and all that I was back to being on the edge, not really asleep, still able to hear conversations, often times incorporated into my dreams. But the somnambulism, or sleep-walking was craziness. I tend to do it when stress brings me back up close to the sleeping on the edge again. I will get up and play with doorknobs, look in closets for people hiding in there, try to understand why I am in my bedroom and not still in the firefight, last night, I started shaving. At 4:30 in the morning I was standing there, cracking my knuckles because I was pissed about being up this early, starting to shave my face, and thats when it hit me. Why am I up this early? SON of A @#^%& I was sleep walking again. Very begrudgingly I washed the shaving cream off, hit myself with a towel, and went back to bed.
Say it with me now som-na-bu-lism …. its fun to say isn’t it? At least its innocent now, no handguns, or karate moves when someone (Allison) wakes me up. She is usually pretty good about throwing something, trust me… you don’t want to smack my shoulder while I am dreaming that I am sneaking up on a terrorist in the closet. At one point in iraq, it got so bad I set up trip lines in my hooch so I couldn’t make it to my wall locker without busting my face. Supposedly if you wake someone from sleep-walking you will give them a heart attack…. I call BS. It hasn’t done it to me yet.
So when I started sleep-walking I got really concerned, thought oh man I am losing it now. But then I remembered a story about my Grand-daddy, He used to sleep walk hard core, Like take his blankets and stuff and go walk across a highway. I look a lot like him, same bone structure in the hands and feet, like identical, so maybe I got the somnambulism (haha) genetics too. And that to me brings an interesting thought to my mind about this whole PTSD and life after combat junk. We are all messed up in some way. What if maybe it wasn’t the war that caused but just the thing that made it surface. And On that I will leave you to dwell on it. Also if you want a good laugh check this out. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmV13eB0fa0 Pretty much explains why there is a Stigma with PTSD and Life after combat.