The scars on my soul are telling a story
I'm having trouble working out where I am and who I am. Somehow, this isn't disturbing, it's simply puzzling to me. I'm in a puzzle and need to put together the clues to work out what this is all about.
Images are popping up in my mind and somehow the pictures are mixed up and there are people who have never been there before and that makes it complicated. I'm sitting in the centre of a row of beige plastic chairs. When I turn my head, I realise that my wife,is sitting next to me. A ring of beige chairs also lines the walls. Other people, scattered around the room, are sitting here with worried faces some of them are crying or looking down and shuffling their feet. I get the feeling that they don't want to be here.
A beeping sound is coming from somewhere. To my right, people are moving through an automatic door. I look up and see a young woman behind a glass window. She seems to be mentally losing it, as they just confirmed that her boyfriend has died in the chaos that is out there, and her dark hair hasn't been brushed recently. She's on the phone and taking notes. All of a sudden a few people show up to me and I realize that I can not see there faces and I frown when they approach me, as I don't really want to speak to them. I am not the one that should give them answers, I send them over to the other side of the room and I see them sitting down with the policeman who has a copy of the passenger list and they are being desperate for good news.
We seem to be in some sort of waiting room, but I don't know why. I am wearing my military camouflage uniform sitting with my helmet in my hands. We are sitting in a sports hall which has been decorated as a waiting area with here and there a few tables where policemen are trying to give as good and as bad information . For most of the survivors the waiting is hell.
The sunlight is slanting through the windows on the far wall is soft; it must be the morning light, then. My dear God we have been here for hours and still they are bringing people in. Local cops, people from the Red Cross and other persons like psychotherapists, priests,ministers. The major is running the operation. And our duty has been taken over by the own countries army and we are waiting to get the clearance that we can go back to our base
In one corner of the room, on a low table, there are piles of magazines. I walk over to pick up a crying girl and then sit down with her again. This is a young woman I guess in her late teens or early twenties approximately my own age but she has lost everyone that she was with. My heart breaks when I see her and send my buddy to find someone to comfort her. As for us it's about time to leave.
Off to my left, a child is whining. I turn to see a man and a woman, both big, with a girl aged four or five. They look tired, as parents do when they've been up during the night with a grumpy and worn out child. Soon I am absorbed by their interactions; it's like watching a show. The father lifts the girl on to his lap, looking strained. The mother holds up a children's book, reading to her. The child listens for a while, fidgets, and cries again. The mother tries to interest her in one of the toys from a box in the corner, but it doesn't work. Now I know what this is like; I'm a parent, too. They're doing their best in this bad situation.
How did I get to this room? A fragment comes into my mind, a dreamlike image of driving us to the chaotic scene and me being impressed by the sea hawk helicopters that are flying on and off. It is what I can see from our military vehicle window. Did this really happen, or am I imagining it?
I turn to my wife and see that she's crying quietly: her cheeks are pink; the rims of her eyes are red. She's sad about something, but I don't know what. I put my arm around her shoulder and pat her gently. "It'll be all right," I say. She quiets a little. All the other things are in some kind of blurred image. And I wander what her problem is, somehow I cannot reach her. It is a disturbing feeling and I feel powerless. How in the hell can I help her when I am in this state of mind.
As we sit there, I feel as if I'm in a sound bubble, into which the surrounding noises don't intrude. The crying girl doesn't irritate me as I think she might have at another time. Instead, I feel a well of stillness inside. I keep turning the pages of this story of my life. Get up soldier it is time to stand up to your troubled mind and help the one you love with all your heart. The road will be long and tough sometimes inhospitable sometimes, but she is not afraid as she has a well-trained soldier at her side. But there is no way back and it looks like our horizon on fire as the sun goes down slowly.
As far as I can tell, it's not long before we are taken through a door. It opens, like magic, into a wide, yellow corridor with a side table, a high metal chair, and shelves along the walls. Have we really been here? Did we do anything good for those people? And why am I mixed up with all those emotions. And why am I dressed in full combat gear with a loaded machine gun? I left the army in the autumn of 1987 that is more then 25 years ago.
A young military man who says he is a doctor asks us to sit in the chairs while he stands before us. He's wearing ordinary clothes and looks tired, speaking slowly and softly. He probably wants to go home. The doctor would like to thank us for the quick responding to the scene. And gives our sergeant a phone number for the ones who might need help. At the moment we do not need anything but want to go home. We are all trained to kill people but in this case this were civilians who just had a good time and were killed in a weird kind of disaster. In this case we could not save them. Man this has impacted our team the guys have gone quiet as we have seen all to much.The guys are all silent and some are staring with bowed head to the floor. the situation we ended up in was totally insane. And no one had the strength to say anything. It was quiet and lonely it felt like a slap in the face.
Memories lost: I don't know how long I'm with the doctor perhaps one or two minutes and when I look up he's gone. There's that puzzling feeling again: was he real, or am I in a dream?
Back in the corridor, a man and a woman tell me I am to have a EMDR session. The thought excites me. I don't think I've ever had one before, but I know what they are: I've read reports from EMDR patients as psychology fascinates me because the brain is something very special, detailing the effects of a brain that is able to send people in the right or wrong directions. They have a lounge chair and mentally they push me into another corridor of my mind. In and out of the disaster we go. It is sad and reliving it is absolute no fun.
They say the session is over, but I don't remember having it. How odd! I'm walking with a woman, also dressed in blue; she's told me that I'm having the next session next Thursday. I'm not sure if I've been in state like this before, but I'm so tired that I think it would be great to get my life back and being able to sleep without nightmares again.
The next morning is different from the day before. It feels as if I've woken from a dream. I'm sure now that I've been there and that woman next to me in my memory is not my wife but my late buddy who died of cancer a few years later in hospital, and that something really has happened to me. I remember more clearly the whole situation was so crazy before we came in. I'd woken with a headache, walked to the kitchen, taken a Panadol, and gone back to bed. That's the last memory I have on this weird mixed up dream.
The phone beside my bed rings, interrupting my reverie. It's traffic control if I could work today. “And I respond yes of course what time should I start?”
"I'm woolly in the head, as if I'm not sure I'm really here," I reply to my wife. "I've got a mild headache, too." and still you are going to work she says. I call it therapy as my brain has to work in a different way. I jump out of bed and head for the bathroom. Brushing my teeth, shave and hop into the shower.
It's three months after my initial psychologists admission, and two months after I was formally discharged from therapy again, where I spent eight unsettling and confining sessions. It's mid-afternoon and I'm reading a book. It's easy to follow, and it doesn't matter if I've forgotten some of the earlier details. I like the way of writing, and I am fascinated by the story: I'm not the only one on a path of survival. Initially I tried reading a story of a deeply harmed woman that has survived a war, but it was like struggling through thick, deep mud.
I would read a page, and by the time I reached the next, I'd forgotten what the previous one had said. I go back to reading, settling comfortably into my chair; the idea of seeing the doctor slips into my back pocket. But my brain continues processing this information in its own way.
Then, a thought comes suddenly to my mind: if I've had a set back, and that's not physical… I haven't had a mental breakdown. It all came up again due to a very different situation. They harmed my wife and the killing machine was woken up from the dead end corner of my brain. I was going to take this bad ass out of his magic life. And everyone that would be in the way. The bastard has been lucky that he wasn't home as I had figured out were he was living. I couldn't stop the blindness and the deep angered soldier that was taken over. Lucky part of the situation was that he was not home as I still see him as the enemy. Thank God I did not harm anyone. Relief floods through me. Fucking fantastic.
Recovery: All of this happened on the evening hours of the 6th of March 1987 But cue seven months of visits to doctors psychotherapists and a series of tests. I've been told that I should exercise, walk on flat ground if I go for a walk, read nothing harder than the newspaper. I try to follow doctor's orders to take it easy and avoid stress. The stress thing is a process of discovery. The invisible hole in my head is a trickster; I don't know when or how it's going to trip me up next. My body's not behaving properly either. And that came up years later due to a stressed life.
I'm anxious to get on with my recovery, and the more I read, the more it seems like a computer-based cognitive training program is what I need. The program should concentrate on building the basic auditory skills first, and then the components of speech and finally comprehension.
Now the situation has stabilized and I am calm again, yet I must give closure to the old situation and learn to live with what happened then. Furthermore, I will have to build on a completely new start for my wife because she never will be the same again and will have to learn to live with her post-traumatic stress disorder. Will I ever find the peace and able to deal with the false world that simply seeks to amass money and is not looking for happiness.
It is the time that heals all wounds, but there is always a scar on my soul and that scar will fade with aging. Sometimes it will itch and sometimes it will be hurting and feel like stabbing but it will never disappear. It's something you learn to live with and gradually no one is sensing that you have a scar. "In peacetime you are much more affected by the war." said an old veteran a couple of weeks ago.
The Old Sailor,