Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What is it like to have PTSD?

I thought I would write a personal entry today on what post traumatic stress disorder is like for me. We all have our own unique experiences in life so my example may not be like others. Besides, I don’t just have PTSD. I have agoraphobia and depression alongside with complex PTSD. My story might be very different from your own. If it is the same as your own, I would like to hear from you.

When I get up in the morning, my goal is to not leave the apartment. I feel safe inside, I have established my own safe house in what appears to be a combat zone outside of my door. I know where my trusty knife is, I know where people will exit and enter the apartment. I will not be surprised by people coming and going. If the shit goes down, I am in a good position to defend myself because this is my turf.

At any moment a loud explosion will go off and shatter my sense of peace. It will cause me fear and anxiety. My adrenaline will pick up, like it always does when there is a explosion. I will have to look around and act quickly so I can see how many survivors there are to this blast and hopefully I will be able to find the enemy that set off this explosion. I don’t have any real weapons though so it is difficult to execute a proper defense. All I have is my pocket knife and this scares me. I wake up in a panic some nights because I cannot find my M-16 rifle. For years it was right next to me, but it has been almost a decade since I have turned my weapon in to the United States Marine Corps armory on Camp Pendleton.

When I am on the bus or train in this city, I am always looking around. Over my shoulder, I take quick glances at what is behind me. When I am not looking over my shoulder, I am looking straight ahead, to the right and scanning to the left. I must assess who is a friendly and who is the enemy. At any moment I will get hit by incoming fire so I must remain vigilant. I just hope this bus doesn’t run over another metal construction plate in the road. Last time it did that, it triggered panic so bad that I was put in the hospital last year. This year’s goal is to stay out of the hospital and I intend to reach my goal.

I hate surprises. I get agitated when accidents happen, when loud unexpected noises are created. I don’t like being surprised by people, phone calls and the like. I haven’t called my family at all this year and I know they are worried. They keep calling me but I don’t pick up the phone. I feel terrible for it but I just don’t want to talk.

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When I look at other people, I often see the faces of my Marines amongst the crowd. I’ve been through this for years now and I know that those faces are just an apparition, a ghost of my past. Sometimes it is comforting to see those faces but today it is not. It makes me fearful.

The explosion will come. I know it will. Just like that one night in the desert, where it seemed to come from nowhere. The peace has been shattered but I must continue to fight and protect myself and those around me. The only problem is that there are no explosions here. There is no enemy. There is no cause for concern. This fear and panic is all self created and is crazy to others. So I should keep my mouth shut about this so others do not think I am crazy. I have already been to the hospital more than a fews times and I do not want to go back. It’s scary being there...being held against your will. Having family and friends to come visit you and the whole while feel like shit for being in that situation.

I know I have to get a job soon or there will be trouble. I am living off of my $970.00 disability check in an expensive major city and I am barely making it. Yet I cannot explain my gaps in employment because if I had to be honest, I would have to reveal my disability, my hospitalizations, my medicines, my fears and everything that I want to be kept a secret. My family wants me to ask the VA for more disability money but I am so ashamed. I don’t understand why I have to go through this. I didn’t do anything wrong yet I feel like I am being punished. At times I wish that explosion took my life. I wish my body had been turned into pink mist spread across the desert sand.

I’m not suicidal today and that is a great feeling. Tomorrow the thoughts will likely return but for now I am going to hold on to this feeling and try to get it to stay. I need to keep moving forward instead of treading water in my apartment. I don’t know what I am moving forward towards but I must keep moving.

Some people will read this and think, “What a nightmare.” Well it’s not a nightmare. It is my life. It is the way it is and it is, what it is.


  1. John -
    Thanks for stopping by my blog. Your post was very touching. Please continue to write about your experiences and your recovery. More people need to hear your story.


    1. hello, i just want to say thank you to a great man who has turn my life around, who has made my life so peaceful i have been suffering from post traumatic stress disorder for years (PTSD). I have actually lost hope as i thought there is no cure until i meant Dr Olumba who made me smile again and restore my life.all i did was to follow all he ask and after that he promise he was going to cast the spell which him did and after that all was okay with me just like that i thought it was a dream but today am perfectly okay and living fine. If you are suffering from PSTD or any mental illness just contact

  2. Thank you for your kind comments. Surely someone will benefit from hearing my story. I look forward to seeing your garden grow.

    Semper Fi!

    1. hello, i just want to say thank you to a great man who has turn my life around, who has made my life so peaceful i have been suffering from post traumatic stress disorder for years (PTSD). I have actually lost hope as i thought there is no cure until i meant Dr Olumba who made me smile again and restore my life.all i did was to follow all he ask and after that he promise he was going to cast the spell which him did and after that all was okay with me just like that i thought it was a dream but today am perfectly okay and living fine. If you are suffering from PSTD or any mental illness just contact

  3. I wanted to reach out to you personally since I have been exactly where you are now. I want you to know that, like thousands of other Combat Vets of Iraq and Afghanistan, I worked through my Post-Traumatic Stress and have come out stronger than before – with better relationships, stronger faith, and a confidence that was forged through fire. I believe that you will, too.

    When I was at the beginning of my journey through PTSD, I felt like I had lost everything – my mind, my relationships, and even my sense of self because everything I knew was tied to being a Soldier. It took me a long time to work through my PTSD because I was ashamed and I did not look for help until I was completely broken. This will not happen to you because you recognize that you can get the help you need. I believe that you will come back stronger than ever.

    The first step I suggest is to find a support network. Reaching out to the VA is a great step you have already done, and I suggest you go even further. These do not necessarily have to be other Combat Vets, but people you can confide in and who can be aware that you are working through your PTSD. For me, it was my church. I spoke to my pastor and had an amazing group of friends through our Bible study who called me every now and again to check in with me and see how I was doing. It made a difference. You can even find groups online to support you – if you need help finding one, let us know.

  4. PART 2 - (I had too many characters)

    Next, start focusing on how you can come back stronger than before – it is time to reach out and find professional help. Don't be afraid to go beyond the VA. If you had a broken arm, you would not hesitate to get the bone set; the same goes for PTSD – once you get “set” your healing will be rapid and miraculous. You will not have to worry about explaining gaps in your resume because you will be so much stronger than before. But it’s like shin splints: the only way to let them heal is to lay off running for awhile – but, by awhile, I do not mean a year or ten years. You will start coming back stronger in a matter of weeks, and this will inspire your next breakthrough. There has been more research on PTSD in the last five years than the 50 years before that because so many researchers, counselors, pastors and doctors care about Combat Vets like you. It is important to link into professionals who have been proven to help Vets. You can find help through military groups like the VA or civilian groups like Give an Hour who provide free and confidential counseling to Combat Vets. In patient options are nothing short of amazing these days. I just met a Soldier who went to a treatment facility for two weeks and the before and after difference is amazing. You can do this - you are writing about your experiences to educate and help others. Already, you are on a road to recovery; you may not even realize how much strength this blog shows - you are already getting better.

    With these two steps, you are very well on your way to coming back stronger from PTSD. When you have recovered, you'll see that having your unique perspective due to this experience will give you an edge in your career, your family and in your relationships. When you are at the end of your journey through PTSD, you will marvel at how different you are and how far you’ve come.

    I want you to know that this struggle is worth it. The life and the perspective you will gain as a result of having come through PTSD is amazing and it will inspire you to reach out to others and change the world in a way you never anticipated. You will be better than okay – you’ll be a better man, father, and husband because you had the courage to face this. It’s not easy, but it is worth the battle.

    Lastly, I encourage you to reach out to others for prayer. I know that this was an integral part of my recovery and resilience. Even if you do not have a faith background, there is nothing lost by having dozens of people who care about you petition God on your behalf.

    I encourage you to keep in touch with me. You are going to get through this and, when you do, I will look to you to reach back like you are doing in this blog to pass on your lessons learned. I pray God’s abundant blessings upon you and your family and I am excited knowing that your life is about to change forever in a very good way.

    This is the place - now is the time - you are the one. Your courage to face PTSD will change your life and this world.

    Call me or e-mail me anytime. You are not alone in this.

    Yours Sincerely,
    Virginia Cruse
    Story Coordinator
    The Veterans’ PTSD Project
    Changing the National Conversation on Post-Traumatic Stress
    Visit Us Online
    And Connect on Facebook

  5. Virginia...I really appreciate you taking the time to write these supportive words, which I am taking to heart right now. Unfortunately, I don't have time to leave a full reply but I wanted to be sure to thank you for saying this. I will write more later if I can.

    Many thanks for your visit and your comments.

    -John Cali-

  6. Thanks for sharing your experience. I'm not a Vet., but I've sufferd with PTSD since witnessing a school shooting. I've had my own struggles with Hyper-vigilance. I think sharing your story will help in the process of overcoming it. I'm glad to see other people out there sharing and hopefully helping others, if only it's knowing that we are not alone in our struggles.

  7. Do those suffering with Ptsd have easy access to a support team to offer the kind of help they need and want?

  8. Like live people in their area who are organized and ready to help?

  9. Former Army Sgt.
    I too suffer from PTSD. Many people I've tried to explain myself to, feel as though I make up things or that my life cannot possibly be as bad as I make it out to be. But there are bad feelings and nightmares I cant escape, there's a tension that wont go away, and anger just a bit below the surface of my everyday, that explodes when even I least expect it. I cause my wife and children alot of concern and fear as well.
    I served two tours, made a showing in both theaters. I had some close calls, and was close by when some of our men were far less lucky.
    These things turn up the volume on every bad memory I ever had before or since.
    I know what John is talking about and while I dont know how similar or different our time in service may been, I understand, and John I hope you are doing well.
    Here at home we lost another vet last month. Seemed he felt the fight was closing in. Sent his sons away dug in and waited. Only the cops showed up. They wanted to get him help. I wonder if he ever knew it was friendly's at the door?

  10. Thanks for your comment SGT. I thought some veterans would relate to this post. I'm doing better these days. Some of the medications I was taking were doing me more harm than good. I feel much better tackling my symptoms with therapy whereas before I was just relying on medication alone.

    I let PTSD destroy my life. I feel like I am in control once again. I lost jobs, family, wife and my spirit to this condition and that is why I would like to write about it. Hopefully, some of the youngbloods coming back can benefit from my experiences.

    I am sorry to hear about the veteran that was lost in your area. Sadly I hear allot of these stories.

  11. I am a Marine veteran by the way. I served in OEF in Khandhar, Afghanistan, 2001-2002. We were the first unit there.

  12. Hello John, I work with Operation Homefront of North Carolina. We would like to use part of your post in our next newsletter. Would that be ok? You can email me at

    Thank you so much!


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