I spent a lot of time walking around Houston in the middle ’80s with many of the symptoms of PTSD, and didn’t know it. I was having flashbacks – of occurrences I didn’t remember. I felt like the man in the Bourne Identity with amnesia, who was getting glimpses of his past – a past he could not recall. Sometimes it was like feeling memories – like I was somewhere else living through something. But I had no idea what was going on, and it was terribly frustrating and confusing.
I would disassociate under stress – I would emotionally numb out, feel like I was up in a corner of the room watching events, totally apart from what was happening. I had a sleep pattern where I would go to bed at 11 PM nice and tired, suddenly pop awake and be wide awake until 3 AM. I had outbursts of anger that were way out of proportion to the event that might have triggered my explosion. I had hypervigilance – I called it my “on patrol” mentality, where I was alert with all my threat detectors going off – but not sure why. I had an exaggerated startle response – slip up behind me and poke me in the ribs and I was like someone jolted with electricity. I had stomach problems a lot, feelings of guilt and shame, feelings of betrayal, suicidal thoughts, struggles with substance abuse.
I had all these things going on, and one time in the library found a discussion of this thing called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – only recently recognized as a formal diagnosis. The short definition was – exposure to a traumatic event in which the person experienced, witnessed or was confronted with an event that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, and the person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness or horror. That definition, with all the associated symptoms, sure looked like what I was experiencing.
The puzzling thing was – I didn’t have a traumatic event I could point to that might have triggered all of those symptoms.
That was the state I was in when the events in my book “Freedom’s Just Another Word” began.