The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the tag “post-traumatic stress”

Another Vivid Dream, This Time, Mine

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The other night at four a.m.,  I awakened from a dream so vivid,  that even after I’d gotten up and gone to the bathroom, and crawled back into bed, I felt myself still in that dream reality. Even now, I can close my eyes and be there again.  Normally, for me,  dreams evaporate quickly upon awakening unless I write them down or tell them to my husband. But not this one.  It’s as if it actually happened.  And dreams usually have that fuzzy quality to them.  Not this one.

The entire thing unfolded from my perspective, viewed through my eyes, with me  feeling the feelings, but it wasn’t actually me.

I am in my apartment in dreamland (which is nothing like my actual apartment.)   In the dream, it was also about four a.m.  I am sleeping I think on a pull-out sofa because I’m close to the door. I hear something outside in the hallway. I look through the keyhole.  My neighbor, a  young man —  younger than me by at least a decade or two —  is sitting with his back against the wall,  caddy-corner to my entrance.  His knees are drawn up to his chest, his arms are wrapped around his legs, his face is resting between his knees. He is absolutely still.

He often goes out in the evenings and comes home late, having partied himself into oblivion.  Tonight, he’s either drunk or high.  I can’t quite tell.  I’m getting no emotional reading from him. He seems completely inert.

He is a veteran and he suffers from PTSD.  In the time that we’ve been neighbors,   I have been kind to him. Occasionally we have had some serious conversations about a variety of things,  but I would not say we are friends. We hardly have anything in common.

He says nothing.  Doesn’t move.  But I know he wants  me to open my door so he can cry on my shoulder, otherwise why would he be sitting there?   But it’s the middle of the night.  I am not his therapist.  His problems are way above my pay grade.  I don’t know how to help him or that I even could. I feel compassion for him but he’s my neighbor,  a virtual stranger.  I am not willing let him become accustomed to leaning on me emotionally.  He’s not my patient, not my child, not my family member.  He needs professional help which I cannot provide.

Through the door, I speak to him sternly but kindly.  “Go home.  It’s late.”

Eventually I hear him shuffling off to his apartment, which is diagonally across from mine.  There are  just two apartments on the landing with a staircase up the middle.

I go back to bed, waiting for the click of his door but I don’t hear it.  I return to the key hole and look again. It’s hard to see his door from mine as the staircase is in the way, but I can see him leaning, with his head against his own door,  standing only from inertia,  not moving. I really do not want to get involved with him now but I cannot let him stand there all night.  I just want him to go into his own apartment and sleep it off.

I open my door and go over to him. He is almost in a fugue state. Barely there.  “Give me your key” I say, and he does.  I open the door for him and push him inside towards his couch.  “Sleep.  You will feel better in the morning.”    I’m doing the bare minimum to keep him safe, without getting sucked into one of his crying jags.   It’s the middle of the night!  I’m not on call! This is not my job.

I close the door after him and go back to  my apartment,  any vague sense of responsibility  assuaged.  I’m just dozing off when I hear his door open again.  I look out through the peep hole and I see him leaving. He is wearing rubber gloves and carrying what appears to be cleaning supplies.  This makes no sense to me.

I am afraid he’s going to get into trouble out there in his condition.  Even for him,  his behavior this evening has been bizarre.

I call the police. Tell them what’s happened.  I ask them to go find him before he hurts himself or someone else. They ask me for the make of his car.  I tell him I have no idea.  I’ve seen him in it a few times; it’s a nondescript midsize vehicle.  I can’t give them any more than that.  They seem to be blowing me off.  I get angry and ask them if they can’t look up the vehicle based on his name and address.  I am seriously concerned that he’s going to do something bad.  While I do not feel  personally responsible for him,  I cannot ignore this.  If he caused an accident or got himself into serious trouble,  I would feel guilty.

The dream ended there, with me trying to get the police to go after him.  But because it was so vivid,  it was  easy to put myself back into the reality of it.  I reran the whole thing in my head a couple of times, trying to determine if there was any meaning to this.   Later,  somewhere between sleep and wakefulness, I understand what had actually happened:  He had already killed somebody earlier in the evening and he was going back out to attempt to cover his tracks and/or hide the evidence.   This explained his strange impenetrable mood, his total lack of affect.   That night, he had finally hit bottom, and there would be no climbing back out of it.

 

______

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey.
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Rational Fear

first published Sept 3, 2015Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Ru

I was born in an unfortunate time. As a very young child, I was taught to walk quickly, keep my head down, never look strangers in the eye and certainly never to speak to them. I learned to blend into the background and make myself invisible. I was too small to completely understand what was going on, but I sensed enough to understand that the adults were deeply fearful. As things got worse and as I began to become more aware of what was happening around us, the fear took hold of me, too, like tentacles. It did not let go. I felt the panic everywhere; it emanated from everyone. I could smell it in their sweat. I could sense it in the darting eyes, the furtive glances, and the hushed, secretive conversations which ended abruptly the moment they became aware I was in the room.

Over time, I could feel it getting worse. Grownups started to disappear.   Some neighbors – a father and son – went off to work in the morning and never came home. People said they saw them being taken away. My school friend’s mother went off alone to the market, never to return.

At first, nobody could believe the truth because it was too terrible to comprehend. They could not believe that such a thing could happen to them, in modern times, in a modern country. This was not the middle ages!

Soldiers shot an old man in the middle of the street and kicked him as he lay bleeding to death. They laughed. This news sent chills, waves of nausea, horror, terror through the community.

They started to search the apartments so we created hiding places, where we ran the instant we heard the first boot on the stairs. Mine was behind the stove.

One night, the soldiers came to our building. We heard them calling in the street and ran to our places. They weren’t afraid of our hiding. They were on to our game. I could hear them, banging on doors, kicking them in, shooting off their guns. I heard screaming of people I knew. “Why!? Why are you doing this?” they asked. “We’ve done nothing wrong!” they cried. It was like a mouse trying to reason with a hungry cat.

I knew what was happening. I’d seen it a few nights before, when they went to the building across the street. Shivering, terrified people in their pajamas stood outside in the cold, guarded by other soldiers with guns. But this night, I was in my place, huddled in a ball, trying not to sob or make any noise, though I was sure they could hear my heart pounding even in the street.

I heard them come into our apartment. It was empty, or so it seemed. Maybe on spite for not finding anyone, or for fun, or out of pure evil or because they were too lazy to really look for us, they shot up our apartment.    They laughed and fired bullets everywhere, as if they never had to worry about a lack of them.

Finally, they left.   I waited a long time to be sure before I pushed aside the panel and crawled out.

I found only my mother still alive. The soldiers’ bullets had penetrated the other hiding places and had killed my father, my brother and my grandmother. My mother wouldn’t let me look but I remember the blood dripping from my brother’s secret spot.

That night, my mother packed up a small bag with some clothing, photos, whatever small valuables she had, and a enough food to take us only until the next day. She said a few prayers – it was the best we could do, because we could not bury our family properly — and we left. I had no idea where we were going. I don’t think she did either, but we both understood in our own way that remaining there was impossible. I remember walking for a long time.

The next year or so was a blur to me. We moved all the time. We lived in hiding, like fugitives, like animals. Some people were kind. They gave us food and shelter, at great danger to themselves, but we were afraid to trust or endanger anyone too much.

My mother learned about some people who might provide false documents for us, and we traveled to see them. It was a far and dangerous journey but we had no choice. We were among the lucky ones.   We got the papers and my mother found a way for us to leave the country. I don’t know how she did it. She never spoke of it. When I brought up the subject, she closed down completely, overcome with such obvious sadness and pain, I quickly learned never to ask.  It was a secret she took to her grave. I always suspected she gave herself to a man in exchange for this favor, and could not bear to think about the shame she felt at betraying my father. She did it for me. This I know. She would not have done it for herself, alone.

We went on a boat, across the sea. And later, another boat, across an ocean. We started a new life in a new land. We assimilated as best we could, and had, by outside appearances, a normal life.

My mother never remarried. She lived to 91. The sorrow and fear never left her eyes.   I think, until the day she died, she always expected them to come for her and her family again.

I married and had children and tried my best not to transfer my lingering mistrust of strangers to them, my mistrust of life in general, nor my paranoia nor my deep sense of loss of the life I might have lived had my world not been turned upside down. I’m not sure I succeeded very well. I think it was all well-embedded in my genes.

Here is what I know: There is no such thing as permanence. The life you think you are living can be pulled out from under you at any time. You comfort yourself with the belief that although such atrocities might have happened in the past,  they could never happen again.   Humans can be so bitterly cruel to each other, it’s hard to comprehend they are of the same species. Without vigilance, life quickly becomes tragedy.

—————–

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!

 

 

 

photo: Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Rational Fear

 

First published Sept 3, 2015
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Ru

I was born in an unfortunate time. As a very young child, I was taught to walk quickly, keep my head down, never look strangers in the eye and certainly never to speak to them. I learned to blend into the background and make myself invisible. I was too small to completely understand what was going on, but I sensed enough to understand that the adults were deeply fearful. As things got worse and as I began to become more aware of what was happening around us, the fear took hold of me, too, like tentacles. It did not let go. I felt the panic everywhere; it emanated from everyone. I could smell it in their sweat. I could sense it in the darting eyes, the furtive glances, and the hushed, secretive conversations which ended abruptly the moment they became aware I was in the room.

Over time, I could feel it getting worse. Grownups started to disappear.   Some neighbors – a father and son – went off to work in the morning and never came home. People said they saw them being taken away. My school friend’s mother went off alone to the market, never to return.

At first, nobody could believe the truth because it was too terrible to comprehend. They could not believe that such a thing could happen to them, in modern times, in a modern country. This was not the middle ages!

Soldiers shot an old man in the middle of the street and kicked him as he lay bleeding to death. They laughed. This news sent chills, waves of nausea, horror, terror through the community.

They started to search the apartments so we created hiding places, where we ran the instant we heard the first boot on the stairs. Mine was behind the stove.

One night, the soldiers came to our building. We heard them calling in the street and ran to our places. They weren’t afraid of our hiding. They were on to our game. I could hear them, banging on doors, kicking them in, shooting off their guns. I heard screaming of people I knew. “Why!? Why are you doing this?” they asked. “We’ve done nothing wrong!” they cried. It was like a mouse trying to reason with a hungry cat.

I knew what was happening. I’d seen it a few nights before, when they went to the building across the street. Shivering, terrified people in their pajamas stood outside in the cold, guarded by other soldiers with guns. But this night, I was in my place, huddled in a ball, trying not to sob or make any noise, though I was sure they could hear my heart pounding even in the street.

I heard them come into our apartment. It was empty, or so it seemed. Maybe on spite for not finding anyone, or for fun, or out of pure evil or because they were too lazy to really look for us, they shot up our apartment.    They laughed and fired bullets everywhere, as if they never had to worry about a lack of them.

Finally, they left.   I waited a long time to be sure before I pushed aside the panel and crawled out.

I found only my mother still alive. The soldiers’ bullets had penetrated the other hiding places and had killed my father, my brother and my grandmother. My mother wouldn’t let me look but I remember the blood dripping from my brother’s secret spot.

That night, my mother packed up a small bag with some clothing, photos, whatever small valuables she had, and a enough food to take us only until the next day. She said a few prayers – it was the best we could do, because we could not bury our family properly — and we left. I had no idea where we were going. I don’t think she did either, but we both understood in our own way that remaining there was impossible. I remember walking for a long time.

The next year or so was a blur to me. We moved all the time. We lived in hiding, like fugitives, like animals. Some people were kind. They gave us food and shelter, at great danger to themselves, but we were afraid to trust or endanger anyone too much.

My mother learned about some people who might provide false documents for us, and we traveled to see them. It was a far and dangerous journey but we had no choice. We were among the lucky ones.   We got the papers and my mother found a way for us to leave the country. I don’t know how she did it. She never spoke of it. When I brought up the subject, she closed down completely, overcome with such obvious sadness and pain, I quickly learned never to ask.  It was a secret she took to her grave. I always suspected she gave herself to a man in exchange for this favor, and could not bear to think about the shame she felt at betraying my father. She did it for me. This I know. She would not have done it for herself, alone.

We went on a boat, across the sea. And later, another boat, across an ocean. We started a new life in a new land. We assimilated as best we could, and had, by outside appearances, a normal life.

My mother never remarried. She lived to 91. The sorrow and fear never left her eyes.   I think, until the day she died, she always expected them to come for her and her family again.

I married and had children and tried my best not to transfer my lingering mistrust of strangers to them, my mistrust of life in general, nor my paranoia nor my deep sense of loss of the life I might have lived had my world not been turned upside down. I’m not sure I succeeded very well. I think it was all well-embedded in my genes.

Here is what I know: There is no such thing as permanence. The life you think you are living can be pulled out from under you at any time. You comfort yourself with the belief that although such atrocities might have happened in the past,  they could never happen again.   Humans can be so bitterly cruel to each other, it’s hard to comprehend they are of the same species. Without vigilance, life quickly becomes tragedy.

Irrational fear is just a trick of the mind but rational fear scars the soul.


Thank you for visiting.  If you enjoyed this post, please follow the blog and/or sign up to receive email posts. New posts every three days, and they are getting more and more interesting. I promise! Comments are welcome here or at https://www.facebook.com/livesofthedead.   If you know anyone who would enjoy or relate to this,  please forward and/or share on Facebook or Twitter.  Thank you always for your continued support.

 

 

photo: Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Rational Fear

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Ru

I was born in an unfortunate time. As a very young child, I was taught to walk quickly, keep my head down, never look strangers in the eye and certainly never to speak to them. I learned to blend into the background and make myself invisible. I was too small to completely understand what was going on, but I sensed enough to understand that the adults were deeply fearful. As things got worse and as I began to become more aware of what was happening around us, the fear took hold of me, too, like tentacles. It did not let go. I felt the panic everywhere; it emanated from everyone. I could smell it in their sweat. I could sense it in the darting eyes, the furtive glances, and the hushed, secretive conversations which ended abruptly the moment they became aware I was in the room.

Over time, I could feel it getting worse. Grownups started to disappear.   Some neighbors – a father and son – went off to work in the morning and never came home. People said they saw them being taken away. My school friend’s mother went off alone to the market, never to return.

At first, nobody could believe the truth because it was too terrible to comprehend. They could not believe that such a thing could happen to them, in modern times, in a modern country. This was not the middle ages!

Soldiers shot an old man in the middle of the street and kicked him as he lay bleeding to death. They laughed. This news sent chills, waves of nausea, horror, terror through the community.

They started to search the apartments so we created hiding places, where we ran the instant we heard the first boot on the stairs. Mine was behind the stove.

One night, the soldiers came to our building. We heard them calling in the street and ran to our places. They weren’t afraid of our hiding. They were on to our game. I could hear them, banging on doors, kicking them in, shooting off their guns. I heard screaming of people I knew. “Why!? Why are you doing this?” they asked. “We’ve done nothing wrong!” they cried. It was like a mouse trying to reason with a hungry cat.

I knew what was happening. I’d seen it a few nights before, when they went to the building across the street. Shivering, terrified people in their pajamas stood outside in the cold, guarded by other soldiers with guns. But this night, I was in my place, huddled in a ball, trying not to sob or make any noise, though I was sure they could hear my heart pounding even in the street.

I heard them come into our apartment. It was empty, or so it seemed. Maybe on spite for not finding anyone, or for fun, or out of pure evil or because they were too lazy to really look for us, they shot up our apartment.    They laughed and fired bullets everywhere, as if they never had to worry about a lack of them.

Finally, they left.   I waited a long time to be sure before I pushed aside the panel and crawled out.

I found only my mother still alive. The soldiers’ bullets had penetrated the other hiding places and had killed my father, my brother and my grandmother. My mother wouldn’t let me look but I remember the blood dripping from my brother’s secret spot.

That night, my mother packed up a small bag with some clothing, photos, whatever small valuables she had, and a enough food to take us only until the next day. She said a few prayers – it was the best we could do, because we could not bury our family properly — and we left. I had no idea where we were going. I don’t think she did either, but we both understood in our own way that remaining there was impossible. I remember walking for a long time.

The next year or so was a blur to me. We moved all the time. We lived in hiding, like fugitives, like animals. Some people were kind. They gave us food and shelter, at great danger to themselves, but we were afraid to trust or endanger anyone too much.

My mother learned about some people who might provide false documents for us, and we traveled to see them. It was a far and dangerous journey but we had no choice. We were among the lucky ones.   We got the papers and my mother found a way for us to leave the country. I don’t know how she did it. She never spoke of it. When I brought up the subject, she closed down completely, overcome with such obvious sadness and pain, I quickly learned never to ask.  It was a secret she took to her grave. I always suspected she gave herself to a man in exchange for this favor, and could not bear to think about the shame she felt at betraying my father. She did it for me. This I know. She would not have done it for herself, alone.

We went on a boat, across the sea. And later, another boat, across an ocean. We started a new life in a new land. We assimilated as best we could, and had, by outside appearances, a normal life.

My mother never remarried. She lived to 91. The sorrow and fear never left her eyes.   I think, until the day she died, she always expected them to come for her and her family again.

I married and had children and tried my best not to transfer my lingering mistrust of strangers to them, my mistrust of life in general, nor my paranoia nor my deep sense of loss of the life I might have lived had my world not been turned upside down. I’m not sure I succeeded very well. I think it was all well-embedded in my genes.

Here is what I know: There is no such thing as permanence. The life you think you are living can be pulled out from under you at any time. You comfort yourself with the belief that although such atrocities might have happened in the past,  they could never happen again.   Humans can be so bitterly cruel to each other, it’s hard to comprehend they are of the same species. Without vigilance, life quickly becomes tragedy.

Irrational fear is just a trick of the mind but rational fear scars the soul.


Thank you for visiting.  If you enjoyed this post, please follow the blog and/or sign up to receive email posts. New posts every three days, and they are getting more and more interesting. I promise! Comments are welcome here or at https://www.facebook.com/livesofthedead.   If you know anyone who would enjoy or relate to this,  please forward and/or share on Facebook or Twitter.  Thank you always for your continued support.

 

 

photo: Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

The Veteran

http://www.stripes.com/news/latest-va-estimate-of-veteran-suicides-comes-from-limited-data-1.206614

stripes.com

 

Matt (I have the impression that he was a big, buff guy)

I knew it was going to be over soon when I started getting the night terrors. Everything spooked me…every creak of a floorboard; a branch blowing against a window. When a plane flew low over the neighborhood, I’d start shaking and sometimes couldn’t stop for hours.

During the day, I went to the Center, where there were other guys like me. We joked around, played cards, told jokes. Smoked a lot of cigarettes  Held it together in front of the others with the one gram of pride we had left. But when I went home alone to my small room over an old lady’s garage, that’s when the fear started to come back. Too jumpy to sit still, sometimes I’d work out until I dropped from exhaustion.

In the beginning, with a little luck and a pill, I could sleep through the night. Towards the end, nothing helped me stay asleep. Through it all, I was terrorized by memories of the things I’d seen and the things I’d done.

I always had more questions for myself, but no matter how many I asked and answered, I never came to a satisfactory enough conclusion that allowed me to resolve things and make peace with myself. My thoughts were haunted by a million “what ifs”, all of them in the past and thus unalterable.

Regret, guilt and terror. These were all I was capable of feeling.  When I first returned,  I thought my emotions would eventually normalize and I’d go back to the way I used to be. But I was permanently damaged. Eventually I came to understand that some things change us so cataclysmically that the core is literally ripped from our soul. There is only one way to reunite them: death.

This dawned upon me slowly. For a while, I was in denial. I told myself I would get better — I’d just have to work harder. Ultimately, though, I recognized there would never be healing for me. This was my only option. Eventually, I would have to do it.

I walked around like an oozing sore, pustulating with malignancy and anger, infecting those around me. I was angry that killing myself was my only choice. I was angry that at 24, I was in this position. I should have had a long, happy life ahead of me; a wife and kids. Instead, I was just a husk of a human being. Killing myself wasn’t really going to destroy anything that wasn’t already completely destroyed.

After I realized that this would be my inevitable end,  I still managed to hang on for another year. In that time, I turned over every rock in my soul,   looking for progress, looking for a reason to hope. Under everything there was nothing but dust.

There are those who say suicide is the coward’s way out, but that one act took more courage than anything I’d ever done before in my life.

I thought about it seriously for a few weeks, wondering how I would go about it. I didn’t want to leave a mess upstairs for the old lady. She’d been nice to me. It didn’t want her to be traumatized by finding my body. I didn’t want anyone to have to find my body or clean up after me. I just wanted to be gone, quickly, quietly, painlessly and with the least amount of fuss.

One night, I packed up my things in a bag, left whatever money I had out on the bed for the landlady to find, and walked out to a place I knew would work. I threw the bag off the bridge first, then followed it into the dark icy water below.  Nobody saw me fall. The current was swift. I was out to sea before anyone missed me.

I didn’t leave a note. No one would bother to look for me. They’d all assume I’d just left town.  If anyone did eventually figure out what happened, they would know the reason why.

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