About a year ago, I started writing a story after a strong impression. It wasn’t a particularly happy story – it was a story that was initially meant to condemn the blood-lust and military adventurism that has characterized American politics for the last 80ish years. As I put the pieces together, it gelled around a protagonist who experienced some of the darkest aspects of conflict. I found writing it to be very difficult. However, I kept writing it as a means of sharing emotions and difficulties I couldn’t share otherwise. It was a sensationalized and amplified retelling of stuff I had in my head, stuff I had seen others live through, and things I had experienced; and writing it gave me a context to think. I also harbored hope that it might possibly help a few people understand what was going on in my head when I seemed to be struggling.
In that process, I created a character who clearly was dealing with significant PTSD. At the time, I wasn’t convinced that I deserved that label, but as I looked at what I had created (knowing fully where it had come from) I realized I needed help. I was still in denial about where I was mentally, thinking I just needed help with stress management and some depression, but it was enough to convince me to give the medical malpractitioners who had written me off months before another chance. I would try again to get help. I had no idea what I was in for, but I started down that road and kept writing anyway.
That story took on a life of its own, and grew into what was supposed to be a book about dealing with and recovering from PTSD. I knew where the character was, and had a plan to get to an end that didn’t feel like a total loss. Knowing that I wanted my personal story to end without a total loss (the same way I wanted the book to end), and finally getting to a point where I couldn’t keep going on the way things were much longer, I walked into the clinic through a full-on panic attack and started treatment. Not long afterwards, I was forced to admit that that label – PTSD – was mine to wear. It feels like a modern scarlet letter… The dysfunctional veteran.
That diagnosis was a hard and bitter pill to swallow. I still haven’t fully come to terms with it. However, I convinced myself that there was a silver lining… In the process of trying to unscrew myself, I hoped I would learn enough on my path to better to teach me how to end the story. It was a small upside, but at that point I was willing to take anything I could get.
For a while now, I’ve pressed on with the story, expecting to get to a point in my personal journey where I could understand and write about the kind of healing and acceptance the story required. If that failed, I figured I could make something up that would seem plausible, or at least not seem trite or totally cooked up. That hope has stalled out – at least for now.
The story is at a point where the journey of the protagonist needs to bring him closer back to being human and give him a path to acceptance and a viable future. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to write it – I don’t see a viable path to better. My physical future isn’t bleak by any means. In fact, I have great reason to hope the reasonably near future will be radically different from my past in positive ways. However, my progress in dealing with PTSD hasn’t been great so far, and I can’t yet see a successful outcome in my future. Maybe I expected too much.
As I’ve worked through the last few months of therapy, the coping mechanisms I used to use to carry on have been failing more frequently. The emotions, hyper sensitivities, inappropriate reactions, and other symptoms have been closer to the surface and harder to suppress. So far, at least, therapy has made it harder and harder to function. It’s going much slower, taking more energy, and making things harder than I had hoped. I still hope for improvement, but it seems a long way off. Right now, I’m hunkering down for the long haul and conserving resources for the real world.
The down-side for the two or so people who were interested in this story is that I don’t know how to write the rest of it. The two or three chapters I have done but haven’t posted feel hollow and overly simple. My creativity is too drained to make up a believable ending – I think it would be easier to make stuff up if I were on the outside looking in. Instead, my motivation is sapped by the work it takes to keep from choking people out for minor things, and I can’t see a path from where I am now to the better enough that would help me understand how to finish what I started.
To anyone who has been reading along, I’m sorry. Maybe check back in a year or so.