11 February 2013

I'm a writer. So I should write.

It's been 107 days since I last opened this blog, and even then, it was just to post something "safe" I'd written while I was in the PTSD version of rehab. I had to look that number up. I actually had to look up today's date, which of course is a bit more confusing when it's well past 3am, and my circadian rhythm is lost somewhere between Texas, Virginia, New Jersey, New York and Germany. All places I've been in the past 12 days. If I counted from the beginning of this year alone, I could add Georgia, Florida, and England. If I project my count through the end of the second month of 2013, I could add France and who knows where else. I have 17 days left and, well, if the past almost two years have taught me anything, the lesson left is that anything is possible.

There's a lot I don't say in a public blog that's visible to the universe. There's a lot I won't say for a while longer. There's a lot I won't say ever. Maybe even to those who know me best. And before this one, there are 96 very factual posts, wherein I've been very careful not to allow feelings or emotions to seep in to muck everything up. And there are hundreds of other times where I skipped writing all together because it was easier than talking about what was truly happening around me. And how it felt to live in that moment.

But there are two things people have said to me during the past few weeks that made me want to write more than I've wanted to write since I was hunkered down in my shipping container in Afghanistan, feeling like a war reporter documenting the most precious seconds of the world's most exciting battle. Feeling important. And wanted. And significant.

I was standing on the East Orange platform, waiting for New Jersey Transit to whisk me away into Manhattan. I'd spent the evening before with a dear friend, perhaps one of my closest. The one who helped me accept the brutal fact that my Air Force career would have a Plan B ending vice the one I may have imagined 15 or so years ago when I started this journey. She and I reminisced over Indian food, sharing maybe 60 way-too-short minutes together, coming some three and a half years after our last in-person visit. I've learned not to think of time in that way. Calendars don't matter. But even in life experience, three and a half years (or perhaps three and a half hours) are a remarkably long measure of time for me. Though in that moment, or in those 360-odd moments, the world had somehow stood still, and I was the 23 year old girl who wanted to take on the world. It's amazing to have friends on whom such magical moments are not lost.

My friend's husband and their 5-year old son took me to the station in the morning to catch the 9:07. I was dragging an unreasonably shaped and sized piece of luggage...plum purple and as close to 70 pounds as the airlines would allow. Traveling terrifies me now, but there I was, standing on the platform with my trademark latte in one hand and this unruly disaster in the other. He could sense I was mortified by the idea of going into Manhattan. And he asked, innocently, "Are you writing? I loved reading your blog."

I can't remember how I responded. I can't remember if I managed to hold back the tears until I disappeared into the train car soon to become one of 1.6 million Manhattanites, if only for a few hours. But I do remember responding. "No, I just can't yet. It's still..." and then letting my voice fade off.

Just look at that one paragraph. Two sentences. Both of them say "I can't." That's the easy answer. I can't. But the hard answer, the true answer, is that I won't. Because I am fully armed with every damn excuse in the book on why I deserve a break, and then another break, and then even one more after that. PTSD has become my excuse to stop being, instead giving me permission to rely on how content I am to just slide by. To survive. I let it, this stupid "illness" and the corresponding medications, consume me. And on the other end, I'm no better than any alcoholic or addict, waiting for my next fix. Counting the 12 hours until the next set of pills, and blaming my self-destruction, though relatively harmless all things considered (unless we're talking about the fat, medium and skinny sized jean collection I've now amassed), on "side effects." And I have found a "side effect" for damn near anything.

Closer to 10 days ago, I was in an elevator in San Antonio wearing my Wounded Warrior jacket. I was in Texas to take care of some final business with the Air Force...to look at my official personnel record and talk with a few experts about the future (or quite honestly, the end) of my career. San Antonio is the epicenter of my profession, and also home to the Air Force's largest hospital, with tremendous programs to support our Airmen who come home from Afghanistan suffering the physical wounds of war. The girl in the elevator was maybe eight or nine years old. She looked at me, looked at my jacket, and asked, innocently, "Why are you a Wounded Warrior?"

Simple enough question. But what it felt like she was asking was "How long are you going to hide behind the logo on your jacket and the diagnosis in your record?" And I guess then, in due course, my answer should have been "Until a nine year old calls me out on it."

Which happened approximately 10 days ago, and I suppose is truly sinking in now that I've spent at least 60 of the past 72 hours asleep in bed, overwhelmed by self-induced exhaustion. Exhaustion that came as a result of running like hell to pretend like the last two years never happened. That if "the doctors" would just find the right combination of pills, or "the Air Force" would just figure out how to take better care of me, or "my friends" would stop disappearing. It was always "them." "They" needed to fix this because "they" made it happen. I didn't take any blame because, well, there was none there for me to claim. In my mind, that is.

This morning feels like the beginning of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. "My name is Lisa and I have PTSD." Then people respond with "Hi, Lisa" and we all move on. Somewhere in Utah, a therapist named Amy just heard me say that, and I heard her squeal with excitement from several thousand miles away.

No, I'm not going to walk around making that proclamation to everyone I meet. I said it here. That's enough. It's an illness. Not an excuse. So this game of chicken I'm playing with the blog. Enough. Writers write. And I'm a writer. So I should write. Runners run. I'm a runner so I should run. And humans, we make mistakes. I've made plenty. Not the least of which is neglecting one of the things that held me together through all of this madness...my words. Time to move on.

So there. I have a voice. And I found it. Again. Writers write. And I'm a writer. So I should write.