Starting Over Again With Ptsd And HomelessnessI'm writing this in an apartment at a desk while watching "Durham County" on Netflix on my MacBook Pro. I've come a long way in three years from finding myself homeless and without any memory of my name, where I lived, what I did for a living...
I suffered "Delayed-Onset" PTSD from an experience I went through in 1989 Beirut as a freelance photographer and I suffered it almost exactly 20 years later: I woke up in a hospital and didn't know my name. I didn't know where I lived. I had apartment keys for an apartment I couldn't find. The reason I couldn't find it is because I had just leased it and hadn't moved in, so there were no utility bills or anything else.
When the trigger hit me, I had been doing laundry: I had laundry and a laptop that I couldn't get into because I didn't know the password, anymore.
It was my ex-girlfriend that found me in the hospital and she's the one that helped me the most to get the basics in the first couple of weeks, including my passwords.
I started this journey homeless, and after a three year relationship with a woman, I'm going back into homelessness to start, yet again, as a homeless person with my clothing, a much better laptop and a plan (complete with Franklin Planner). She and I are parting ways.
My biggest regret is that I didn't get on my feet before I met this woman. My best memory is of a beautiful woman that picked me up when I was down and carried me as far as she could until she had to leave. She carried me long after she needed to leave.
On August 31, 2012, I'll be homeless, again. The ex-girlfriend has a new place with new house mates and her decision is probably a good one for her, though it hurts the both of us and we spend the last of our days together trying hard to be tender to each other because we're both very much still in love.
We sleep nude, kiss passionately, make love at random moments, take walks, together... count down the days (now four days) and get angry at the slightest word, get hurt at any perceived slight, look at September 1 as a vast abyss.
This time is different:
I've been 2 years in therapy and have gotten out of homelessness twice, though this is the first time, alone. When helicopters come (my trigger) I know how to ground and breathe and get through it and get calm and it may take an hour, or two, but I'm able to work, again.
It took a lot of hard work to get this far and my therapist said I may have gotten here too quickly, but obviously not quickly enough.
This time is different because I've got a day planner that's filled for the next two weeks with the things I need to do to get out on my own without help and without a girlfriend.
This time is different because when I'm homeless, I know how to survive if I don't have to give everything up to take care of someone else. I don't have to give up my bed so that my girlfriend doesn't have to sleep in a car, alone.
I need 3 things to get out and make it: Bed. Food. Internet.
This time is different because I can make happiness and find happiness on my own and I don't have to get dragged down by a bunch of negativity.
I suffer PTSD. I get triggered by heavy helicopters and other things. I will always suffer PTSD, but I'm learning to manage the symptoms. I will always see a woman named Elzbeta that got blown up in front of my eyes... a woman that I was falling in love with. I will always see a nine-year-old girl named Safi under a table and her parents cut nearly in half by a falling ceiling. I'll always see a girl in a white dress running for her life and militia laughing and joking as they take turns taking pot shots at her and hitting her... watching her get up to run and they hit her again... and she gets up and they shoot her again ... and she gets up and they shoot her again...
I'll always remember the laughter and being unable to do anything until later when we met them, again, those soldiers.
I'll remember what we did when we were armed and they were not.
I'll remember how a man named Mustapha showed me -- a photographer -- how to shoot a Glock and an AK-47 after I froze and couldn't shoot a kid that was aiming to shoot at me: He slapped me with the glock and made me empty clips into the body until I screamed.
He also brought me back to West Beirut to his home and gave me his dead daughter's bed while his wife and him cared for me by forcing me to eat when all I wanted was to sleep.
I slept for four days.
This PTSD is with me for life.
The question is whether I can start over again with all the things I learned and make it on my own. I think so. I think I'm better prepared to make it that most. We'll see.