Static, Pt. 2 / Please Also See Static

Static Part 2

 

“Get you stabilized. Go from there.” was the young physician’s final pronouncement, clipping the sentences as if I’d disappointed him terribly, especially since the EKG came back normal. His waiting room was well supplied with Christian literature, bibles and storybooks, and he flat out said he believed in the body’s wonderful almost magical ability to heal itself. Handing me a fistful of depressurization scrips he chalked me down as sinner, deserving of my misfortunes, and sent me on my barefoot way. The sons of the pioneers we’re made of no sterner stuff than me, I remember rationalizing. No one tough and strong as me could get that sick, and still be standing. Even in my own self estimation I remembered that one of my progenitors had been one of the first seven white men in Yosemite, and that he’d been killed with arrows (cautioning echos of an avoidable fate).



    

    “Maybe its time to go see someone professionally. There is a biological psychiatrist working in Ashland”  my wife kindly said - our distance so profound and her fear for my condition an impingement upon her security and peace, the fact of how hard it was for her to be around me, and the fact that I might no longer be, was increasingly real. ‘Disturbed’ is how Cloris Leachman said it, but it didn’t feel nearly that funny.



    In the dim plaid room the cherubic anesthesiologist assessed a new one. The Californians resolute to ex-urbanity were an intelligent lot, had money and insurance, whined excessively, and wondered even with the whistle of Shakespeare why they hadn’t been discovered, so new to the brush and pen. This one was more complex than that - too confident and too wary to be too far gone, and too dismissive of the weight of his presence to tell any sort of truth. Not that that mattered. Demeanor fixed the diagnosis. Mental anguish and its relief was his stock in trade. He advertised with family portraits in silver frames. Of course this one needed help - his perceptions were too accurate. The hostility and challenge masked bridled lashing out. He must be tired, he hasn’t let his guard down for forty years, maybe longer. All that poise is not informed with the usual cool narcissism.

 

    “I’m jumping outa my skin. Every time I go to the store I almost get into a fight. Every boss I ever had got a piece of my mind, damn betcha’. { I’ll leave it to my wife to...tell you if I’ve been weeping, been drunk these low low years, been brutal to her by word or deed, no I don’t trust people to have anything other than their own best interests at heart, and of course that is why I am here - because I can’t reach mine myself, I’m my own worst enemy just ask my mouth, no I can’t take on that responsibility, I’ve lost my trust in myself because of the rate at which I am vibrating, something inside is still screaming, the truth of the moment is still ultimately real.} I’m tired of being tired, and tired of being pissed off. I’m here applying for the antidote.”





    “PTSD is all I’m seeing these days.” says the biological psychologist, his pad out, the power of his yearning to heal being pulled from him by an invading whirlpool. “It spills out of people like something writhing on the floor... Some people just get enraged and stay that way. There’s no question about their condition - every one of them is physically and psychically exhausted. The hyper-vigilance has their blood pressure up, respiration up, pulse doubled just like you’d find in someone who’s been running a marathon for the last thirty years. They’re so exhausted from their daymares and their nightmares they can’t really tell you what is happening with them. They just stammer out some lie. There is seldom something genuinely reliable in their apprehension of life. Of course they are drug seekers. Pure and sober only makes their condition more debilitating. You could blow one over with a feather; but if you wake him with a bang his hands will be around your throat before you can count a passing second.”



    Like many of his brethren this one developed his own work to do, work where he was in charge, was responsible for doing, the keeper of the promises, setting it up fair and square, universally provident, an alternative secondary activity to have a place to stand. That was gone. Crushed and discouraged, the nattering fears and escapes resumed their noisome chants. Lots of people lose their jobs. But to lose a cause, that is devastating. Like losing your self in your war without end, or discovering you’re pharma’s shill and you’d been robbed of your sacred trust. He could identify. Besides, this one really was headed somewhere. But life is consciousness, and it hurt him to stay so awake. The systems get misaligned or occupied with plaque or cancer, and someone suffering with suicidal ideations needs surcease. The profession has “We’ve developed a new drug to minimize the anxiety. Ativan. It helps keep you still, which is good considering how difficult it is for you to move around safely.” or so insists the veteran’s memory. If his message is significant enough it will drive through the pleasant haze and establish itself. Otherwise, he can expostulate his history, which is more probably not too important. At this location not very much is. “Take some time off.” Be a pal.’ thinks and says the mental health professional.



    “Were you ever surrounded by the enemy?”

    “All the time. The kid handing you a grenade wasn’t pop war lore. It happened. Kinda makes you permanently cautious, and one tends to shy away from crowds or places where there is unpredictable movement. The resulting isolation really does deny you the bounties of living.” Skipping the part when the whole squad of us sat a still as rocks in the bellowing dark while fifteen maybe forty Viet Cong soldiers walked down the rocky streambed in front us too focused on their footing to hear our hearts trying to claw out of our chests.



    “I’m not depressed. I’m over stimulated to the point of shutting down. How many of us are just coping, destination unknown? But even without those control agents out of the picture, it doesn’t quiet down or stop. I feels like your face is filled with mercury. How would you feel about yourself if you showed up in that theater where they’re dead serious about protecting their turf, and you volunteered for it. What sort of desperation generates such a degenerate act? Noble self sacrifice was an altar open to all. To give yourself to be extinguished maybe encouraged, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Beware the short path, goes the admonition.”



    Not that I was too far from there, either. It wasn’t too long after what is termed a life crisis blow that I was $50,000. in debt with no means to rectify my creditors coming to heart or hand, and no genuine realization of how much trouble I was in. One of the niggling tentacles of PTSD is a bargain struck by the soul to be preserved and saved from the constancy of disaster so immanent. When that is done enough times the mind erects a veil of dreamingness and a cloak of heavy water. Substance dense as nephrite is felt to be dissolving into its molecular components. And it isn’t completely that you don’t want a job - it is also too well known by you that you are not capable of making consistent sound decisions and that condition may harm others.



     “I assume our political leaders to be sociopaths. That’s a given.” said the biological psychiatrist. “Wellbutrin is what I keep hearing.” Yes, when we got back home to the World, it had changed. But not as much as we had. To paraphrase Michael Herr, “Might as well let go of it now. The world isn’t frozen. You are.” As if we could.



    The rest of his paying clients were alot like himself. They had jobs, payments, cars, inadequate relationships, disagreements with their superiors, a chilling of their ardors, a deeper side of themselves they could only find partial outlet for, menacing from within a clown suit at the meat-packers children’s birthday party, too many affairs, a basket full of personalities (to be expected in a theater town), Wellbutrin had a fantasy fulfilling name. Its molecule was a seratonin uptake inhibitor, a process too esoteric to explain, and its other molecule was a stimulant. It was well received as good relief. You could breeze through the audition, look appropriately street-crushed for the role, and forget to remember if they ever called back, glad to appear coherent and functional.



    This one wasn’t functional, at least not in the prevailing social milieu, which is all that really counted, and not in himself, which was the only condition he could do anything about. During the interview he’d asked some impertinent questions, then gave a sound opinion, appraising his central approach in his practice as intelligently formed, for which he opened the willingness to be paid with a gratuity of marijuana. Nuts as he was, he trusted him. Of course he lied on the questionnaire, typical of the hard-charger type, could almost hear his brain singing “We gotta get out of this place if its the last thing we ever do.” thirty five years later and its still as loud as the day of realization. Its a loop of iced dread snaking tendrils into every cell of muscle and gland and no one yet can find a way to break the hold nor darn the rend. Nevertheless, better living through chemistry paid well for the experiment.

    “My brother, another vet, jailbird and pervert, killed himself with a speedball, his final act his final mercy. After being molested by her mother’s aging husband, aborting two children, giving up another for adoption my sister is an alcoholic.  My father is a brutalist. My uncle is a pederast. I’m a Vietnam veteran. Is there any reason I should expect to be exempt from my environment?”

    “But you think you should be.”

    “No, I just want it to stop hurting and have work to do. I’m pretty well behaved. Appreciative as I am for law enforcement, they still scare the **** out of me.”

    “But you don’t have a job. Is that maxim ‘A successful writer is one whose wife is working.’ apply to you?”

    “My wife has fibromyalgia and can’t work. Its all she can do just to move around a little in the daytime. Sleep and pain rob her of living, and it makes me feel a failure that I can’t help her rid herself of her disease, much less my own. But don’t worry, we’re still insured.”

    The response was a deflection, and recognized as such. There was less shame about his participation in the war than he harbored over making virtually no progress over decades of effort, while his wives were working. There’s a reason “What About Bob?” is a favorite.



    Who knew if he knew about Samson Shillatoe. It was doubtful. He just wasn’t the driven type. He was more troubled than his patients, giddy for praise from the medical and drug communities. Nobody had given him a roadmap that would carry him past the reefs of maundered confusion and grief and let him off easy. Some far fishing stream, a rustic flow to his cheek, the best Scotch, some big breasted blond through the cabin’s sun yellow kitchen window. And why not? With the good of his practice he was lifting the pain, and tears of gratitude are an ample payment for one part of him, and the other part was what kept him prodded. The profession’s loftier ideals had yet to congeal in him, causing him a troublesome inertia.

    

    ‘The Big M.I., Doc. That’s what most of us hope for. Instantaneous, irreversible, unpredictable. A kind of natural mercy that doesn’t stop your clock like a bullet. Shame and regret, sure, but that comes with the package.”

    And the psychiatrist looks at him like he’s from a part of Honesty for which he doesn’t have a numbered code to enter into the computer terminal. And his eyes fade out of focus for a moment because he’s been forced into introspection, then resolves that the veteran has really just told him his suicide plan, and it fits so many others, maybe even his own. With three grandchildren even through his intricate gauze of science a knob of immortality would glow. Of course there was little hope for him. They all come in believing they should be whole and composed, and if they’re not, they are in God’s disfavor, branded with the priest’s nomenclature, the whole hard absolute side so stitched within leaking out of them in varying degrees, some so bad you can feel them coming a hundred feet away, the way you can sense the presence of something else larger than you hunting the same game, the way you feel a burning building shudder to the ground. But the body is tougher than that, the mind tougher and the soul even tougher than that, the actualities insisting upon realization. Most of these guys are walking wounded alright, but at least they’re walking, and that is a far distance from the walking dead and the fragmented no one sees again. ‘Twer atonement a calculation this man wouldn’t be talking trash about returning to the quiet beauty and the colossal strength of earth and sky.



    “Their brains have stopped working effectively some time ago. Some people complain about being frozen in time, un-aging, and having no center or ambition other than getting out of the mess their head is in. As an anesthesiologist I know that to be true. A great deal of science has been devoted to creating a synthetic molecule that will accomplished that. Halzide and Halcyon interrupt the fundamental neural exchange of interrelated information. I don’t use it for the people who live in this town. Wellbutrin is the magic bullet around here. It is a seratonin uptake inhibitor. In other words, it mimics the organic report at the informational synapse exchange junction, and blocks the real report from ever reaching the stimulus centers that generate physical action. {Your depression is somewhat lifted, but the possibility of ecstatic realization is made impossible.} We call it keeping you on an even keel.  And no, there isn’t yet a curative agent to restore a veteran to wholeness that we’ve invented or discovered. But among ourselves we posit that no cure can be achieved because people have become attached to their disease.

    “Like you. Struggling all your life, still trying to make something significant happen, but there is little evidence that you can do that. And yes, it is distinctly possible that your struggle has been constricted by your condition, and everything you tried to make your life quiet enough to live, embracing suffering and all that, anyone can see the weight you’re carrying. All of that is unexpended energy, a choking of the life arteries, and all the anguish tucked in the corners of your face. Its also easy to notice the caring, and you don’t get that unless you’ve felt it.”



********************



    A technician rated my problem an 8.2 on a scale of 10: units of what one will never know. Don’t know your name and you live under a bridge was called a 10. What number did they call the suicides by whatever palliative, opium to lead, neglect to death by sorrow?



    My guess is that the 8.2 rating is both a measure of the depth of suffering, and an average of accumulated symptomatic conditions that define the syndrome. Six jobs, two businesses, few publishers, two wives, three bone breaking accidents, three hospitalizations, a robbery, random snipings, unprovoked death threats, a whole lotta sherry, bourbon, marijuana, nicotine, sensuations of every sort, disciplines of every promise, a couple of fistfights, later I show up at the hospital with a condition thought to be a miscalculation on my thyroid medication (the gland had been surgically removed - radiation the suspect) and was discovered to have the Ghetto Blues. Hypertension, a possibly congested heart, potential diabetes, panic attacks, sleep apnea, horrific nightmares, a strenuous active suicidal depression, high cholesterol, elevated pulse, and an advanced case of toe-nail fungus too boot. The walking wounded, still there and still here like you wouldn’t believe. I’d never been the lazy kind, kept on moving all the time, did the work I was given, took my rest when I could get it, performed some comforts too. Doesn’t mean I weren’t made crazy, I’ve got this mind to prove it, kukukakhu. But the doctor was astounded. Tall blue eyed articulate American white men almost like Jesus weren’t suppose to present with the Ghetto Blues.



     The nation’s lure and recompense for those evils delivered unto you, and for delivering those same evils unto them was a livable sop, free drug therapy, medical insurance, and someplace to go where you could come into contact with others of your same fate. Veteran’s pensions divert to the surviving spouse after ten years, murder being the exclusion. How many faults are exposed, acts of cowardice required, insults unanswered, grievances unarticulated or granted, comforts unextended must accumulate to tip the balance, though, and how long can she stand it is another behavioral barrier. The veteran knows from whence he comes, and he stays away from town and to home.



    By the time you show up at the DVA you’ve probably already tested the various forms of self medication stabilizers you can lay your hands on. Some men’s inner drive toward mental health can become so profound and demanding that it becomes obscured beyond remembering or accessing. The authorities call that a ‘raw’. You are still alive, technically, and still a soul worth redeeming, if there is enough personal salvation and survival remaining to get you to the “Stand Down”  or be referred to a DVA hospital by a detox center. Too often, the body’s absorption of the poison’s necessary to stay still enough to continue to breathe has gone beyond its ability to regenerate well-being. That is when there is no one who wants you around, not even you.



    ”Corpsman. Vietnam. Can’t hold a job. No sweat. Hundred percent.” the clerk destines.



    Maybe you didn’t even ask. She knows, though, she’s seen you a thousand times before. Each one of them in some stage of madness and tatters. You could give them a living wage, but they still won’t be able to rise to assuming themselves. As it does for her the mechanism of government pays you to show up and process the problems. The rest is up to them. The worth of compassion has its limits. As they would be in any country anywhere, they are still left to their own devises, their history recognized when it is convenient. It is their choice to show up on the television drunk and rootless and rowdy and stinko and an embarrassment. Give them what they are asking for, speed them on their way, only my own sadness keeps them to my heart.  Only the prodigiously ill would have enough pride left to show up here, anyway, so far rendered asunder, a bubble patchwork of dreams, they can’t even remember who they thought they were supposed to be. It is the ever constant now, plus the impediment.



     Yet they are who they have become, screaming loonies, dangerous keepers of a true and ancient flame, utterly befuddled in their coiled burden. Sometimes all you have to do to get them to behave like little gentlemen is to give them the glassy eyed stare, telling them anger doesn’t work here. If they persist tell them your powers are limited and require respect to be activated. A shrug and a sigh usually does the trick. A quick and non-invasive peek at her tells you how much of your weight she is carrying. She’s heard this all a thousand times before, and each one of them has registered in her flesh, she knows the way, the right switches, the code of yeses and noes, and what leniencies will be permitted. Jeeze, this one is just a little high strung compared to the most of them who only want a truck and boat and to go out with a stick of dynamite in a shallow grave, a final abdication. Getting the screaming mee-mies to stop? She could identify.





    They are the same men having the same nightmares time after time, the sweated swaddle a garrote by your own hand, must be mentioned in the literature, somewhere. My first DVA psychiatrist, a man from an old medical family, asked me the only question that seemed to matter to him, “Are you still getting hangovers?” and later told me that the D.C. sickos all wanted to write screenplays where the principle usurps the elected president and goes on to haul the world from the brink of the oblivion they had unfortunately inherited. And that he thought these idiot PSTD drug-bug warriors who wanted to go to fight Jihadists in Iraq were disgustingly silly. Under the weight of the medications they were ingesting, not one of them could focus long enough to get on a plane, much less practice fire discipline. Getting them to be on time and behave was the only expectation.

    But he was on his way away, getting gone from the worry warts and their unquenchable desire for clemency. “He got a better offer, more money.”  said the staff member, “I guess thats as good a reason as any.”  Practicing what he preached, saving himself first, dumping the dumb suckers, demurred the cowered staff, glad the snobby **** was gone.



********************



    The doctors wait until the last minute before they tell you that every time you get invaded you get a few steps closer to death. Its like a country before it becomes a people. There  are a lot of things the doctors don’t tell you when you show up with spindly arms and a furtive disposition, then just on a hunch he palpates your thyroid gland to find that somewhere along the line you probably got exposed to some horrible poison or radioactivity or those cartons of Camels and Pall Malls you smoked a week in the Zone have had their price, and since you’ve lost contact with everyone but who is in your current immediate circle of acquaintances so there is no way to pin the causative agent down and no one to sue, and the years of synthetic hormone therapy hasn’t really worked and the damned thing must come out, says the surgeon.

    They don’t tell you that in a very short time after the gland is excised you’ll swell up like an angry toad and look like Larry Flint from the chest down, and your wife will think that you’ve put on all that weight because you actually hate her and will punish her for her presumption every time you reconsumate your union, and there will be no possibility of getting a job that requires physical vigor because the extra weight implies laziness and self absorption, both negative traits in the eyes of someone who is willing to pay you to hump that wheelbarrow, tote that bale or even shag those fries. And even if later you sort of conclude that the edema of your thyroid was not due to goiter because you came from Missouri stock like some other doctor pontified, but was more probably a response to your adrenal glands on full tilt boogie flutter from the rolling anxiety attacks, it gets worse because even though you’ve quit smoking and are thinking seriously about the little item the doctor told you after the surgery, that the surgery would probably take ten years off your life span and you so Zen said, that’s alright, those last ten are a drag anyway, somehow having already made a conclusive embrace of death also back there in the Zone and the compact was still active, your anger hasn’t quieted, your anxiety has not been abated, your vigilance has not been softened, your paranoia and jealousy, your resentment over the life stuff you offered up for the stealing only further saddens you, fool from the first step. Is it any wonder you might be a tad defensive, a little bit miffed. But now for all of that every second is more precious and to work is idling so stunning is the light.





    “What does it feel like when you say you’re hanging on by your fingernails?” He asks, though he already knows, the symptoms are always the same, varying only in degree. There is a pill for it.

    “Like...” and in the cesura there are a thousand pterodactyls pulling razor wire though your liver, “I know the other guy I see slouching against the truck is ready to kill me and I have to be ready to die instantly, or take him out first. Which is damn troublesome considering the price any action would cost both of us.”

    “Thats an anxiety attack.” he calmly informs, as if because of its commonality among his patients it is as regular a phenomena as headaches after too long in the sorrow trough. The intensity is of little consequence, these guys all want the magic pill and often resort to hyperbole to get it. All that impacted rage bottled up and ready to explode on the freeway or at his wife or at some sucker down at the Parrot Club. Its a good thing that there is a pill for that, too. They call it ninety channel panic all the time, but the Buspirone  settles them right down. It is a question of two avenues of impediment. Clearly the man is unable to control is emotional relation to the world around him with any comfortable civility and hence isolates to reduce the number of exposures to potential harm, and that makes him unemployable and unable to take care of himself, even, and the imposition of a repressor that coats the receptors of the adrenal demand a billion years old and tricks the glands into not firing by not answering the demand. It keeps ‘em looking straight ahead just to get back to somewhere relatively safe. It keeps them from flying off the handle at the thugs on the street. He may be so dulled that he can’t work, but he won’t feel too bad about it, because the feelings are what the comfort cost. In these sorts of histories there is little indication of restoration, a little trade secret held among the professionals. The relief of the suffering is an act of kindness. It is tacit in the original report that he’s well behaved but even *****-slapped with drugs still  too proud for submission and possibly too easily provoked. Suicide is murder. “Patient incoherent, illogical, downcast aspect.”  But the kindness is the predicate of civilization. The kindness might also be a disconnection of the growing self awareness and expression of that same damaged self, but unlike India or the most of the rest of the world, industry is the only acceptable activity. The Bidnez of America is the Bidnez.





    How do you slip that one into the reality presentation, then watch it vanish into a wall of vacuum. The note written by your name and social security number says “Distrusts authority”, which has been abbreviated to a plus sign and a number. The doctor is a kindly man, sporting a sporting jacket and over long hair, a run down by age but not by worry scientific type happy to be earning money, declaring himself to be useful and beneficial. He’s like a salesman with no discernible product, the referee of a match with no rules or scores. He drew me by chance when the psychiatrist who induced me into a semi-coma with the anti-psychotic which proved itself viable simply because of how much will was necessary to not let it control any part of me and that made me look considering, patient and mature, and on the toilet so often it became apparent why the mental institutions have so much tile. Those are something to be afraid of, and ask how’d it get so bad for these people, and therefore us? “These cats is crazy, They’re killing themselves!” the great poet said.



    No one told me the plan. Or, if they did, my brain was too much like chicken soup for me to register incoming information. Hunter Thompson started his day with a pint of Chevis, five or six joints of weapons grade smoke, LSD in green Jello, and a gram or two of pure as the driven snow cocaine. Then he’d go outside for some fresh Colorado air and pop off a dozen 12 gauge blasts as if to clear the night phlegm from his throat, then as what was left of his holy cortex was peaking, start his illicit affair with his typewriter, all somehow forgiven when he exposed Nixon as arch enemy of mankind, reporting Nixon saying, “**** the doomed.” And if that is what it took for him to see clearly, get paid, and run for sheriff or mayor of one of America’s most ritzy-titzy villages, I was a piker indeed, the victim I vowed never to be.

    From the hyper-vigilant perspective still functioning even if it’s acute registry of reality has been diminished to an amphibian view by self management which only partially worked, the folks on the other side of the jamb ostensibly want to help, but secretly they think you are your fault. You failed to rise above the horrible secret of the capacity of your and your countrymen, and their women, for violent mayhem - the only genuine response to the same if it is being inflicted on you. Just rolling up and dying is completely contrary to the nature of nature, and though possessed by self consciousness people are still nature. Yet there you are, proving survival, proving sanity enough to go where the money and the medicines are, proving to them a way they’ll never be. The forms had been obtained, filled in properly, reviewed, the request granted, the appeal made, and the interview set. Just like a regular business venture.



    But an 8.2 really doesn’t know his *** from a hot rock. After thirty-five years of trying to keep his head somewhere near functional, he’s most probably out of money, low potential jobs, friends and relatives, his self definition a jumble of crumbled attempts, hence the DVA is the port in the storm. It’s there. It looms out of the societal structure and national consciousness in a wretched recognition that answers ominous creative failure. It’s the only one out there and it is cheaper to operate than prisons or mental hospitals, or trying to raise enough money to support drinking at the homeless shelter. And who can say what complex of reactions generated the establishment of such an organization? In the far gone days the too badly wounded would be mercifully killed, the remaining soldiers still hale. As warfare became more mechanized and medicine improved there were more men who survived enough to hobble home, broken but still useful on the farm, 60% on a 10% patch where it takes all of everyone all the time just to stay alive, a burden borne by love and familial obligation. The evolution of the state as the extended family created the obligation to provide for those who survived its foreign policy blunders. Successful career military were pensioned. The walking wounded were left to pity’s mite, neglect into oblivion, or other such diminishing spirals. Until organized survivors demonstrated that abuse of the instruments of government will would be chastised and their sons no longer urged into the thresh, it became apparent that a unity of national lineage needed to be maintained that the storied flag could persist. And because the fracturing of the world became at once larger and tighter there proved an overabundance of citizen warriors coming home.



    I entered into the drug induced five year semi-coma, induced by Depacote , with reluctance and ignorance, believing my mind strong enough to battle through any pale of discontinuity. It was a less than insightful foolishness. All I really wanted was clarity and the mild euphoria Freud promised the sane mind. What I got was another unrecognizable state that failed to bring me to a place where I could work and progress, causing my energy expenditures to be diffused into slogging out of the mud. It was like having your mind encased in a dental dam, a physiological demonstration telling that your thoughts and obsessions, your blurting expulsions, your combative reaction to slight and injury, your patrolling your perimeter, armed, each night on your ten acres forty years after the fact, the irreconciliation between what you feel and are discomfitted against some stranger a cave away unbreeched, isn’t socially acceptable and therefore not true or real, and certainly not productive. Stay quiet in your own good hole, and everytime you talk, you’ll see why. What you say will be crazy, or expose you as something detestable, somesort of veteran of somesort of mayhem, non-conformist but without agenda, therefore unpredictable and therefore dismissible. But you persist upon the doctor’s insistence, the promise that your anger and hostility will be curbed and you will perhaps get to a place where you can run a house or a job, regaining the years lost to an invited anguish for a brief and tenuous time. And your fault as well: you said yes to the promise and didn’t insist on knowing what was known.



 

     “This is the most important drug you are taking.” the second psychiatrist said. Sure that my lack of slurred speech and too acute perceptions indicated that I was not maintaining a high enough level of the anti-psychotic (I was psychotic? and no one told me! psychosis assumes many curious forms?, I could explode in a hail of bullets at any time?, the scattered shattered self was so distraught that I appeared to be vibrating like a cesium atom to their inner minds and therefore required an anti-psychotic, its the only way we know of that can slow these cats down enough for them to become tractable?)         

    Depacote is their name for it. It is so commonly used no one in the medical profession is surprised to see it on a patient’s med list. But I wasn’t taking enough, so I was sent to the lab to have my blood drawn - ostensibly to assure that my liver was tolerating the drug - but actually to determine if I was taking the prescribed amount - which when I did, made me subdued the way a beaten animal is docile and did nothing to quell the looping urgency toward a suicide out. My wife said she was glad for it, that living with me was no longer like walking around in a mine field commanded by a paranoiac. With that sort of endorsement, one leans toward saving the relationship. The other drugs being administered to me at that time were anti-anxiety, anti-depression, anti-nightmare, plus codeine to ease my arthritis, and a couple of others that slip a somewhat drug addled mind. Add those to marijuana, whiskey, coffee and tobacco, that I could walk was a testament to four billion years of evolution and the conditioning of the wheelbarrow. That I still needed the over-the-counter and grow your own drugs to continue survival did not bode well for the efficacy of the federally mandated medications. From the Puritan point of view, which is pretty much the medical establishment’s point of view, I was profoundly over medicated on substances directly connected to Satanic fruit. The psychiatrists, however, did not insist that I discontinue those drugs obtained at my own cost, as long as I took theirs.





    Exhaustion and a long muck through chasms of mud followed. The suicidal ideation was turned down but never quieted. Sleep was never quite sleep. And that can cut both ways too, perhaps not the risk for definition by physical acts, but defeating the nightmares is a vigorous experience too. The doctor feigns interest, and types notes into a computer terminal. I am so besotted with medications that the only thing I can rely on is the motor discipline of moving through bad ground. They’re seemingly disinterested in who you’ve proven to be; and apparently more interested in what you are and the effectiveness of your coping mechanisms. So I don’t try to figure out what the doctor is typing and in response to what. His interpretations, which may be written in diabolacese, need not correspond with his benevolent understanding. He keeps the lights dimmed, but seldom speaks, requiring the vet being treated to supply the conviviality and conversation. There is Luzon in his accent, tinged with the shame of an ex-patriot. He is an Oriental, of the same island continental race as Southeast Asians, and no one can say if the conflicts of men he listens to are with Asians or simply a damaged self. How much absolution can be spilled from the gold cross chained around his neck? In the refuge of science one can neutralize ill humors with medicines. How much self pity and wretched anger can he absorb with his benign detached wisdom and still form a cogent humanistic opinion for the record books? He tells you so the first time you sit down and explain yourself to him - he promises the best symptomatic relief available. Your problems aren’t his concern; moral and ethical matters are between you and whoever or whatever you use to hold yourself together.



    Personally, I take it as a given that no one tells the truth to their therapist, the therapy group, their families, the public or even themselves. Firstly, there isn’t really a language fix one can apply. The thousand yard stare and quakin’ and shakin’ are only symptomatic expressions. The therapist has drugs to replace the ones you’ve been giving yourself, so he hears what will get them for you. The real questions are rarely asked, and rarely answered.



    Presuming you can still talk. Shell shock my ***. Everconstant realization, absorbing the fear and vicious spirit of shrieking souls until it is the only noise that can be heard. “When did this feeling first start?”  the therapist poses, like it was something to be managed by confrontation. It is simply another mental illness manifesting particular characteristics and typified by fundamental describable forms. {like a channel through to all of them who have gone before is a open oubliette, and hard as you try not to you have to listen and have to look. How were you suppose to know how loudly  World War Two and Korea were still wailing through our leader’s souls, and you signed on just by showing up. It is, after all, you. And yours is the seven hundred and seventy seventh lay. Keep the change.}  “I’m not confident that you fully appreciate the breath of the sensation. Freud can’t undo what’s been done. History like soul is cumulative.” said the vet, knowing the dissected cadaver beneath the shrink’s scalpel and its union with death was still fresh in memory.



    A temporary condition, this speechlessness. After every interpretation of language fix had been wiped away, and every shred of public and civic trust erased, and you are sitting in a darkened room with a clot of other misfits, each one waiting for the other to start, but the emanation coming off you is such scattered lightdreams you’re sure that everyone else can feel it, and it is such an embarrassment you can feel a corridor of iron doors slamming before them. The deeper desire is to become whole again, a wish some other soul could rise in you to occupy what space had been stolen. Its to no avail. Every other person in the room is as preoccupied, as incapable of starting a lucid conversation.



    Unfortunately, the concomitant disassociation is the hardest part. Its the part that hurts the worst. There is literally a rip in the soul, an actual tearing of the soulself, a space that yawns between physical substance and the vast beyond and the vast future. And all the time the deeper part of self knows what is happening, and in its urgency to heal the rend stitches it together with whatever seems to work, so disquieting is the pain. It becomes hard enough to remember who you are, much less who you’re suppose to be. That certain lostness in the thousand yard stare still lingers forty years after the long long fact.





    I don’t know what happens with the men who declare for the killing and keep themselves max-amped on blood power, god-power, US Empire power, and Live for it, going out everyday to find more lives to persuade into death. But its gotta be a bad coming down. And maybe that’s who the public thinks we all are. If they do, its no wonder that they might be too afraid of our projected image to want to associate. I understand, and am slightly envious of such naked innocence. Nevertheless, those crimes committed, in whatever name, still resonate from the soul of the person who committed them, and are, as well, received by whomever is nearby - like the human organism is a cross channel mind web cabled with a sinew of light. Plenty of reason for the 20th Century Blues. I don’t know how many of them raised themselves to profound significance on the currency of their murders, or how they plan to maintain that significance once they’ve been relieved of duty or deposed. And if there really isn’t any separation between the droplet of you in a sea of others, then it behooves the innocent to make ready the splendid procession.



    Perhaps they stay career military, then carry on the starched martial discipline with a steely gaze and a hard heart railing in letters of absolute certainty to the editor until they stroke or heart-attack out. But because I don’t see them very often, I suppose them to be occupied in the dim of their dens, filing the fret work of a model ship they’ve built through a standing lens, focused tight and just drunk enough to never be able to break through, seldom seen or heard from again. Shakespeare’s boisterous killing machines were the stuff of myths. Anyone with even the thinnest glimpse of the slaughter is so sickened by that glimpse into their own nature their gods become zephyr nymphs or insane, possessed of incomplete spirits, doomed to wander soulless for kalpas of eternities.



    Of course they are right to feel the way they do, just as we who have PTSD are right to feel the way we do. We’re each and all instances of the same booming history. Dreams of bands of feral children hunting you down to eat you in your own psychic distopia are common.





    Unless, of course, you run on to the classic bureaucrat who’s purpose of existence is to hold back the tide of wanton revelry implicit in the DVA supplying medications that might make you feel better, for a while. For him, even though he is a recalcitrant drug policy dispenser, espouses sobriety as the only definition of acceptable conformity and can hence cast aspersion on any request from someone experiencing the rather persistent conditions of PTSD to “Please make it stop!” as a way of proving himself the powerful historical figure he sees himself to be. Egotism may not be a bullet, but it can surely kill. He believes in hypnotism, but the veteran is intimately aware of the drive to survive of the enemy, and adopts that strength as his own. Insisting that the vet prance through the rigors of desensitization therapy to become acceptable in the parlance of one’s community is to deny the reality of the vets’ experience and the cause of his persistent existence. When he shows up pounding a gavel made of skulls that reverberate the memories where lives were consumed with rifle fire and explosion, the murder of the guilty by brain shot in the village square, insisting that he be heard, he means it. There is no administrator I’ve ever known who had even ventured beyond the scan of his television or the sprawl of the words in a book that could actually realize what has happened to this man before him. Science has defined the physical situation, and answered the mind’s prolapse with neutralizers - substances that in some twist of reasoning rectify the brain back into a 9 to 5, like everybody else schooching along the freeway.



    Or so it seemed too often in my personal history. Retreating from taking a kill from the City of Portland, time flew. Five years went by like nothing. Nothing penetrated. There was mind and only mind, and that maundering churn was seldom correct in its apprehension of reality, much less in the garnering of friendship. Back in the Zone friends were made instantaneously; the read was always accurate and the time might be very very short. Statistics from Washington don’t mean jive, McNamara shows up in a business suit while we’re burning leeches out of our eyes. Ain’t much to be said about Jerusalem, ‘cept shut-the-****-up, its all divine, you’re disturbing the Wha, I once confided to an administrator, who later waves goodbye with a bony hand.







    When I first started out on this trail it was at the advice of a PTSD group facilitator, a biological psychiatrist, and finally at the finding of the head of service at the White City DVA. The head of service at the DVA spotted me right away. He’s been through them all, and he knew an 8.2 when he saw one. Nevertheless, when first starting out I was advised also to get my papers in order, especially my DD-214 - the form from which all further decisions flow - and give the original to a help group at Social Security. They promptly lost it. Without the original, no claims can be served. You are labeled a fraud, a schemer, another crazy vet, good for nothing nut, the implication being that if you were a real man you’d just suck it up and go on, make it on your own, not need the repair of the organization that stole your life and sense, while you lived as an unpleasant truth amongst people who preferred not to see you, or hear you, or be around you.



      Their loss of my original DD-214 sent me spiraling off into some nowhere. I registered that anger, a practice that came far too easily, {I’m hostile!, I replied when the head of service asked me directly, “What seems to be the problem?”}.

    “You lost it!?” I demanded of the woman who’d lost it. “Sorry. We did. There are just so many, you know. I’ll personally look for it, and let you know when I find it.” she said calmly and I thought bravely. But she’d spent many years facing hulking angry men and knew a trick. She knew how to erect an imaginary glass shield between her and any of the thousands of men she’d done her work for. She had perfected holding her facial expression in complete neutrality. The men, including myself, immediately recognized that anger doesn’t work with this woman. She had already taught them the first lesson. Those who didn’t become cooperative were not refused service, though they persisted in intimidation tactics. But she also knew she held the power. She had the certificate of possibility, and not even the drunkest destitute (that lantern jaw, that beetle brow) would cut his jugular on her desk. So, please be nice, if  you can. Some people really are there to help you. The strategic implication is that if you still have your original DD-214, there is some secret corner of stability your syndrome hasn’t destroyed. Perhaps an envelope sent to Mom while you were moving from town to town.





    Then again, there are also people who are not there to help you, or anyone but themselves. That may be the standard and typical stance of the contemporary professional, termed enlightened self-interest.  After you get him pared down to the essentials, like what happens in a fire fight, and not that he’d be dumb enough to be found there, he’ll be the one touting the management line - he knows what side his bread is buttered on. Its the way of the world, and not much you can do about it, he who signs the check is in charge, and he who takes the king’s shilling does the king’s bidding.





    In the group therapy session the facilitator says, no, you can’t say that.

But I can. And I’ll pay the price for it. I’ll be denied what I need. Its as if there is an invisible altar in the empty barracks meeting room, and if the  facilitator exposes an important secret, God’s going to blurt, no, no, no, you didn’t do the ritual right, I’m gonna take your sheep.

    But if we’re going to get along, please tell  your personal savior, that if he’ll alter the histories of Catholic Kennedy, Baptist Johnson, and Quaker Nixon - all damn strong Christians - then I’ll believe too, and be sober and solid in my mind, thought and deed: though, of course, I would not presume to strike a deal with the Almighty.



    It isn’t hard to imagine some confabulation of celestial tabulators weighing reasonable damages versus plausible pleasures, using charts that include vectors of the deepest evil, but all I can remember is the dust of the rotorwash and the gladness of protection. When its up close, its serious enough to remember. Its the human part that counts, the single human heart. Then comes poverty and the tyrant, and his ready captain. Then the honest soldier. Then the mayhem of killer children. What tongue can form the hideous argument, where scattered will their bones fossilize? Captured in the teeth of teeming squares they’ll wait until the jungle heals enough to take them back.



    All charged with treating PTSD should go through a minimum training exercise. Go to the movies. All of you, together. You can eat popcorn, slices of greasy pizza, ju-ju beads, bon-bons, drink soda pop, smoke cigarettes, even take some amphetamine if you’ve a mind to, if you think it’ll help. We’ll provide the comestibles. The movie runs for seven days and nights, and you can’t leave - if you do you’ll spend 25 years under Marine Guard in Leavenworth Federal Prison, guaranteed. You can hide under the seats, stuff popcorn in your ears, rip out your eyes and put them in the bon-bon box hoping to have them reconnected and therefore requiring what chill is left in the box. All that is required for you to graduate into the next phase of your medical efficacy is to watch and listen to the movie that is  comprised of footage from the Vietnam War for all 168 hours. Anyone who survives gets to be taken seriously. After all, we’re not asking you do do anything we haven’t actually done; we’re only asking that you watch. Please, offer us no fatalities of class.



Current



    The young men who live behind us are known as thieves, sociopaths with guns, unreliable, unpredictable, dangerous, intractably stupid and wrongheaded. Fire discipline taught by their fathers and peers consists of “ Don’t point a gun at anybody unless yer gonna use it.” They got pissed off at another neighbor and, sneaking in the night, revenging a civil correction, shot her 4 yr. old filly in the brain.

    I’ve listened to their animalistic yowling and random firings of AK - .47’s, .44 magnums, .357 magnums for over seven years; the terrifying sound and compacted energy of maiming and death as close to me here in the country as it is to the kids in Iraq, as it was as well in Vietnam.

    If you happen to be a regular citizen, raised on TV and corporate nurture, such conditions might seem inconsequential, an irritation from another part of town. But if you’ve been in the thick ****, the mud, the blood and the crud, your reaction might give you the quakes, the fears, the gotta get out of heres. The kidneys get set on run, and stay that way. When the gunshots go off behind you anytime thereafter, one is jumping out of their skin - as it was literally so back in the Zone, whatever Zone it was, when your soul made a deal with your body to leave suddenly and intact, abandoning all flesh, if only...



    But the neighbors are good Americans, psychotic well armed youth, and his being is filled with murderous intent, and he says to them, I don’t want this murderous intent, this terror of you sufficient to make me lay waste to you, but you gave it to me. He sees street raves as Iraqi demonstrations, Vietnamese demonstrations, but the current god is Mammon, accessing interconnected anonymity, hive jive. Still, it is better than the wealthy illusion, the straight guy legitimate concerns, the earning capacity; the real soul has been opened, and no clarifying medication has been mixed to cure it. He is still so ready if he were loosed upon any tyrant his foot would be on their neck within a moment, and thence the tyrants minders would have him dead.



    The question pops to mind: why is the self medicated veteran considered a problem, thus denied his experience and that experience’s fundamental existence in the world mind, and presumed to be cured by purification? Those guiltless pesky inquisitors in their splendid red and gold hats come to mind. It is worse than cultural schizophrenia, it is a proclamation of a freedom that does not exist. The beery vet clutching the big breasted vagabond blond is still trying to deaden the reality of the demands imposed upon him. ‘Well, he’s been over there killing brown people, but he’s home now, he should be OK. Afterall, the world is really just a big gang fight. Love it or leave it.’



    The conflict begins its rasping freeze when the trauma occurs. Receiving trauma that effects you for the rest of your life is just another part of life. Most of us can expect some. And who knows, maybe its true, maybe the damage does some good. It is the acceptance of the complete rise and fall of life that allows the growth necessary to disencumber yourself in order to return to yourself, your own best treasure. And none of that implies purity to gain Godliness.



    “Out of the one,

    Into the many,

    Out of the many,

    Into the one.”

            Everson



    I was first-born, big brother to little brother and littler sister. I was suppose to be the strong one, the one capable of surviving any blast or injury. I could be killed and still depended upon, such should be my overriding influence, like the span of Gabriel’s wings.

    But it was clear to everyone, including me, that something was terribly wrong with me. So, everyone kept quiet. Escaping my sister’s sojourn to the suicide ward, and after my brother’s H-head homecoming from Pleiku and his incarceration in the Atascadero State Mental Hospital and on to several other prisons, my mother’s miracle child miscarriage that would have bound her even more deeply to the pederast she married, invited a turn for the worse. Marriage to a suicidal Air Force officer’s sexually damaged daughter isn’t name calling, just calling the real a fact. And even if she contained a thousand other qualities all good and true in their nature, the thumping of her anguish was as needful as my own, and hurt just as bad. Neither did she ask for the damage delivered in the whispering night by a stranger called Daddy. Like soldiers, women get PTSD too.



    The psychiatrists call it neurosis when two like kindred creatures find each other at a party and figure their meeting fateful juncture or love at first sight, then tangle their needs like a mares nest of concertina.



    Typified by chronic depression, phantasm, food bingeing, rage, self-destructive conduct the somatic component of her acquired condition was more often than not mistaken as simply a somewhat plain young woman with low self-esteem over compensating for beauty and allure not blessing her, finding too young that men hardly ever refuse free *****. And that often generates an argument between the good and precious girl and the I like this more than I should self indulgent girl who may in turn need to invent another personality who will keep her secrets until they become literary. And once such a convenience is achieved, another personality, the pinioned angel, can be exercised into presence. Then the consummate conductor, the actress, rises in self-made resplendence. The constant waiting wife with her shrill emptiness was already well learned.



    And yes I do, I do wish her a life time of great happiness and joy, love and wonderous discovery. I wish the same for everyone I ever met, no matter how foolish it might be to hope it come to pass. Its a good place to start.



    In the nature of living this past there are nexuses where the soul stuff can together mix and swell the growing miracle. And there are such too, among the damaged, the wound where they bleed into each other, a bellowing secret in the women’s house. There are also the holes made by the shrapnel and the K-bar, the cabbage knife and machete, the whole solid world blown through you in a million fragments. Why wouldn’t anyone who was there to see it or feel it or cause it not suffer sustained long term disabilities? And if they don’t, why not? How drunk on sorrow must the young men be. (I don’t know how the Vietnamese secured the peace for the Cambodians, but it would be my wish and bet that they offered Life, and adjudicated the terror until it could no longer breed.) The new long hobbled line will bring it home soon, to add it to the frothy brew.



    “Most of you guys are real scary to me.” I nod to the SOG alumni bellying his way down the middle of the movie-house brick walkway. And he is scary. He’s wearing his new bush hat, and has it covered with unit patches which are also very new and very clean - military pride shining from every thread and enamel emblem of them. His been there mustache is tortured to exact horizontal points. Sixty in a white too tight T-shirt, a real and present danger, supported by legs tan and muscular from deep knee bends in his sunshine back yard. Cloth camo boots over white socks seem his shoe statement. Just a kook, maybe, just a character too firmly attached to his long ago memories that shouldn’t mean so much to him considering that we lost that one didn’t we, the other customers shy.

    But you know it isn’t so. He’s pulling a train of karma, and it is dark and swarming with boogymen. He was considered by his superiors as their necessary agent. In the refuge of isolation it is more likely that you will not meet him. In the group therapy session where they teach you accept him as one of your brothers you balk, preferring to leave him walking alone on the public promenade, a hungry ghost capable of being satisfied with a nod of recognition.

    There are unit citation award pins, campaign pins, and Air Cav patch, no mention of 1/9, an Airborne stripe, master sergeant chevrons, some embroidery that said ‘Pleiku’. And I looked hard for a ‘heart’, but failed to find one. The patch that was foremost in mind, in eye, a sure and damn right fate bulls-eye, was a silver on black patch that said SOG.

     I don’t want to talk to the man. I don’t want to sit at a outdoor woven metal chair at some Smallville sidewalk cafe and nurse a latte until I can’t stand it anymore and excuse myself to run away quick as I can - then I remember the clerks down at the social security office and the DVA dismality and my sympathy goes to them, their chairs a long parade of hits. Its  all down there in muscle memory and you know that it isn’t a micron thin emotional condom that separates him from those heady days of blowing peoples brains out with his gun, their bodies slumping away like clots of clay and blood,  and taking offense at some social approbation, some failure of acknowledging respect, a demand for his personal recognition that he’d willingly back up with a little more of the same murders, you first. His slogging forward step tells you his deepest and most furious hate is for that black numbness he was awarded when the true believers recruited him to their air conditioned trailer, blessed him with a flag and let him become like the too many others who’s lust for killing was rewarding. The movie burns blue black green and gray, can’t remember why he’s walking around anymore, organized warfare, feral armed children issuing from his singular *******. The sorriest of slaves, he arches his eyebrow at me. There is no wisdom growing in that brow, only the concentrated fury of forty years of bad coming true. No defensive wounds but those on his hat, and the ones he thought didn’t show.



    

   

troutlily troutlily
61-65, M
1 Response Mar 10, 2010

PLEASE SEE CONCLUSION OF STATIC, PART 3.