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Who Did What to Who?

Cartoon illustration of a man stopping to think; in a thought bubble is his younger self also stopping to think. Both of them seem surprised and worried. Sketch by Earle Levenstein.

You know what?

Just yesterday I had a revelation.

To me, a convincing, logical, believable explanation for my inexplicable, lifelong—literally, from childhood on—daily experience of feeling unsettled, of being alone.

Of various levels of fear, waves of anxiety, fear of crowds. Of incessant nightmares, sleepwalking,

The sense that I was inside looking out, playing a role. This time, it started when I returned from a week-long stay with my daughter and her four loving, sweet dogs; two of them (GASP!) pit bulls; the two others small, perky, not at all self-conscious at being outweighed and outsized.

And making eye contact with each of her dogs was like bathing in a deep pool of unconditional love, which reminded me of my dogs, long gone; and then of other family dogs: my two sons and their dogs, my other daughters…and from there I suddenly cut to the role dogs are called upon to play for people without sight…for the elderly…and then for soldiers returning from horrific experiences in combat…with flashbacks and anxiety and nightmares and an army of fears and lifelong suffering from it all.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The list? Awful.

Strikingly familiar.

My list from childhood on.

Witnessing, experiencing, as a child, the chaos, the screaming, the physical violence, the sense of helplessness and terror; unpredictability day and night.


Seemingly eternal.

My belief? A kind of, sort of, close to, or identical PTSD clone that explains every one of my ongoing issues; from childhood until this very day. Pursuing tranquility, will-o'-the wisps, periods of peace, offered by ongoing psychotherapy; repetitively, with no permanence, but respites.

This lead me to the conclusion that my childhood experience was strikingly similar to what those tortured souls suffered in the nightmare of war.

How could it not be so?

I mean exposure to violence, helplessly witnessing it over and over again, has to result in some kind of damage. Interestingly to me, when my daisy-chain of symptoms persisted through early and then later life, the explanations by physicians were never, in my experience, related to parents.

My migraine, which, you might remember, was not diagnosed until I was in my fifties; it produced its own list of possibilities, which I now certainly relate to those same childhood experiences.

All, of course, water—suffering—under the bridge.

What's available now to address my regularly recurring issues is therapy and my own alertness to daily life.

Bottom line is, the damage was done; there is no permanent cure for my migraine, or my adult-life presentations of events, experiences, happenings.

For our troops, it's similar but different; in the level of intensity: blood, shattered limbs, violent death.

Repair the damage?

How? Replace memory?

Rerun the episodes on videotape and then erase?

All gone.

Lots of luck.

Damage done. On with the show. You don't stop living, loving, having joy in your life.

But it sure does involve being alert to triggers, threats, similarities, familiarities, sounds, images, tones of voice.

As the Boy Scouts have it: Be Prepared.

For me, it's don't sleep too soundly, recall dreams: note similarities, visual and aural; if it's familiar it will be recorded as the same; no different.

Stay on your toes, me says to me.


They're working on brain replacement.

Ha Ha!

Just joking, of course.

Of course?


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