This Fourth of July was horrible for me, and I am so embarrassed: A group of my friends planned a Fourth of July get-together for me with about 30 of my friends. This is the first Fourth I have been able to attend here in the U.S. in three years because I was in the Army and have been overseas. We went to a big celebration, with parade, picnic, concert and fireworks. My group of friends even arranged for me to have a date with a man that I have wanted to date for quite some time. I knew him from before but never had a date with him.
We were having a really good time up until the fireworks started, and then for me all hell broke loose. As I was watching the fireworks the atmosphere reminded me of the war and what I experienced in Iraq, and I acted really stupid. I couldn’t keep from wanting to duck and run for safety. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. For a while I just tried to calm down and not pay attention to what was going on, but all of a sudden I couldn’t stand it anymore. I turned around and just left the party and the park. I didn’t tell anyone I was leaving or where I was going. I ran to the bus stop, caught the bus and went back to my hotel.
I had to catch a flight out the next day to get back to my unit. I flew out the next morning without contacting anyone about where I was or what had happened to me. I know people must be really puzzled. I’ve gotten a few phone calls from friends, which I didn’t answer. A couple of people left messages, basically wondering what’s going on and why I left. I’ve just ignored them.
Now I feel like such a fool. I know I will never have a chance with the guy I was with at the party. What’s even worse is that I am so embarrassed. I don’t think I will ever be able to talk with my friends back home again. I don’t even know how I will ever be able to go back home and face all the people if they find out what happened to me. They all thought they were doing a really big thing for me by arranging this day, my being back from the war and all.
I can’t even talk with anyone at the base because most of them know I am gay and will just think I am a pansy. I have had to be stronger, and do everything better to be accepted by them. Now I can’t let them know what happened to me.
How do I live with myself knowing what happened? How do I know it won’t happen again? I’m so confused and angry with myself; I don’t know where to turn.
A: Sounds like you may have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I’m sure you have heard of it. It’s a pretty common problem for civilians and soldiers who’ve served in war zones, or people experiencing other kinds of trauma.
It is important for you to contact your military medical personal and let them know what happened to you. You don’t want this to occur to you when you are on duty. They have many programs for treating and dealing with PTSD.
If I were you, I would contact your friends whom you feel are the most understanding, and let them know what happened. Right now they are probably thinking you are rude and weren’t appreciative of the party that they arranged for you. After letting them know what happened to you, I can’t imagine that your friends won’t understand. Then, ask the friends you’ve confided in to explain it to others, so that when you come home again, you don’t have to explain this event – unless you choose to.
Stay in communications with your friends; your friendships are important. I would email or write to the man you had a date with. He may be willing to keep in contact, and give the date another try when you come back home the next time.
Thanks for serving your country.
PTSD can result from being in combat, but it also can result from other traumatic events such as sexual abuse and natural disasters. If you think you or someone you love might suffer from this condition, go to Dear Jody Valley on Facebook and learn more.