i called the united states today. i called my doctor at the VA hospital, and asked her to refill my prescription for alprazolam (xanax). I have Panic and Anxiety Disorder, along with my Major Depressive Disorder and my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which doesn't even mention the Traumatic Brain Injury. Anyway, in dealing with my anxiety, I was prescribed xanax. For a long time I took some sort of anti-anxiety medication every day. For more than a year now, I have not had the need to take anything daily. In fact, up until March 22, I had taken it no more than five times in over a year, and only once during my first five months in Israel.
On March 22, rockets were fired from Gaza (which isn't a new development, but that's another story soon) which had the range and impact to change my swell little life here in Ashdod. So the sirens went off here - which I didn't hear because I was in a car. But it brings right back to the mind the experiences of being mortared daily in Iraq, and the kind of daily life that came with that. The next day, a bom went off outside of a bus stop in Jerusalem, killing one woman and injuring more than 30 others. I was scheduled to run the marathon in Jerusalem two days later. I did not. For many reasons, but not the least was a state of anxiety.
I didn't have an immediate conscious reaction to the attacks. I mean, I've done this before, so it's not a new idea. My thought process was not changed too much initially. At least not that I'd realized. But as the days progressed, consciously the changes were focused on my preparedness. By this I mean, I now kept a cell phone on me when I ran. I lowered the volume on my headphones, in case the sirens went off, I would be able to hear them. I was more aware of where I was, and what my surroundings were. To this I mean, where would I go in the event of a rocket attack? Do I know enough hebrew to tell someone to give me a shirt for a bandage, or tell them I have a brain injury?
My subconscious reaction was immediate, but the conscious realization was delayed. Immediately after, the quality of my sleep plummeted, and the duration necessary to feel good was tripled. It also took much longer to fall asleep. When I awoke, I remembered parts of dreams. All of a sudden, weapons were appearing in dreams. In one, having nothing to do with anything else going on, an RPG was leaning against a wall. In fact, that is really the only detail of the dream I can recall. In another, I was wearing my Boy Scout uniform and with the scouts, and in my pocket was a pistol. With the lack of sleep and the disconcerting dreams, came a significant increase in irritability and ease of anger. My optimism I had worked so hard to nurture and believe had vanished, like smoke from a candle being blown out.
I went through quite a harsh depressive episode. But, like all things, This Too Shall Pass. And it did.
On Friday morning, April 8th, I ran in the Tel Aviv Marathon. I ran the second race of my life, another 10km run. I arrived the night before, and stayed in a hostel close to the starting line. I went with three girls, two of which I had run in Ein Gedi with. We woke early on race day, and slowly made our way to
the starting line. The weather was amazing. There were close to 20,000 participants in the events. My goal was simple: don't walk. Not run fast. Not beat my time. Simply don't walk. Be mentally stronger than I was, and control what I would do physically. It was amazing. I ran. I ran well. I felt amazing. I set a personal record by improving my time by 14 minutes and 51 seconds. We had an amazing time in the race, we had a great meal afterwards, and then returned to Ashdod. The rest of the day was good. At around 345am or so, I had just finished arranging everything in my bed, and was about to put my head on my pillow and close out one of the best days I have ever had. Then the siren went off.
I jumped out of bed. I yelled to my roommate who was sleeping. He wears earplugs to sleep, so I had to yell twice more to wake him up. I was already putting my sweats on and getting up. We gathered in the bomb shelter, and I called around to make sure others were up and safe. We heard an explosion. It was not loud and it was not close, but it was an explosion. Fifteen or so minutes later, we were all back in our rooms, trying to chill out, and get to bed. Then the siren went off again. Didn't we just do this? What the fuck is going on?
Over the weekend, there were over 100 separate attacks. Be it rockets, mortars, RPGs.
I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I have Panic and Anxiety Disorder. I have Major Depressive Disorder. I have a Traumatic Brain Injury. I worked my ass off over the last 5+ years to recover and be able to come to Israel and become whole again.
I shouldn't have to be ripped apart again. I shouldn't have to slide back into a depression so deep there is no light. I shouldn't have anxiety so terrible that my heart rate is always high and I am always sweating. I shouldn't have to dream about FOB Hit and the Haditha Dam and friends who never made it home and sirens in the night.
I shouldn't have to.