April 1975: The Evacuation of Saigon (6)

A fact about Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) that is often overlooked is that it never goes away. The unspeakable memories don’t fade. The visions of things I can’t talk about are as vivid today as they were the day they happened. They will be with me always.

In short, there is no cure for PTSI. All one can do is learn to cope. The first step is to compel oneself to face the memories head-on. Suppressing them forces them into the unconscious where they lurk and attack when a stimulus calls them up. Some impulse in my soul knew that if I was to survive, I had to relive the memories and come to terms with them. So I wrote down what happened even though I couldn’t talk about it. That eventually turned into 17 short stories and four novels, all now in print. The result is an imperfect peace. The horrors I lived through are now not confined to my head. They’re out there in public for the world to see.

I’ve taught myself over time to calm my emotions when the memories come back to haunt me. Crying jags are now reduced to a moment of tears. Now when I feel a rage coming, I breathe deeply and put myself into a meditative state. The nightmares are still with me, but now they’re old enemies that no longer waken me with screams.

An imperfect peace, but peace nonetheless.

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