Smashed Hats and Boogey Men

When I entered the country of Iraq in March of 2005, I didn’t feel any different as a person. But I could tell my senses were changing. It’s like, going into a dark room and immediately your ears perk up and your sense of smell becomes amazing. That’s kind of how I felt. And that night, when I curled up on my little cot in the soft tent next to 15 other brothers, I woke up half way through the night rolling off my cot and hitting the floor. I couldn’t tell you what I was thinking at the time except I was probably going to fucking die.

“Hey, man! What the fuck is going on?!” I said weakly as I reached up and grabbed my battle buddy.

“…It’s just out-going. Go back to sleep, dude.” he mumbled as he turned over and went back to sleep.

“…fuck…” I said as I let out a sign of relief.

The artillery compound was about 500 feet from our location on the back side of the chicken factory. And they’d do missions all hours of the night and day. Launching round after round.

I felt something happen that night, though. I felt kind of jolt to my system when all that was happening. I can’t really explain it. The nights to come would never be the same.

The first time I woke up with a night terror was a month or two later, still in country, I witnessed a german soldier charging at me while I was on my bunk, with a red-eyed Doberman or german shepherd salivating at the mouth. The dog was relentless. It literally scared the shit out of me and I had no way to access a light switch. I scooted as far away from it as possible, back against the wall, and I just stared at it. I wasn’t sure if it was real or not. But it freaked me the fuck out.

When I got home from Iraq, the night terrors raged on. I witnessed a lobster crawling around on the floor, upside down, with giant rats eating at it and crawling after me. The worst night terror I had was a huge boa constrictor in my bed, coiled around my arm. I was yelling for help and all my roommate, at the time, could do was bang on my door asking if I wanted him to call CQ. When I snapped out of it, I was beside myself. I answered the door and told him what had happened and his first question was if I were on drugs.

Drugs? Seriously? Well, it was a valid question, perhaps.

In an attempt to not bore you with frivolous details of every single night terror attack, I’ll continue to explain things the best I can. Or at least how I’ve felt or been feeling about them. Since 2006 when I got back from Iraq, I’ve had night terrors ever since. I’ve been evaluated by doctors and I’ve seen my fair share of therapists about them. Most nights I’m afraid to sleep. Most nights I’m afraid to close my eyes. I remember a few times I’ve literally forced myself to stay away for 72 hours because I was so fucking sick and tired of waking up every two hours to some boogeyman asshole creeping around my bedroom. It’s insane! It’s insane to have to deal with this shit.

Since I’ve been out of the military, I remember plenty of times while living in my car, I’ve started up my car, placed it in drive and drove around town like I was in Iraq. Literally, while dreaming, somehow I drove my fucking car around town. When I finally “woke up” and realized what was happening, I just broke down in tears. I think back on those moments, you know. Driving my car while in a dream-like stage..how scary and dangerous. I’m lucky I didn’t drive through a red light or something and get wasted in an intersection. Although, at that point in my life, I’d be doing myself a favor if that happened.

I recently shacked up in this tiny little studio apartment in Seattle. It’s not much but it’s about all I need. I figured night terrors come when things are most unstable in my life. Wrong. Even with getting an apartment and having a nice cozy place to sleep night after night, these night terror motherfuckers just won’t stay away! I keep a Mossberg Classic 88 shotgun under my bed for safe keeping, right? Because I’m not some liberal anti-gun hippie-faggot! I love my guns, okay? Just kidding about the faggot part, folks. I think gays are wonderful human beings. Anyway.

Alright, so I keep this beast of a firearm under my bed, right? And what scared me the most about night terrors, and even though you’re reading this, don’t get all teary-eyed, sentimental, cry-baby bullshit on me, okay? Seriously. I’m fine. Alright so..I wake up in the middle of the night, and I see this figure trying to steal my television set. Now this figure has been in my apartment for a couple of nights now trying to steal shit. I got really scared and held my breath like a little kid hoping it wouldn’t see me in my bed the first time it came around and then I realized it was a night terror as it came around more often. Finally, I reached under my bed, grabbed my shotgun, racked a round and pointed it at the subject trying to steal my tv. I remember saying “look motherfucker, just get out of here!” before the subject finally vanished. I woke up.

I look back on that shit and just shake my head. That’s why I invested in a gun cabinet for my firearms. And the key isn’t anywhere accessible. Yes, I know it defeats the purpose of having firearms if I can’t get to them when in dire need. But I’d rather have the right to own and possess them instead of accidentally discharging one in my apartment and having the cops come and take them from me and then I’m deemed “unsafe” to have them in my home. Now we are all happy, see?

I’ve done a lot of research about night terrors on my own. incurable like the doctors have told me? I don’t know, maybe. I guess time will tell. In the meantime, I’ve done a lot for myself to reduce stress in my life because that seems to be the deciding factor when and where shit will go down. It’s not fun but I’m all about bettering myself mentally and physically. I’m not that kind of combat vet to self destruct. I’m better than that.

I am.

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