Greatings and My Story (Trigger Warning for Graphic Content)

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buddy9832

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Greatings and My Story (Trigger Warning for Graphic Content)
« on: April 30, 2020, 12:28:16 AM »
Hi everyone,

My name is Brett. I came across this site the other day as I was trying to do research on PTSD. My therapist and psychologist keep hinting about the possibility of me having PTSD but so far it never really seemed to explain my condition. In my opinion and what I can remember, I have never been exposed to a single traumatic event however, I have had quite a history of long-term exposure to lower level traumatic events. I have depression and anxiety (it’s getting better now), am startled by noises such as a dog barking or a doorbell ringing, I also startle when my wife tries to hug me from behind. Usually these startle events follow by a good amount of rage or anger that takes a minute to subside. I have recurring nightmares of being hunted and I find myself ruminating on these low-level traumatic events (it’s also better now) and having a significant shift in my world view. When I came across this site, it finally seemed to meet many of the symptoms and feelings that I have had.

So what’s my story? I’m not really sure where it begins. I suppose I should give a little background on myself. I did grow up in a loving stable family but similar to above where I feel I meet many of the symptoms associated with CPTSD, I am exploring the possibility of growing up with Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN). During my formative years, I feel my life had been surrounded by death. I found from a young age, family members dying every other year or so culminating to a period when I got out of the Navy; finding the majority of my family having passed.

I graduated college from a military school where ultimately, I commissioned as an officer in the Surface Navy (I sailed ships). At the time, I was a very optimistic person and saw the good in most things. My first duty station was Pearl Harbor where I found myself with very little money, landing in Honolulu needing to buy a car and rent an apartment. I was stationed on a destroyer that I met in Gaum returning from a deployment where I was assigned the role of First Lieutenant. As First Lieutenant, I was in charge of 30 sailors and the Aviation, Seamanship, and Search and Rescue Programs. For a majority of my time in Hawaii, I would consider it relatively uneventful but as we began to conduct workups for a deployment to the Arabian Gulf and ultimately deploy these low-level traumatic events began to occur. I consider these low-level traumatic events as at no point do I recall them being exceptionally disrupting to my mental health leading to the symptoms described above.

**Trigger Warning - Graphic Content** (See "End of Trigger Warning" in 7 paras)

The first real event I recall was during workups 100 nm off the coast of Oahu where the ship was performing Man Overboard Drills. During these drills, my team was tasked with deploying the rescue swimmer from the ship to rescue a dummy. The rescue swimmer was a close friend and fellow officer on the ship. The seas and the weather that day were relatively calm. To not bore you with the details of performing man overboard drills; the ship approached the dummy, we took all way off the ship (stopped) and deployed the rescue swimmer. Everything went according to plan as the swimmer reached the dummy, it wasn’t until the swimmer was making his way back to the ship that we realized something was wrong. I was performing safety duties on the forecastle (front/bow of the ship). The swimmer was attached to the ship with a tether however, this tether was dragging him underwater. I remember looking down from the forecastle of the ship hearing and seeing my colleague gurgle water followed by the tether snapping. At this point, I came to the realization that the swimmer no longer had a lifeline to the ship and was essentially abandoned 100 nm off the coast of Oahu. There would have been absolutely no chance for him if we didn’t recover him. As the ship was maneuvering for the recovery, I remember watching him drift away to the horizon, floating in the water with his red helmet looking like the tip of a pen on the horizon. At one point, we lost sight of him with all the sensors we had. We ultimately found him, deployed the small boat (which I was on) and recovered him. I do recall being shook up that day but afterwards I don’t recall any additional fallout on my mental health.

Fast forward to my first deployment. We sailed from Oahu, west to Southeast Asia. Along the way we had port visits in Malaysia and Phuket, Thailand. Thailand was my first real taste of how * this world can be. It is the first place in which I experienced the rampant and quite frankly blatant sex trafficking that is prevalent in this world (and it’s not just in places like Thailand). It felt like it wasn’t even a secret. There were girls some that appeared as young as 14 that were for “rent” at the majority of the bars we went to and I really mean bars not brothels. Some places would parade the girls and woman in front of you to pick while others were more dispersed throughout the bars. To this day, I still harbor some guilt for supporting sex trafficking. I never paid for services but I did buy drinks and pay cover charges.

After Thailand, we continued west through the Strait of Malacca and the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf. Around this time, I was in the process of getting qualified as an Officer of the Deck (OOD). This is a position that more or less means you are responsible for the safe navigation of the ship and the crew while you are standing your rotation on the bridge (where the ship is driven). Learning to be an OOD in the Persian Gulf was extremely challenging for me. The Gulf is an incredibly foreign place. You can’t trust standard practices of sailing ships as not everyone adheres to them. It would not be uncommon to come across dhows (small fishing boats) that never showed up on your radar. It also wouldn’t be uncommon to see large commercial ships not adhering to the “Rules of the Road” (an international set of rules as to how to sail a ship). At night ships and dhows may not have lights on which made it incredibly difficult to spot them. I began to have reoccurring nightmares at this point of the ship colliding with another vessel. I feared getting into a collision with another ship that would cost the lives of unsuspecting sailors. Unfortunately, history proved this to be a valid fear with two destroyer collisions in the Pacific resulting in the loss of 17 sailors.

On our way home from deployment, we made a port stop in the Philippines. The sex trafficking was just as rampant in addition to the degree of poverty. I remember getting off the ship and entering into a new world. There were groups of orphaned children that lived together in enclaves. People were defecating in the street, others begging for food or money. I recall a few colleagues and I going to a restaurant. We had traditional Filipino food. The dichotomy between the relative opulence of the restaurant and reality just outside the door was striking. We felt so bad for the group of children that we ordered additional meals to give to them. We asked an interpreter to provide the meals and he ended up getting jumped. Lastly, I remember on a walk to get a massage I came across someone extremely sick laying on the hood of the car. A few blocks from the massage parlor a woman in her third trimester was begging for money. Beside her was her approximately year-old daughter with an incredibly severe cleft lip. It went from her upper lip to her eye. She was quite sick and I don’t believe she could of survived much longer without treatment. I walked past this mother, I told her I didn’t have any money and then went a couple blocks down the road to a massage parlor. I regret that decision everyday of my life. This event, I found myself ruminating on over and over. I harbor a lot of guilt from that interaction and honestly can’t see ever forgiving myself.

On to my second ship, I was stationed on another destroyer in Norfolk, Virginia. My job was as the Damage Control Assistant (DCA) who is essentially in charge of firefighting onboard the ship. When I look back at this tour this was the tour that took the most out of me. Between the experience in the Philippines and some of the experiences I will discuss here, I feel like a part of me had died. The command climate was toxic. The Captain (command of the ship, aka CO) was an individual who was detached from reality. The executive officer (second in charge, aka XO) was a narcissist and sociopath. I recall a time where the chain of command forced me to tell an 18 year-old girl she couldn’t see her father who just died. We weren’t on deployment and any events she was involved in onboard the ship, she could have easily been replaced.

My grandfather, who I was very close with became sick during this tour as well. He was handicapped and fell in his apartment. He never recovered from the fall. I put in a request to the chain of command to take leave to see my sick grandfather and also to tend to his services. I received quite a bit of push back from the CO and XO. I had administrative inspections during this period that people in my division could have easily handled. I was eventually allowed to leave with much negotiation, after passing the administrative inspection. The comments on my leave request from the CO and XO read “GO STEELERS” and “Upon passing MOB-D 1.0” (the administrative check) respectively. No words of encouragement, nothing, just “GO STEELERS”. I obviously harbor resentment to this day. I was able to see my grandfather at hospice. He was quite sick, malnourished, and dehydrated. It was very hard for me to see. I remember him trying to tell me stories however they were unintelligible. I remember trying so hard to understand, I knew this would be the last time I heard him speak. I remember telling my parents to be with him when he was going through the final stages of death. No one should die alone. I found out later that they did not visit him because “the nurse would be by his bedside” (which was highly unlikely). After visiting him in hospice I had to return to the ship (some 500 mi away) to continue preparation for the MOB-D inspections. Later that week, I was able to come back home to attend the Wake services but not the funeral. I was not able to stay by his bedside nor was any family. The last words I heard from him were unintelligible and I was never able to have closure. I wasn’t able to have closure due to an insignificant administrative inspection.

During this tour, one of the officers in my division was suicidal. He had his own demons that he was dealing with in addition to the toxic atmosphere on the ship. He was a new officer and had many qualifications to obtain. This required reaching out to peers for assistance of who no one would help him. I tried my best to be there for him and took him to the hospital twice for ideations. During the tour and afterwards it felt like his mental health was a burden on me. I would wonder many times if he actually followed through on those ideations. I felt like if he did I would bare some of the responsibility.

End of Trigger Warning

I went on one last deployment with this ship to perform operations off the eastern coast of Africa. I had only a few months left to be in the Navy before being honorably discharged. The deployment itself was uneventful however, I did have trouble dealing with the XO again. The person that would be replacing me was still in school learning how to be a DCA. XO was adamant that I perform a face to face turnover with him and his return date came very close to my discharge date. My ticket out of here and my replacements ticket back to the ship was via a resupply ship that we saw every two weeks. I remember almost daily speaking with the XO as to when I am expected to leave. Every two weeks for a few months, the oiler would arrive and leave without a plan for me to leave. Eventually, it became clear that it was going to be very close to my discharge date prior to leaving the ship. The day finally came. I left the ship on a small boat to be transferred to the oiler. The waves were fairly choppy that day (approximately 4 feet). As I was climbing the ladder, I recall my foot being pinned between the oiler and the small boat. I remember thinking that I was going to go overboard. I remember also thinking of course this would happen to me potentially losing my life right before my discharge date. Fortunately, a wave pushed the small boat away from the oiler and I was able to climb the ladder. We had the face to face turnover. I met my replacement on the deck of the oiler, I shook his hand and wished him good luck. I then spent a week on the oiler sailing to port and another week at a base in Africa prior to returning home. As it turned out, my discharge date came and left a day before leaving the base. I was technically on deployment still and no longer in the Navy.

I found myself entering a very different world compared to the place I spent most of my adult life. I entered the Navy with a little bit of family left and left with no family. They either moved away to include my parents or had died. I was now alone in the place of my roots with no family. While my life was on pause, everyone else’s passed me by which has and still is difficult for me to come to terms with. I moved in with my in-laws and fiancé at the time. I felt like a loser being this “successful” officer now struggling to find a job. I eventually found a job and married my fiancé. We built a house together in a small farming community and have two kids. My demons didn’t really start surfacing until this period. The reoccurring hunting dreams started around here, rumination, and severe depression and anxiety. Two years ago was my lowest point in life. I felt dead inside. Absolutely apathetic towards life, not necessarily suicidal but I definitely didn’t have a care in the world if I died. If you stuck with me this long thank you for reading my story. I’m sorry for the novel but I’m glad there is a place for people who have similar conditions. I hope to learn more about CPTSD and maybe have some healing.

Hope everyone is staying safe during the pandemic!

Cheers!
Brett
« Last Edit: April 30, 2020, 03:49:51 PM by Kizzie »

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Three Roses

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Re: Greatings and My Story
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2020, 03:34:34 AM »
Welcome!  :heythere:

Sometimes we don't see the things we experienced in childhood as abuse. For example, although I was physically assaulted from a young age, my family referred to these incidents as spankings. It was only when I had children of my own that my eyes began to open.

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During my formative years, I feel my life had been surrounded by death. I found from a young age, family members dying every other year or so culminating to a period when I got out of the Navy; finding the majority of my family having passed.

IMO that's enough to create cptsd-inducing situations.

I hope you feel free to poke around, read the different threads and pop in wherever you have a question. Thanks for joining!

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Kizzie

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Re: Greatings and My Story (Trigger Warning for Graphic Content)
« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2020, 03:48:35 PM »
Hi and a warm welcome to OOTS Brett  :heythere:

While you've described what you've experienced as low level, cumulatively it represents a lot of trauma IMO and it's not a surprise you have CPTSD symptoms.  If you did suffer from neglect as a child, these experiences would add a layer to your childhood trauma and exacerbate it which is why you may be feeling it all now in your adult years - at some point it gets to be too much for most of us.

There's quite a lot of info about neglect here - https://cptsd.org/forum/index.php?board=163.0 - might be a place to start.

 :grouphug:

(Note: I added trigger warnings to your post to let members know you've included some graphic contact. Please read our Member Guidelines when you have a moment.)
« Last Edit: April 30, 2020, 03:50:14 PM by Kizzie »

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buddy9832

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Re: Greatings and My Story (Trigger Warning for Graphic Content)
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2020, 07:24:57 PM »
Thank you guys, I appreciate it. I’ll give the link above a look.

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Kizzie

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Re: Greatings and My Story (Trigger Warning for Graphic Content)
« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2020, 02:27:24 PM »
 :thumbup:      :grouphug:

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notalone

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Re: Greatings and My Story (Trigger Warning for Graphic Content)
« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2020, 04:01:27 PM »
Brett,
I read your post. I could feel the weight of guilt and regret that you carry.

The people on this site are an important part of my support system. Glad you found us. Welcome.  :heythere:

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Snowdrop

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Re: Greatings and My Story (Trigger Warning for Graphic Content)
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2020, 08:42:10 AM »
Pleased to meet you Brett :wave: