It’s the same nightmare every time… I’m in the town of Avgoni on an operation. We’re moving through the woods. Then shots are fired. A soldier next to me is hit in the neck. I try to help him, but it’s hopeless. He’s lost too much blood as he goes into shock. In the dream, I can feel somebody watching me even as the medics move and a platoon secures a perimeter for a helicopter. The kid is young, maybe 20, and I just look into his lifeless blue eyes while the medics move him to the evacuation point. I feel like I’m invisible and nobody in the dream seems to recognize me or realize I’m standing there with a camera and an M-16. Everybody leaves. And then I am back at the Palace, where again I feel invisible. At my desk is a CD with Arabic writing. I pop it into my laptop, and it’s a video of me.
I’m standing over the dead soldier just looking at him. There’s a rustling in the bushes and I look toward the noise… I’m staring directly into the camera. Somebody is speaking in Arabic and strangely, in the dream, I understand it. The people behind the camera simply say “we’re watching you.” Then, the barrel of an AK comes into the frame pointing right at me… this is when I wake up.
The dream has caused many sleepless nights to the point that I don’t fall asleep until 7 or 8 when I can no longer keep my eyes open. Once, I woke up in a different room that I didn’t fall asleep in. Another time, I was sweating profusely. Last night, I spoke of the dream to some friends and it really freaked ‘em out. I also had the dream again last night. This time, I called one of those 1-800 help lines the army provides. When I made the call, I realized my hands were trembling. I think I was more afraid of just talking to somebody… it’s hard to admit something like this, but I don’t want it to control my life. In other words, I know I need help.
The lady on the other end was sweet. She asked me all sorts of questions, like how do you feel around people. I answered truthfully… I feel uncomfortable around everybody even close friends. I’m always on edge, unless I have a few drinks in me. And I hate being in crowded places. I told her the only time I feel at ease is when I’m in my car all alone just driving and listening to Crosby Stills Nash and Young or when I’m running with my dog. She said that’s because I’m in control of the situation and that everything I’m feeling and going through is completely normal. She commended me for calling and set up an appointment for a counselor.
I’ve never been to a shrink before, but I’m not ashamed or afraid. I just don’t want to deal with it 10 years from now. I survived a war, and I’m going to make damn sure I survive peace.