I listen to the heavy metal band Slayer on my iPod as I write. Their music is the only thing that prepares me to write about war. The cacophony of words, the anger spewing from the guitars, the pure hate they create in my mind. War Ensemble, is one of my favorite songs. I remember hearing it as a kid on Headbanger’s Ball on MTV. I was never allowed to listen to Slayer because they were “Satanic” so I would stay up late after my parents had gone to bed hoping one of their videos would come on; ironically now it’s one of the few things that provides me comfort.

My five favorite songs are Jihad, War ensemble, Disciple, God Send Death and Bloodline. I listen to them over and over. They prime my mind for recalling the sights, sounds and other disturbing images from the pictures in my head. I cling to the title of one of their albums and the chorus of their song Disciple… “Homicide-Suicide, Hate heals, you should try it sometime, Strive for Peace with acts of war, The beauty of death we all adore, I have no faith distracting me, I know why your prayers will never be answered…God Hates Us All; God Hates Us All!!!”

It reminds me of all the stories of fellow service-members committing murder and suicide; the hate I feel towards others, and how good it makes me feel. Many times over the last seven years has the sweet respite that death must provide been on the periphery of my mind. I am unable to reconcile all that I have experienced and seen with the notion of a loving god. I know god must hate us all if he somehow exists.

Intrusive thoughts and reminders of traumatic events serve to fuel a cycle of inaccurate thoughts, negative feelings and ultimately PTSD. The cycle of inaccurate thoughts and assumptions, flashbacks, nightmares, and negative emotions, lead to symptoms and behaviors that are associated with this scourge. Although the behaviors are known as symptoms to the medical community, they represent safety, escape, and reliability to us, the sufferers.

In my struggle with PTSD I have experienced avoidance and escape behaviors. I give wide berth to triggers that remind me of my experiences, and I shun thinking or talking about the experiences. I tend to steer clear of any war, horror, or otherwise violent movies to avoid dredging up old memories about my war-time experiences. I avoided watching the news for a lengthy period, and only read certain types of news on the internet in order to censor what I took in. I suppressed my emotions through both alcohol and avoiding the emotions themselves when I was sober. I was verbally aggressive, which served as a mechanism to help me escape the omnipresent sense of danger. I somehow believed that if I was on the offensive, I would always have the upper hand in any “battle” and thus had a better chance at surviving or winning.

I abused alcohol and would go on binges that lasted for days that took away the horror movie I was experiencing. I withdrew socially; even when I was at the bar every night getting drunk, I was alone. I significantly reduced most of the activities which I had previously enjoyed such as reading, exercising, traveling, hanging out with friends, pursuing my education and talking to my family. I didn’t want to do anything or talk to anyone. It angered me to see others enjoying their lives, when I was unable to enjoy mine.

Finally, I began to experience physical symptoms. Most of these symptoms began to appear around the time I decided to leave the Army; they allowed me to defer confronting the emotions that were destroying me on the inside. My psyche had produced an array of negative emotions and behaviors for years in order to avoid dealing with the underlying trauma itself. Now instead of producing only emotional symptoms, it added physical symptoms to its arsenal. I never processed any of the trauma; my psyche protected me by producing emotional and physical symptoms which lead to more avoidance behaviors and other issues for me like crowded places, flying, and loud noises.

We are all two people: our conscious, and our subconscious. We control our conscious actions, but our subconscious actions are far less controlled. We are able to program our subconscious, but most of what occurs at the subconscious level is a primitive mechanism designed to keep us safe, both physically and emotionally. This mechanism uses physical and emotional symptoms as distractions to the conscious mind so as to prevent the trauma registered as distressing emotions in the subconscious from spewing forth into the conscious.