The Precipice of PTSD


The Precipice of PTSD

You don’t understand the change that happens inside a soldier after war.

Everyone comes back changed, whether they admit it or not, some worst than others.

I was the worst.

Not a day goes by in the past 13 years I haven’t thought about Iraq, the Fuck’d up things I saw and did.

I’ve just recently started moving on with my life with the intent to show civilians what it’s like to be on the battle front, fighting for our country and our lives, only to come home to a never-ending battle.

This scene from my book Combat Medic takes place at the precipice of my PTSD, the worst moment of my life.


” Slamming the door, I locked it and rested my head against the wood frame, trying to regain my thoughts. You’re home…you’re safe.

Sunlight is beaming in through the blinds, making it hard to see. Leaning against the marble counter in the kitchen, I set my keys down before wiping the sweat that wasn’t there from my brow. I wondered, Does it ever stop? My angst was making me feel cold. No…it never will. I stared at the floor. What if I was dead? Would anybody really care? I wouldn’t have to deal with this pain anymore. The thoughts; the nightmares…

My lower back throbbed. I pushed myself up on my hands, thrusting my hips back and forth, waiting for the pain to go away. I closed my eyes, put my head down, and started taking deep breaths, trying to calm down.

Standing up I grabbed a glass of water when a loud bang shook the room. My heart started racing; a chill ran through my body. The hearing in my right ear fell out, leaving a high-pitched ringing in the background. My heart jumped then started beating faster. I closed my eyes and saw flashing lights and heard gunfire – echoes and bangs.

I squatted to the ground behind the counter with my eyes wide open staring at the door. A chill ran through my back, into my heart. My jaw started shaking; teeth chattering like I was stark naked in a blizzard.

Someone kicked down the door dressed in battered, torn clothes with dirty rags covering his face. He ran towards me with an AK-47 rifle pointed at my face, shouting gibberish. I felt a rifle in my hand, the weight of the barrel upon my fingers; but it wasn’t there. I felt naked without a weapon, cold and unsafe.

My heart felt like it was being pulled in four different directions. It thumped, pumping me full of cold blood and adrenaline. My mind raced. What should I do? I smelled gunfire and smoke, but I could see that I was in my apartment. Is this real? The back of my throat was sore; there was a bad, acidic taste in my mouth.

I took in a couple of shallow breaths then jumped up and ran over to the kitchen. I grabbed the handle of my 8-inch chef knife and pulled it from the drawer figuring it would be better to have a weapon in case it wasn’t my imagination. I turned toward the door crouched down, waiting for anything that came through.

A minute slowly passed. “This isn’t real.” I thought out loud, “What am I doing? This is crazy.” At that moment excruciating pain shot from my mid-back down to my left foot. It was like someone had sliced my back in half with a searing hot knife. I tried taking a deep breath in, but stopped short when pain wrapped around my lung.

I dropped the knife. Feeling dizzy and nauseated, I slowly walked over to the bathroom, flipped the light on, and stood over the toilet, holding my stomach and head. I was sweating hard now. The room started spinning as an overwhelming smell of gunpowder filled it.

Images from war started shooting through my mind. In one, I was holding pressure on a wound, trying to stop the bleeding from a severed leg. In another, blood was splattered all over a sand-covered ground. Specialist B pointed to the blood, then over to a building. I raised my weapon as we went in for the kill. The last image was of eyes. A pair of glazed over, hauntingly sky blue eyes. They were staring directly into mine. I stared blankly into the toilet, engulfed in those eyes. The sight of death captivated me. I wanted it; it wanted me. It almost had me.

My focus shifted from his eyes to his head. I started to see blood running down his face as it came into focus. A green aid bandage was wrapped around it, attempting to hold his severed skull together. I looked down and saw blood covering my hands. I knew it wasn’t really there, but it all felt so real.

At that moment I felt numb, emptiness grew inside; my chest slowly became cold. Icy blood pumped through my veins. It felt like I was dying; like life was being drained out of me. I started shaking as a chill crept through me. Death enveloped me, clutching my soul with a wanton lust. My spirit quaked as my heart blackened.

Tears started falling down my cheeks as the visions slowly faded away. I felt like a hollow shell, void of any substance of life. Shaking my head I wiped the tears, but kept crying; unable to stop myself.

I walked to my bedroom, empty except for a small dresser. It’s been 7 months since I moved and still no furniture. Saddened, I closed the door and opened the window. A cool breeze blew through. The sun was bright, warm, and comforting. I took in a couple deep breaths; my jaw still jittered from the flashback as I let it out. My shirt was drenched in sweat.

I opened the drawer of the dresser and grabbed my pipe and weed. I ground some up, put it in the pipe and took a couple of long, slow hits. After about 15 minutes I was fully medicated, seeing everything in a haze. I stared out of the window and looked down at the courtyard. A young couple sat at a table drinking wine; talking… they looked happy. I could see smoke rising from the grill next to them and smelled the scent of barbeque.

Everything I was worrying about started to fade away. The pain in my back turned into a slight annoyance. I smiled a grin ear-to-ear and started beat boxing and singing; doing anything and everything to stop thinking about things – the nightmares from hell that still haunt me.

I poured a glass of cold water from the tap. After slamming a couple, the blue eyes started haunting me again. I felt myself sliding back into the other place when my phone snapped me out of the fall.

I looked at the screen and saw that it was Jessica; I answered annoyingly, “Hello.”

“Hi, what are you doing?”

“Just got home from work,” I said sharply. “Why, what’s up?”

“I don’t know; just seeing what you’re doing. You never call me just to talk,” she said, waiting silently for an answer.

I didn’t know what to say. “Sorry, I’ve just been busy.”

“Doing what?”

“Working. You know my hours at work.” I got upset. “Is there something you want?”

“Yeah, I was wondering if you would like to come over and eat dinner with me and Aleah tonight and this weekend? You know… have some family time.”

I was torn, feeling deep in my heart like I wanted to. But then I start thinking about what had just happened. The pain, the flashbacks, I was afraid to leave the house. I missed my daughter so much but I couldn’t drive like this. I lied, “I can’t, I have an appointment later today and I have to work this weekend.”

“Really? You told me you were off,” she said angrily.

“Well Mick asked me to work a couple extra shifts and I said yes.” I got upset again. “What do you want me to do about it? I can’t just say ‘No’ now; it’s work.”

“You never want to spend time with us. Aleah is always asking about you. What should I tell her?”

I felt awful. My heart started to burn.

“I’m sorry, Jessica, but I have to work.” I gave in a little, “I can come over after my shift is done. We can eat and play games. You can tell her I have to work and I’ll see her later.”

“Ok. Whatever,” she said.

Then it went silent for a minute.

“How come you don’t love me?”

“I never said I didn’t.”

“Then why did you leave?”

“Because we argue too much.”

“We argue because you don’t even try to listen to anything I have to say and you yell,” she said.

“You do too!” I quickly chimed in. “All you do is yell and I can’t take it. I don’t need people around me yelling all the time. I can’t handle it.”

“If you loved me you would try.”

My gut started hurting. “I do love you, Jessica; I just don’t know what to do.”

“Talk to me.”

Silence fell again, I felt so bad that we couldn’t get along. I do love her, but the arguments and fights, yelling in front of Aleah… it was too much. I don’t want her to think that is how relationships are. She should have a happy life.

“Ok, Sam! Bye!”

“Tell Aleah I’ll call her tonight. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Yep, bye.” She hung up, her tone saying all she needed to say.

The room fell quiet. I looked down at the phone and thought of all the good times I’ve had with them. The times I’ve curled over laughing when playing with Aleah. Hearing her laughs echoing throughout the house when I tickled her, I loved it… missed it.

How did I get here in this empty apartment, feeling sad and numb inside? I’ve tried my whole life to feel alive; to feel wanted, to be someone special. I joined the Army because it was where I belonged. Fighting for America, saving lives and making a difference, proving to myself that I could do anything, go anywhere.

Now I’m lost, stuck; sealed away in a cave at the center of a deserted world. I want to feel normal again; feel alive, not numb. My past keeps taking over my mind, flooding it with blood and explosions. I want it to end. I want everything to end.

How did I get here?

It was because of the war. Why did I ever sign up to go in? I don’t want to feel like this anymore; alone, struggling to hold onto reality day in and day out. I want a life worth living.”

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Combat Medic
A soldier’s story of the Iraq war and PTSD

Next Up – Danger- Gunfights in a Cemetery



121 thoughts on “The Precipice of PTSD

  1. you are incredibly brave to share this. It cannot be easy. There is no way to appreciate what it is like for you and the other soldiers fighting and experiencing these things. I have read a bit about how service dogs are helping vets with PTSD. I hope it helps you too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. @Gillie
      I looked into service dog programs local to me here in Ohio and unfortunately they average $25,000 which is well beyond what an average soldier can afford fresh out of the Army. My fiancee did get me a wonderful cat with the right personality to help in those rougher times. I do agree such programs do wonders though.I just wish they were covered through the VA or more affordable for those who need it.

      Thank you for sharing your story. I know it isn’t easy. I joined in 04 and served 3 tours over. Though our stories differ in way, I understand the strength it takes to share it in such a way. I am going to buy the book not only out of support but in a way I can see it as a tool to help in my own struggles getting through and understanding what is happening in my own head.


  2. Firstly, thank you for your service and your sacrifice. I appreciate you sharing your story as I can only imagine it is difficult to not only relive but also bare yourself in a raw way. Very interested in reading your book and I know a few others who would be too so I will share.

    Both of my brothers have been soldiers in the Australian army. One brother has since left the army and thankfully wasn’t deployed but my other brother is about to be deployed to Iraq. Although tensions may not be as high now it is still a volatile place and I have seen the pain and suffering our troops endure.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. We thank you for your service. And, sorry you had to go through so much. They should have more therapy when people return or have you stay in a place to recover first. The book seems very interesting.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I love reading and would definitely like to read this. I am so sorry for what you’re going through, even though these words don’t mean a thing from a stranger. I have family who served the military and I even attended a military school for 15 years, was in the JROTC program and ALMOST enlisted. I by no means know what you’re going through, but I am very proud of what you were capable off and for fighting with this syndrome alone. THANK YOU.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Wow, Sam, this is powerful stuff. I have dealt with PTSD too and I know how challenging it is when life turns into a waking nightmare. Thanks for being so open and honest about your experience! I hope it’s gotten better for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You’re a very talented writer. You had me captivated from the very beginning. I even started getting anxious while reading. I’m so sorry to hear that’s what you’re going through, but I’m happy that you’re bringing more awareness to PTSD. Maybe the more other people try and understand what PTSD survivors are going through, the better we can help in whatever way is needed. Thanks for sharing your story. I’m going to see if I can’t find it on Amazon.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for your service. This is powerful reading and heartbreaking. It really gives us civilians a clearer idea of what it was and is like for you. Please know our prayers are with you and all of our active/vet military.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Your writing is very powerful, I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to hold onto all of those feelings and memories. I’m not sure where you are at now but as a mother/wife all I can say is that both Jessica and Aleah want you around no matter what, no matter how damaged you think you are. Love in unconditional and I hope you are able to see some light through their love. All the best and I’m glad you have found writing as an outlet.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for your service and Thank You for sharing your story. I have PTSD from something else but I can not imagine what war must be like. Your writing is very clear and vivid. I wish you all the best in your healing from PTSD.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for sharing your story. This is a riveting preview to your book and I could not
    Stop reading. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for your service.


    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you for your service and sharing your experiences with us. My brother is in the army, and I would like to read this to get a better understanding of what happens when you’re deployed.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This post was awesome. Thank you for sharing. You are very brave, not only to go to Iraq, but to share your experiences and how you were affected. God bless.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thanks man I’m a Canadian infantry veteran from Bosnia conflict. I been living with ptsd for about 25 year . I just finished a trial treatment of prolong exposure in Melbourne Australia where I live now I think it’s making a difference. I couldn’t read this post in one sitting I’ll try again a bit later . You know what i Mean.I’ll go to any length to stay alive

    Liked by 1 person

  14. You are a brave soul, and I thank you for your service. I’m also glad you are at a point where you can speak on your experience and your dealing with the matter in an effective way. Stay bless and strong!


  15. You are a great writer! I am sorry that you have had to go through so much though. I think more should be done to support veterans who have come back from war.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. A truly touching story. Thank you for your service. I don’t think people really realize that your service doesn’t end after you get out, your mind and body continue to serve for years and sometimes a lifetime. We appreciate the sacrifice that you have made for us and please know that as a politically active person I am continually fighting to make sure that you are afforded the rights and supports that you need now that you are out of service. THANK YOU!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Wow, this is excruciating and heartbreaking. I can’t imagine what it was like for you to go to war. I cannot imagine…I do have PTSD, so I understand that part. People who have never experienced a flashback cannot fully comprehend how utterly terrifying it is. Even after it’s over…knowing that it could happen again; that suddenly, without warning, you could lose track of your surroundings and be transported back to a place of extreme danger…it’s a terrible way to live. I still have a lot of really difficult symptoms, but it’s been a few years since I’ve had a full-on flashback, and for that I am grateful.

    I blog about living+parenting with PTSD. If you’d ever like to do a guest post exchange let me know..I also do book reviews every other week; if you’re interested in having your book featured, contact me. I would just ask that you provide a complimentary copy and be available for a brief emailed author interview as well? I also have a monthly parenting interview for parents with PTSD or other mental illnesses…so far they have all been mothers. I would love to feature a father, if you’re at all interested in that. Anyway, I’ve left a lot here, I’m sorry! Oh also I have a biweekly linky that converts to a permanent link library once it closes…basically amounts to free blog traffic; if you’d ever like to leave a link I’d be honored! The current one is themed “recovery.” All of this is on my blog,

    Anyway, I am really grateful to you for sharing your experiences. People need to better understand the intense struggle that those of us living with PTSD go through on a daily basis.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. From the bottom of my soul, thank you for your service. My heart breaks for anyone who fights so hard to have to deal with this. We’ll never be able to repay you.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. My heart aches. My whole heart. I am not going to lie to you. I WANTED so bad to stop reading. I normally make it half way into a post and get somewhat bored. I have never wanted to look away so bad. But your story has brought out a fear in me that I thought was buried. Hmmm. Time to examine that huh?

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Thank you for your voice and your courage both! I am glad this topic is getting more mainstream exposure. I have been thinking lately about this topic, though its really not the right direction for my own blog. I think, as controversial as it sounds, that there are some things that PTSD can actually teach us. If you had a recommendation of where I could submit a guest post on, I would greatly appreciate it!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Thank you for your sacrifice and service. I lost a beloved nephew seven years after his return from Iraq to cardiomyopathy related to his service, He suffered terribly from PTSD as well. My heart goes out to you and your family. You were asked to give your souls. I will get your book.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey Sam. I’m going thru a lot of the same stuff brother. I was in the marines and over in the Middle East. Got diagnosed a few years back with ptsd. How are you dealing with it? I’m just wondering cause I keep taking meds, smoking weed, trying whatever I can to numb the pain. It seems to be fine for awhile and then it’s back to square one all over again but each time I fall back it seems to get worse and worse and I get more and more depressed.


      2. Hi Jason! Thank you for serving brother and thanks for reaching out, thats half the battle to healing.

        I know how you feel. PTSD is a bitch and I’ve came to realize that the symptoms may never go away. How am I dealing? I try to take life one day at a time. I totally understand what you mean when you say you’re fine for awhile then you get thrown back into the dark depression. It’s a cycle that many veterans with PTSD suffer from.

        The way I get through it is to try my best not to get caught up in the dark thoughts that over-run my mind in those moments because there’s little truth to the craziness.
        I try my best to focus on the good days I’ve had and to remember that they’ll come again… eventually. Because, like I said, it is a cycle and just like you know the bad days will come, know the good days will too.

        Also, try your best to find a non-profit near you that helps veterans get a service dog. My service dog helps keep my mind at ease during the day so that I can get stuff accomplished. She watches my back so I don’t have to.

        If there is any other advice you need please don’t hesitate to ask. Thanks again for reaching out! Take care!


  22. Damn man, that was powerful. Thank you for sharing your experiences, it takes balls to put yourself out there like that. I wish you the best of luck in the future. I have to share this on FB.

    Liked by 1 person

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