When most people think about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), they think about war or police action or similar situations. I can say without doubt that there are many forms of post-traumatic concerns. PTSD is not really curable, but it can be treated in various ways. Some of these methods are more effective with certain individuals than others. With all the talk of late about Red Flag laws, regardless of your opinion on whether the federal government should enact them, I would like to talk about some concerns I have about these laws. I am a PTSD sufferer (undiagnosed, which situation I will explain in this piece). I am very hesitant to even put this to paper, for I know it could be used against me in many ways, but I need to share my concerns.
At two separate times in my life, I have contemplated suicide. Once when I was 17 and again at 41. The first time was not PTSD, but merely a teenage boy frustrated at being a senior in high school and having never gone on a date, kissed a girl, or even thought I had a chance. Many teens, more than you might think, have thoughts like this. I am glad a good friend called me while I was sitting in my closet with a .357 in my hand. His call was a blessing I would remember forever, including by naming one of my sons in his honor 20 years later.
It is the second time that I wish to write about. This story started 13 years ago when I decided to leave my home state of Maryland and start all over in Vermont. I left family, friends, and everything behind to be with someone I had grown to care about. I would drive the 510 miles every weekend to come up here to make sure the move was right. A few months later I would discover that my girlfriend (and future wife) was pregnant. I was shocked. I had been with my first wife for nearly 11 years and never even had a close call, so to be a few months in Vermont and learn I was about to become a dad was a welcome surprise.
It was a few months later that I would discover that not only was I to be a dad, but a dad of twins! I would also come to realize that our twin boys had issues: TTTS. (Twin-to-Twin Syndrome, for more information: www.tttsfoundation.org) After a few months of heartache, travel, and medical procedure after medical procedure, the twins were on the way. 25 weeks in, they were coming whether anyone was ready or not. Ultimately, they were not ready themselves, passing 8 and 43 hours after their birth.
To explain the pain, the torment, would take more space and time than I have. Needless to say, it is an event that neither I nor any parent could get over. Work gave me 3 days, yes 3 days, to ‘get over it’ and come back. So back to work I went, traveling 5-10 hours a day to come home to a girlfriend who was not right, understandably. I tried my best to be there for her, and believe I did as good a job as I could. I had no one, for when I had a breakdown it was often in the middle of nowhere when no one was around. It was not fun.
The few months after that were pure hell. A song could set me off, or a TV show. Hearing the name of one of the twins out in public would stop me cold. Really anything and anytime could cause me go full catatonic. Sorry for a bit of TMI, but one way my girlfriend and I found comfort was to be intimate with one another. A handful of months of grieving and news came that we were pregnant once more. This set off a whole other level of trauma, memories, feelings, and lack of feelings.
Soon we would find out our third son was progressing well in the womb. This was a relief, but a flood of concerns came in. Was it too soon? Would this one make it? Are we in a position to do this? Thankfully he did, and was close to celebrating his 4th birthday. So, everything looked good. Right?!
Even as he grew, learned to walk, and started talking, things were never right between she and I after we lost the twins. We both healed our pain by caring for the newest life we had created. She hid her pain more, and I would still pull off the road and cry for a good 5 or 10 minutes for no real reason. (There was of course a reason, but nothing obvious would set me off). About year 2 - 3, I started to figure out things were not right but I did not have the tools to deal with it correctly.
Shortly before year 5 of my third son’s life began is when the shit hit the fan. I found out my now wife had been cheating on me with a coworker. She chose a coworker because my first wife had done the same. She had purposely, even if conveniently, done this to hurt me more. To this day I have no answer as to why. All I knew was that I had been purposely hurt again for some reason. I was living in my mother-in-law’s house to help take care of her and the property. And now, at the age of 41, I was about to lose where I lived and my son. Now, I wasn’t really losing my son, but I was rehashing everything I had gone through as a kid and not having a dad. I had made a promise to myself when I was 16 that when I become a dad, I would be there 24/7 as much as I could.
So now all these thoughts were overtaking every aspect of my brain. I had let down not only myself but my new son, and even somehow my twins. At about 1:30 in the morning, I sat on the newly created beach by the river that was caused by Hurricane Irene just the year before. Revolver in hand, two shots loaded, barrel to my temple. I cried for about an hour, and almost pulling the trigger three times.
I stopped. Not for me, but for my son. I had a promise to fulfill, but the fact that I was seconds away from ending it all cannot be forgotten. After that day, I got rid of every gun I owned. Not just ‘throwing the gun in the river’ jokes that make the rounds on Twitter. I honestly got rid of every gun.
I sought help for my other issues, but never told my therapist about these incidents. Why? I was scared. The underlying issue was about my father and words spoken to me and my older sister when we were little. Admittedly another reason was the possible upcoming divorce proceedings, but I knew at some point, I would be well again and did not want to be forbidden to own a gun for home defense. Once those other issues were addressed, my self esteem was higher than ever.
Fast forward to today. Talk of Red Flag laws has stirred up. With one side hellbent to get rid of almost every gun (if not every gun) in civilian hands in America, and the other side suddenly willing to hear the arguments.
Would I be flagged? Probably, even though through treatment for my other issues has helped resolve most of my issues, it is something that people would, and do, consider a reason for denial. And as God is my witness, the two previous times I would have considered other options. The second time, I honestly think it was the gun that prevented me from doing it. If I had drugs to do it, I probably would have gone that route. But sitting on the beach with the cold hardware in my hand, it was hard to do.
With the proposals currently floating around, how many people are like me? Those who at one time were struggling and have gotten better but would be hesitant to seek any further treatment for fear of what could come of it, even if for non-suicidal thoughts? I fear that number will be higher than we would care to admit.
With the Red Flag laws being thrown around almost like that little rubbery octopus you would throw against the wall to see if it sticks, it makes one wonder what will be thrown against the wall? Will someone who lost their child be flagged? I mean we are, in the words of Mr. Spock, “emotionally compromised!” What about someone who has seen combat, seen death? They are never the same.
Perhaps someone writes a completely fabricated story about killing and death. Would they be flagged?
See, the problem with Red Flag laws, especially with individuals with PTSD, is that while we are emotionally compromised, many of us are not a threat to anyone. We may not be whole, but we are not a threat to others. In times of need, intelligent people may hesitate to seek help when they need it due to potential future repercussions from these laws. Being on a registry of ‘compromised mentally’ is not something we desire.
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.