Overcoming the trauma of war
Silouan Green is a service-disabled U.S. Marine, performer and creator of The Ladder, a multi-media program for helping troops and veterans engage and overcome PTSD and other trauma. Silouan travels around the country talking with Marines and soldiers.
I slept with a gun to my head. My finger was on the trigger. The barrel ground into my temple until I bled. Each morning, I would wake with my head stuck to my pillow by a bloody scab.
It had been 10 months since I was shattered in a jet crash that killed my co-pilot. We had ejected from a burning plane just a few feet from the ground. My life would never be the same again. I knew what it was like to live in hell. My relationship fell apart, my girl left, I got hooked on too many pain-killers and psych meds, and as I became more depressed, I worked out less, which in turn increased my pain.
Eventually, in a haze fueled by the drugs and insomnia, I began to have hallucinations. Pumping gas, I smelled the fuel and was transported back to the cockpit of a burning jet, coming to my senses only when the gas station attendant shook me awake with fuel spilling out of the tank onto my feet. I saw demons. I slept with my Smith and Wesson. I just wanted to die.
One woman changed my life, Dr. Gia Lanzano, an Air Force psychiatrist. I was incredulous at first; she didn't look like she belonged in the military, but she cared about me and helped me discover a new passion and purpose to live. It began with playing guitar and eventually led to the work I do today with our troops and veterans. But it took me years to admit to the hell I'd endured. I was ashamed. I felt like a failure of a Marine and a broken human being who didn't deserve redemption.
It's been years since I climbed up out of my black pit, and as I travel around the country meeting with our soldiers and Marines, I've learned I'm not alone. I began this journey after a man I visited in prison, serving a life sentence for double murder, asked me to contact his son. This young man had been a Corpsman with the Marines in the first Battle of Fallujah and he described to me the horror of house-to-house combat, the fear as bullets flew over his head and he entered homes engulfed in death.
When we met, he'd been out of the service for three months, couldn't hold a job, couldn't leave his room, and was dealing with the demons of PTSD. It was on that day, almost two years ago, that I vowed to go wherever I was needed, and to break down any wall to help those suffering from the same demons that had almost killed me.
If you are suffering from the demons of PTSD, it is no reason to be ashamed. We all sustain cracks in our protective shells as we go through life and sometime those cracks shatter us. I survived by using my demons as fuel to discover a new life. By sharing our experiences -- by helping others see that what they are experiencing is a normal reaction when life takes a flamethrower to humanity -- we can all overcome the cracks in our shells through passion and purpose.
I encourage you to share your own experiences, to ask how you can help your loved ones, to take the difficult steps through fear and despair to build a better life. Years ago, I realized I had a choice to either Live Free or Die. Thank God I chose to live. If you have felt or feel the same way, let us know about it.
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