My Personal Thoughts
By Jason Black
July 25, 2011
Have you ever read or saw something so profound and riveting, you actually thought the writer crawled into your soul and translated it into words? This poem “Collected Thoughts” by Elena Avila had such an impact on me. From the moment the poem began with “I accept my death” (Avila, 1997, p.1) instantly brought me back to the first time I felt the cold reality of possibly not returning home to my loved ones, while deployed to Iraq in 2003-2004, subsequent deployments to follow in 2005-2006, and finally 2007-2009 to the place of misery. From the initial push into Iraq from Kuwait and the other two deployments ...view middle of the document...
I rejoiced in the fact my death was inevitable and in turn was able to perform flawlessly while deployed. To me this was the attitude to have to help make sense of the tragedy I witnessed and unfortunately had to perform, because of the nature of war. However, this attitude didn’t translate smoothly into life back home. PTSD is a tricky beast; it will get you when you least expect it to. I remember my first “distorted parasitic thoughts of a past trauma drama”(Avila, 1997, p.1) happened when I heard the song “going under” by Evanescence. My wife and I were on our way to Nashville to hang out as we usually did on the weekend and the radio station we were listening to played the song. From the opening riff, I broke down and started sobbing. I was inconsolable, immediately I turned the radio off, and pulled over so I could let my wife drive the rest of the way to Nashville. It wasn’t until I stopped sobbing, when I realized that song was playing when my platoon lost a whole truck, including four soldiers. This song sticks with me and still gives me an emotional reaction when I hear it.
As she writes in the second stanza, “cunningly restricts and deviously shrinks the wings of your soul” (Avila, 1997, p.1). PTSD has done this to me, not just with this song, but also with other sounds such as gargling or snoring. I am still fighting the inner battle of hearing someone gargle or snore. Those sounds bring anger and loneliness, because it equals death. Those sounds were the last sounds of SPC Holly when his truck was struck by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). When I arrived at his trucks location, he wasn’t the first person I saw, rather the first person I heard. I wish I hadn’t heard him, because the sound of his passing haunts me. I have to sleep in separate rooms, because my wife snores and anger consumes me, because immediately I am transported to November 15, 2005. I don’t sleep in separate rooms all the time, but when I hear her snore, I need to leave the area as fast as possible. I want this pain to go away “and release the death of a million paper cuts” (Avila, 1997, p. 1). I struggle daily to find a way to release the pain I felt almost six years ago. I felt alone whenever I would get an attack from PTSD. It is an attack, there are no two ways about it, it attacks you in a place where it is hard to defend, your own head. This one incident of my life “deviously shrinks the wings of my soul” (Avila, 1997, p. 1); this bout of PTSD was getting the better of me, that is, until my sons were born. They both represent the hawk (Avila 1997) and when I looked upon them for the first time I “noticed tears are streaming down my face”(Avila, 1997, p. 1), but they were also tears of envy. I am envious of my sons, because they don’t know the horrors of war. I want them to have no part of the barbarism my grandfather, father, and myself had to experience. I am envious of them in a good way, if there is such a thing, because...