I recently returned from London Ontario, where I had been for a scheduled appointment with the VA (Veterans Affairs). While I was there, I was confronted by an agglomeration of paper work that housed poignant questionnaires that I was to answer honestly. And honestly, I did. What was left after the final question had been circled and answered, was a lingering sense of feeling broken. Feeling weak and unworthy. Feeling alone. Alone because, I was alone. Not just in the waiting room but, in the general sense of the word. I sat quietly observant within the waiting area of the eggshell colored reception room. I sat there unwittingly taking inventory of my surroundings in such a way that if asked to, I could recreate that room in it’s entirety, right down to where the three receptionists were seated. I did that until my ears rang with the calling of my name, “Heneghan, Mr. Heneghan…” My body snapped into a rigidly tight frame as I answered back, “Sir. Here, sir.”
“Right this way.”
I followed in behind the statuesque framed man who had just belted out my name beneath a deep baritone. He walked me through a winding hallway adorned with pictures of the past. Passchendaele, Dieppe, Vimy, Ortona, all greyed out images with men standing triumphantly at the forefront. Some were smiling, some were merely smirking, and others, just stoically posed for the camera. I felt unworthy in their company. Those men, all those generations ago, had been through so much and yet, still had the stoutheartedness to return home, and live a normal, happy and fulfilling life. I’m sure not without their trials and tribulations but, regardless, here I was, 34-years-old, having served only six-years in the army, a paid education in healthcare, and I was there because I can barely fake my way through a normal day. I would hate to imagine what they would see in a picture of me…
After being shown a seat for me to sit on, the large framed man, a nurse, began asking me more questions. And more questions, and then, more questions. All of them had bad answers.
“Have you ever wanted to harm yourself or others?”
“Have you ever had thoughts of suicide”
“Do you want to die?”
And on they went. I would answer, he would write. I would then have to step onto a scale, have my blood pressure checked, and my height measured, it was all so, surgical. Methodical. When he was satisfied that he had collected from me what he needed to, he walked me back through the winding hallway, back into the waiting room and informed me that the doctor would be out in a minute to see me. I acknowledged, and then proceeded to wait. Anxiously.
I didn’t know how much more stamina I had left for answering questions on how terrible I have been feeling. To be honest, most days, after I shower and wipe the steam away from the mirror, I am forced to confront the out-of-shape, despondent, fatigued and angry man facing back at me. I hate what I see. Both in the mirror, and in my dreams. My nightmares. Was I going to have to tell this guy, this doctor, all of it? Was I going to have to tell him how some day’s I do not get to have a coffee because the Starbucks is too busy for me, and the thought of standing there, in-line, with people at my back is too much to bear that it just becomes easier to skip coffee for the day? Or about how when I do get coffee, I need to sit at the same place, along the table at the back of the room, so as to be able to see all who enter and leave the coffee house? Should I explain that I hate crowds and busy places because I need to know what people are up to, and I need to be able to see their hands? Maybe I would start by telling him how I don’t drive anymore, and sometimes in the dead of winter, I would rather face frostbite as opposed to being on a crowded bus with people that could pose a threat? Jesus, what was he going to think of me?
It would turn out that he was a nice man. Quiet and professional yet, easy going. That didn’t change the severity of the subject matter but, it did help with navigating its pernicious waters. He asked me about flashbacks, I said “yes”. He asked how often, I said, “Seems like, all the time…” Once again, I spoke, he wrote. After about three hours of sitting and talking, fighting back the urge to cry and sometimes scream, the meeting was over, and I left the office, with a prescription in hand. I’ll tell you, that’s a heavy fucking piece of paper…
It’s been a few days since then, I have gotten the prescription filled but, haven’t taken any. At least, not until today. Monday seemed like a fitting day to start something that I have been so weary of. Ironically, on this day, this, Monday I found myself awake deep into the early morning hours from the night before. This happens, I don’t sleep much. Since I was up, I decided that laundry was a chore worth doing so, I grabbed my laundry bag, and proceeded out the door. I began marching along the beaten pavement of the sidewalk, kicking my way through the hefty coating of leaves that had fallen from the trees lining it. It was dark and early in the morning. There was a damp autumn chill in the air. Not cold enough to soak into your bones but, enough to remind you that it is late into the year.
As I found myself steaming towards my destination, a worn-down laundry mat downtown, my minds eye began traipsing along to a destination of its own. This too, is common place. As my aching mind rushed into the past, my body began to remember. Deep in the back of my throat, a stinging resurgence of remembrance began to take place. A truly grotesque concoction of blood and other bodily secretions started to sit along the recesses of my throat and sinuses. It was so pungent that my body began to initiate muscles not ordinarily used, so as to ready itself to vomit violently. I never vomited but, fuck I wanted too! This was horrible. This is horrible. I can taste her blood as puissantly now, as I did the first time I was forced to. This poor girl. She had lost so much blood and she was so wounded. It was the first scent that hit you when you entered her apartment. It was in the air. There was so much of it, that there was actually a pool of it on her bed. The sheets made a ‘sloshing’ sound like wet laundry, when we moved her from her violated bed onto our stretcher. Blood and vaginal secretions then plumed into the air and clung to our noses and tongue with a sickening resolve. She had been raped, and this is what the offender left behind: a woman now sluggishly fighting my partner and I, as we put our hands on her and moved her. A pair of bloodied scissors that he had used to thrust into her vagina when he was finished forcefully hurting her, and a broken window from where he gained entry into her apartment. It is a taste that lingered throughout the remainder of that night, and to this day. This random Monday in November.
These are the things that I face daily. I fucking hate them. And I hate myself for feeling them. Remembering them. I hate how now, I need a pill. Maybe even more to come. I hate how when I look at myself, I do not look injured. Everything’s in it’s place, where it should be. Everything except what is in my mind. My brain. That place is a fucking mess. I hate how it feels like there is a war raging inside of me. A war seemingly without end. A war that no one can see. I hate how I can be seated within a room of people, and yet, I am nowhere within that room. I am miles away. Years away. Traveling through time, and space, to where the bad things happen – again. And right now, here in this moment, I hate Monday’s…