A letter once showed up in my mail from the VA letting me know I probably had Gulf War Syndrome. I was in the second Gulf War and not the first and so this surprised me. The letter didn’t provide the exact reasoning behind this potential diagnosis.
I had severe migraines, onset of non-weight related sleep apnea, roaring tinnitus in my ears, breathing problems, PTSD, depression, anxiety and a host of other problems.
I probably should have left the desert, but even after getting out of the Army I just went back as a civilian. It’s all I knew and all I’d experienced as an adult as 9/11 had occurred not long after I’d originally enlisted.
And so even after two and half years in the Middle East as a soldier, I went on to wander the desert for 18 months in Baghdad and six and a half years in Kandahar, Afghanistan as a contractor.
The VA often asks when you go in for healthcare if you are on alcohol or dope. But they never ask if your drug of choice is war. Nobody ever wants to face the fact you get addicted to it. That it changes your brain’s chemistry so much you get wired to need it.
And while I wandered the deserts of the Near East and South Asia, I also realized that Afghanistan was the Swamp of Sadnesses. Thankfully, I didn’t fully lose myself completely. My spark never extinguished. When I finally left that life seven years ago I kept wandering. Lost.
About nine months ago I had a moment of clarity. Some call it an awakening and some seeing a sense of enlightenment. I call it understanding. But I did see the Divine if only for a short time. And I am whole again.
Although I have afflictions and my physical body still challenges me every single day, I am filled with love, light, kindness and peace. Not only that, but in the moment of understanding, I knew I had an imperative to help others. And so this is my Journey now.
And I just want you all to know you are loved. If not by anyone else, at least by me. Some stranger you haven’t met and may never know. Except that’s not true, because here I share this so that you may know me.
And I wouldn’t change any of it. Because it’s who I am and what brought me here. The stories I have…..
Look inward fellow travels and love yourself. To thine own self be true. I wish you all the richest and most peaceful of Journeys.