September 26, 2005
A couple of days before I was due to ship out, the manager asked me if I could extend for another week or two. I thought about it for a few minutes, and noticed as I did so that my heart rate went up and I was having trouble taking a deep breath. I was a serious short-timer. While I was still on top of the job, some part of my subconscious had its foot out the door, and went into full panic mode at the thought of staying longer. I could tell you, almost to the hour, how much longer I'd be on site. About a week before I was scheduled to leave, I found that I couldn't go more than about ten minutes without checking my watch. It became almost an obsession. My sense of time was so completely scrambled that without a mechanical device I was unable to judge how quickly or slowly things were moving.
One of the common symptoms of PTSD is an unwillingness to let go. Not for me. I knew I'd done what I could. I knew going in exactly how long I had to stay at it and had rationed myself for that time. But that was all there was. I'd burned up my personal reserves, and it was time to go.
I didn't start to relax until the plane from Alexandria was wheels-up, and then I did something I never do-fell fully asleep on an airplane.
All images and text Copyright Dale Austin, 1962-2008