Anxiety: Your gut screaming to get out.

In 1998 there was a Kurt Russel film simply titled “Soldier” which has one of the most honest on screen depictions of how veterans feel when interacting with civilians. It’s not the emotionally charged sexual attractions to another man’s wife played opposite the ever attractive Connie Nielsen. The scene I have in mind, is the Christmas party scene.

The camera work showing how all the sights, sounds, and implied smells, are affecting Kurt Russell, just overwhelming his brain to the point where he has to leave, and watch all the revelry from the roof, looking down. I’ve not seen a better depiction on screen, or in words, than that.

Today my wife, the long suffering saint, decided that we would visit two Christmas markets. The first was crowded, but we didn’t stay long, we kept moving pretty well. The second…

The second was beyond crowded. Like the final subway scene in “Crocodile Dundee” where people couldn’t get through crowded.

I’m not some highly trained killing machine always balanced on a razors edge of violence, the vast majority of my career has actually been spent more in the “nation building” and “non-lethal operations” side of military service. But crowded areas are where the suicide vests go off. Somehow letting in a million refugees from the middle east has spawned a completely unconnected increase in suicide bombings in Germany….

I did my best to go along, and not spoil it for my wife. I tried, I did my breathing exercises. I lost it one point where my wife was trying to buy me some roasted meat, which is a delicious Bavarian fest food, and we were just standing in line. I couldn’t stand still and I got her moving again to some place less crowded.

As we were leaving I felt so weak. I felt like I’d ruined it for her. I’m glad it was dark because despite taking almost an hour to drive home I still hadn’t been able to “center” myself. After patrolling through Iraq in 2009 I had a hard time with random trash on the side of the road. It took years to get comfortable driving, but eventually a new normal set in.

I’m not broken, just changed. I’m just different than the people who can enjoy being surrounded by other people. Different is ok, and the world needs people who think about security at crowded events as much as it needs people who are excited to go to crowded events. I held it together tonight long enough to get through it, and that’s good enough for tonight.

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2 Responses to Anxiety: Your gut screaming to get out.

  1. B says:

    Even though you did not intend to, you just mic dropped for every couch commando to mall ninja in the world. sir, the spirit of John Wayne still exists


  2. DW says:

    Tell your wife she’s not alone with this issue. My wife learned a while ago I can’t deal with it either.

    The family “inside terminology” used is “it’s very peoplely”. If that’s the situational assessment, they know to go without me. I am not necessarily opposed to areas with large numbers of people – it’s more how the venue is structured, if it’s narrow or very defined with little lateral movement or limited ingress/egress, I am out. A large gathering at a state fair or large park I am okay with as long as there is room to move around.

    I guess I miss out on some things that I should participate in, but I really don’t feel bad about it and I think they have a better time without me detracting from their experience. I do worry about them however while they are at such an event, as I am not there to protect them.


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