Living with PTSD One Day at a Time – a book review

If combat or abuse of any kind, mental or physical, has traumatized you, I’m suggesting you read this memoir, even if it is the only one you real in your life. If you hate to read, then listen to the audiobook. Geeze, no excuses! You may also want to read this memoir if you know someone with PTSD. Then, you may understand what life is like for them.

At first, I was going to title this review Traumatized in Nairobi. After I was halfway through Meyli Chapin’s memoir Terrorist Attack Girl, I have done little but think of what I’d write in this review. I woke up thinking about it. I thought about her story while exercising. And I think about it before I sleep and when I’m sleeping. The only time I didn’t think about it was when I was reading.

While reading her memoir, I virtually joined Meyli in her hotel room in Nairobi. Apparently, I wasn’t there, but my mind didn’t know that.

Her terror and fear became my terror and fear. When she talked about not wanting her little brother to know what was happening to her, that terrorists might murder her, I cried and laughed. When the two guys that probably were Navy Seals knocked on her door 17 hours into the attack on that hotel, I laughed again.

Meyli divided her story between brief scenes in the hotel room (regular print) and scenes taking place after the attack (ATA): in the US Consulate in Kenya and back in the states (italicized print). I think this was a stroke of genius, sharing the trauma of that terrorist attack and what happened to her later when she thought the nightmare was over, often on the same page. And every ATA scene mirrors what I’ve experienced with fucking PTSD in the last 55 years, helping me make sense of what happened to me back then.

To survive ATA, Meyli is learning, as I did, how to manage her PTSD so it doesn’t eat her, and I suspect she may learn to live one day at a time, too, if she hasn’t already.

Terrorist Attack Girl

Meyli, back in the 1970s after I graduated college with a BA in journalism, I was still drinking heavily. One afternoon, I sat on the floor in my living room with the barrel of a loaded sniper rifle in my mouth, ready to pull the trigger to end it all. I did not know what fucking PTSD was and what was happening to me. It was a desperate attempt to get rid of that never ending nightmare.

I snipped off the safety getting ready to fire and looked out the screen door one last time to see a teenager wearing headsets dancing as he moved down the sidewalk. That image stopped me from squeezing the trigger.

I thought, Dear God, if I do this, I might miss that kind of happy moment. So, instead, I learned to live one day at a time and bless each day as I turned off the lights, only to thank God when I woke up to a new dawn to live another one. Thanks to that dancing teen on that sidewalk, I have experienced many great days with laughter in them. The drinking didn’t help. In fact, the booze made the fucking PTSD worse, so I stopped in 1982, and became a vegan. Also, I now belong to two PTSD support groups that Meetup each week, through the VA.

As a former US Marine and combat veteran living with fucking PTSD since 1966, I could easily have written a book about Chapin’s memoir, but I did not want to turn this review into a story about me. The fucking PTSD still lurks waiting to pounce if triggered, along with the loaded pump shotgun I keep by my bed. Without that weapon, I touch each night before I turn out the lights. I couldn’t sleep. As it is, I think this review may be too long.

Meyli’s memoir taught me that the fucking PTSD I’ve lived with for so long isn’t my fault. That revelation lifted a heavy burden weighted by guilt off my mind. Somehow, I feel lighter, almost floating through each day.

But I’m still living one day at a time. Thank you for sharing that slice of your life with the world, Meyli.

NOTE: Amazon rejected this review the first time I submitted it, because I used the word fucking one time as an adjective describing what that acronym means to me. Once I removed that word, Amazon accepted the review without any other changes.

As you may have noticed here on my Blog, I added more fucking PTSDs to make up for that example of legal corporate censorship by an app programed to reject the use of certain words.

11 thoughts on “Living with PTSD One Day at a Time – a book review

  1. Excellent review, Lloyd. Thanks for sharing this inspiring book with us. Having lived with fucking PTSD since 1967 I understand where you and Meyli Chapman are coming from. Shared suffering is relieved suffering.

  2. Great review. Been there, done that and walked away. The unseen hand that reached out and gently touched my shoulder as I crossed the Res that night might have saved my life. Back home I sat down and began to write, with my service .357 unholstered beside me on the table, I never did that. I thought of that gentle hand while writing and I realized what I was doing and stopped. Got a beer and finished writing. Until I moved to Thailand I was never without my guns. It’s been hard adapting to “I’m alone” with no weapons here. PTSD is a living hell but as you have proved, one day at a day, one day at a time. Thank you Lloyd.

    • I’m curious: “The unseen (gentle) hand that reached out and gently touched my shoulder as I crossed the Res that night might have saved my life.”

      I think I understand the unseen (gentle) hand. People that haven’t been through close encounters with death and the terror that comes with death do not understand. That unseen (gentle) hand you felt have been God. Some do not believe in God, but in the Bible it says God gave us free will. That means God doesn’t tell us what to do through scripture or by Devine intervention. If God gave us free will as the Bible says, that means God is not showing up to make decisions for us, to protect us. We have to do it.

      But that doesn’t mean God ignores us. God may give is little nudges when God determines it is not our time yet, that we have more to do, a job to do, before we check out, and then leaves the rest up to us to pay attention.

      I think that means the Deist thinking behind the founding of this country may have been right.

      Many of the founding fathers—Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison and Monroe—practiced a faith called Deism. Deism is a philosophical belief in human reason as a reliable means of solving social and political problems. “The widespread existence in 18th-century America of a school of religious thought called Deism complicates the actual beliefs of the Founders. Drawing from the scientific and philosophical work of such figures as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Isaac Newton, and John Locke, Deists argued that human experience and rationality—rather than religious dogma and mystery—determine the validity of human beliefs.”

      For me God may be that unseen gentle hand or soft voice that whispers a warning, triggering caution, triggering the adrenalin and cortisol.

      But is Res, a reservation or a reservoir or something else? Where I as stationed in Vietnam, it was rice paddies. It was almost always the rice paddies. The time we were in a rice paddy up to our necks waiting for dark before moving out and saw the king cobra in the paddy with us just a few feet away and we couldn’t’ move without giving our position away.

      Or the time we were up near the wire and the mortar rounds started to fall like raindrops. One moment we were in the open just inside the wire, and then we were dozens of yards away from that open space behind logs that had been position on the other side of no man’s land between the wire and the bunkers. Our bodies moved so fast we weren’t aware of moving. We were in the open yards from cover, blink, we were behind the logs prone locked and loaded ready to rock and role. Or the time, the sniper that I never saw almost took me out. I heard the buzz of the round slicing through the air and felt it touch my ear, but never heard the shot. The paddies on the other side of the wire were empty as far as I could see. The sniper had to be in the 80 foot tall trees that were so far away they looked like a hedge. If that round had been an inch further to the right, I wouldn’t be here.

      In that moment, the day was perfect but without a breeze. Did God nudge that bullet with a little breeze somewhere along its course, or did the sniper take a breath as he/she squeezed that trigger? That sniper round is the reason I decided to go to college. Now that I think about it, what a strange thought to have after a close call with a sniper’s round. Before that moment, I never wanted to go to college. Hell no! That one close call with a sniper round changed my life. That close call was also was another notch for the PTSD to dig itself a deeper hole in my brain.

      • The Jicarilla Apache Reservation, Northern New Mexico. I am a Wounded Knee II Veteran, good guys side, AIM. Part Creek/Choctaw. I tend to believe somebody from the spirit lands. But whoever it was, it was real.

        I had a similar experience only with a mortar. I could see both crewmen as the rounds walked straight toward me. I could have killed them but no permission to fire. The round that should have got me went to my right. I was damn angry but happy as all get out he missed. I was truly a foxhole Christian, Buddhist, Muslim anything that early morning. Mom told me years later she heard me call out to her. Suffice it to say I was just a tad bit scared, shitless…lol. Never got permission to fire.

      • Near the end of my tour, we had a 90 day wonder like that, a lieutenant, that wouldn’t’ give us permission to fire when we couldn’t’ see who was shooting at us….

        Until the one day he was pinned down out in the open and we weren’t. He shouted, “Shoot! Give me covering fire!” The VC were pouring rounds at him in a torrent trying to hit him. He was glued to the ground.

        The rest of his patrol had found a fairly good position. He was the only one who froze when they opened up on us. The rest of us were a blur of movement falling back to find cover.

        Guess what he heard from some of us on that patrol. “Sorry, Sir. We can’t fire unless we can see who’s shooting at us.”

  3. Jicarilla Apache Indian Reservation, Northern New Mexico. I am a Wounded Knee II Veteran, AIM. Part Creek/Choctaw.

    I tend to believe somebody from the spirit word especially because of the location. There are many very old ruins dating back well before the Jicarilla there that are unseen from that backroad.

    I had a similar experience only with a mortar crew. Early morning when the attack started with RPG and mortars. He was walking the rounds in perfect; I knew I was dead. But I had the corner bunker with nothing to my right. If they came through the wire, I was the man that had to stop them. I was a foxhole Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, and whatever else came into my mind. My mom told me years later she heard me call out to her. I was never able to get permission to fire although I could have easily killed both. Closest I ever came to disobeying a direct order.

    I guess through all the booze, drugs, suicidal behavior we have survived. It hasn’t always been easy but I’m pretty happy with my life here in Thailand.

      • 12 years full time. I’ve been in and out since 2002. No never went back to VN. Haven’t been back to the states since 2010 and never intend to go back. Not even for a visit. I have family in Lao and hope to be able to see them by the end of March. Damn Covid.

        This is not the Thailand I moved to. Many changes all bad since the coup. Westerners are not wanted by the current “government”. Dear leader bought and sold by the chinese who are hated universally in SE Asia by the people.

        Besides, I got older and not quite as able to do some of the things I came here for as well anymore…lol.

        Still beats the hell out of the states.

      • I understand. I think about leaving but then my family, retirement income, and VA medical is here.

        With the political direction the US has been moving, that income and medical care might be cut off, if another traitor occupies the White House and this time pulls off a successful coup. That’s where family comes in. I’m pretty sure my daughter would make sure I didn’t starve or become homeless. She might even find a way to hide me somewhere if my name ended up on a kill list.

      • I did some research a few years ago and learned that by age 70, 80% of combat vets with PTSD end up “not quite as able to do one particular thing” we used to enjoy a lot.

        The VA sent me to a specialist in this area. I was tested (I won’t go into the details of that test) and afterwards was offered one option (after the blue pill failed) that worked quite well, I was told. An injection with a tiny little needle to shoot some chemical into the same vital organ used for one particular thing. I decided I wasn’t that desperate.

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