Shouldn’t Have Done That…

Now and then I’ll test my response to triggers.  I thought maybe I had gotten better.

Instead, I find as my memories of battle become clearer and more graphic, I’m much more sensitive.  Things that didn’t shake me before do now.

This video is what did it.  I wanted to see if I could watch this without having an anxiety attack.  I had a bad one but I managed to get through to the part with the C-130 flying off before I had to call it quits (I had seen this film before and you’ll understand why I didn’t want to see the rest):

For those who haven’t seen this, it’s from the movie “Hair.”  Berger is impersonating Claude Bukowski so Claude can have one last meeting with his girlfriend, but while Claude was away, the unit shipped out and Berger- who had no military training- is carried away with no choice but to go to war clueless on what to do.  It doesn’t end well.

I felt a deep, cold fear in me watching this.  The guy was a little too convincing, with his subtle horror and last-ditch attempts to “go the wrong way” and make an escape.  And at the end of the scene where his voice echoes in the big holds of that C-130… I couldn’t watch much more after that.  It didn’t shake loose any memories of the ferry to Le Havre, but it brought back that very primal sort of fear that comes with a lot of my memories now.

I guess I need to avoid triggers for a while.  Now I’m worried if I walk out of a room during a violent movie or when I see something about war or dead soldiers (especially the Western Front), or if I seem uneasy when certain songs play, I’m going to raise questions.

It’s not like me to flinch at things like this.  I went several months after my memories began before I even got to this point.  Why this much?  Why now?  

I’m either dealing with some really weird problems, or I’m the mother of all Munchhausen cases and I’m psyching myself into needless trauma.

The Past Few Days

Been living more in the present lately.  I feel like I’ve really reached a point in my life where I can lay down what’s burdening me for once and it’s made all the difference.

Still, the overall trend seems to be memories coming more frequently of late.  I haven’t had a very prolonged lull in a while, though I’ve been expecting (actually, hoping for) another one.

I hope this is it.  I need a break.  I’m starting to feel normal again and even if I know it’s only until the next bad memory, I’m learning to love how it feels when I don’t have those worries and I can live in the moment.  It is useful to know about the very best and very worst a human being can be, but it is taxing to be constantly reminded of that for days or weeks on end.

I need a break.  I just hope my mind will give me one.

WWI memorial found in Florida theater

This is a fascinating story.  Apparently, the names of the dead were painted on the side of a local newspaper building for everyone to see, then covered over when a theater was built next door and hidden behind a restroom wall for more than 80 years.

It’s strange… so many things about the war are coming back to light after so long.  People are starting to remember and the traces left behind are starting to come to the surface again.

What a strange time to be alive.


Another Memory Once Again Plausible

I mentioned having certain doubts about my memory of identifying a French soldier’s skeletal remains by his steel helmet.  

As you may know, the modern steel helmets (the Brodie, the Adrian, and the Stahlhelm) all appeared around 1916 and invoked styles going back centuries.  The Adrian in particular was based on a very French style of crested helmet, but I had found no record of any such earlier type helmet being used in the Great War.

Well guess what?

The French Cuirassiers DID have steel helmets in 1914!  I know this because of the breast plates. They would have retired the helmets early (along with the plate armor) in favor of the more utilitarian cloth caps (which were the norm for all French troops in 1915 when I was there), but by 1916 heavy losses from head wounds would force all armies to develop new types of steel helmets.  It should be no wonder that the Adrian helmet looked like its most immediate predecessor just like the Stahlhelm kept some of the profile of the Pickelhaube.

That means the soldier half-buried in the mud of a shell hole was real.  Probably died at First Ypres (based on the condition of his corpse and uniform), and he had to have been a Cuirassier, though I didn’t see a cuirass on him.  Either he kept the helmet after breastplates were decommissioned, or he took it off of his own choice during the battle because he needed upper body flexibility for trench warfare.  I’ll have to see exactly when the French retired plate armor, but I am almost certain it would have been seen briefly at Ypres in the early days.

Memory Fragment

I remember a grove of squat hardwood trees (perhaps near Ypres) that we passed through on our way somewhere.  We noticed three bodies draped over tree branches, drooping grotesquely as if their backs, arms, and legs were all broken.  

I don’t know if there were more, it seems there were.  I don’t know if they were placed there or if they’d been blown there by some sort of explosion, or if it was just three or four who had fallen from aircraft over the course of the battle.  Maybe it was our own dead, placed there to frighten us in a crude sort of psychological warfare that seems like a holdover from Napoleonic times.

Well if it was scare tactics, it worked.  I don’t think we stayed long there.  I wish I could remember where we were and where we were going.

A quick search turns up text mentioning a picture of a soldier in a tree, but I’m still looking for it on the site (I’ll link it when I find it).

I’m not sure if I saw that photo before and “remembered” this from that, or if this really is something that isn’t all that well known.  I’m going to have to dig deeper.

Backup Plans

Right now, I have one book that will be in print by the end of the year, and a couple more in various stages of completion.

What I seem to have far more of than anticipated is notes regarding this whole business of a possible past life.  I had said before that it seemed to be the focus of most of my energy as a writer, but I had underestimated the degree that I had vested so much effort into those notes compared to the notes for upcoming novels.

I will try to focus on other projects, but if the pressure is on from my publisher to deliver something, a lightly fictionalized account of this experienced (embellished mainly for reasons of length) would be easy to prepare.  I don’t want to try to sell my story as fact because really, I don’t know if it’s fact myself, and I won’t do it unless I’ve hit the wall.  This experience- so real to me and yet so outrageous and vaguely defined that I could only reasonably package as fiction- is still very close to me and I have strong reservations about doing this.

As I’ve probably said before, I will not promote any of my books on this blog including the one based on the experiences recorded here, nor will I mention this blog in any of my books.  If some enterprising pulp novelist decides to publish a story based on this in the mean time, however, I will at least inform my readers if it was not written by me (provided the book has been brought to my attention).

What I would really like to do is to be able to give this past life mess a break and focus on actual novel projects that I’ve been neglecting for a good while now.  Those are the ones I really want to publish.

I have to think about my integrity as an author too; If I can’t write what I like, then I have to like what I’ve written enough to submit it.  I can’t call myself a writer if I’m not writing.

Relief and Dread

I still feel a tremendous sense of relief after the outpouring of general awfulness a few days back.

Still, I wonder when another difficult memory will find its way to the surface.  And though I know I can cope, I’m always terrified.  The memories I can verify are always the most frightening or deeply emotional ones, like places I would have lived or grown up, and they usually come in clusters, so I’m sure there’s more to come.

I’m wondering if I should retreat to a less engaged state of mind about them in the mean time.  It seems every time a new vivid memory comes to the surface I get dragged out of that mindset kicking and screaming, but I really do prefer living as if this was all someone else’s story because to think of it as my own story is very emotionally taxing.

I’ll figure it out.