I feel that it is important to address a topic that we don’t often touch upon here at AVFM. I say “don’t often,” because while there are sources on the subject, we rarely bring them up. We get lost in a deluge of stories of abuse, blatant hatred, institutionalized misandry – all the evils of the world somehow find a way to our doorstep here at AVFM, and into our hearts and minds.
We all respond a little differently to these things on the screen. We all write in much of the same vein.
“Let’s do something about it!”
“We can fix it if we do x, y, and z.”
This is the norm for us, indeed, a human norm when you look across the spectrum of human interaction. Just because it’s on the screen does not make it any less real than if it was right in front of us. Granted, we are displaced by the events (time and space have a way of altering the perception the events we describe here) but in the end it is all the same.
We deal with mass quantities of bullshit. I’m not going to gloss it over. It’s tough. It’s like our own little war zone…and we see body parts flying everywhere each and every time we read a new posted story about this, that, or the other. Yes, I am speaking figuratively, but once again we internalize these horrors just as surely as if we were the ones involved. Somehow the situation becomes our own personal war. We have hundreds of them every month.
Sometimes these things keep us up at night. We worry about what might have been, for better or worse – or what could be happening now, which leaves us sweating – or about our own futures, which usually ends up falling in the “worse” category rather than the “better”. We resolve before we go to sleep to try again the next day to scream a little louder and a little longer at our enemies. We even begin to wonder in our heart of hearts if there is anyone out there trying to scream as loud as us.
We also have the added benefit of being involved. We are not blinded by the lies that have been heaped upon us time and time again. We know there is something wrong; something bigger than us as individuals. We have our daily lives; work, family, sometimes children – and for a few of us things like child support, travel for visitation, dealing with the ex, etc. Our lives away from the screen feel just as complicated as what stares us in the face every time we log in. We inundate ourselves not just with the maintenance and upkeep of survival, but also with a personal mission to be a voice in the darkness that is crying out for something pure and good to light the way, not just for us as individuals, but for all of us.
The effects of repeated exposure to such a lifestyle can only be likened to the hardships of battle.
There is no difference. Not in the hind-brain, so to speak. Some of us may have some perspective on the matter, having been in real battles before. Those are sometimes the hardier ones, if they learned to deal with what they have seen in a healthy way, and surprisingly they can also be the least hardy, because they see their past in just about everything they do. It wears you down, though, eventually. It will turn you into a mockery – a caricature of a human being – just another husked out empty bitter shell rife with depression, who feels as if the battle can never be won. No one is immune to this. We are only human after all.
There comes a point and time when you have to recognize this pattern inside yourself. All of a sudden, the new activities you have embarked upon to make the world seem a better place feels more like a job instead of a passion. You log in or tune in out of a habit of lifestyle rather than real personal choice. There comes a creeping sense that all your doing is walking over the same blasted landscape you walked over yesterday, and cannot see the progress you have made because it looks pretty much like it did the day before. You feel ineffectual, worthless in your task, and driven to distraction by the notion that there is no one who listens, and no one who cares.
The pattern continues. Your entire waking life becomes like the walking dead. You gird yourself for battle – knowing the routine – and it is automatic to you now. You may snap at others for perceived ignorance or perceived transgressions of some moral or honor code that hardly anyone knows because all the old faces are gone – dead from the war, or just having served their time and left for greener pastures. Others see in you the anger and bitterness that has turned that once proud soldier into a cold automaton – and you feel it. You know. It escapes you as to what you can do about it, but you, like many, simply fall farther into yourself.
To top it all off you tell yourself that you have no time for tears. “This is not the time.”, “I am still fighting, I can cry later,” and “This has nothing to do with my sadness,” are all the rote responses you keep telling yourself. But you are human – you still feel – and you try to find a way to make the pain go away in such a way that it doesn’t compromise this self-imposed mission or so it doesn’t compromise your lifestyle or it doesn’t compromise the team. Unfortunately, there are few ways to do this for long. Anything that you turn to is just a placebo for a very real problem. The problem remains but is now exacerbated by the escapist means you have adopted to deal with it.
You begin to make mistakes and you begin to alienate those around you. Eventually you may shut yourself inside the cold hole you have dug in your own heart, surround yourself with your vices and watch the lines on your face grow deeper and deeper day after day. You don’t feel the passion for the fight anymore. Your real life begins to falter. In the worst case your life may be snuffed out in loneliness and isolation.
Ask a real soldier. Ask a Vietnam veteran what they had to deal with inside their own minds. Ask an Iraqi veteran of the Second Battle of Fallujah or a combat veteran from the Battle of Kamdesh in Afghanistan. They will tell you stories, usually over a beer. They may even tell you how some of their friends fared. If they are a friend of yours, they may even cry over what they had to do, or what they saw done to others. Some of these guys have been able to move on with the proper coping mechanisms. I promise you almost all of them know someone in their unit who never recovered, and either committed suicide or lost their careers and/or family to one vice or another that they picked up to escape the pain.
My brothers and sisters, there are ways of recovering. As cliché as it sounds, the first step is admitting that we feel pain, and can no longer deal with it on our own. There are ways, even if it is a shoulder to cry on, or someone to hold us for one moment, or even to take us someplace new where the world is vibrant and alive for a while. Sometimes we need the help of those who have experience dealing with the pain of others, people who are willing to listen and provide some kind of perspective to our lives. Sometimes we look at holidays, or birthdays, or the anniversaries of days of significance in our lives and realize that we should not be alone, that we need that familiar warmth of just being human for a little while instead of another tool on the battlefield. Sometimes we just need to be told that our pain matters, and that it is okay to cry for ourselves as well as the world.
For those us who have not fallen prey to the deprivations of self-inflicted drudgery, isolation, and vice – look out for each other. We are the one who can make a difference. A kind gesture or helping hand, even something as simple as a phone call or a care package can do so much for your fellow man. We have people walking beside us that we should know. These are our comrades, with all their faults and all their merits. We should remember our own humanity and our own pain in seeking to help others overcome theirs. We should remember our shared passions and build memories of shared experiences that bind us together and make us whole with each other.
We should honor each other, and hold sacred our cause, and not let each other fall by the wayside. This is what it means to reach out to your fellow man.