I was first diagnosed with PTSD in 2000.
I was in the bush for the majority of my tour in Vietnam. I was a Private when I first arrived there. I left Vietnam as a Sgt E-5. For all the years since 1970, I have been mentally living in Vietnam.
A couple months after I got home from Nam, and thinking “finally, it is all over,” my wife and her father were caught in a blizzard and they both died. She froze to death in the car, and he died of a heart attack trying to reach help. That started a time in my life that I do not look on with any fondness. I turned to alcohol, and then drugs, to try and drown out the dreams that would torment me day and night. Although I had left Vietnam, it hadn’t left me.
No matter how much I tried to drown out the memories, they only haunted me more. But now, I had also piled on the guilt I felt for the abuse of the alcohol and drugs. Meanwhile, an old friend of mine had a sister that I had always been fond of. She came back home from attending school and, although I liked her a great deal, I would continually push her away. It was explained to me later that it was another symptom of my PTSD. I was avoiding relationships because of the hurt that I felt.
I would find a job, work until I started to get close to my fellow employees, and then walk away and get another job. Although it made no sense to me, I kept leaving jobs that I had no reason to abandon. I could not hold a job for a whole year. I was a diligent and hard worker so I never had trouble getting hired. I worked as a logger, first felling timber, then transferred to skidding timber. But, soon I found myself not wanting to be around others that much. This cycle seemed to go on and on.
I eventually dated a woman for three years – a time that was anything but a “fairy tale” romance. However, 95% of the problems were my fault. Despite the problems, we got married. A year later, we started a family. However, the trouble didn’t stop. I still tried to drown the memories of Vietnam out of my mind with alcohol and it still didn’t stop them. It only drove me deeper into nightmares and my own demons – and that caused me to end up in jail several times.
I finally decided to see a VA counselor for a few months. It was after a psychologist explained to me how my brain was working that I finally quit the alcohol. It has helped me to draw closer to my wife also. I am so thankful to her for not giving up on me when I had given up on myself. I still live in Vietnam, and will still sit up from a sound sleep when my mind puts me back in traumatic events that happened decades ago. Several times, I have held a loaded pistol to my head, considering ending the nightmares permanently. But, for the love of my wife and kids, and knowing what that would do to them, I never went through with it.
After many years of living with the memories of Vietnam haunting me day and night, I was told by a doctor that sometimes just writing things down may help. I also found a marine corps webpage that had a bunch of Nam vets on it. I started writing some of my experiences. Many of them told me that I should write a book. I authored One Day Closer to the World and WAKE-UP!!!! to share my experiences in Vietnam, and to help myself heal from those experiences.
I have a friend who is an assistant to a psychologist at the Montana State Prison. They have used my book in their counseling sessions with some prisoners.
In my book, I end each story with the Words “Another Day Closer to the World and Wake-up” because Nam was so foreign and backward and violent compared to what we had left behind, and it seemed like another place other than the real world – like a bad dream. The fact that we might go home outside a body bag to the World was a constant topic of conversation throughout my tour. When we weren’t talking about the last firefight or ambush, we were talking about the possibility of waking up from this bad dream,d being back in “the world,” and home again.
Bill Hammond was Born 8/18/49. He went to Vietnam in 1969. He was raised on a farm in Montana and spent most of his free time in the Mission Mountains. To this day, he still prefers to be on horseback, riding the mountain trails than anywhere else in the world.
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