If there is ANY doubt on your mind, then skip this article!
Decided to share one of many stories that is a building block in my life history that’s only added to the construction and reinforcement of my C-PTSD. The C stands for Complex…
I have a great deal of empathy, respect, and compassion for Vets that have PTSD. They need yours too. The civilian world has it’s own kind of terrors, so it’s no surprise that some form of PTSD is possible for anyone. Facing the injury, which any form of PTSD is, can be just as or maybe more terrifying than the injury (or injuries) that caused it.
Some people may wonder how I got the way I am. Fewer will take the time to ask why, and then try to wrap their own head and emotions around what I may share with them. Kindness, compassion, and a great deal of true caring, are prerequisites to at least appreciating and considering what someone else may have been through. When any of those qualities have been absent in the person I’ve related a story to, I’ve wasted my time. Because without all three qualities, you’re dealing with a cold hearted person.
Driving an 18 wheeler on day, probably grossing out at close to 70,000 pounds, I found myself being a middle truck of a small convoy of semis. Heading westbound on a 2-lane rural road in northern Indiana, no one was speeding. This was back in the mid 1990’s. Most truckers in those days had CB radios, and they were used for many things. Sometimes it was just blabbing and bantering about almost anything, just to help pass the time. You could be informed of anything going on up ahead, like traffic delays, detours, road conditions, etc. In an emergency, that CB was often a life saver!
There were probably about 8 trucks in the impromptu convoy I found myself rolling along in. I was about number 4 in the line. A sunny fall afternoon, dry roads, and not much traffic going the other way. Just a bunch of truckers heading back toward the interstate. Maybe others heading to Chicago like I was, or through it.
When you’re driving a big rig, it becomes 2nd nature to ALWAYS know where you are, which direction you’re heading. You know the mile-marker or some nearby landmark. Back in those days it was much for common for local PD’s and Highway Patrol to monitor CB channel 19 that the truckers used, or Channel 9 which was the Emergency channel. Especially in more rural areas, away from larger cities and towns. Cell phones were still a newer thing, and not many people had them yet. So, the CB was the lifeline many times. It wasn’t unusual to warn each other about a “brake check” up ahead. Increase your interval, slow down, and be ready for it. Not a big deal…
In the middle of a conversation I was listening to, I heard another driver key in and scream, “BRAKE CHECK!!! BRAKE CHECK!!!” I stood on my brake and all the axles locked up as I watched the smoke begin peeling out from under the tires of the trailer just ahead of me. In the same instant, those tires had stopped turning too, like mine. I held on to wheel hoping I wasn’t going to feel a thud from behind. It felt like coming to a stop was taking forever, as that time slowing down sensation kicked in. I had stopped about 10 feet behind the back of the trailer ahead of me. I set the parking brakes and cautiously got out to look ahead down the road to see what was going on. The drivers ahead of and behind me were doing the same. The smell of the melted rubber from truck tires sliding on the pavement filled the air. The word was already going out over the CB that there had been a serious accident, and anyone that could call for help should do so. I didn’t have a cell phone in those days. But a few did…
I trotted up to the driver from the truck just ahead of mine, and we walked ahead to see what had happened. We got to what was now the lead truck, stopped in the roadway like us. That driver and the one from the truck just behind him, were up tending to the driver of what had been the lead truck. That truck was now laying on it’s side, at about a 45 degree angle, completely in the ditch from front to back. That driver was on the ground, leaning against a small tree, just ahead of his tractor, with those other 2 drivers.
The driver I was with and I took a quick survey of the accident scene. The 2nd truck had stopped just short of where the victim was located in the middle of the road, almost right on the double yellow line. He was the first thing we checked, thinking that some form of first-aid may certainly help. In the middle 1970’s, I had been driving a tow truck at night and weekends for a local company that handled most of the emergency calls for several of the local PDs and FDs in my suburban area. I had already seen many wrecks, and many victims. This victim had just been through a horrendous impact, been ejected from his pickup truck, and then an unforgiving interaction with the road surface. As i looked him over for any signs at all of any life, I noted the numerous severe visible injuries. A heavy jacket and jeans were all that was holding him together now. There was no life.
The driver I was with wondered out loud if we shouldn’t try CPR or something. I pointed out that the way this person had been broken, twisted, and rolled in to nothing more than a ball of something once human and alive… I believed that if we even could revive him for a few seconds, it would be only to experience agony and the quickly death again. When that driver again wondered if this victim might still be alive somehow, I told him “Dead men don’t bleed.” With all of the clearly visible open wounds and breaks, there was no blood, no bleeding. Just the rawness showing…
The impact had sent the engine from the victims pickup truck flying off in to the cornfield next to the highway, The pickup itself was a crumpled wreck at the edge of the field on the opposite side of that road. And then there was the victim in the roadway.
The local PD and FD were on scene very quickly, as we were just a few miles west of a small town. The road was shut down and we were stuck there until the investigation was completed and the roadway cleared. Except for the drivers in the lead and 2nd truck, none of us really saw anything happen, but we still had to give statements.
The lead truck was a fleet truck of furniture moving company, so it certainly was most likely not breaking any rules. The guy in front of me and I were also driving company issued trucks. Only a couple owner-operators in our line parked there.
The driver that had the pickup nose dive head-on in to his truck was more shaken up than anything else. Apparently, at close range, the pick-up had veered in to him. He had tried to steer away, but no time, too close, to avoid the collision. It was the driver in the 2nd truck that had given the BRAKE CHECK warning as he had locked them up. It was a bad day all around. It was an obvious suicide by the pickup driver. He was looking right at the semi driver, and they had made eye contact.
Standing around with other drivers for a few hours, one of them had a cell phone that I used to call my boss and tell him I’d be late and why. That victim in the roadway was around the same age as myself. All I could think about was “why”, and then wonder about his family if he had any. Wondering about his life and what drove him to do something like this? This wasn’t the first suicidal act that I had witnessed.
I always felt bad for “them”, but more so for those they left behind. A life ended that way is over. But, the injuries suffered by others as a consequence of the act, just begins.
Did this experience make my own C-PTSD worse, or add to it in any way? Honestly, I’m really not sure myself… All I know is that when I said those words, “Dead men don’t bleed.”, it just rolled out too easily. I felt nothing. I was already at a point of being shut down and dissociative in many ways I guess…
When I got home that night, a little later than usual, I ate dinner. I slept like a baby.