By Brian Johnson
We grew up in Weldon NC before moving across the river to Garysburg projects. I’ve always been quiet and rather stand-offish but always observative. My mom (Baby Sis) and dad (Bro) being married all of my remembrance. Reminiscing as I write on her birthday today Dec. 18th. My mom was a waitress and the breadwinner in the family. She held us down like no other. Looking back, I don’t know how she did it with six kids and a husband. She always instilled, “you can do anything you put your mind to.” in us. My dad never held a job as far back as I can remember. But, one of the smartest people you would meet. Being told he graduated one of the top of his class. While my mom never graduated high school, to my knowledge.
He always came home daily and was well respected in the household. He instilled that dad like fear in us at a very young age. He was always around though. Everyone that knew him, knew that he loved his alcohol. I could remember him always saying how he was going to quit for good, but never did. Having never tamed that demon while at times waking up yelling and plus talking in-his sleep. One could only think, did the tour in Vietnam play a role in his outcome?
His daily routine comprised of waking early, getting ready, and walking to Weldon from G-Town to start his day. Someone would always pick him up and say, I gave your dad a ride the other day. Most of the time he was up. He was out before we (my brothers and I) were even up for school. If you didn’t know better, you would think he was off to a job. But, instead, he mostly be drinking early morning. A lot of times, back at home before we were out of school tore down sleep.
Being a Vietnam veteran, he never talked any of those times. So we really never knew anything that he was going through. Looking back, although not as talked about at the time. It was clearly some kind of mental illness. Maybe PTSD of some sort from those two years. He wore an army jacket and boots all winter and boots pretty much all summer. I enlisted in the Army from 1989-93. My dad would ask me to send fatigues and boots. He wore them as if he was still serving. Proudly. #lol #nolie
Fast forward to 2011. I went on lunch break while working as Art Director on Fort Lee. The maintenance man left the screws loose from a drink machine. As I went to fill my cup, the metal panel fell and hit me dead center on top of my head. Sending a sharp shock of pain on both sides of my head. This ran down by my ears through my elbows to my fingertips. Although, I never lost consciousness. This change the course of my life. It wasn’t long after that I begin to have intense vertigo symptoms.
Having been labeled with PTSD, and dealing with bouts of depression, waking up screaming through the night, worse than I had already experienced. Waking up paranoid of burning smells, yelling at my son, just to find nothing was burning. Doing my own research online, this was an aftereffect of a brain injury. Around two-plus years of doctor visits, psychotherapy, and counseling. These were some of the most beneficial doctor visits I ever had, meaning the counseling.
Ironically, I look fine visually, so if I didn’t tell you what happened, you probably wouldn’t have known. The most unsettling of it all was when you did talk about it, most would think you were pretending or looking for someone to feel sorry for you. Or, the big one, ah you should NEVER accept that. Everybody has an opinion, don’t they?
Seems the older you become; traumas, events, stinking memories, even the good times, they all came back, vividly. A lot of things, I never even gave much thought beforehand. It’s almost like, I forgot who I was. Many selfish and unreasonable decisions were made. Distant from seeing family members and friends. Before I knew it, three years had passed with no communication with some. Shocking! A lot of days I wanted to see no one.
Thoughts, Feelings, and emotions, I kept hid for as long as I could. Initially being ashamed.
The two traumatic events that I mentioned here growing up with a verbally, physical, and emotionally abusive alcoholic dad and my Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and me being diagnosed with PTSD at the time. My TBI was told to me as mild but the therapist says these types be the worse because they can slowly eat at you. Experiencing all of this while looking perfectly normal.
The healing process never ends in life. Period. And, that’s with any situation. As for me, I call it ReTaming The Mental. Keep pushing forward. Don’t be afraid to tell your story or be who you are and where you come from. This is your life’s challenge.
I wake up and say thank you daily. My God-given talent, family, friends, and skill set never left me.