Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Fatigue, Depression, Poor Choices and Wanking

Yesterday as I and my crewmates were preparing to hear the day's mission brief, I turned to a Lieutenant and asked, half-jokingly, what the symptoms of clinical fatigue are.

He asked me to describe what I was feeling.

I told him that, for the first time since January, I had not worked out or ran for not just one day, but three. I added that I was feeling lethargic -- even after having slept for eight hours -- that I hadn't been online in days to either check my email or (guilty pleasure) read my favorite blogs, and that my appetite had disappeared.

He laughed, and told me that it wasn't fatigue I was experiencing, but depression. How nice.

Ten hours later, having returned from our mission and looking forward to an off day (today), I suddenly and with great conviction made myself feel better. I rushed straight to my tent, changed into my workout clothes, and went for a three and a half mile run. Afterwards, I joined the other guys in my tent and played a computer game over an impromptu LAN. I sucked (definitely not a gamer,) but it was fun.

Retiring, I read a book before falling asleep, feeling contented.

I woke late today. It was back, the malaise.

I started to feel better -- energized -- within an hour or two, but I suspect that it is largely the result of massive caffeine consumption. After dinner (yes, dinner was breakfast today; our sleep schedule is anarchic,) I purchased a month-old Navy Times, and read it while sipping from the only source of almost-home-ness I can manage out here, dark tea.

I am typing this on WordPad now, as our connection to the Internet is down... I am reluctant to complain, though, as I can easily recall the years of deployments when my only connection to the Real World was a forty-word pseudo-telegram from family and friends. That I can -- with regularity -- now conduct email, read and write blogs and even video chat from the otherwise austere, "expeditionary" environment of the Horn of Africa is amazing.

Anyway. Back to the malaise.

As I couldn't access the Internet, I went over to the office tent and surreptitiously rode the "work" internet enough that I could check my email. (Its bandwidth is severely limited owing in part to firewalls.) 58 messages, perhaps only a third of which was spam.

Among them was a short note from S. Yay, me. She related that one of my bills had come to her, and asked what she should do about it. In my reply, I noticed that she had sent me the message from a new address: gmail. Of course, she never writes me from her Yahoo! account, as that was the account in which I discovered her relationship with Dan, and even S would realize that to do so would be to purposefully and sadistically remind me of it. Instead, she had been in the practice of sending her infrequent messages to me from our old Comcast account.

Since she was writing from gmail, it occurred to me that she may have closed the Comcast account; we each had email from it, and I still use mine. So, after sending off my note to her to disregard the bill (it is automatically paid,) I went to the Comcast home page with the intent of determining whether the account had been closed.

Here's where I get stupid-er. Markedly so.

Rather than logging into my own account, I logged into hers. S had never used that email account for anything much more than bills and site registrations and the like (again, she used Yahoo! for her personal messages,) and I knew the password -- it's my bloody name, since I set up the account when we first moved in together.

The Comcast is still being paid.

I know this because her account (and by extension, mine) loaded up just fine. In it, the first two messages screamed at me and I possessed no willpower to resist reading them.

One, an e-ticket confirmation for a trip to Vegas.

Two, a short message to Dan.

I don't know if the two are related, but the damage has been done. Rather, I've done sufficient damage to myself.

Vegas? She's never been. (Neither have I.) Why do people go to Vegas? The daisy-chain of my obsessive thoughts leads only to bad, bad things

Must be nice. Here I am --deployed--, miserable with myself and my thoughts and my memories and the combat missions and the un-fucking-believable heat, and she's on her way to party-town.

Dan? Ohhhhh, S... I thought you had no reason to contact him?

Bah. This healing thing -- it sucks. I'm beginning to sicken myself.

Close friends and relative strangers alike have suggested that being deployed is an ideal circumstance under which to heal, find balance again. I was inclined to believe that. Now, I'm not so sure: with little other distraction other than monotony (and if you've served, you know that even fantastic, shit-in-your-pants frightening things can become montononous,) I feel the gerbil in a wheel.

Each deliberate pace forward only brings the road I'd already travelled right back around --just out of sight--, slamming me unexpectedly right between the eyes.

I am inclined to think that if I was back in the Real World, what with social interaction with humans not dressed identical to me, in the blessed presence of my daughter and people that love me, struggling to decide between lunch venues, confronted with competing weekend plans... well, it just seems a more conducive environment, you know? Life. Life, not on hold.

It occurs to me, now, that I've never been one to lay around when sick. Both times I had surgery on my ankle and had been ordered to just mind-bending convalescences involving nothing more than laying around enjoying Percocet and Beer Cocktails, I gave up fighting the urge to do something less than halfway through. Hell, I rebuilt my VW Bus's engine while still on crutches and a non-weight-bearing cast!

Where I am, though, I feel like there's no escaping those damned crutches. Coming full-circle, one of the realizations I had yesterday that brought me to wonder about my emotional condition was this: I have been deployed, less the three weeks it took to come home and deal with the practical aspects of my relationship's implosion, since January. And no hope of rejoining the Real World until mid-July, at the earliest. Fuck.

Incidentally. Have you read Catch-22? If you haven't, you should. Not only is it a great example of American literature, but it perfectly captures the military mindset. It is hilarious. Which brings me to: I told another crewmate about how I was feeling like so much dog crap, and he said he must be depressed, too; he hadn't even felt the desire to self-love for weeks.


I've just re-read my post. Trying to find the resolve to stop doing this shit to myself. I'm promising myself to never log in to that email again, but I'm afraid of breaking that same promise. I don't like it when I can't predict my own actions.

Perhaps I'll make myself go for another run.

1 comment:

jess said...

This is embarassing -- I just read Catch-22 this year and I was an English major in *college*. I'm 12 years past college... But it is indeed one of my favorites. That's some catch, that Catch-22.

Just my 2 cents -- I don't think it's fair to judge what you will or won't do when you're going through something so difficult. If this isn't too preachy: Just let yourself go through it. When it's right, when it's right for you, things will shift. But there are no arbitrary rights or wrongs about when that is. I think.