Up until now we have flown fairly exclusively with Sky Scanner or Hopper for their fabulous deals and we have not been disappointed. The deals we find there are usually only comparable to one another. With the knowledge that the trip from Thailand to Turkey would be one of our longer flights we opted to use our excess of mileage that we had incurred for the 4 of us to close the gap between Asia and Europe. This put us on a United flight which we assumed would be a minor upgrade from what we had become accustomed to (granted this was before the whole beaten doctor situation and the UnitedMemeGate had began. We saw that there was a layover and flight transfer in Pakistan but thought nothing of it as we have experienced many a layover or transfer in our last five months of travel. The kids have become equally well equipped for the hustle between flights as they have to sleeping across some airport chairs while they wait for the next jet to arrive. All that to say, none of us saw it coming.
We arrived in Pakistan around 10pm. Our flight to Turkey left at 5am. We assumed that this design was to allow for ample time to maneuver through both customs as well as passport control. We followed the flow of traffic being herded in the same direction as thousands of others, promising our Littles that sleep would welcome them on the other side of the check in counter. It was right around 11:10pm when the Passport Control counter went to validate our promised exit out of their country that they swiped all 4 of our passports and ushered us into a small white and unmarked waiting room. There was just enough discussion and personnel shuffle back and forth to make the war vet in me pull on my hard edge. While my gorgeous daughter slept sitting up in the chair next to me and I watched the guys doing what they could not to fade the hyper-vigilance in me awoke the way it had so many times in my past while the lull of the convoy or raid poured over the unit. Scarf covered heads, tattoos concealed and (ironically) my mouth shut.
Through this journey Adam and I have found this effortless flow of travel. We both assume different roles in different areas. I generally do the communicating at the airport as I struggle less with languages and accents. This routine is how we began in Pakistan. It didn’t take long for my subdued memories to awaken and as the male airport consultant glared venom into my soul and addressed “my husband” the reality of this world was awakened in me. The controller stepped away and I quickly tried to explain to Adam that my role here was to be neither seen or heard for effective and efficient egress. I don’t need to tell you how beyond confused Adam was. It was unfathomable that this type of discrimination could actually still exist….in the airport!
We were ushered into a waiting area that was empty with exception of a television, a few chairs and the multiple armed guards on either side. Please allow me an aside:
PTSD (Post Traumatic Brain Disorder) is defined by Wikipedia as: a mental disorder that can develop after a person is exposed to a traumatic event, such as sexual assault, warfare, traffic collisions, or other threats on a person’s life. Symptoms may include disturbing thoughts, feelings, or dreams related to the events, mental or physical distress to trauma-related cues, attempts to avoid trauma-related cues, alterations in how a person thinks and feels, and an increase in the fight-or-flight response. These symptoms last for more than a month after the event….”
For those of you that don’t know it, I have been diagnosed with PTSD. Any when it comes to flight or fight I have been proven through life to choose the later when my team is in the cross-hares. Any trauma corpsman who has gone to war with the responsibility of triaging who’s life takes priority in a mass casualty situation HAS PTSD, diagnosed or not. That being said, war is NOT the only cause of PTSD, it is one of many. Additionally, I believe that PTSD is in the same bed as diagnosis like; Diabetes and alcoholism. These are a disease. They are not something that you treat away. They are something that you learn to manage. There are flare ups and there are ways to control these flare ups. Now that I have given you a limited education on my position I return you to this; I am in Pakistan, with my children and untrained love. The male controllers, who have no affinity for me or mine, are in possession of ALL of our passports and we have been instructed to wait and sleep in this armed holding area! I would call this my flare up. I don’t feel the need to communicate that I most definitely did not sleep.
Come time to check in for our flight we were met by the armed guard with a refusal for entry because we weren’t in possession of our passports. During the night there had been a shift change and no one knew who we were or what we were up to. An hour in this holding pattern and we were finally ushered through by who we believed to be our assigned escort. This man held in his hand our passports and in my opinion our freedom. He hustled us through the many many lines and nuances of this airport finally delivering us to the gate of our departure where he then, still holding all 4 passports, shook us down for payment of his services rendered. Now, safely at the gate, with an exhausted and starving family but no where to sleep or eat I watched all of them settle in as comfortably as possible for the remaining 2 hours of waiting time. I however did not settle. I waited. I watched. I exercised my skills in hyper-vigilance and fought every tired ounce of my being. We were in no danger. But, PTSD, I listened as the loud speaker played it’s call to prayer. I looked at my sleeping unit. And I waited, ready, I waited.
Once we were on the plane all things melted back into their usual joy and peace. My family was safe and I….I was asleep the second the plane leveled out.
The receiving airport in Turkey was beautiful and easily maneuverable. This was Europe, not the middle east. I was ready again….to exhale. Later that day as we watched the news about an explosion in Pakistan I processed all that I had seen. Not just in the last 24 hours but in my life time. I am only 33 but the world has opened its arms to me in ways that I never anticipated or imagined. I have seen. I have felt. I have been tried. It strikes me that I am still so young and that these challenges where life asserts itself in my direction challenging my breaking point are no where near over and I am no where near my breaking point. I am reaffirmed in my capabilities. My strength is as surprising to me as I am certain it has been to so many others. I am moved by the knowledge that everyone in my word possess’ this very strength. I am empowered to want to build them all up and raise them into the same empowering certainty of their capabilities. I am defiant in my resilience to what this life has to throw at me. I am unwilling to break if for no other reason then this; I believe that God has placed me here to endure, to inspire and to grow and to share and to grow and to share….. and so the cycle should continue.
This soul baring blog is designed purposefully to meet the above model. I want YOU to know that you are heard. That YOU are worthy and that YOU have someone here beside you that gets it. PTSD specifically. There are so many resources and I hope that you are reaching out to at least one of them if you are struggling. If you don’t know where to look start here, with me. Send me an email or leave a comment. I don’t care if I have known you for years or if we have never met. I promise to meet you with the same amount of love and acceptance as I would my own family. I can be found at any of the places below:
Instagram and Facebook: alphasoscarmike
And of course you can reach me here. I love you ALL! Thank you as usual for journeying with us and for all the love and support you share in the process. We are looking forward to your suggestions and directions as we press on.
With more than love and respect for you all,