The Anger Behind my
Blood-Red Sand Goggles

A Navy corpsman remembers the rage he brought home from Iraq and the abusive relationship that followed.

A simple phone call unanswered. Arriving one minute late. A perceived lack of attention. A normal boyfriend would have paid no mind to these occurrences. They happen. But at the time, I wasn’t normal.

To say that I got angry would not capture the intensity of the emotion. I would explode, reacting 100 times disproportionate toward the “wrong” that was committed against me. In my blind rage, there was no reason, no talking things through; peacemaking was inexistent. I didn’t simply shout. I would yell until breathless, until my neck became uncomfortably stiff, quivering from exhaustion.

A lone U.S. soldier on a darkened street in Iraq (to illustrate war veteran's personal story about living with PTSD)
Photo: James McCauley/Flickr/cc-by-2.0

Some of my worst anger outbreaks took place while she’d be driving.

“Slow down.”

“I’m not going that fast.”

“I said… slow down.”

Tick, tick, tick.

“What are we getting on the freeway for? I said we’re going to the pizzeria on the corner.”

“Baby, I just wanted to stop by downtown first to see the Christmas decorations.”

Tick, tick, tick.

Another explosion triggered by something hidden, something inside of me. My reaction was always violent—a red-hot blur of profanities, finger pointing, screaming my soul out just inches away from her ear. She would keep on driving. Eyes on the road, her delicate little fingers wrapped firmly around the steering wheel, as the verbal bombardment continued.

I lost count of how many times this took place. No reason, no talking things through, no peacemaking. I was sick. I wish now that I could hold out my heart in front of her.

“I apologize,” I’d say.

It wasn’t you who drove the sandbag-reinforced Humvee through terrifying roads. You never left me exposed to sniper fire, or forced me to observe destruction. You simply drove a little too fast. You only wanted to see the Christmas lights downtown before having a pizza.