Yes, it was another good sleep and I enjoyed a relaxed breakfast watching through the windows the squirrels feel on scraps in the garden. I lingered in the dining room watching the wildlife – one of the other vets had offered me a lift to Inverness so I had time to enjoy the scenery. Squirrels exerted their chain of command with the food on the lawn – there was an obvious hierarchy with the dominant one taking the lead and getting the best of the feast. The rest had a chance to grab food as the alpha squirrel munched on its current mouthful. It reminded me of a scene by Kirkwall harbour when we were feeding chips to the gulls: there was one gull that appeared to be dominant but it spent so much time shouting at and chasing the other gulls that it missed most of the chips that we threw; dominant, perhaps, but not the most intelligent. There was one gull that was quiet and calm and just walked close to us and calmly picked up its fill. Brain sometimes baffles bullshit then.

It was good to drive and thereby miss out on the large mad sprawl of Glasgow bus station. Hypervigilance really kicks in when I am in places like that. So many people, lights, adverts, signs, timetables: overwhelming.

Hypervigilance is an enhanced state of sensory sensitivity accompanied by an exaggerated intensity of behaviours whose purpose is to detect threats. Hypervigilance is also accompanied by a state of increased anxiety which can cause exhaustion. Other symptoms include: abnormally increased arousal, a high responsiveness to stimuli, and a constant scanning of the environment for threats.

In hypervigilance, there is a perpetual scanning of the environment to search for sights, sounds, people, behaviours, smells, or anything else that is reminiscent of threat or trauma. The individual is placed on high alert in order to be certain danger is not near. Hypervigilance can lead to a variety of obsessive behaviour patterns, as well as producing difficulties with social interaction and relationships.

People suffering from hypervigilance may become preoccupied with studying their environment for possible threats, causing them to lose connections with their family and friends. They will ‘overreact’ to loud and unexpected noises or become agitated in highly crowded or noisy environments. They will often have a difficult time getting to sleep or staying asleep.

It was such a relief to be surrounded by sympathetic people in Ayr – I felt I could relax without being seen through the eyes of ‘normal’ people. PTSD is often seen ‘just’ as a curable disorder but how can you close Pandora’s Box once it has been opened? Survivors have seen what horrors humans can bring to bear on other humans; whether it is during war or in hospitals or at crime scenes. We have seen how so called normal rules of society are just arbitrary in some situations, and, when national security is threatened, anything can be justified.

Iraqi soldiers gave themselves up in hundreds because their leaders starved them and held their families to ransom.

Iraqi soldiers gave themselves up in hundreds because their leaders starved them and held their families to ransom.


How can we be expected to worry about forms in triplicate; overtaking to gain a minute in our journey to a nine-to-five job? How can we not be vigilant when we perceive that we are surrounded by threats? We are surrounded by threats: adverts trying to convince us we’re the wrong shape; that we should buy a sofa to have a happy family; people feeling sorry for us or trying to ‘cure’ us. We don’t need a cure, we just need to learn to reassess the level and types of threat that is around us; and we need to learn to communicate with people who are ignorant of the real world outside their comfortable lives – without fearing them. I am slowly learning a kind of indignant dignity and a new self-respect; and a new peace. In reassessing the threats around me I realise that a bullet is just as dangerous as a politician; a bomb just as dangerous as a council bureaucrat; and chemical warfare just as dangerous as a marketing campaign. But I can dodge a politician or a bureaucrat more easily; and I can see through an advert or a spam email. However, the problem now is that I don’t really feel motivated to be a part of this world of politics and consumerism – I want something real. That is my next task: to find something to fan my burning heart. Maybe it is getting involved in canoeing in Canada, or creating an organisation to encourage youth exchange (both?). I’ve yet to catch the bug though… as long as I keep trying things I’ll find something to fire me up.

Here lies the truth of
The Dragon’s breath
Burn the soul to bring
Forth the hidden heart

Not all captured soldiers are kept alive. Killing is no longer murder in wartime.

Not all captured soldiers are kept alive. Killing is no longer murder in wartime.


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