At that point in my life, the PTSD symptoms really kicked in. Prior to working as an air traffic controller, I’d declared a guarded truce with my anger, excessive drinking and running from
job to job. I believed I was the cause of my problems, and bitter disillusionment
was somehow native to my personality. But now, closed in a radar room
for hours looking at little green lights on a screen presented a whole new
set of problems. Flashbacks.
Sitting before a screen in a darkened
room gave me the jitters, and I found it difficult to maintain concentration. Two
hours into my shifts, I heard the sounds of combat in my headset, and when
I talked to an airline pilot, I flashed back to talking on the radio in Vietnam. Sometimes,
I believed I was calling in artillery or guiding a medivac chopper into an
I found myself concentrating more on the imaginary communication than on the
aircraft flying through my airspace. The red lights on the walls and
the green lights on the screen reminded me of red and green tracers, and I
fixated on them. As time went on, I had memory problems and struggled
to keep track of the aircraft in my sector. On many occasions, I made
repeat calls to pilots and sometimes gave conflicting instructions.
- The closed-door environment of Sidney’s new job was filled with an assortment
of auditory and visual stimuli that for a man with PTSD was like walking through
a minefield. Each time he communicated over the radio and experienced
auditory flashbacks, figuratively, he stepped on a mine, and the lighting in
his work environment triggered visual flashbacks.