girard
It’s that moment in the morning when you first wake up. I mean that very first second that you open your eyes and everything goes wild and bazaar. Most of the time it’s with a flash of light with sounds connected to it. It’s that first second when you have no idea where you are, what you are doing, and when you got here. It’s that first second you open your eyes and the first light hits you and blurs everything out of focus.

That is my first second — and a lot of others would say they have had moments just like that when they wake up. I am sure not everyone has experienced this feeling, and I bet the ones who have don’t experience that feeling every morning when they wake up. I would be willing to bet most people rather enjoy waking up in the morning refreshed and relaxed. I picture it like a coffee commercial with smiles and that great aroma of coffee and soothing music.

That sure would be great if that was my reality, but it’s not.

Here is my reality: My first second of the day starts with a loud and jolting shock of electricity, which I answer with the opening of my eyes. Just like in a terrible horror movie, my eyes open wide to the limit. I feel like in one second I went from complete darkness to ball field lighting, including the sound of the breaker box as the lights are turned on. An instant heat wave comes over me and I freeze in confusion. My eyes start to move but my body stays frozen and the temperature starts to make me overheat. My body starts to free up, but it’s all in slow motion. My first instinct is to tuck and roll, get down, roll away, anything but stay where I am. Anywhere is better than here exposed. I try to jump up and out but everything is on its own timeline and I can’t break free. The vision is blurred, the noises are dragging, and I feel like I’m swimming vigorously to the surface with no air left in my lungs. Just before I pass out and all goes dark, I surface and gasp for air swinging my head around in total fright, and just then, BANG! Just as fast and crazy as I woke up five seconds ago, I get the first taste of reality.

This is how my first five seconds of every day start. Sometimes worse and sometimes less explosive.

I have accepted the fact that this is my alarm every morning. and sometimes during the day if I let myself fall asleep. For nearly 20 years you would think someone would get used to it, but that’s not the case with me. Everyday is the first day it happened.

I go to sleep knowing it’s going to happen, but it always happens the very first time. I fight the sleep, thinking, “If I don’t sleep, I don’t have to get woken up by my own alarm,” but eventually, I sleep and my alarm always goes off. Just like I can’t tell you the exact second I fall asleep, I can no more tell you when my alarm wakes me up.

This is my first five seconds of the day and I can only hope the rest of the day is better. This is how this veteran starts his day every day.

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Steve Girard is a total and permanently disabled Veteran who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury suffered during conflict in northern Iraq. Steve has a Great Dane Service Dog named "Charlie" who assists him with his balance while walking, as well as assisting Steve while in public with PTSD issues.

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