January 22, 2010

Zoning Out

I sat in the passenger seat of the truck and watched the familiar landscape pass us by as we rolled along toward our destination. Ahead was our exit which I noticed we were approaching at a higher rate of speed than was prudent, and in the blink of an eye we cruised by our turn-off at a steady 60 miles an hour. I looked across at my husband. “We just missed our turn.” No reply. “Hun, we just missed our exit.”

“Huh?” he said, turning to look in my direction with a puzzled look on his face.

“Why didn’t you turn off back there?” I inquired.

“Why didn’t you remind me?” he said as if it was my job to narrate every step of our journey.

“Because we’ve been this way a hundred times.” I said resisting the urge to add “duh” to the end of my sentence.

“Sorry, I guess I zoned out again.” he explained.

At this point I ask him to "please pull over, I’m driving from here.”

Indignantly he responds “I know how to drive.”

I assure him that I’m not challenging his knowledge of driving, fighting back the urge to say; I just want to arrive alive! Again I make my appeal “Take a break, let me drive.” I say this for both our sakes as when he says, “I zoned out again” I know how serious this can be.

There have been many incidents that he’s told me about (and who knows how many he hasn’t confessed to) like the time he found himself in a parking lot not sure where he was or how he got there, and had become filled with panic for what he might have done while “zoned out.” Or the time he set the car on cruise control and then forgot to disengage it and wondered why the car was moving too fast to merge into traffic. Or the time he didn’t stop for a red light, or took off from a red light before it turned green. Or the time his attention was diverted by tire fragments, or road-kill carcasses that might conceal an IED!

So now I don’t take anything for granted, and will tell him “turn here” “turn there” and he looks across at me like “I’m not retarded” and I know he is not. And I curse his PTSD/TBI and how a simple drive in the truck could turn out to be the last thing we ever do.


  1. I had chronic episodes of zoning out for about two years after I returned from combat. Find myself wandering around a grocery store lost and cannot find my way out. My wife would come to the store and get me after awhile.

    One time I was at work and forgot what I was doing there and looked around to find myself in an alien world. It took me a good while to find my senses again.

  2. My Boyfriend zones out too. Mostly, if he's tiered and start to doze off, and then will jolt back up and not know where he is. Sometimes he will ask, "Where am I?" So, I just calmly tell him. I want to thank you both for these blogs, they are really helping me deal with my boyfriend's PTSD.

  3. Naomi, thank you for your support of our purpose here at PASP. I am always glad to hear from someone who finds some understanding.

  4. I appreciate this blog Scott. I have PTSD and I am currently off of medication because my husband and are trying to have kids. I have a problem with disassociation/numbing. It feels like you are "medicated" all of the time or just woke up.

    I was glad/sad to read about the fellow in the grocery store, because it reaffirmed some feelings I had been having.

  5. You are welcome, it is reaffirming to read your words. That's exactly how dissociation feels.


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