You survived but you are dead inside

In last article I wrote about surviving combat and how I experienced it during my year in war.

Today I write about the aftermath. Survival is not only hard on your body but can also kill you inside. So you survive but you are just empty shell. You all heard of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) but I call this just being dead inside. But this does not have to be like that. First let me tell you about Alek.

I know Alek for many years now, I met him during one hiking trip I did with my survival group here. He was something like outdoor instructor. Later I heard from other folks that he went through some crazy stuff during the war, and that he was member of one of the groups when he was just 15 years old.

We never talked about that before, anyway that kind of topic here is very unusual to discuss. Many have blood on their hands and it brings up bad memories. If we talk about that period we only mention some funny and stupid things like „do you remember the tree leafs we smoked as tobacco man?“ and we laugh.

But in same time we are remembering in thoughts how someone gets killed or similar. You laugh because you dont want to cry.

We were spending night in one of the mountain houses, some of us brought families, other were alone. During the day kids spent time in small amusement park in woods. He was there as something like park ranger.

Night time was for big camp fire, barbecue and drinking.

One night few of us were next to fire, people mostly went to sleep. Me and other guy talked about hunting, rifles and stuff like that. He was quiet.

Suddenly he asked: „Do you remember that smell of a wound when man gets badly shot in abdomen, or when he gets shrapnel in same place?“

Me and other guy went quiet. I remembered the smell, but I did not say anything, I could almost taste it, metallic taste of blood and some hard and sharp smell that stays in your nose, smell of piss and sh!t too.

And I smelled it few times. First time when I smelled it shell exploded hitting in one building entrance behind me and some men from neighborhood, and rain of shrapnel was flying towards us. Guy gets shrapnel, pieces of wall and steel fence in his stomach.

And all kinda mixed up at that point of his body, I mean it was just bloody mess, like if someone put blades from boat motor engine in his stomach and turn it on, all mixed up.

He was young and strong so he screamed a lot and yelled. Later I figured out that in fact that I was almost deaf (from detonation) for some time and that helped me to not listen to all his crying.

He grabbed one guys hands, and that guy had real hard time to get his hands free again.

In that moment you just want to get the hell out of there because you can die too, and nobody wants to look in a dying mans eyes who begs for help you can not give, everyone just ran and hide. And he did not die fast. He was screaming and crying, and asking „am I going to die?“ and we all just wanted it to be over at last.

Yeah, people mostly do not die like in movies. No heroic last words, messages for fellow comrades, country or similar. Mostly they cry for mother.

After these pictures came back for seconds in my mind Alek continued telling us his story:

“I remember that moment when I first seen wounds, big wounds and mixed smell of everything, burnt flesh, blood, puke and sh!t and I think I smelled something else that I think was pure horror. In that moment my childhood was over, and suddenly I become man. I was 15 years old.

I lost my father during one of the shellings and local group took me as their member. In that time they called that „courier” (messenger) but it did not had too much to do with delivering messages.

I was something like mascot for a group, but very soon I went to do whatever they did and I did not see anything wrong in all that killing. Of course alcohol helped and drugs too. One by one gang members were killed, or “disappeared” but I stayed until the end.

Those guys were family to me. I did not even notice that most of them were pure animals, actually I did not even understand that they raised me into the same animal. They were great to me, cool guys. For everyone else we were something else. Monsters probably.

When all ended those from group who survived disappeared from the region in fear from revenge. I moved from that region and I did not come back for ten years, even then when I shortly visit the town I always look over my shoulder.

I become interested in hunting and weapons. For years I was searching for more and more “exotic” ways to kill animals, with different kind of weapons. I traveled all around the world in search for that.

Then I met someone, and I got kid. Suddenly I found or I thought I found out what is like when you have someone of your own, somebody that really belongs to you. And I really wanted to belong to them too, but it did not work.

She said that Im a “freak” and do not know feelings of any kind. And she left. And In that moment I lost all interest for hunting. I could not kill animal anymore. Even shooting at shooting range was too much for me. I hated it suddenly.

I found peace in woods. I am living practically in woods, without real friends and much contact with other people. I am spending my time in the city only for buying food, then again I am in the woods. I think I found God in the woods.”

He had one more beer and went away. I was thinking about his words.

Few days later I discuss everything with good friend and when I told him about Aleks words that “he found God in the woods” and how that gave me creeps somehow, he told me “he surely found something in the woods, but it is probably more devil than God”

I asked “why?”

He said that all his talking about exotic places and exotic ways for killing animals in foreign lands were lies.

Yea, after the war ended he left region and spent ten years doing what he learned to do best.

Killing, but not animals. And this time killing on contract and for serious money. Rumor was that he was quite popular in that “business”, with some terrible methods.

Everything else was true, he did have wife and kid. And yeah he did retire and found something in woods.

To survive some big SHTF scenario and continue to live later in a „normal“ world is not so simple.

You can not just put clear boundry between some periods of your life and stop to think about bad moments.

Imagine earthquake hits your area and all plates in kitchen fall down and most break. You can quickly stuff them back into cupboard and keep them there but they are still broken. You can hide them and they are still broken. Putting things away does not fix them.

When we are born we learn to trust people. When you experience what people can do or even what animal you can be it destroys this trust and is hard to rebuild.

It often stays with you for rest of your life. You just try live as normal as you can and thats it.

But it is always there.

It is everyday thing. For example everything is cool and OK but then for example something „kicks“ me back into that time. Some smell maybe or sound.

I was walking on street few weeks ago, and I heard sound, it was mixture of whizzing and humming noise that was coming closer fast.

I almost jumped behind one car, it was a sound of helicopter toy that 5 year old kid was „launching“ some 30 meters from me, in my direction. But for me it was sound of one of the improvized rocket-bomb devices that was used often during the SHTF. I learned to recognize it and act in same moment.

„But it was 20 years ago“ you gonna say. Well for me it was like yesterday, it is everyday.

When you are taking coffee in some coffee shops and you „catch“ yourself that you are watching other guests and assessing them „how dangerous is that guy?“ and „he has 9mm Glock in that small bag“ (we have lots of concealed carry here, I do too) or „ that dude in black jacket has butterfly knife in front pocket“ and „that dude is guarding his back while he is reaching for change he left on floor – gun stuffed in his back-belt“ etc etc.

You can say „get a life“ I will say it is my life now.

Did you think that you can go through months of collapse and whole bunch of life threatening events and then come clean from all of that and have normal life? You cant. It is not romantic like that at all.

Telling others how it was and how it is gonna be again helps in a way that I find some sense in surviving all that other than having my life. Its a mission I feel good about.

Breaking some stupid ideas about how SHTF gonna look like helps too, everyone who wants to read this stuff is possibly one more man who is gonna be prepared more tomorrow when things get tough again.

When Jay visited me to record the interviews for my online survival course we visited places and talked for whole week. I felt very down for some time after that but he has background in psychology and said it can help. It does, I slowly glue my broken parts together again, also writing this here today.

Writing is my treatment and for you who read this it is what Jay refers to as “primary prevention”, that means exposure to real scenarios help to prepare you mentaly what can happen. It is win win situation.

Just never forget your mind on battlefield or one day you wake up alive but empty.

If you have experience with traumatic events please share in comments.

Types of real survivalists: 2. The chameleon

types of real survivalists

Most of the folks who have been through some serious and life threatening situations and survive gonna tell you one thing: they survive it with mental strength.

Also all survival instructors gonna say that first thing in any survival situation to have is will to survive.

It is easy to say today “I will survive!” but great majority of people do not know what will to survive actually means.

In my time I did see some folks who just lay down and had lost will for life. They just gave up.

When it comes to survival you have to focus on what you are good at, and some people are just good at working with other people or maybe dealing or playing with other people.

The mainstream media gives everyone some picture how real survivalist need to look and act. That’s wrong. Today I talk about a smart type of real survivalist.

The Chameleon

When SHTF, the word deception has whole other meaning, and becomes powerful. It is used in many different situations and for many different reasons. It helps to survive but also helps to take lives.

Never form your opinion about what kind of man is dangerous on “popular” images. When SHTF you can end up dead because some 70 years old lady blows your head off with shotgun.

This is how you should think, but average man, sheeple don’t.

So you can be sure that when times come you’ll need to look stronger than you are, but also sometimes you gonna need to look much weaker than you are. More options are always better.

And for all who are preparing with the attitude “let them come” you need to change it to “let them not come”.

There was a guy in town in that time who was very good to know if you need to find out where you can find something useful, or to find out what is going on.

For example if I needed to find something particular, for example I needed 10 liters of diesel fuel for something I would first check people in my vicinity, check few guys out, do they have that, or do they know someone who has that. In short I would go out and try my luck.

But there was also that guy who always has good information about sources for trade, or any other information.

Guy was shrouded in some kind of rumors, or it was more like myth. So you could hear all kind of stories like “he has important friends” or “he has some sources from outside” or “somebody powerful is protecting him”… After all of that stories you could easily conclude that guy was powerful, even before you see him.

He alone did not look mean or powerful or anything similar, but he carried this mean looking old style heavy machine gun all the time, with bullet stripes over shoulders and chest.

Anytime when I go and visit him I get something useful for trade or some useful information where I can go and find something.

He survived war and I did not see him for several years. Then I met him in mall, he was buying some toys for his grandson. I started conversation with him, and we get some coffee.

I asked him what he is doing now, he says he is lawyer. I was surprised. Then he told me that he was lawyer before SHTF. For some reasons I could not connect that man from war period with lawyer, but soon some things were more clear for me.

He invite me to his house for more coffee, and after some time he goes to the basement and drags big wooden box with locks on it out.

He opened it and I saw that old machine gun inside. Of course I wanted to check it. When I took it I saw that barrel is full of melted iron, in order to make weapon unusable.

I was surprised, and ask the man why he did that, I mean you never know when you gonna need weapon ready. He laughed and said “it was always like that, unusable”.

Now I was completely confused, but then he started to talk.

He was lawyer before SHTF, he never fired a shot from any weapon, and violence was completely strange to him. When SHTF in chaos he found himself on street, looking how bunch of folks are breaking in malls and shops taking whatever is useful.

In 5 minutes he was in local museum with some young people who were breaking stuff, and taking whatever useful they could. He said “when I saw local policeman completely drunk trying to take on German uniform and helmet for fun, I realized that we are starting to live in interesting time”

He took machine gun from glass box, together with some bullets stripes and went home.

Ten days later some punks tried to loot his home armed with knives and screwdrivers:

“I put those bullet stripes on me, took machine gun, stand in front of them and yell that if they do not disappear that moment I am gonna massacre them” And of course they disappeared.

He said, even if that thing worked he was not sure if he would be able to shoot at them. But he realized one thing. It is not important how things are really – it is important how things look like.

When all different groups in town started to use signs, I mean small colored bands on shoulder in order to make clear who is belonging to their group, he got all those bands and markings.

When all of those groups started with some system, when to wear what, he bribed guys in order to know that system.

So if one group was controlling some part of the town used red bands on shoulders on Monday and Wednesday, and black one on Sunday on Saturday he would know that.

He used that for moving through the city, because in all that chaos, if you are moving through the city during the night, and you need to go through area that is controlled by some group it was very useful to have some of their signs or code.

So he was member of multiple groups and all groups shared information with him. As a result, he was everywhere in the city, always having correct info about important things.

He knew what is gonna have high price, or when new food aid might come in. I asked him “how were you able to know all info about lot of stuff” because it sounds just too complicated for me.

He said “what I did not know I just made up in my head”.

Actually he was playing with prices, with demand and need of the people. He dictated prices.

After some time, because all of his infos he became so “popular” that if he said that “cans are gonna be very hard to find in next month” people believed it.

So it was easy for him to distribute all cans at higher prices, of course not personally, but in same time he would of course know man who have cans right now at cheap price. His man. He got a cut out of most deals and that helped him to survive.

Through his network of people he puts word out that “powerful people protecting him”. Another illusion but together with fact that people did not want to have problems with man who has always good info he survived.

Also one thing helped, in first period, he collected 5-6 bodies, badly dismembered by shells, put them in front of his house, and put word on the street that “some guys messed with him, but he called his powerful friends and that friends made example of that guys to not mess with him”.

If some really strong group caused danger to him, he just left house and waited for them to leave.

No problem, he did not have anything valuable in house, trading goods he kept at his “associates” and his main value was information. His main value actually was his brain.

So keep that in mind. Before you give up because you have nothing, use your brain and try to play the system with deception. Chaotic urban survival situations offer lots of opportunity for that.

How to help kids through hard times

traumatized kids

The terrible shooting in US that put 27 people to death, mostly six and seven year old children made me write this post. There is much controversial stuff.

Media outrage about gun laws instead more talk about media making people like the Aurora shooter to some kind of celebrity, that inspires other people to go out and “be someone” by doing extreme atrocities too.

I know many of you have families or are close friends with people who have. So today I want to talk about what happens to kids who get through some terrible times.

Kids had it too, just like grown up people. Maybe in different way, but they definitely absorbed all hard stuff that happened around all of us. You may expect that you can throw whole bunch of cardboard table games in one secure room inside house with your toddlers while you are fighting for survival and that everything gonna be OK with them.

And to be honest people did like that, nobody paid too much attention to kids, if you follow the site or are member of course you know how dramatically priorities change.

Most important thing was to keep kids physically safe. Everything else was kept for some other time, for time when peace comes, for time when „normal time“ comes. Even though often we did not expect to live to that day.

Later when normal time came, some of the folks realized that their kids are not actually „normal“ kids anymore.

Most of the people having tendency to forget time when they were kids, and think like kids actually do not understand too much, so there is no too much need for explaining things that are happening around them. Kids are small people, they are not idiots, they understand much more than we think.

In that time as I already said we did not pay too much time about explaining things to kids, explaining some bad things that they seen or heard happening around them.

I still think that we did not have time for that because we were occupied with much more important things, with food finding, and basic security things. But sometimes I think that we did not know how things gonna have influence on them, if we knew that maybe we would have found some time for that.

Anyway, today after any traumatic event in normal societies there is a whole system that is used to help kids to cope with that event, but do not forget that first and best friend for your kid is someone they trust, a close friend of family or you if you are parents, and you are the person who need to see problem with your kid.

Later when that kid is fully grown up person it is hard and sometimes impossible to correct some things. The bad patterns and trauma might have left too deep scar.

Examples around me are numerous, and whole society here is built on false and wrong values. I can say that one of the reason for that is that great number of young people are raised in wrong way.

Any traumatic event will leave great influence on kid or young person. Other thing is what that person gonna learn from that event. I am not some kind of expert in human behavior or psychologist, but I am man who survived great number of traumatic events, and I know great number of people who suffered many traumatic events, so I can say that people who survived it gonna have consequences. Always.

One of my relatives for last 10 years did not go out from her apartment alone. Always with some other family member. She was six years old when she watched how people getting killed around her, nobody thought in that time to talk too much about what she saw, priority was to keep her safe. It struck her years later.

Opposite to her my younger colleague who was also young during time in war can not stand elevators, and any other small spaces. Panic attacks. He told me parents put him in small safe room when shelling was very heavy.

I was once with him in apartment, and when we wanted to go out key in door jammed (here you lock door when you inside apartment), I guess he felt stranded in that moment or whatever, he got panic attack pushed me from the door and start to kick door with chair. Almost 20 years before he was almost suffocated when his house went on fire by shelling and he was stranded for some time in safe room. He was 14 then.

And these two cases are mild examples. In worst cases kids are grown up in traumatic events and without working with them they can grow up in man who think that he can do anything with force only.

If kids are seeing that people do wrong things in order to get something, they can conclude that way is easiest way. They get wrong ideals. This is why when media makes celebrity out of people who go on shooting sprees you create long term problem.

You suddenly have fully grown up man who is maybe simply bad or just knows he will be known and finally someone if he does one big act of violence that is worth the news.

So what to do?

Just work with your kids, pay attention what they seeing and how they understand all that. Help them to understand what is bad and what is wrong.

Do not talk about shooter with them, talk with them about victims. Shooter is nobody and should remain that.

Those “flashers” that run on field during sport events are not covered by media as well because this would just make more people go run for fame. Some part of media does not get it and for sake of money, attention and more viewers they make a hero out of someone who should remain nobody forever.

What I try to say is, do not underestimate young people. They are new to life and suck in all things around them. Good or bad and you have to help him make sense of this or be a bit of filter.

Without your help kid who is going through some bad situation may go to some extreme later.

Keeping kids away from real world is not right either but they have to learn about things and you have to help them understand context of this.

Saddam Hussein thought it is good idea to “toughen” his kids up when they were young, by letting them see atrocities. His sons Udai and Qusay became murdering psychopaths.

Sad reality is there is a whole generation of young people here who just do not have correct understanding of meaning of right and wrong. For them correct concept is easy and hard. And if you stop for a moment and think about that you can see how that concept is dangerous, and why when SHTF we gonna have some really hard time.

For them it is easier to get high and rob some small store, beating to death lady who work there than to work for living. They do not know for other way, any other way is harder for them.

And never make mistake and think that kids are just kids, and that they do not see and understand what is going around them.

They see everything and they will understand what is happening and why, but without your help maybe they might misunderstand that.

What are your thoughts on this?

In violent urban survival scenario… violence is the easy part.

light for survivalWhen times are hard, people show all kinds of their characteristics, or faces, or real face, call it whatever you like.

That is another reason why it is not so popular to talk or write in details about that time. Some people did bad things and survived, or good things and died, or people just acted strange in that time.

Again a lot of combinations. People later do not want to discuss about that, they do not want to remember that. Over the time man can really force himself to believe that he did not do some things, even if he did them.

No happy gatherings of group of people who survived all that, nothing like big reunions with barbecue with cheerful talks about „how it was then“ and drinking beer.

When we sit somewhere together, we do not talk about these times too much. If we really go in something from that time we usually lie to each other. Everybody of us who survived has something particular that he does not want to talk about or to remember.

Often this is something embarrassing or very bad or cruel that one did. It made sense back then in survival situation but even today when you have food on your table it is hard to understand… even for yourself.

I had friend who was pretty fearless guy when it comes to some tough situations, fights, death and life situation, man to man combat until the end and hard stuff like that. He was easy with violence. But what he could not stand was time frame between launching of rockets and detonations when rockets exploded.

To explain it little bit for folks who never been in war. There was something like shelling by surprise from multiple grenade launchers. So you hear distant „bum“ sounds , some 15 or 20 separate sounds, deep sounds, every maybe 1 second or less, by the time you hear maybe six of these sounds of grenades launching, they are starting to hit already.

Explanation maybe sounds too poor, words can not explain it. But usually that kind of shelling was used on an area like a street and the whole area within 200 – 300m in this street was death zone. It was hard to predict what area they shell before grenades hit.

So in real life if you find yourself at the open in that moment, and the shelling area is where you are you do not have too many chances to live. Sometimes people jumped for cover and broke their arm or leg doing this to find out grenades fall in different part of city. That few seconds between first „bum“ and explosion where the grenades hit felt like eternity.

I could swear that lasts for hours, not seconds. So much things to think about in that moments.

Anyway my friend could not stand that few seconds whenever he was caught in open area. Every and each time he would lose control of his body functions (he sh#t and pee in his pants).
He would cry after that like a kid. Of course that was reason for lot of fun. He hated himself every time after that, but he could not help it.

Feeling in your stomach when the grenades fall around you, is like you want to puke and shit at same time, lot of people say that is because of huge vibrations, but it is pure and real sense of horror, and completely lack of control over your life.

And remember, he was no coward at all. Each and everyone of us had his horror moments when you just were lost, when you just surrender completely.

I have seen few times that people blow other mans brain out with bullets, and later even make fun of that, and in the same time same people throw up when they have to eat macaroni infested with worms, dead worms cooked with macaroni.

For me maybe worst thing, or thing that I hated most were some smells. Constant smell of burnt things. Not ordinary smell of wood or coal fire, but smell of lot of things set on fire. Heavy and greasy smell that somehow just go directly in your stomach, like lot of dirty things are burning but with very slow fire. Nothing to compare it with today. The stench of rotting meat of dead bodies came into that as well.

Closest thing would be like somebody set fire to huge pile of city trash today. But still it is not so close to that.

Especially in the morning smell was heavy. Very often I just woke up and had to vomit as soon as I smelled it. It was something stronger than me. Actually it did not have anything with fact how strong or weak I was.

Every one of us had own small breaking point, most of the time violence was easy part of our time when we tried to survive.

When you prepare for a possible SHTF scenario do not get lost in too much technical stuff. Try to get to your limits. Try to know your breaking points.

I recorded material for new course with Jay here where I live in past 2 weeks. Jay comes from troubled background and was involved in some crime in his late teenage and early adult life. He is real nice guy today but because of his past violence, blood and gore comes easy to him. But he has real problems when it comes to seeing or smelling poop.

I work in emergency services so I took him along to some jobs when I knew it would be messy in very unpleasant way for him.

Turning around homeless guy who is too drunk to move and has sh#t himself and been lying in that at same place for two days is special experience… especially for someone who has real problem with poop.

You get idea of all of this. I think a lot of writing about survival today is about gear reviews and buying another gun and that is fun I know but going to places where it hurts you today… where you can push your limits is time very well spent.

Do not expect to “overcome” all of them. Some things always get you, but knowing about this and being mentally prepared for it, makes big difference is stressful survival scenarios when many things at the same time test your limits.

Fighting superior forces

If you watch video please keep in mind I do not take sides here or any religious believes. This is just example video from 5 days ago fighting in Aleppo, Syria.

When tank comes you just feel small. Really small. When you see on video tank is going through ruined streets you can not feel that strange feeling in your gut, that feeling is mixture of tremendous vibration from that death machine, your adrenaline and fast working brain trying to figure what you gonna do in order to live another day, to not get killed by that machine.

When you see tank destroyed on clip, you can not feel heat, smell burn from ruin and bodies. Whole situation can feel very overwhelming.

I had few times close encounter with tanks.

Once I spent horrifying 45 minutes while group of some 60 men, with one tank destroying some buildings with it around the place where I was hiding together with one friend. They just searched buildings using the tank as device for leveling already ruined place.

After that small groups of them searched buildings. We were unable to get away, and unable to defend. So only way was to try to hide and hope that beast will not go after us, or guys notice us.

Tank was probably 30 or 40 years old, for sure not some modern thing, it had all kind of painted messages on it, I remember clearly one „you are f#cked now“ on front of it.

When that thing smashed wall some 50 meters from us and started to roll, changing directions all the time, I felt so small and miserable.

We were hiding under the rubble, my friend was starting to yell at me at that moment, I thought that he remembered something smart, but of course I could not hear him a single word, I just gave him sign to stay down and shut up.

Anyway they passed by us, we survived. Later I asked him what he wanted at that moment and what he yelled. He said that he sang some song. He is not sure why, but I guess he was just scared to death, and it was unintentionally. People do weird things in situations like this. Some laugh, some cry and some sing.

What can we learn from this? I think one of biggest lessons I learned in my life about survival.

Prepare to be overwhelmed.

Lots of people get into survival and preparedness to feel more secure, more prepared of course. Thing is that survival is often fighting superior forces. Probably not a tank but nature can unleash powers that make you feel small and like playball of elements too.

When you see so much power and how random life gets taken, you realize that your life is not special too. It is easy to forget about this but in nature creatures live and die all the time. Nature is cruel and we are still part of this. Becoming more easy with death and dying makes you more relaxed fighter in survival situation too, but more on that in another post.

Anyway, back to tanks. I saw people get killed trying to destroy tank with RPG but not knowing that you need some space behind RPG when you fire it. That happens when civilians pick up weapons they do not know. Others got killed because tank came too close to their hideout and they tried running away in panic.

So how to fight tanks?

Most of the time you could see group of fighters with one armored vehicle going trough part of the town, sweeping it an using the tank as a cover, and smashing device for hard to enter places.

Smartest thing was to stay low and let them pass and hope they did not notice you. And then to run or attack, when they already go with that thing inside the ruins. Not too much space for maneuvering so that gives you you some time to destroy it.

What I learned from that is simple survival knowledge. When you face superior forces, no matter if tanks or storm or other challenge. Stop and think (hardest part because instinct tells you to RUN or react in some automatic way!) – understand that thing and its power – understand its weakness – take advantage of its weakness to get away, overcome or destroy it.

Control your first response to threats and chances of survival increase (that does not mean your first response is always a bad one, just that you should make smart decision and not just do first thing you feel like doing).

Very simple but while you can learn so many things about survival, some very simple things like this can make difference between life and death.

Real Survival Exercises… that you can do today

Know your limits and push them when you prepare

We are preparing for any possible scenario, buying things that we possibly gonna need, practicing skills that we gonna need, talking and discussing about scenarios. We are doing anything in order to be more prepared and less surprised when sky falls down, when trucks stop going and it is each man for himself (and family).

Rarely we are ready to admit that we can not imagine how things are going to be. I found that part of preparing very important.

It is hard to discuss about things that we can not imagine, but it is absolutely important to prepare your mind that lot of things are not gonna unfold on the way as we imagine it now. When this happens we push our limits. You might have to do things you never do, see things you can hardly believe.

We need to prepare ourselves that we will be confused because this is what happens when you cross limits and end up at place you never been before. We need to expect that. We need to be able to feel confident while being confused and in new situations.

I mention before my friend who went trough same SHTF situation like me, and in some areas he experienced much more things than me. We talk and laugh a lot, we spend lot of time together, many years. But still he can surprise me with some of his story from that period, i guess lot of years need to pass by in order to men can talk about some traumatic events.

He was wounded couple of times, his story about one of his wounds is quite good for understanding how things are going, and how little or how great you can do in some situations.

Prepare for confusion

They hold position in one of the ruined houses on far outskirts of city, more like a small settlement a bit outside of city, he was there with 12 more guys when attack came.

He says attack was so great that they fired few rounds only in response and then started to run, in very loud situation, with lot of firing and explosions they had enough time for very short discussion and plan, so they agreed that they run and retreat to a position some 2 miles from that house, if things get rougher they agree that backup position would be 1 more miles from first one.

They split in groups of 3 people and start to run trough ruined settlement.

I laughed when he said to me that after 1 mile he said to two other guys „f#ck the first place, let s go immediately to back up place“ But he said to me it was not funny at all.

One of them gets bullet in the head, and stayed there, they could not even check him if he is dead. After some time he said they were running through the woods, he asked me then „did you ever run through woods, in pitch dark, while bunch of the guys trying to shoot you?“

I did not answer anything.

On some small clearing he gets bullet in the thigh, and fell down, other guy helped him, while they keep running and he dragged himself through the woods, they start to use hand grenades in the direction where they tought attackers are coming.

Anyway they threw lot of that stuff, and after some time, everything went quiet.

They dragged themselves to back up position, he gets some more medical help there, there he realized that he lost most of his muscle on his upper leg, he said it did not hurt too much, not to mention that he managed to run over some time with that wound. Adrenaline and fear for your life does this to humans.

Little bit later 4 more guys came to that position, two of them wounded, nobody else came. Those two of them tell them that they get wounded with hand grenades that someone was throwing on them in whole confusion and dark.

They said that probably other guys from the group get killed on same area in the woods, maybe from the same grenades.

My friend and his colleague did not say anything. In that moment he started to feel pain from the wound, he says it still hurts him sometimes, even 20 years later.

Learning from your or others experience is important but practice too

The takeaway from this is if you train for SHTF put yourself in new situations. Start by running at night, when its raining on small dark paths (that you know in beginning). It takes time to get used to things like that and feel more confident when you hardly see where you go.

Survival is about advantages. If I feel comfortable in shady ruins or moving fast during pitch black forest that is a real advantage. You can imagine how to do this, but try doing this is much more important.

It feels funny to step into the darkness.

Simple things like running in the dark can be practiced and can make a big difference once things get tough.

Try this:

  • Run in the dark
  • Eat things you do not like to eat and try to appreciate them
  • Be able to get dirty without getting stressed about it
  • Walk different ways, get comfortable with unknown environments

Add your ideas in comments

Think about it this way, you are now in complete different world. Living every day like humans live. SHTF will be like moving on to a new, less civilized more brutal and unfair world. Like a fish in aquarium. When SHTF that aquarium breaks and you get flushed down toilet and have to swim in sewers. It is dirty and there are other predator fish out to get you. When the world changes you have to be ready to change too and from my experience many people could not.

If you hear this you might think, Selco has been in war so he describes very brutal situations I hopefully never experience. True, but in any crisis when people feel threatened they will turn unfair and every crisis will bring new situations. So when you practice this you will be better prepared not only for violent extreme SHTF, but for everything life can throw in your way.

If you are member of my course you will know from the interviews how unfair and wrong things can go. This helps to get better understanding of what to expect. Less surprises and hearing about successful ways to survive gives you a big advantage. But practice makes perfect so while theory is very important, a book warrior will never outrun someone who has real practice or experience.

Adjusting your life to do things not the typical human way and putting yourself in unfamiliar situations is one small change that can make you more confident when things get tough. Start doing it… better today than tomorrow. For some time now there will not be a better tomorrow.

No real recovery

After everything ended, after guns went silent and after roads opened again city started to live “normal” again.

But it was “normal” only for the people who have not lived through what happened. For the folks who gone trough all of that and survived nothing was and will be like before.

Whenever you watch TV or read newspapers about people or places or whole countries that have gone trough some shocking events, periods like war, earthquakes, famines or something similar, media folks gonna try to hook you with numbers of dead, cost of recovery in millions, amount of food that world is sending to the area, or number of troops that were needed to force opposite side to sign a peace treaty.

Most of the time it is gonna be news about facts, numbers, without too many pictures. I mean real pictures. Nobody wants to see the really bad / ugly real pictures.

Rarely some of the reporters gonna try to describe you stench of gangrene, or to show you kid who is eating macaroni with worms who is happy because it is a real treat compared to what the kid is eating most of the time.

Or even some small and simple things like “how bad it is to be completely wet in very cold weather, shiver and try to stay low for 3 hours because you need to hide”.

Anyway point of this is: there is no recovery after some things, I mean man can feel lucky because he is alive and went through that period and came out with all hands and legs still on his body. But real recovery is not how many aid packages are delivered to country or area, or if the local government building has flowers in front of it.

If you plan for survival scenario, don’t forget that massive change is part of this.

I see in many survival forums and communities that people talk about freeze dried blueberry muffins for breakfast, their big generators and what they do to keep life normal in survival scenarios.

I think this is just half of preparing and some people miss out on other half.

Get comfortable with change and to live worse.

When I was recording interview for my course, I was joking with Jay that we should add a hell week to course. A training week in which people stay in room, with just few drinks, a bucket as toilet, few grains or very basic food to eat and old piece of meat that is rotting for the smell.

This is of course too extreme but you get the idea. Instead just try to make trips to the outdoors. Get comfortable doing your toilet things out there if you have the chance and do this responsibly with digging hole and covering it up. Learn simple living like humans had to for many thousands of years.

If you do not plan or prepare your mind for change all those time you spend learning about survival and preparedness might help you survive physically but you will lose yourself mentally.

What happened to many people I know who went through the hard time during war?

Some of them are heavy drinkers, some of them are drug addicts, some are social “weirdos” unable to have friend, unable to have normal relationship. Some are normal on the outside but also have a very dark or dead side.

Some of them continue to live like they lived during SHTF, with violence, so violence became their job. It was like somebody draw a line in time and said ” OK before this moment lot of things were acceptable because SHTF, but from this moment we all need to behave like nice folks, no more killing, stealing…”

Some guys did not want to accept that, some could not, some killed themselves, some continued to kill others.

Once you have hit another human in face it is much more easier to do that again. You broke down a mental wall that is not easy built up again. This is also true for more serious violence.

Plan for a way back to normality. Plan how to explain your children why human do bad things.

I have friend who is working in institution for orphans who have lost both parents in war, or kids who have been left by the mothers who were rape victims.

That friend went through a lot of terrible things during the war, and he found some kind of vent or relief in helping others. In his case helping adolescents, war orphans or teenagers now.

He gave up his own life to live for these people. He does not have his own family, he does not have too much friends or some private life.
He is completely going with these kids through all of their own disasters and successes, when some of the kids are receiving some award at school he is drunk from celebrating, when some of them get into drugs he is sick for days, devastated.

Other from that job he is not existing. If he looses that job I am almost 100 % sure that he will kill himself. I help him sometimes, something like volunteering because of my medical background. Most of the kids actually now almost men and women, 17-18 years old.

Program is meant to work them through the “problematic” period of their life, teenagers years, after they spent childhood in homes for abandoned kids.

Anyway I’ve been called few nights ago into one of the those houses, call was “one girl is passed out, having seizures, hysterical attack or something like that”.

After we came to the place, checking the girl and talking with lady who is their psychologist – leader, and after we ruled out any possible real emergency we realized that girl- 17 years old had something like a panic attack. Girl was daughter of rape victim, her mother left her moment after she gave birth, hating her like she hated the rapist.

Through half hour conversation and lot of crying and wiping tears away she told us that she broke up with her boyfriend that night, she was devastated because of that.

I made mistake and laugh at that with statement that everything gonna be fine, and that she will have boyfriend again and that is not end of the world and it was only mild panic.

She yelled at me at that moment : “You do not know what real love is, real love can kill you, I can die because of this.”

At that moment something struck me. I’ve seen lot of bad things and lots of blood, and I guess after some time some things became normal for me.

But girl, 17 years old, born from hate, and left to be raised by strangers made me realize what I had lost.

Later that night I was trying to remember how it was when I was 16 or 17, when I had first girlfriend, first kiss or first breakup with girl. I could not remember too much, that kind of memories were pushed away by bad ones I guess.

I and people who went trough the things like I described are unable to see some things, things like real love and happiness. Things like that have been killed with all those kind of atrocities.

Some of the folks realized that years ago, and killed themselves, some with weapon, other with alcohol or drugs. Other ones are still alive, living, walking and working like some kind of zombies, only pretending to be normal, but in some strange way we have all been killed in that period.

I like everyone who survived that period had my portion of problems. I even tried to solve them with alcohol during one period, but luckily for me I realized there is no sense in that.

Somehow because of my job in medical field I learned that human is a very fragile thing, so human can be killed or die in many different ways. Everyones existence can be terminated in every moment, so I guess in some weird way I adopted some kind of philosophy that you can do whatever you want, but when your time has come , you are gone. This helped me. I take change now without getting stressed more or less at all.

That does not mean that you do not need to prepare yourself for every possible scenario, it actually means that when S. hit the fan you are not gonna be in control of many things, people will die so you have to be comfortable with this kind of massive change.

You can only take care, as good as possible, about small circle of problems around you, and your family, everything outside that circle depends on other things, bigger things. But inside that small circle you need to do everything that you can to be prepared. Taking care of things in that small circle helps me to cope with things that I went trough in my past. It became my life.

I still consider myself one of the more lucky ones, one of the rare ones, because I am channeling all of my experience and energy both positive and negative into preparing and talking about preparing.

I write to share what I know and this also makes the bad time I have been through feel valuable. It helps me and I hope you too.

I am preparing, doing everything to be prepared and ready when bad times come again, but for some emotional things I am just like dead.

None of us who survived that period completely recovered. Some scars never go away so prepare to not keep on living life like always only. Also prepare to get hurt, get comfortable with change and experiencing pain.

The different faces of fear

I can say fear was constant. Sometimes moved you and made decisions for you, sometimes was just as a reminder in back of your head. Fear from unknown, fear from pain, fear from minor things that can become disaster, things like cold or injury.

Just like with most of the things there is no rules, so fear is different for different kind of people, and not everybody react same. Someone can say that fear can kill you, yes I agree, but also fear can save your life. Fear can „do“ things instead of you.

I ve seen people doing some weird and crazy things just because they were terrified for their life or lives of their families. I seen man who beat two armed men with rifle, he was driven mad with fear, fear for his family what those two men gonna do to them. He did not even try to shoot , he just use his rifle as some kind of stick or baton, and beat those two guys almost to death.

He was not something like Chuck Norris or anything similar, he was terrified father. Fear just turned him into a monster.

When you find yourself in situation of life and death fear can just overwhelm you.

I was in situation where i needed to stay low and quiet while group of men go pass me, it was matter of life and death and I knew it. I remember my heart was bumping so loud that I was thinking „those guys gonna hear me, they gonna hear my heart“, I was breathing normally I guess but I remember that I thought I breath so loud and I was turning around and checking because I thought someone else is breathing behind me.

Later it got much easier. In first few situations fear controls you, after some times you slowly learn that you need to control fear. If you have enough time for learning that.

But again different people react different. But fear is always there. Over the time you learn sometimes to control it, and use it in your favor, as a extra power actually, as some kind of adrenaline pump starter. So you can do some things faster and better. This is the point you want to get to.

I am talking about ordinary man, not prepared, not trained.

What I learned for sure and what is pretty much obvious is fact that people did not get killed because they feared a lot, they get killed mostly because they reacted wrong, fear paralyzed them.

It is good when fear push you to act, run or fight, do something, do anything. It is bad when you get paralyzed.

First time when a gang came in some bigger numbers, in some form of attack I think harder thing for us was to realize fact that they have bad intentions I mean that they want to hurt us or kill us, after that fear took place, and that fear moved us to defend and to fight.

As i say later we all more or less learned to control fear and to somehow use it in our favor. Some did that better than others, some learned some did not want to.

One of my neighbour was normal guy, with normal life. He just could not understand that sh!t hit the fan and nothing is normal anymore. He was a guy who just payed to much attention to be law abiding citizen, never drove too fast, use seat belt, pay taxes, watch your language, trust the government.

Anyway when shtf, all kind of „police forces“ came up. I mean suddenly there were all kind of armed groups going trough town and doing things in the name of law or in the name of the „cause“ or whatever.

They rob, killed, mobilize people to fight for them. In those days for some people it was just hard to understand that law is gone, and there is something like „each men for himself“.

And each one of this group claiming that they have right to use force in the name of law and in the cause of protecting the people. Of course those armed groups were mostly just gangs more or less.

During our discussions in the first days of chaos, he stated to me that he can not go against the law, in other words he said to me if some police force came to his door and wants something from him, he cannot refuse it. Because those guys are the law, and he just cannot go against law.

I had other opinion, mine was more like who ever is armed and wants to enter my house is my enemy.

He just did not accept fact that times have changed. He was afraid to accept it, he wanted to believe that everything is fine and someone will take things into hands instead of him. He was this sort of the government will take care, some higher power will sort thing out guy.

When guys came to his door in the name „of law“ he just opened door and go with them, for „some talk in headquarters“.

After they rob him, he spent few months in their prison, working for them. I know that he was armed when they came, and I know that he could have tried to resist them, they probably in that case would turn back and find some easier target. But he choose to listen to them, he choose to trust them that they are law, and they are doing what is best for him.

I think he was just paralyzed by fear of the fact that he can somehow not abide the law. Even deep inside he probably knew that those guys are not any kind of law, he maybe just wanted to believe that everything is gonna be fine.

Like I speak about many examples in my course people see what they want to see and especially when things get tough they try to look for good things in bad situation. Unfortunately if there are no good things some even convince themselves there are.

The European Cold Snap

Something again about power of media and human stupidity, or i can call it human lazyness to check some simple facts.

first aid

Right now in my region we have something like two weeks of very bad weather, snow, -15 or -20 C temperatures (getting finally better now), roads are blocked by snow, whole cities are completely cut off, infrastructure in some regions is falling apart, ambulance services can not reach patients, stores are mostly closed in worst hit cities, electrical power is off. Deaths from cold temperatures are more than 600 now.

Now this all is temporary, maybe few more days, week, and life is coming back to normal way. But still from this “small” scale event there is again some important lessons to be learned for us.

In my country political elite rule the mainstream media, i guess in every country in the world it is something like that, sometimes more obvious sometimes less. Free media barely exists. Maybe politicians in other contries have “smoother” ways to control media, but at the end all come to same.

So from the beginning of this bad weather collapse event i am following local media to confirm some things. Every single broadcast in media with some politician is same: “everything will be fine, we have enough resources to fight with this, our power plants will not have problems, we all doing our best for citizens, there is no need to panic, there is no need to panicly go in to the shops and buy candles, extra food ,water, whatever, our medical system is completely ready for this event, all patients will be take care of” etc etc.

In reality, first about medical system: few examples, our medical system works that we have supply for a few weeks, for example we are preparing for next month based on facts from the last month. So obviously if we had for months or years certain number of patients for example in emergency room (ER) we have manpower and medical storage in ER for that number of patients.

In other words we are working on assumption that everything will be fine. We are not counting that some major event can hit us, so even if we have extra manpower and extra medical supplies in ERs or hospitals, for some major event, we have that only for short period of time.

We do not have backup. Politician will say: “our medical system can cope with this event” because he need to say good news, politician who is telling bad news will not be elected next time, most of the people do not want bad news, even if it is truth.

OK, i work in medical system, so i perfectly know how bad the system is. For example, try to research how many respirator machines hospitals in your region have, after you finish that, research how many respirators will be needed if some kind of bad deseases struck your region, terrorist atack, flu, SARS..

Even if you do not research this. What you would learn would be pretty much bad news anyway.

Point is: System is not ready. And that is not worst thing. Worst thing is that system will try to convince you that “system is ready” for everything, until it is too late.

Same thing is with power plant, for example coal power plant use coal (obviously), coal is been delivered with railroad, since snow and ice is covered everything they can not deliver it to plant.

Plant by their rules have coal for something around 10 days of work without delivery of new coal, by simple math (and asking some friends who work there ) i found out that they have coal for 3-4 more days. And that’s it. Power for 400 000 people will be off, heating too, and everything that’s going along with that.

And funny, yesterday some politician shows up on TV stating that “citizenz will have electrical power no matter what happens”. We can all sleep well!?

Same goes with all stores, and everything else. When delivering of goods stops, all is going down. If you are member of my course you will have heard me talking about the signs of SHTF and what happened before all hell broke loose. Now compare this with what’s happening now.

All this is happening… in part of the world where 20 years ago we had war, so you could expect that people here know how bad things can be, but no even here people are just people, who again believe “smart” guys on TV.

Now please understand me i am writing all this as a simple example. Everything now will be fine, unless new ice age is starting.

Point of all of this is: in last week or so i did not hear from any authority, any…, advice for people that they need to buy food, candles, medicines, and everything else for month or so. Most of the people are waiting for them to tell that before they start to prepare for something. They are not going to say that. We need to prepare alone, without warnings from anyone.

Look what happens with all these disasters. Good news and if things get bad, its up to people to suffer, die or survive and politicians later play the blame game without any change.

If you have people who do not believe in preparing or think their government will look out for them, tell them this story or stories like that. It is simple logic. Nobody likes guy with bad news. I see history repeating itself and that in country that has been through major SHTF time. Most people here should know but they do not want to know. People see what they want to see, get told what they want to hear (only good news) and are blind to truth again.

Survival Situation – Action Wins

Usually we take for granted what we see on TV, or other media. You can say “No i am always suspicious and do not believe all this” but most of us are forming our opinions unconsciously. So at the end, over the time we just have some opinions, and we are just sure about some situations and solutions, we believe some things just work like that because we saw it so often. Even if we are not experience that in real life, or even if we are not spending much time thinking about these things.

You see action movie and people just shoot each other no big deal.

As i say before, act of shooting is not so hard, actually it is pretty much easy, but decision to shoot someone is much harder, and great majority of people have problem with that decision in real life.

shoot

On one of the local meeting during our hard time people tried to organize some stuff like how to protect homes, set up some kind of neighborhood watch or something like that, most of the guys were armed with guns or any other kind of weapon, on the other side mostly all without previous experience with guns or weapon.

Guy who had a rifle was a taxi driver in normal times, he bought rifle few days before everything started, probably just gets know about basics with gun handling, but he was trying to look dangerous and relaxed in same time. In the middle of some kind of meeting and yelling he somehow gets in argue with another guy, who had a hunting knife on his belt.

Very soon argue was out of control and man took his knife out of the belt and start to approach guy with rifle. It was not something like jump or sudden attack, it was more like slow threatening walk with knife toward the man. Ex taxi driver had enough time to raise his rifle and simply shoot the guy with knife, but he did not, he got finished off, stabbed multiple times.

People just left the area and move on. Guy was left there, I guess relatives picked him up some time later. Body was gone the next day.

It was not about his speed or something like that, i guess he was just stuck with whole situation, he hesitated too much, he was not prepared for that threat, he was not ready, call it as you like. Now when you look in whole situation looks strange that guy did not just raise rifle and fired, but to do that you need first to cross over some things in your mind. That change takes time.

I have seen more situations like this one, sometimes just seconds counts, and your will to do things.

My ex coworker bleed to death because his wife freezed when heavy caliber bullets cut off his arm, even she had some kind of tourniquet and some bandages close to her, she did not use anything, she just screamed while blood was pouring all around him.

It is hard to get your mind in state when you not think too much, instead of just act accordingly, it is hard to do that especially in not normal times. Hard times can learn people to act like that, but it is hard school and lot of people just failed. Great majority of us is same like that taxi driver, only few of us like guy with knife.

This is not about becoming killer, or toughest man. It is about acting. Hopefully your SHTF situation will not be as violent as mine. But remember human act or freeze and freezing can happen to all of us. Prepare people around you to not freeze but act by practicing drills.

Yes there is reason why you do “boring” airplane and ship rescue drills. It teaches you to act and this might make difference between life and death.