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.

50 responses to “You survived but you are dead inside”

  1. hillhag says:

    I never had this kind of experience, but to feel what you experienced doesn’t take much effort. I know it was horrible, but that’s truth, which is not always nice. Maybe I already said this, but if so, I want to repeat it: In the movie,’ Apocalypse Now’, about the war in Vietnam, there was a line which impressed me and I haven’t forgotten for something like thirty years…..”(In war) You have to make a friend of horror, or it will destroy you.” and in a movie called “Lucan” about the same time, a feral boy raised by wolves, after he learned to speak, said, “Do not show your fear, or they will kill you.” (as animals do) Do you think that’s true?

    • Selco says:

      Every normal person feel fear, it is normal. Point is if you let that fear controls you it is bad, and it can kill you on many ways. People had different methods for adapting and “using” fear and horror, many channel fear and used adrenaline in very smart way so actually they been faster and stronger, more mean and dangerous.
      Some folks went to other extreme and accept some kind of “invincible” theory under the fear and stress, which is wrong too. Point is to control it, yea in a way that “making it friend” make sense actually.

    • gibbsmack says:

      As others have echoed, your testimony re the challenges you faced back home are immensely helpful in preparing for America’s (and the world’s) upcoming dissolution. Thank you for your strength and candor. God bless you, brother!
      As trite as it sounds now, looking back on the day I was blindsidedly dumped in a public setting by my perceived “soul mate”, in college, I was presented w/ a pivot point in my life. Do I pick up the pieces and go forward, or tuck my tail and run away from life? I was too young to see the forest for the trees, so I embraced the pain and existed as a zombie for 38 years. So, to reference hillhags question, you can survive by embracing the pain, making it a positive by turning your normal concepts of pain and pleasure, upside down. I trained my mind to love the agony. But it’s a survival technique only, lest you become a detached monster. Reading Selco’s anecdotes made me realize, I am still here! Perhaps I can “slowly glue my broken parts together again”. …better late than never.

      • pdxr13 says:

        Not only “better late than never”, perhaps it can only happen later, when you have some perspective and a new purpose?

        “On Killing” David Grossman. It’s a good read for people who need to understand what happens to men after they do or don’t, in situations when they should have or shouldn’t have. People are 97% or 99% not killers by nature and we hurt ourselves remembering after we do/don’t what we are trained to do.

        Grossman has some interesting notions about the power of individuals hating each other enough to personally kill another. “What did I ever do to him?” We have increasing resistance to killing as we can see and smell each other at close range. This is the feature of mankind that makes society possible.

        There may be some advantage to knowing how doing what is needed might affect you. If the bad times are long, you might be able to remain mentally effective longer to preserve your tribe, so that they can understand and get through it.

  2. White Tiger says:

    I have been reading your posts for some time Selco, I always find something interesting, but today it touched something in me. I know your words are true – because I have a similar background. I grew up poor in an affluent country. My faith helped keep me centered, but it was very hard because everyone I was near always had more than I had – i was made fun of for many reasons, I was singled out for many reasons, I learned to adapt and pretend to make it thru.

    Later, I used it as fuel to get out of poverty and become more successful. I found that I could use the lessons of surviving poverty to endure hardships to climb out of it, and then become successful…the problem came for me when I could not turn it off. I lived in fear, as a survivor, not as someone who was free to make his own choices, enjoy his victories, mourn his losses….but as an animal driven to survive.

    I do not claim to relate taking a life – and the effects that has on a human psyche – but I do understand what happens when you shut off your emotions in order to overcome some trauma. If you let it go too long, you forget to turn your emotions back on.

    So, this post was important – because I think what you’re saying (at least what I take from it) – You CAN survive, to do so you must choose to change your thinking – BUT, we were designed to truly live using all our emotions. We must decide not to turn them off in the present and to those we love, or we will lose our humanity.

    Thanks for reminding me!

  3. JaRo says:

    God – I pray daily for you guys.
    What non combat folks can relate to maybe is an experience I went through with being homeless after a hurricane in I think it was 2004 – see blocking it out. This is so “trite” compared to what you guys in battle go through but some of the PTS was similar and close to what we can expect WTSHTF.
    We had a home on a barrier island on the West coast of Florida but RV’d up in the mountains of North Carolina in Summer. The second Hurricane in two weeks, Hurricane Ivan, came up again into Appalachian Mountains from the Gulf – lots of rain. The RVers were all having a hurricane party up to 11:00 pm and went to bed. Around 1:00 AM my husband woke me and said the generator for his CPAP had gone off. We had no power most of the day because of high winds and rain. He went outside and found the river we were near had gone over the banks and was thigh high at our door and coming in the RV. He told me to see if car would start, get our meds, dog and some clothes(no bug out bag at the time) and get the hell out to higher ground while he waded to each RV waking people up to get out with their lives. I am a good swimmer but just wading though that raging river in the dark was terrifying. We all got out and spent the night in someone’s barn. In the morning we learned that the side of a mountain had come down taking homes with it. Bodies were floating in that same wonderful river we used to sit by and fish in.
    At near the same time Hurricane Frances hit our home on the barrier island in Florida and it was inhabitable so we were homeless. I can tell you what a mild dose of PTS is like and it stays with you. For months afterward, we couldn’t stand any load noises, couldn’t concentrate well even to read a book. We walked around as if in a fog but on high alert “nervewise” at the same time. We didn’t suffer any health problems at that time but two months later started to get some health symptoms which were only temporary thank God.
    Great article and good advise to be prepared for this mentally. This was from just one night of horror and a month of being uprooted from our homes. Imagine what people are going to feel like after a serious disaster.

    • Gerald says:

      We had a cabin about ten miles from where that mountainside came down in N.C. (we live in Fla. so had evacuated to our cabin). There was a Lady on that mountainside that had evacuated from a town near us in Fla. (about 20 miles away). She was one of the ones that died in that landslide. How sad to evacuate from the danger zone and be killed by some side effects in what you perceived to be a safe area. Even when you do your best to protect yourself you still need to be alert to other possibilities that can affect you.

  4. Dody says:

    When I was 8 years old my mother dumped me off on the side of the road. It’s hard for me to speak about this because it seems so unreal. I was passed around from various religious families, but no one wanted to keep me for good. I was too emotional and bad. I cried too much. This happened for a few months. So one of the families called the cops, found my mother and put me back with her. Probably a bad thing.

    For the rest of my childhood it was a series of being abandoned here and there and people trying to reunite me with my mother. As I turned into a teen I thought may be no one wants me, since strangers would not keep me unless paid off and my mother would not keep me. I never asked strangers for help anymore or to be let in when it was cold anymore. I slept on grates that had hot air rising. I ate at soup kitchens. I drank from library sinks and washed there too. Then people started to take notice of me because of my age (12-15), I was a girl, and I stayed in the area too long I guess. It is hard as a female to not attract unwanted attention. The worst would rape, beat, steal from me…the best wanted to “save me”. All were bad because even the best intentions would lead to me in a dangerous place. They wanted to take me and put me in group homes (which are like a jail and are dangerous, the one I had lived in for a short time was shot at many times because gang members hide in them)

    I met other kids on the street like me. They told me dress as a boy, then people will not notice you and try to take you to places. In our culture a 12 year old boy is treated much different than a girl. The kids gave me a boys clothes. Then after when I walked around, no one wanted to “help” by placing me in a group home. They were mean, but avoided me. I preferred this as being a female rape is a constant threat, but dressed as a boy no one tried.

    As I became an older teen, it was impossible to hide in this disguise. Nature started working and so even dressed as a boy, I looked like a female. No one wanted to save me though, because I looked very rough. People walked out when I entered a store. People through me out even though I was buying something from money I had found or earned running messages for the local drug dealers. (Yes, I was a messenger for real.) Store owners were afraid of me, though I had never hurt a single person. The drug dealers and I were not friends, it was strictly business. They would not save me.

    Then something happened. A boy fell in love with me. I did not have a heart left, but he did. He made me pregnant one night and my life changed. He tried to save me. His whole family did. Truthfully, he did save me. Unfortunately I crushed his heart into a million pieces in the process of him saving me. I crushed all their hearts. All my years of pain were inflicted on him, because I thought he would leave me. I was certain he would and so I wanted it to be over quick. I was worse and worse to him. In the process, he gained a drug habit and I started to be “normal”. We divorced three children later, because I like walking into stores and not having a crowd exit immediately at my sight. He didn’t care about it and went deeper down the rabbit whole of drugs, sex, and violence.

    I feel like he gave me a heart again. I remarried and moved out into the country. We live a very simple life. I fear going to the cities and only do it when I must. I even shop in the very small towns when I can. I fear crowds. I fear being stranded on the sidewalk again like when I was a little girl. I hate that feeling of hopelessness. Worst of all, I fear people. Now that I have children, I home school because I fear they will be hurt like I was. (School was not a safe haven for me) I do not allow them to go far because I fear someone will hurt them, like I was. When I go to the cities and my children must come, I dress them from head to toe in the most boring clothing. I do not want anyone to hurt them like when I was little. I think, how can I protect them if I am attacked. What can be made into a weapon? The table? The fork? My thumb in his eye? That brick wall? I have had many a street fight as a younger teen dressed as a boy and I do not relish trying to do that now that I am older.

    The worst though is at night. I wake up in a night mare because of the memories. I look around to make sure the house is safe. I check the children two or three times as they sleep. I stay awake because sleep only brings night mares. Memories of way back when. My husband now tries to help, but he can only do so much. He reassures me I am safe, but I don’t ever think I am. I know I will be like this forever. I am just trying to prevent my children from the torture I endure. That is why I read your blog. You are someone that understands how it feels to have everything gone, inside and out. I was dead for years. Now, I feel much better, but I am not ever going to be able to trust that people will help.

  5. LEE says:

    I work in a prison. The first gunshot wound I saw was in the upper arm. About a 4 inch section of the arm bone was in splinters. The arm survived but was limited to use of the hand only, and the hand strength was limited as well. Think about it, all that muscle must pull on a skeleton, a structure. The structure was gone. The second gunshot wound I saw was to the hip. The hip was broken into pieces. It was replaced and he has made a limited recovery. I should also mention that I have seen a man stabbed over 20 times. There was a pool of blood about 6 feet wide. He got up and laid down on the gurney without help. Shot placement, wound placement etc.

  6. Dody says:

    Ok, I didn’t hurt anyone that wasn’t on the street and a drug dealer/user… I felt that it was acceptable though since..if I didn’t, I would have died. May be that is why I think of the people I fought as not people, but more like death waiting to happen.

    Perhaps people knew about my fights and avoided me because of that. I don’t know. I saw it as self defense though.

  7. casey says:

    This site is amazing I have never learned so much so fast and further all the commentators sharing has also been a learning experience. I always thought that I was alone in a lot of my experiences, it is good to know that I am not. I was held captive in the ladies room with my sister when I was 15 and she was 14 at a local community center in the Detroit area. The center had not been dangerous previously, and had changed in less than a month and we as kids we had no idea. Innocently we went into the center to swim as we always had, it had always been a great place with swimming,basketball and fun classes for kids and teens! Well it changed as the area had been experiencing immigration from the middle east for a few years and one day those kids found the center and everything changed in the blink of an eye. I have been told I have a guardian angel and I believe it, even now. We were held at knife point for a half hour in that bathroom, we talked and talked to try and get out alive and unharmed. To this day I can see the people and the bathroom stall we locked ourselves in. Finally two moms and their kids came in and that saved us, to me those ladies and their kids are heroes. Heroes because they didn’t run out of the bathroom when they saw what was happening but instead stood their ground, and diffused the situation and saved our lives. I still size up people for the same reasons, in fact I did it the other day at the local store, as things just didn’t look right to me, so I left and the area is not a bad one, I got a bad feeling and
    decided to leave. I am very grateful for this blog. I haven’t talked to anyone but my sister about this kind of stuff ever.

  8. Gerald says:

    There is no preparing for situations such as this. The only hope you have is rot training kicking in when your mind shuts down that first time. I’ve seen grown men curl up in a fetal position, and a little girl stand tall without a hint of fear in the face of death. Everyone is different.

  9. Paul Poletti says:

    Animals have instinct. Human beings have a conscience. When I do the right thing I feel good about myself and what I don’t I’m tormented by thought.
    Until I was 32 I did basically anything that came to mind. I never gave much thought about consequences. Lying, cheating, stealing, big deal. When my conscience bothered me drugs and alcohol helped turn my conscience off or at least numbed it. Which led to even more despicable behavior. Eventually no amount of alcohol or narcotics could turn off my conscience I truly was at the jumping off point. A friend of mine who had similar experiences and overcame his demons showed me how to overcome mine. I took inventory of the things that I had done and vowed to my innermost self that I would not do them again. When possible I made amends for the things that I have done. Regrets you bet, many regrets and if I could go back in time and change things I would. But many times it’s just not possible so I vowed not to do them again. This simple change in philosophy has given me a better way of living a better life and for the most part I am free of the demons that tormented me as a young man.
    I enjoy your articles very much. I hope that I never have to pull the trigger on another human being. I know if forced to I could kill. That’s the easy part living with it that’s the hard part. The problem is the dead don’t stay dead. I know many veterans and police officers that tell me they relive pulling the trigger every day. Heaven and hell are states of mind. In the early part of my life I lived in hell now that I’m 60 I don’t want to go back there. Today my conscience is my friend it helps me make the right decisions and many times it is contrary to what I think I want. I can’t remember a time that I listen to my conscience and regretted it. Keep up the good work.


  10. Rick says:

    Once again you tell what is real and what you have gone thru that most of us have not and hopefully never will. I have been out of the Army since 85 and still some noises make me look around. It’s just one of those things. Dreams still have those dealing with the Army and at my age it is still strange to have them even now. You sir I commend you for being able to share your stories with us. I know I can’t even imagine what you went thru cause me/us have never been there. These stories do make you think that the average human will not be the same as they were after a conflict of any kind.

    • Selco says:

      You are right, human will not be same and mostly we are not gonna read about that in our preparing for SHTF. It is important and we all need to be prepared to that too.

  11. Mark says:

    Hi Selco,

    Out of all the writings and audio I have listened to, this one was tough for me. I know all that you said, but my heart wants to stay clear of this. My family and I do thank you Selco for telling your story. It is very helpful, if not hard to hear.

    Thank you my friend.


  12. carol says:

    Thank you to Selco and everyone who shared their stories here on this subject.

  13. higherview says:

    Selco I always love reading your posts and the responses people leave. Because I am busy and also travel I do not always get to the posts right away like today, but I always read them as soon as I see them. I very much appreciate this post because you are sharing things that are beyond my experience, you often do this.

    Others write from theory and training and put ideas down, these are good and I appreciate them, but a man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with only an opinion. People say that “experience is the best teacher”. Maybe not, I do not want to learn about a grenade, and IED, a rattlesnake bite or a car accident by experience. Although I have experienced some of these and lived to tell, if I can learn from someone else I can avoid the experience. Perhaps you might not live though the experience, but if you can avoid it by learning from someone else, that’s the greatest teaching.

    I know of an example from a friend who was older (old is relative to the armed service, he was not “old”) former Marine who rejoined the Navy after 9-11. He was too old at the time to join the Marines, but could join the Navy and as a corpsman (medic) and requested to be sent with the Marines. One day when they were out walking through a village he sensed something was wrong. At first he didn’t know what, but gathered the others. It was no dogs, no children present. There was an ambush set that day, and they were ready because of his knowledge as an older fighter. Another time he noticed an expensive black car that seemed out of place. It turned out it was some terrorists that had come and placed bombs and were sitting out of the way to watch what happend. He has other numerous examples of how his knowledge gained from his previous service saved many younger men and women.

    I am grateful from what I have learned here. It has already helped me and I am sure will continue to do so as I remain open to learn, and willing to apply it in my life and the lives of those around me. I also value the input from others who are members and what they have to share, thanks Selco and also to the other members.

    • Selco says:

      You are right, next to experience best way to learn things is checking where other folks made mistakes and try to not make it.

  14. Nick-Dog says:

    Been through some seriously tough emotional stuff with family, with alcoholism and those types of demons. Later on I found myself around them and my soul being ripped to shreds and shoved in a box for lack of a better word. My mind was awake though, but that extended experience made me feel trapped inside. 13 years later I am mostly better. but that has been a very long road with ups and downs and many lessons.

    this is nothing compared to your scenario, Selco, where every day is maybe death, maybe life and rough conditions that overwhelm your own humanity. however, I think I’ve experienced something like that in the spiritual world with my family, as crazy as that may sound. I feel like I can truly relate to what you are saying and mentally prepare to some extent for that devastation.

    I also just want to take a moment to say thank you for giving us your insights. I know that cannot be easy many times. The fact that you lived through such hell and relate to us your experiences is invaluable, and I am extremely grateful for your knowledge, wisdom, and teaching.

    Best to you and yours, Selco. Your course and teachings are awesome. God Bless. –Nick

  15. .02 says:

    Since childhood as far back as I can remember, we lived very poor considering the rest of the country at the time. We depended on wild game for food, had no running water, used outhouse etc for many years. I was taught to kill at 6 years old and took many animals large and small until I was financially well off enough to not have to feed the kids with elk, bear, fishing and deer any longer some 40 years into my life. Looking back I was a poacher, thief, and all around “mean” person. I never took a life but I went in search of a few times will the full intent of killing certain people that I decided needed to be rid of. Glad I couldn’t find them at the time. Now I am getting on in years and reading these stories from Selco damn near gives me PTSD in consideration of/if SHFT in the not so good ole USA. I cant imagine what scenario we will face, from major economic collapse to emp total lights out or to maybe a slow grind to third world status, but the people in usa if faced with no water/electricity are 100% doomed. I cannot imagine what the population would look like after 3 months without hot running water for all the spoiled people of this country that have a major breakdown over a broken fingernail. I do agree that these stories from Selco are real eye openers and I am probably better mentally prepared to go back to living mostly like an animal again, but the thought of it really sucks. It is like Selco says, there are those that “think” they could do it, and then there are those that have been there.

    • Wildfire says:

      I am glad you have come to terms with your past as best you could. I must start by saying, I am in my 40s year old woman. I am not in as good physical shape as I would like and have family that is not really physically ready either. I have been preparing for years for any disaster. I wrote a small pamphlet to help my friends and family get in shape and start preparing. But, in my book, I took out what I feel is really going to happen. I say, be ready to hunker down for a month. I say, help your neighbors. I say join C.E.R.T. All these things are good. But I am constantly thinking about SHTF. In my book, I want people to become aware. That is the goal. They can gain perspective from there. But, what I really wanted to say to them was be ready to hunker down for a year! Forget helping anyone else unless it will benefit you and your family’s survival. And when C.E.R.T. calls, you may not be there, because you will be helping yourself. If I had said this, no one would read it. People can not handle the idea of long term disaster survival. It is scary to read your story SELCO because it seems that it is possible anywhere now, but I thank you for this site and opening up. All I can do is mentally prepare and maybe play paintball…I am a pretty good shot! But, I will never be in a perilous situation as “practice”- when it comes, that is when I will face it. I am fortunate to have a husband that is incredible and strong physically and mentally and so smart. It makes me feel safer. I have never been in a situation that could cause PTSD, but I am always sizing people up and situations. I have done this since I had kids. Its a huge motherly instinct for me to protect my family. I think being responsible for another helpless person that is part of you can be enough to create a sort of PTSD- traumatic enough! SELCO, can you please address your thoughts on this: if there is a long term disaster, do you think it is better to stay and hunker down in your home or try to leave- and what type of place would you describe as a good location. This site is one of the most valuable places I have found. My heart goes out to all who overcome their nightmares everyday. Stay strong.

      • pdxr13 says:

        Physical training can start out slow and at low cost. If you never do anything, a little bit of weights and a little bit of walking can have dramatic results over a few months. Most of the positive results claimed by the latest diet pill are due to paying a tiny bit of attention to diet and doing a little bit of exercise. No matter what shape you are in, getting your heart rate up and sustained for 20 minutes is a good thing.

        Assuming that you have been recently seen by a doctor, and can get approval for walking, etc. blah. You know how broken you are. Pay attention to how you feel!

        Being stronger will make you happier. Everything gets easier. You will feel better. PT is fun.

      • Chuck B says:

        To Wildfire: Any time you leave your home/base/etc., you are a refugee. If you have a safe place to “bug-out” to, you are still a refugee until you arrive. The common default logic that so many people have of “bugging out” if SHTF would create millions of suddenly-homeless refugees filling our state and national parks, with only what they can carry – maybe 3-days of food/water, weapon of choice and limited ammo, and perhaps a shelter or bed-roll. Unless my house is “Ground Zero” or burns down, I’m going nowhere. Why would I opt to abandon all the preparations I’ve spend years working on? My house isn’t a fortress unfortunately, but it’s far more defensible than sharing the Great Outdoors with millions of desperate, unprepared refugees.

  16. Eunowho says:

    I very much appreciate you writing your experiences to help the rest of us.
    I am a person of faith in my seventies. I have had many experiences in life both good and bad but I have never been in a war and experienced what you have. I believe it is important to set our minds to what we believe. I believe it is acceptable to kill someone to protect our own life or someone else’s life in a dire situation but I hope that never happens.
    One thing that came to mind was the situation of an 18 year old who’s husband had died of cancer and she had a baby and someone was breaking into her house. They had previously killed her dogs. She shot the first guy dead with a shotgun and the second ran away. She was a person of faith and afterwards asked if she was going to hell for taking a life. I believe not- she needed to protect her family. Even though we settle the matter in our minds ahead of time it has to be very different when it happens.
    David was a man after God’s own heart because he repented even though he killed to cover his own sin. Many people turn away from God when something bad happens in their life. It is important to turn to Him instead. He can put the broken pieces together again. Didn’t mean to get preachy here. I’m sure there are others at this site that have different religions than mine.
    I know what you mean about the creepy feeling.
    One example- I absolutely know that something bad would have happened if I went out to the store to buy bread one night late and I had the strong feeling not to go. Another time a guy was behind me and I just felt like a black cloud was there and had to move from that spot.
    Later I found from another person that my instinct was correct.

    • Selco says:

      Experience comes with years, I also learn that. When I was very young I found most of the older people like boring when was about advices, I think it is like that everywhere around world. Each generation thinks that they are the best and smartest, and yet make same mistakes.
      For many years I know that it is not like that, so I learn to use years of experience. After years of experience and dealing with many different problems and problematic situations you just KNOW some things, or FEEL that trouble is coming.

  17. rob says:

    Seven years of demented sexual abuse in childhood will leave you a vastly different creature than God or anyone ever intended.

    I know how dark this world can become. I do rescue work for some and prosecute/persecute those who allow and enable darkness…but a session or walk through the valley of death will build a horrid collection of memories and will dramtically change who you are. You will never be as intended. Never!

    People tell me to “get over it.” I tell them to try to forget how to read. I suggest the doctor tries to forget all the things that happened in his life during medical school…or even try to forget his medical training. He can’t. Well, I stand about as much chance of forgetting as he does.

    I made a brief video that was intended to show the fortunate adults what sexual abuse does to a child’s mind.

    Its a very difficult video for most people:

    • ScoutMotto says:

      I can vouch for the childhood sexual abuse cause. One sees and experiences horrible things that should never be put upon a child.

  18. Bowho says:

    Good article. Once had an incident where two guys jumped me as I was walking home from local bar after a few beers.

    Am/was a decent judoka-so I fought them off and probably hurt one pretty badly, The other had a knife and I was stabbed and slashed, but not badly becasue the knife was small and the melee happend rather quickly. Have the scars though.

    Can say that I was not right for severel weeks afterwards, and that incident was over in less than 30-45 seconds. Would be tough to have to deal with that sort of thing on a regular basis.

  19. Great info. We all wonder how we will react when and if a situation arises. Best to train for the worst case scenario and hope it does not take place. Training like anything else can better prepare us for the unthinkable. The more push ups we do the stronger we get. Obviously the more terror one experiences the better able he or she is capable of dealing with and overcoming the experience and after effects. I am slowly but surely prepping for worst cases and hope they never happen. I live beneath several of our nations tallest peaks and away from most populated areas. My power is taken care of and am currently working on my food prep. Thanks for your site and good luck to all.

  20. Comrade X says:

    What we have to do we have to do if survival is important.

    When I was younger I could/would do one thing but as I have gotten older it may be another.

    What lies for us in the future will require us to be hard and it is my intention to still maintain more than just a semblance of right and wrong and still be hard.

    Mistakes can get you killed but death can be quick or slow & forever. I would prefer the quick type if I have a choice.

    How we live is as or more important than how we die, is it not?

  21. Selco – Thank you, I’ve trained and prepared myself for TSHTF events but I realized today that I need to get my family and friends out of the area we live in now so that they aren’t exposed to the hell you’ve described. No matter how good I am or how prepared I am I don’t think I could protect them from the horror of SHTF events, I wouldn’t want my kids or sweet grand-daughters to be exposed to the life changing trauma you’ve written about. An ounce of prevention is worth 1,000 rounds of cure! 🙂

  22. rony says:

    Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are very “real”, although have different degree and occasion.
    and it is true after we “survive” in some kind survival condition wether it is not always about combat or war.
    for me… quit from previous job also bring same effect as you do with “combat experiece”.
    for others … divorce… homeless… die of beloved… even unemployment bringing some kind of “survival condition”.
    not because of it reated to our physical / body survival because of we must struggle for our “life”.
    also for our psychological / mind survival.
    wether it is because of war ( to kill or to be killed )… die of beloved one… unemployment and etc
    it eazy to say “i dont want to talk about it”… than say “just forget it and go ahead”
    because we must deal with our “memory” first… than “reality” in surrounding us
    so you are right about our “decision” not willing to talk about “that traumatic event”
    but also you are right about talking ( or writing ) about it … maybe have some effect in “let it go”
    because of “that memory” have somekind of “bond” or associate with other memory
    like in your case if you heard some “whizzing and humming noise”
    somehow your mind associate that “sound” with “somekind of handmade rocket”…
    but in realty it can be… just… a toy
    if “let it go” this association or bond, can relieving our mind
    then our mind can focused on “what way we will choose to go ahead”
    ( maybe it is important if we talk and discuss about “some way” to go ahead in some post traumatic event
    because it is not eazy if we don’t know how to do it
    and how to choose positive thing to do to “dissipate” that memory to come ( in your cases maybe making some book or post or “course” about combat survival )

  23. Tommy says:

    Selco, thanks again for sharing your experiences with us all. I know it must be very hard for you, but I believe your friend is right about talking it out helping you to move on.

    When I was a boy around 10-12 years old we had a bar on the corner, 3 doors down from our house. There was a guy there who dove on the ground and hid every time a plane would fly overhead. The kids all laughed, called him crazy, the town drunk, etc. My father and his friends all shook their heads and said “Shellshock”. One day I asked him what he meant by that. Apparently this guy was in the Navy during WWII and was a gunner onboard ship in the Pacific. His ship was subjected to Kamikaze pilots near the end of the war and he just snapped because of it. I guess they would call it PTSD now-a-days. War definitely takes it’s toll on the mind as well as the body. Hopefully you survive with both intact.

  24. john says:

    I have never been in a war or in the military. But still I have been told I have PTSD.

    Somehow I became the “punching bag” for the older boys at school when I was in grade school. I became their favorite punching bag because I would never give up, never cry, never tattle on them, and kept throwing punches until I could no longer move. In fact, I did not even wait for them to throw the first punch. I always threw the first punch when I saw what they were getting ready to do to me.

    Those years were miserable. Every fight seemed like a fight to the death to me at that time. I’m sure they thought it was just a little fun. It was horror and terror for me. I learned how to fight. I learned how to protect myself. When I got older I learned boxing and was pretty good at it. My entire life I have always been much stronger than I looked.

    I am old now.

    A few years ago I walked out of a bar at closing time. I was very very drunk. I was walking down an empty street when a group of young mexican guys started following me. They started making fun of me. There was one big one that was slightly bigger than me but he looked dumb and slow. The rest were all smaller than me. They thought because I was old and bald and skinny that I was no threat to them and would be easy to pick on. They surrounded me and I decided I was going to go down fighting and take as many of them with me as I could. I looked straight into the eyes of the biggest one and said something threatening to him and started walking straight for him. In the process of walking straight for him I grabbed a small one and shoved him out of my way very hard, then stood face to face with the big one telling him I want to fight him alone, just me and him.

    The smaller one that I shoved away came back and was very angry about me shoving him. The whole group of them decided I had to fight the one I shoved because I had insulted him by shoving him.

    So we all walked to an alley and I beat that stupid mexican punk until he could not move or breathe. He never landed one punch on me. Not a single punch. I backed him up to a brick wall and just punched him 25 times or more very fast without stopping until he could not lift his arms anymore.

    Then they let me go.

    I thought they would all attack me all at once. I did not think I would live to see another day. I thought they were going to kill me with knives after I won the fight. But they didn’t.

  25. Verity says:

    My stepfather blamed himself all his adult life. He grew to be a Senior VP of a Fortune 500 Company, traveled the world and made gobs of money. He was described as the “handsomest man in —— where he lived and was encouraged to run for Mayor. Princeton educated and Naval Officer, he was a mans man. But one day, he made a mistake.

    At age 21 he was Commander of an LCI flotilla near Miwa in the Philippines, a year earlier a 90 day wonder straight out of college. Miwa is a rock, but at the time, it had an Airfield, some jungle and was being used to store AVgas for planes for the buildup to begin the push back to Midway. The orders were to lay in as close to the beach as possible to off load gasoline drums, food, supplies and ammo for the 3 huts and small garrison that manned the airfield. He ran the LCI up on the beach as per orders but bad luck, in was Spring tide and the high tide the next day wasn’t enough to use her engines to get her off the sand bar. No Problem, an LCT (Landing craft, Tank) would be there in the next day to help him off and no word would go “upstairs”. Just a newbies mistake, but no harm done.

    Except that night he forgot to double the watch.
    Two Japanese saboteurs came aboard and killed the forecastle watch and the starboard deck watch. The next day the LCT came and pulled my stepfathers ship off the shore.

    For the next 70 years my stepfather, whenever he was depressed or under stress, would relive that fateful night, beating himself up for not giving orders to double the watch, imagining he was fighting with the saboteurs or arrived just before they put the knife in. He would wake and cry. It didn’t hurt his career, there was no reason to believe that the enemy was even on the island. But he was the Old Man, the Skipper. As the saying goes, a Commander is responsible for the lives of his men, and for their deaths.

    War is a terrible thing, never to be done lightly or without securing and assuring the boys we ask to risk their lives and their minds that their cause is just.

  26. 11Fsteve in the desert says:

    In 1969, I was in an SF camp that was under siege by the 66th NVA Regt. We had quite a few WIA indig and USSF and 1 KIA Redleg, I KIA USSF later after the siege. The camp received more than 10K rounds of NVA mortar, rocket and artilley, plus night ground attacks in a 6-7 week period. The NVA were finally beaten back after weeks of fighting and air support. I did not do anything heroic but I survived. Later, when I DEROS’d and went home, my stay-at-home 2S deferrment “buddies” wanted to know first thing what the “action was like” in Vietnam. It was much easier to say that it was quiet where I was and that the country was beautiful. They seemed to be genuinely disappointed by my answer. None of those stay-at-home “buddies” from my past ever made it to my present life. Today, I have a few friends who are veterans, and some who are not. My wife is a veteran, and I stay in touch with a few guys in the SFA. I guess some of that red soil of the Central Highlands got into my DNA somehow. I think about Vietnam almost everyday and I do not have PTSD. While I recognize that our country is going through a formidable, dark and forboding cultural change, life for me is still good.

  27. Matt Bracken says:

    Mine is a little different. I had a great childhood, wonderful family, went to college then the military and got some great training. Been in a number of serious fights, but no real injuries. Aimed a gun at a few folks but never had to fire, not as of the first 56 years of my life. The only different story I can offer that relates to combat stress relates to being on the ocean on small sailboats, from 30-50 footers. I was never in land combat, but I’ve been in a bit of ocean combat, when the enemy was the faceless and uncaring sea. In the middle of the ocean, you can’t just duck into port, you are out in the big waves and high winds until the storm is over, or you have sunk and drowned. Every minute a few more big waves pass under and sometimes over your boat, and you never know if this going to be the one that smashes the boat, or rolls it over, or sinks it? It is a feeling of total dread and helplessness, that a giant wave, timed just perfectly, can roll your boat, or flip it end over end, or dismast you, or wreck your self-steering windvane when you are too tired to steer by hand. But no matter what you must continue with navigation, getting food and drink into your belly and your crew, and not give up hope. All the time during a storm, you wonder if you will ever see land again. Sometimes this has been for a few days, while you are wearing the same wet and stinking clothes under your sodden foul weather gear. The boat moving like a roller coaster in a hurricane, but you can’t just choose to get off the ride. You are on for the duration, filled with fear and dread. Nights are even worse, when you can’t even see waves coming, and they just slam your boat and take it way over at times, or smash over and rush along the decks. Down below crew are seasick and stuff has broken loose and everything is in disarray. You swear that if you make it to land, you will never get on a boat again. Fear and dread, but with some exhilaration too, surfing a sailboat down big ocean waves, sometimes out of control, waiting for her to broach-to, turn sideways to the wave, and roll over 360*. I’ve had the mast slammed down past horizontal, down into the water at crazy angles, but the boats have always righted. Fear and dread, deep in your stomach. Awful. It’s war against the sea, and the sea doesn’t care, you are no more than an ant is to an elephant. But when the storm lessens a bit and you know you and your boat will make it, you cheer back up, the galley gets cleaned up and hot food and drink are made. Finally after some more days or weeks of nicer sailing you make it to land, you forget the worst of the fear and the dread, and on a nice day, with the boat in great shape again, you head back out onto the sea again, rolling the cosmic dice with Neptune, laughing at fate, hoping not to see the big ugly waves again, hoping never to meet the waves that will sink your boat and drown you. But that same danger and dread is a big part of the lure of ocean sailing. It’s a rare modern environment where man gets to be far away from all of the rescue helicopters or CG cutters. You are on your own, come what may. I’ve always carried an EPIRB, a rescue beacon, but I’ve often been too far from land for it to matter, with no rescue possible for days at least. I’m reminded of Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now, in the Saigon hotel room. He says, “When I’m out in the bush, all I can think about is getting home. But when I’m home, I just want to get back into the bush.” That’s how the ocean is to me. Something primal draws me, even though it means going back to days of dread and fear at times, when the wind and the waves get big and scary. At least it’s better than canned entertainment on television. And it has prepared me to live through times of gnawing fear and dread that I might not see next week. I think that will be some kind of mental preparation for living post SHTF. Maybe. Anyway, I wanted to share my only scary PTSD type stories, slightly different than most.

  28. Tired old guy says:

    New reader here.
    Selco, John, and Verity all speak from the awful voice of experience. I too was the young one among the older and much more experienced, shall we say “contractors.” My mentors all died violent deaths. As time passed, I became the old man whose advice the young recruits ignored at their peril. I guess the only reason I survived where 90% of my former co-workers did not is because I listened to the old men when I was young. Somehow I made to old age. Now safely retired and living securely in the former USA. I pray that we are all just paranoid, because if hell is indeed on it’s way, the ugliness and incomprehensible horrors awaiting us all are unthinkable.
    To survive and come out the other side, a change by must by the nature of survival have occurred. That fact and action in and of itself will be the fate of but a few. Most will die crying for their mothers. For those who survive living with what you have been through and done is a daily experience.
    In combat, I learned that in order to survive, you must accept the fact that you are already dead. Make peace with your non-existence and learned to live with the thought, “today is a good day to die.”. Then go out and share my day with any living thing unlucky enough to encounter me. Any attempt to hold on to the past, a future, hope——is weakness and will get you killed. You are dead. Act like it and you might live. Live for the kill, become death.
    It is very difficult to extricate one’s mind from this place.
    Selco, I am praying to God that what we all fear, yet feel inescapably pursuing us is just a nightmare. I don’t want to go back, and yet one day I might wake up to horrors outside my front door. I never in my worst nightmares expected that here, and yet here it is. There is blame enough for all. Maybe it’s me getting older, but for the first time in my life I find myself truly beseeching God for help, not for myself, I am old and will die soon. No, I pray for humanity and what we have let ourselves become. We CAN do better than this. Please God forgive us for what we have done.

    • Selco says:

      I agree with that philosophy in combat, and i used it a lot in my time. It is about accepting the reality around you and being in peace with yourself, after you achieve that your performance will be better, and you will be much calmer, but as i read you know all this.
      We had name for that, it is hard to do some translation, but shortest explanation would be “I ll do my best, but it is not in my hands anyway”

  29. Selco, what in your experience was the benefit, of any, to people who started with strong religious beliefs? Did they survive the horrors better than those without such beliefs? Did it make any difference?

    • Selco says:

      Lot of the people who had strong religious beliefs lost their faith after some time, but also many people find it too. To be honest i seen lot of people of religion died, some of them with horrible deaths. I met guys who had faith and stated that it is easier for them and that they are in peace with themselves. I am sure in one thing, all of us had lot of thoughts about that, or fights with internal demons.
      To answer it short, yes i think it made difference on some personal level.

  30. Michael says:

    Yeah, I had these experiences, both as a Marine Rifleman, and as a street cop for two decades. Luckily none of it affected me in the slightest.

    Like i say, didn’t affect me at all. Now if i could only understand why the wrong song, or the wrong movie scene causes my eyes to tear up. Or why i used to jump out of my skin at professional fireworks. Or why nothing seems important. Or understand why i can’t make a relationship work since my divorce 10 years ago. And why i feel mostly embarrassed of, instead of proud of the war, or of a police bravery medal. And why i feel sickened when i see very young boys wearing ROTC uniforms.

    Like i said, lucky i never got any of that PTSD stuff.

    • .02 says:

      Oh man can I relate. I am to the point of life losing its meaning and just being absolutely no fun anymore. EVERYTHING is pissing me off and relationships are getting destroyed. But the kicker is we are not alone. Go out and talk to the average 50+ year old and you will find a reflection of sameness. Everyone else is pissed off as well. Was at the local gun show last weekend and a box of .22 was going for 60 bucks, more people trying to sell their guns than buying, shop owners totally pissed off @ the current administration and the place just had a weird negative mood about it. Years past, as I go to them every year, it was way more festive damn near a party atmosphere. To put it in simple terms, things suck. Oh and btw, I cant stomach to even turn on the television not the less watch it. I think soon I will shoot the bastard.

      • john says:

        I havn’t watched TV since they switched to digital broadcast…and even before that all I watched was Seinfeld re-runs and the antique roadshow on PBS. I just had a conversation with an immigrant from Brazil. He was furious over the new nationalized health care system, recent gun control efforts, and the bailout money given to the banks. He said all the things he left Brazil for are little by little coming to america now.

  31. Jason says:

    Hey Selco and other posters.

    I went through hell back in 2011 and I seriously hope I never have to live through a situation like this again in my lifetime. I relive this nightmare almost daily, but I am surviving.

    A few notes. I never mentioned in the story that I was armed with a machete. The night before was long, and sleepless and I was a fool. I was wearing it, but it has been somewhat trapped under my bag. Guns are completely illegal here, but I plan on being armed on future trips.

    I hope you guys don’t mind how long it is. I wrote this for another survival website and a treasure hunting site I frequent. Here it is:


    Hello fellow adventurers. I am a 36 year old male, who grew up in Alaska. I have a fairly crazy story to tell.

    A little introduction to the kind of person that I am. Growing up in Alaska and playing in the great outdoors has always been a huge part of my life. When i was a couple years old, my wonderful father would strap me on his back and take my sister and I fishing. I absolutely love him for that. The beauty and serenity of the great outdoors has always been a stress relief for me. My other hobbies, which of course involved the outdoors is organic gardening and gold prospecting.

    My life in general has been one of a hermit. I have lived in many states, but most of those years were in Alaska. I always had a pretty great job as a carpet installer which allowed me to work all over the US. One day I landed a pretty nice job in Whitehorse, Yukon Canada and decided I wanted to get out of the rat race. I would work during the day and research on my dream destination during the evening. Gold was skyrocketing in value the last few years and it is a passion of mine. I had spent 6 weeks in Belize, and Guatemala Central America and I really loved the tropics. Through out my research, I always came across Ecuador and as a very unexplored region with massive “golden” opportunities. To top it all off, the small village of Vilcabamba is known for its fertile soil and perfect climate. I decided this would be my mini-base to explore out of.

    I have always been a huge adventure fan and I feel like I had a past life as an explorer. I always loved ancient history and the Inca culture especially fascinated me. I worked for about 8 months solid, enduring the insane weather of the Yukon territories to save up for my trip to Ecuador. It was a pretty exciting day stepping on the plane to Ecuador.(partly because I was still freezing my butt off in Whitehorse). The only negative I could think of was having to learn another language. I am still working on that!

    Entering the third month of my trip, I had the worst day of my life and will most likely be the worst day until death. I had been making some multi-day trips into the jungle outside of the Amazonian town of Tena. Before my final trip, I had completed 2 other trips of 3 days each. I was sampling for gold by crevicing. This particular river is very fast flowing and has eroded the area of the river all the way down to bedrock. Gold is very heavy and will sink down to this layer of rock and it gets trapped inside the large cracks. My job was to clean out the cracks in search of the elusive shiny stuff. After my 3rd trip in, I made a conclusion. This river is very rich in gold! I managed to scrape out 2-3 grams of gold a day. On the evening of the third day on the third trip in, I suffered through some pretty heavy rains. So heavy, that my special Clark’s Jungle Hammock that was supposed to be torrential rain proof actually started leaking on me. That entire night was very uncomfortable for both my little puppy and I.(I had been given a cute 5 month old puppy as a gift from a friend). I was up most of the night trying to stay dry and had to get soaked rigging up a second cover over my hammock.

    The rain continued all night and the water level was quite high. I decided to call it quits and pack up and head to my room in Tena. In order to get to my area I was working, I had about an hour hike on a decent trail. This area is absolutely beautiful and very pristine. I packed up and headed back up the trail. I finally made it to the entrance of the trail system and noticed just how quiet the surrounding area was. The entrance to the trail system is at the “Piscina” which means pool in Spanish. It is a beautiful natural pool caused by a smaller river entering the larger one. Usually the place can be fairly hopping, but not a soul was around due to the high water level. I pulled out my cell phone and had no signal. I didn’t realize there was no phone signal for a couple of kilometers. My phone’s battery was dead, and I had felt downright stupid when I discovered I had forgotten to turn it off. I knew there was a village only a few kilometers away, so I started my small journey. About halfway to the village, I saw a couple young adults riding a single silver bike. It had pegs, and one of them was on the pegs. I greeted them and they waved back. I asked them if they could call a taxi for me, not realizing there wasn’t a signal in the area. One of them said no signal. I said thanks, and they both rode on ahead of me up a hill. It was about 9:30 am at this point and I saw the same guys looking down at the river ahead of me on top of the small hill. They waved again, and one of them pulled out his cell phone to check again and shook his head no. They rode on ahead again around a curve in the road. This is the point where I started feel nervous. Small alarms were setting off in my head. I noticed on the ground there was a pretty pathetic stick, about the size of your average walking stick. Just having the stick in hand relaxed me a bit. There was a slight curve in the road, blocking my view ahead of me. I again saw the two guys looking down at the river. The one who had a cell phone earlier again had his phone in his hand and nodded yes to me with a bit of excitement. Yes, he was calling a taxi. He had his phone to his ear as if he was calling one and they both approached me. My puppy(Tequila) started freaking out on me and I had never seen him act this way. He was yipping in fright and this is where the nightmare began.

    As the two guys got within 5 feet of me, the one without the phone charged me and closed the gap in a split second. He was unloading punches on the right side of my head. I was completely focused on blocking as many punches as I could. I had three things working against me at this point. There were 2 of them, and one of me. I had a 60 pound backpack completely strapped to my back, and lastly I was beyond tired from the crazy night I had. In addition to having punches rocking my right side of my face, the second guy was working on securing my arms. The one unloading punches managed to assist in tieing up my arms and now the second guy started strangling me. I was so focused on trying to avoid as many punches as possible, that it was almost too late before realizing I was being strangled and losing conscious. I knew if I didn’t break the strangulation, I was dead. It isn’t until a life or death situation like this that you gain the strength of multiple people out of adrenaline. I managed to use every last bit of strength that I had to fling the man strangling me off. I knocked him back a good 5 feet. This is the point where the 2 guys realized they had to put me down or they would risk getting seen. Between the two of them, the managed to drag me over to the edge of the cliff and heaved me off.

    As a kid, I used to spend half my life tree climbing. When I was about 7 or 8, i was climbing a great oak tree. I was about 60 feet up, when I slipped and fell all the way down. As I was falling, I managed to slow my fall by grabbing branches, as well as slamming into branches. Believe it or not, I walked away from this with only cuts and bruises and not a single broken bone. This experience I believe is what assisted me in saving my life.

    They dragged me to the cliff and threw me over. I had a distance of about 20 feet free fall to a out jutting lip. I slammed into it and started rolling down the very steep cliff. As I fell, a combination of vines, tree branches and shrubs somehow slowed me down a bit. I continued to roll, occasionally slamming into to bushes and trees but unfortunately gravity worked against me. At this point I saw the river getting closer and closer to me. In addition to the river, I also had a very large tree approaching. I knew grabbing that last tree was my only hope and managed to grasp for it. Slam, with my wind completely knocked out of me I stopped the fall a mere 15 feet above the massive class 5 river below. I laid there in disbelief marveling at being alive. I am not a religious person, but I felt like some divine guidance had a part in keeping me alive. The odds of surviving a mega beating AND surviving the fall was nearly impossible to imagine. Enduring this trial, I made a decision to give a little prayer of thanks to whoever was looking out for me. Instantly, I realized my two attackers might still be above me and there is a chance they might be able to see me still alive. I dragged myself up and hugged the side of the cliff as best as I could. After about 5 minutes of catching my breath, I then heard the horrible sound. The frantic yip of my puppy descending. It is a sound I will remember for the rest of my life. After a few seconds the sound ended in one final yelp and never again did I hear my wonderful puppies yip. My two, very evil attackers threw an innocent puppy to his death while still conscience. The realization of that hit me as hard as the actual attack. These guys had no conscience and were absolutely evil. Another couple of minutes passed and I saw my torn shirt get tossed over and join a pile of other bits of clothing and odds and ends.

    After about 10 minutes of hell, i decided to carefully explore my area. There was a fairly scattered pile of rubbish laying in the area, from water bottles to torn clothing and boots. Others had died here, most likely getting chucked down and into the river. My survival-oriented mind told me a couple of things. I can scrounge up some odds and ends from this pile of trash to assist in my survival. I knew there was no hope of white water rafters coming down the river from the point I was. The main entry into the river system was still another mile+ at the village I was originally heading to. I thought maybe I could tie some of the torn clothing items together and hang it off the tree in case it could be seen from a distance. I knew it was early, and due to the numerous water bottles I could survive at least a night. This is the point where I had a decision to make. Stay here for the night and wait the murderers out, or go ahead and try to climb out. I couldn’t even see upper part of the cliff above me, but had to make up my mind. I knew once the adrenaline was gone, I would be hurting and had only a single eye to work with. Time would be the enemy so my decision was made. I am an experienced climber, from my boyhood tree climbing to some minor rock climbing.

    I started out trying to scale to my left, but I came across a large area that was completely open, with absolutely nothing to grab on to. I had no choice but head to my right. There were numerous obstacles in my path, from massive, dense bushes, to again..large open areas. I had to scale up and down over and under the numerous obstacles. Throughout all of this, I was being stung by many dozens of vicious little ants. When you are climbing to shrubs and anything else to save your life, a little ant bite is nothing. To top everything off, all branches and footing was completely slippery from the recent rain. I had quite a few close calls and near death experiences, one being a situation where I slipped, fell another 5 feet and racked myself. If that tree hadn’t been there, I would have fallen all the way down into the river to my death. After a good hour of scaling, I started to grow weary and desperate. One point I reached an area that had no branches, shrubs or anything to grab onto. A big open patch of dirt. After a minute of resting and trying to clear my head, I noticed the area was dotted with decent sized trees and i know just how extensive the root systems of trees needed to be for survival. I noticed a root looping out of the ground not too far away and it was this that gave me the idea. The soil was fairly loose in the area, so i used one hand to dig as best i could. It was actually a bit spongy and I was able to dig in fairly deep. I found some solid roots within 6 inches and it was perfect for grabbing onto. I could pull myself up a bit, but then what? It was about 8 feet across to more trees and a continuation of my nightmare out.

    I knew I could continue digging for roots, but how would I know where to put my foot? I broke off a few sticks and put them in my pocket. I could use these sticks to mark the roots i dug out to provide some footing, albeit treacherous. Success! By pushing the stick into the hole, I was able to mark the very important locations for my footing. My plan worked quite well, and I reached the area with more plant growth. Keep in mind, I only had a single eye through out this entire climb. I had to look over as best I could using my left eye only. I was scaling to my right. Another useful tactic that worked for me was grabbing the root base of even small bushes, branches etc. I was able to continue pulling myself along on these rather small shrubs and in some cases branches. Never, ever grab the middle, or even worth end of a branch. You have your best chance of survival by grabbing towards the base of the branch. It was a good 90 minutes or even a bit longer that I came across a miracle and my first real hope.

    A huge landslide had occurred quite some time ago and left some large trees uprooted. I was able to use these trees like a ladder, climbing upward to victory. I slowly climbed up, rejoicing at the light of the road. A sudden fear entered me, slowing down my celebration a bit. What if my would be murderers were stillaround. I made the decision to crawl into a pile of high brush that would conceal me to get an idea on the dangers of moving forward. I laid in the same spot, unmoving, for a good 15 minutes or so. The adrenaline was starting to wear off, and pain was returning at a very quick rate. As I was climbing up, I heard the sound of a motor heading from my right to my left heading to the direction of the touristy pool. I knew wobbling back to the pool and hoping someone was there was my best hope. I had this nagging fear that my would’ve murderers would be at the village I was originally heading to. So I made up my mind and as quick as possible hobbled to the tourist pool. I was constantly fearful or running into them, or having them sneak up behind me. Eventually I made it to the entrance of the pool and saw the light. A motorcycle was parked outside! I quickened my pace and made it to the picnic area where I saw the most wonderful sight ever! A family was having lunch. They looked at me in shock as I approached, a bleeding mess. I explained my situation as best I could in my broken Spanish and they quickly led me to their bike, and to the rest of my life!

    This ends my story. In the end, I ended up with a massive black eye, a very sore chin, massive lacerations to my neck, a sprained leg and about 100+ ant bites, scrapes, and dozens of bruises. Not a single broken bone throughout my body and no permanent injuries. I made a full recovery from this physically, accept for a strange flash in my right eye. It only occurs when it is darker, but it is bearable. For those who have helped me, physically and emotionally, a very grateful thanks.


    I do have recurring nightmares on occasion, but as the saying goes…time heals all wounds. Horrible experience aside, I still live in Ecuador and don’t see myself ever leaving. Lesson learned.

  32. Jason says:

    Just a quick note for Selco. I greatly appreciate you sharing all your experiences and I am guessing your advice is going to save lives down the road. I can imagine how hard it is to put some of these experiences into words and having to relive them.

  33. Pat says:

    Thanks, Selco. How do you and Jay recommend making friends again when you have PTSD? We moved to our present town because of a series of killings. We tried to do CPR on my next-door neighbor after her husband stabbed her in front of their 3 children, but our effort failed. She had already lost too much blood. Shortly before that, my close friend was decapitated with a machete by her only son. Shortly after we left, our co-worker and neighbor, who was a double-amputee diabetic in a wheelchair, was robbed and stabbed to death by a kid looking for money to buy a fix. We have no friends here in our new town. We are hypervigilant. We are not at war yet, but I can see it coming because of poverty, and we cannot leave the country. As you say, nobody can survive alone in SHTF situation. Any advice?

    • Selco says:

      Some system of choosing people that have same interest would make sense as a starting point. From there it is about carefully recognizing what kind of people are they.

    • Dave says:

      Selco, as always another interesting, thought provoking article. I highly commend what you are doing. Speaking the truth, helping wake people up before SHTF is the only way they can
      begin to prepare and have any hope at all of surviving. While it is true one cannot foresee and prepare for everything, you can prepare for most things. The hardest part of this is in
      finding other like-minded people whom you can trust and have similar values as you.

      Pat, start with your local church and PD and fire department. Generally the people who belong to those groups see themselves as good people who have an obligation to their communities and fellow humans. Stay away from anyone who openly defies government,
      laws, police etc while stating they are “patriots”. They are nothing but anti-social personalities and I suspect a good many are provocateurs working for groups with hidden agendas.

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