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Counting Sheep (a Poem About P.T.S.D)

John is passionate about human and animal rights, social justice, equality, and the environment, and likes to convey that in his writing.


What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

There are four major problems associated with PTSD:

  • Reliving the traumatic event – through unwanted and recurring memories or vivid nightmares. Getting really upset when you’re reminded of what happened, or having intense physical reactions like sweating, pounding or racing heart, or rapid or irregular breathing.
  • Being overly alert or wound-up – having trouble sleeping or concentrating, feeling irritable or short-tempered, becoming easily startled, or feeling like you’re always on the lookout for signs of danger.
  • Avoiding reminders of the event – such as activities, places, people, thoughts or feelings associated with the traumatic event.
  • Negative thoughts or feelings – feeling flat, numb, afraid, or angry a lot of the time, having unrealistic expectations of yourself or other people, losing interest in day to day activities like work or playing with your kids, or feeling cut off from your family and friends.

Traumatic experiences are common, and about two thirds of the population will experience at least one traumatic event in their lives. In addition to traumas commonly faced by the general community such as car accidents and assaults, veterans can be exposed to severe traumatic events during the course of their service. This places them at greater risk of developing PTSD than the general population. Between five and ten percent of the general community are likely to develop PTSD at some point in their lives,compared to up to 20 percent of veterans (depending on the nature of their work and deployment history).

(source:Aust. Government Dept. of Veterans' Affairs

Counting Sheep

As nighttime creeps

And the Sandman peeps

I start counting sheep

To get to sleep.

I lie reposed upon the bed

A pillowed cloud beneath my head

My dream time state is full of dread

Sometimes I dream that I am dead.

I turn out the light

But sleep I fight

In the depths of night

Else I wake in fright.

Image by Dennis Larson

Image by Dennis Larson

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Scenes of war just fill my dreams

Comrades dressed in jungle greens,

Bombs exploding, or so it seems

Women and children, I hear their screams.

Oil fuelled greed

Extolled false need

To watch friends bleed

So Iraqis could be freed..

I spring from the bed and grab my gun

Must keep the enemy on the run.

The Iraq mission, long since done

Afghanistan my latest one.

I was forced to kill

It plagues me still,

So I take a pill

Against my will

The 9 /11 attack is still our debt,

Bin Laden's dead, no more a threat.

With guilt and horror I still fret.

Has war helped lives? Not one, I bet.

My wife and children cower in fright

When I wake in terror through the night.

But the shrink says I will be alright

My long term future should be bright.

It's 2am, I'm not asleep,

The house is quiet, there's not a peep.

Like treading water in the deep

I close my eyes and count those sheep.


© 2013 John Hansen


John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on February 24, 2018:

Thank you, Robin. I try to put myself in my subject's shoes and try to imagine what they are going through. I hope the majority of the time I succeed in portraying that.

Robin Carretti from Hightstown on February 23, 2018:

Very well done your work and emotionally sad so frightening life can be

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on October 29, 2014:

Yes Jack and Jill, their wool is in great demand. Thanks for reading.

JACK AND JILL on October 29, 2014:

I WANT THOSE SHEEP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on August 24, 2014:

I really appreciate you taking the time to read this poem. I think PTSD is a real problem in society in general but more so with our serving military and veterans. I am glad you could feel it.

Trisha Roberts from Rensselaer, New York on August 24, 2014:

This was a very powerful poem and beautifully written. So many troops suffer with PTSD and many just don't understand what they go through, went through, and feel and as reading this I can definitely feel the expressions that you described.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on August 24, 2014:

Thank you for coming back to read this Arachnea. Yes you are right, there are a number of different scenarios that could haunt the dreams of our servicemen and women. My son in law is deployed for clean up operations after earthquakes, flood and other disasters. He has been traumatised by dealing with dead bodies and remains of children especially.

Tanya Jones from Texas USA on August 24, 2014:

I love the very last stanza. So few people realize the things the mind has to absorb in battle conditions. Just like the victim who relives an attack, night after night, so do many of the men and women who were stationed in battle zones. Only, many times, they were the aggressors and had to do things they were not proud of or willing to. Great hub.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on August 24, 2014:

Thank you for that kind comment tillsontitan. My son in law is in the armed forces and is suffering at the moment. It is not fun believe me. Thank you for the vote up and share too.

Mary Craig from New York on August 24, 2014:

What a beautiful way to handle such a tragic event in so many lives. I can't imagine how horrible it must be to live those terrors over and over.

Your poem is beautiful!

Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting, and shared.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on August 23, 2014:

Look forward to seeing you Arachnea. thanks.

Tanya Jones from Texas USA on August 23, 2014:

Oh my goodness. What an engaging image. I'll definitely have to whiz by at some point and read it.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on August 23, 2014:

I have just updated this hub adding info and a new video., so thought I'd reshare. Hope you enjoy.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on March 11, 2014:

Thank you Audrey for your equally touching comment. I believe these things need to be discussed and shared rather then pushed aside and forgotten about. I greatly appreciate you pinning and sharing it. Have a great day.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on March 11, 2014:

Your heart-rendering poem is all too true for so many who serve and have served our country. I am so very touched by your words. You have a tender and beautiful heart, my friend.

This poem will be shared and pinned to remind others of how blessed we are to have such heroes. Thank you Jodah ~ Audrey

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on March 11, 2014:

Yes Vellur it is sad, and I often wonder how the world got to this stage of disharmony. It will be a wonderful day when all wars, terrorism, cruelty and crime ceases and we all live together in peace.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on March 11, 2014:

It is really sad that things happen the way it does in this world filled with terror strikes, wars and crimes.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on January 02, 2014:

I love to hear how people can relate to my poetry and the reason behind it teaches. I am glad your brother got through his tough time with loving family support. I wish him all the best. Thank you for you kind comments.

Dianna Mendez on January 02, 2014:

My brother suffered for years after his term of military service. It is the love and support of family and good therapy that gets one through those rough times of life. Your poem is beautiful in this respect. God bless you.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on December 30, 2013:

Thanks Eric, it seems As if I'm being directed by some unknown force to write on certain more controversial topics lately. Yes I've got the Aussie war front covered, you keep watching out for the American one. Keep up the good work.

Eric Wayne Flynn from Providence, Rhode Island on December 30, 2013:

Love the topics in the last two weeks. This one is certainly agreeable with me. Glad you've got the Australian front locked down on war meditations. I have a lot of fun here in America fighting the same fight.


John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on December 21, 2013:

We haven't learnt from our mistakes up until now, so why start. A world without wars, what a dream. Thanks for reading and commenting.

drbj and sherry from south Florida on December 21, 2013:

Unfortunately, Jodah, PTSD lingers long after the actual wars are over. Will humanity every learn?

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on December 21, 2013:

Thank you for your generous comments Genna, the sooner Governments stop getting involved in unwinable wars where the only outcome is the sacrifice of our soldiers (both physical and mental). Thanks also for voting up and sharing.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on December 21, 2013:

When I read this powerful and beautiful poem, PTSD is the first thing I thought of. Once in a while, I see this in the eyes our soldiers that have returned from the Middle East – it breaks your heart. When will this madness ever end? Voted up and sharing.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on December 18, 2013:

Thanks for discovering me It's true you did, introduced me to others and encouraged me to write more.You created a monster..haha. I am amazed how versatile my writing has become and developed in a short time. Thanks again for your wonderful comments.

Nellieanna Hay from TEXAS on December 18, 2013:

Thank you, Jodah. You're sort of my 'discovery', too, so I'm constantly delighted and amazed with your versatility and true talent. When we met, I had only glimpses of what was behind that profile! Your following now speaks about your depth and breadth!

Oh, my, yes - that cleanup duty would be as bad or worse than battle trauma - all indiscriminate innocent victims who died with little or no warning or expectation. Just the rubble itself is depressing, representing homes and businesses built over lifetimes, perhaps. I can't imagine the permanent memory of all that your son-in-law must face every day when he awakens. I hope there will be relief for him.

I know, firsthand, the lasting nature of memory of horrific experience, yet I was spared witnessing or manually dealing with the scene of the accident, though, as your son-in-law so greatly was involved in a much larger tragic scene.

In a way, one's imagination can work a lot of havoc on one's unshakable mental imagery and with no real validation, the imagery shifts constantly, changes and evolves, as one imagines more possibilities. I am glad to say I have let go of the rawness of the anguish, though. I think about it only when there is a reason, such as it anniversary and now, writing about it.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on December 17, 2013:

Thank you for visiting this hub and you're always wonderful and insightful comment Nellieanna. You are probably correct that the media has brought more of these problems to our attention than before.

My son-in-law's post traumatic stress was not caused by fighting in the front line, but by clean up duties after typhoons and earthquakes etc. having to dig through rubble for dead bodies and the like..but nonetheless traumatic when you are dealing with the bodies of innocent women and is the smell of decay and death that stays with him.

Nellieanna Hay from TEXAS on December 17, 2013:

Intense, bold and realistically told, John. Your percussive rhyme seems to mark the starkness and cadence of war and its effects on people.

I had a young friend who had returned from Vietnam a little before I met him in 1973, whose personal peace-of-mind and optimism had been ruptured by that experience. Of course all wars exact their tolls on human life, - both those lost lives and those surviving in halfway-state, but the wars since WWII actually have seemed more devastating and personal to those who had to participate in them and then try to continue 'normal' lives. Or perhaps we've had more chance to share in their struggles through the media.

My best hopes for your son-in-law who has been among those.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on December 17, 2013:

Thank you Pamela for your heartfelt comments. No, I fortunately am not one of those fighting this battle, but I do know some who are. It is touching that this poem evokes such emotion, and that I have made it so personal to make you think I could be going through this myself.

God bless you also.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on December 17, 2013:

Your poem really says it all for so many vets. It is heartbreaking. I know people who have fought this battle and did get better over time with help. If this is you, I pray you will be one that is healed of those memories that haunt you. God bless.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on December 17, 2013:

Thank you so much Nikki, yes, it doesn't end with the war.

Beautiful Garbage from Louisiana on December 17, 2013:

I can't imagine the things our soldiers go through and still go through even when they are home. Good poem.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on December 17, 2013:

Thank you for those wonderful comments Anna, this poem obviously succeeded in getting my intended message across. Never had one of my poems called "powerful" so often. Yes, you are right this seems to be an ongoing human cost of war.

Anna Haven from Scotland on December 17, 2013:

This is a very powerful message and very well written.

You capture perfectly the futility of war and the tragic human cost involved, a cost which goes on and on.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on December 17, 2013:

Not a problem Alicia, commentaries on the aftermath and effects of war seem to be driving me lately, as though I have been chosen to get the point across...weird hey? Thank you for reading and your kind comment.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on December 16, 2013:

This is a powerful poem about a very sad situation that is unfortunately all too real for some people. Thanks for creating and sharing the poem, Jodah.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on December 16, 2013:

Ms Dora, It is a shame so many are going through this, and hopefully the Governments are doing enough to provide the much needed help for these suffering men and women. Thanks for reading.

Ann, Thank you. I hope it ends soon. Wouldn't it be great if there were no more wars, and no more suffering.

Jamie, Thank you for your kind and encouraging words. Yes the message needs to be shared widely, if this poem can help...great.

Jamie Lee Hamann from Reno NV on December 16, 2013:

This is one of those poems that needs to be read. Thank you for sharing. Jamie

Ann Carr from SW England on December 16, 2013:

Powerful stuff. I guess many of our soldiers have such dreams and try to count sheep for a peaceful sleep. So many of our boys come back in a box - when will it ever end? Brilliant poem. Ann

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on December 16, 2013:

A sad commentary, but thank God, help is available. Also thankful that there is life which hopefully can be improved. Thank you for sharing on this sensitive subject.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on December 16, 2013:

Hey Sweet Blue-Eyed Girl Kim, thank you again for your kind words. Do you know you show up as "A guest user", does that mean you are no longer an HP member?

ocfireflies on December 16, 2013:


Awesome poem. PTSD is so real for so many. You captured this type of stress expertly. V+/share.



John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on December 16, 2013:

Thanks for sharing that personal story about your brother-in-law Flourish. You are right, there are many like him. Fortunately the last Australian troops have been withdrawn from Afghanistan today...that's good news at least.

FlourishAnyway from USA on December 16, 2013:

My brother-in-law was career army and spent time in Afghanistan and Iraq, Bosnia, peacekeeping tours in Korea and too many other places to mention. He is a very changed person, especially as a result of Iraq. He'd get wounded mentally and physically and they'd patch him/medicate him up just enough to send him back to the front lines. So is war. There are many like him.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on December 16, 2013:

Thank you so much Jo, those comments humble me. I always try to convey a message or stir emotions in my poetry. I'm glad this one succeeded.

Jo Alexis-Hagues from Lincolnshire, U.K on December 16, 2013:

Wow...this beautifully written poem pressed so many buttons. You are truly talented, your poems never fails to bring out the emotion. Simply Awesome!!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on December 16, 2013:

Same here Gaeltach, but I 'm afraid I would have been a conscientious objector if required to fight as I am totally against war and senseless killing. Yes there always seems to be a new wanna be dictator emerging somewhere. Thank you for your reading and wonderful comment.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on December 16, 2013:

Thanks for reading Frank, and your generous comments, I really value your opinion.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on December 16, 2013:

Joelle, I really hope your dream comes true one day soon. Yes, I loved the coloured sheep and had to

use it.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on December 16, 2013:

Thank you Bill. Well if countries can ensure there are no more wars it may prevent these dreams, until then we must ensure there is enough 'help' for the sufferers. Thanks for your kind words.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on December 16, 2013:

Faith, it must be terrifying for a child to have a father suffering post traumatic stress and night terrors. Sorry if this is too close to home, but you said you wrote a poem about it also...I have to read it. Thanks for voting up and sharing.

Ghaelach on December 16, 2013:

Morning John.


Was I one of the lucky people, that was either to young or to old to fight in the many wars that our countries must help with. Seeing the horrors of war and seeing the after effect it has on those that fought in those wars I ask myself is it all worth it.

Long after these war have finished there comes along another one of those"I'd like to be a Dictator" types, and it starts all over again. Maybe this planet was made for peace, but the human being that lives on it wasn't.


Frank Atanacio from Shelton on December 15, 2013:

wow raw hard words sad.. but beautifully written

kidscrafts from Ottawa, Canada on December 15, 2013:

I had one wish when I had my children and it was that they would never know war. They heard about it on the news. My biggest dream is to have a world at peace so all the children of the world can wake up each morning without fright but with a big smile and live and play as each child should.

I love your picture at the top! It would be nice to count all those coloured sheep :-)

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 15, 2013:

A very real dream for many. It is time that countries make sure these dreams never happen again. Beautiful sentiment and powerful message my friend.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on December 15, 2013:

My Dad suffered with post traumatic stress disorder, and I would lie awake and hear him reliving the horrors of war, and believe me they were horrors. I wrote a poem about it too.

Up and more and sharing


Faith Reaper

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on December 15, 2013:

Not true for me Jackie, but I have a son in law who has to have counselling regularly for post traumatic stress, so it is very real unfortunately.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on December 15, 2013:

Thank you for your visit and kind comment Laurie....yes this is a very sad, but common story for our returning heroes.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on December 15, 2013:

Sure hope this is not a true story, and I know I am bad for even saying that when I have people say it to me and I figure what does it matter. It is true for someone, many someones and that is the horror. Very well done either way. ^+ as always. You are a splendid poet and story teller.

Rayne123 on December 15, 2013:


Beautiful yet sad to live in a destructive world

Very vivid poetry



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