I know it's been a while again since I last wrote. The incidents that spurred me to write again recently have taken a toll. I don't know where to begin but I can tell you that I feel particularly lost right now - and I don't know why.
Life is good.
I have a good job that I am passionate about. I have an amazing daughter who astounds me every day with her joy and compassion for others. I think I finally am beginning to surround myself with people who care about me, professionally, people I call friends.
Yet, I can't remember the last time I felt so alone, so out of touch, so isolated from the world around me. I fight every day against feeling lost, hopeless and depressed. And it hasn't been easy to do that recently. When I'm not 'on' for work, I struggle to get up off the couch.
The people around me deserve better but I can feel myself withdrawing from them in spite of myself and my best efforts. So the question remains - WHY?
It's begun to sink in recently that many people see me as the person I am at work: confident, passionate, caring, sense of humor. The sad part is that part of me has felt increasingly like a persona, not who I am. That pisses me off like you would not believe. I like that guy. He puts himself out there. He empowers those around him.
So why don't I feel like that guy is me? I feel like when I get home, all of my fears, frustrations, and anger bubble up and consume me and overwhelm me. My only saving grace is my beautiful daughter who can snap me out of this funk when I have her with me.
And that's when it hit me: not having someone to share life with is taking a toll on me. It's hard enough to contend with PTSD on a regular basis but when you don't have someone to care for, someone to care FOR you, someone to confide in and someone who confides IN you, the loneliness can be exceedingly overwhelming at times. It makes me feel guilty because I know I probably put more on my daughter that I realize and that's not fair to her. I'm not saying I do it intentionally, you get emotional support and validation wherever you can whenever you can. But I know it's not fair to her so I 've worked to shelter her from that out of a deep and abiding sense of love.
So I've found solace where I can. Work. Travel. Work. More Work. Growing the business. Work. More Work. More Travel. Work.
All so I can give Caley the things I want to be able to provide her with.
I put my heart and soul into every day at work. Same with what I try to do for my daughter. But I can't remember the last time I did something to take care of myself and that's a major problem.
It's creating this dichotomy between the work me and the personal me and I don't like it.
So what do I do? The symptoms of my PTSD have been very hard to cope with recently. The hyper-vigilance, being easily triggered, intrusive recollections, nightmares....They're all getting increasingly worse and I have struggled to find a way to regain equilibrium. I've spent a lot of time this weekend in quiet introspection, working to figure this out.
This weekend has been quite an eye opener. I've thought things through from pretty much every angle. There is no dichotomy. Work me is me. Personal me is me too. The difference is the nature of the support network I have through work versus what I have in my personal life.
I've been very successful over the last few years in creating a professional life that is filled with good people and that is highly rewarding.
I can't say that I have been as successful in my personal life. I really don't have much in the way of friends, don't like going out much, and find opening myself up to others and sharing my struggles to be very difficult.
Trusting others is very hard for me.
I think it's also a self-esteem issue, I think. I don't feel like I'm worth the time to take care of so I haven't. I haven't seen a primary care physician in years. I saw a dentist for the first time in more than two years just a few months ago. My overall health has suffered due to many circumstances outside of my control - the VA not being able to provide me the care I need, private health insurance not covering other medications that I need to manage my psoriasis when the VA failed me.
For the longest time I have refused to see private doctors out of a foolish stubborn sense of pride - that I shouldn't HAVE to pay for care I deserve.
But something's got to give. And it starts today. I'm so done with outside influences having a damaging impact on my life. I'm putting myself first for a while. I'm going to see a primary care physician and I am going to get put on medically supervised weight loss so that I can aggressively shed this weight I can't seem to shake. I'm going to exercise every day. I'm going to put the phone away and focus on my wellness, physical and mental.
I've already gotten everything set up and in line to do this. The laundry is done and completely caught up. I set up the bike trainer in the basement and am going to ride on it tonight for at least a half hour. I just need the support and understanding of those around me to make it happen.
Over the course of this week, I am going to re-engage with my physician, get referred to someone who can help with the weight loss, get referred to a rheumatologist, speak to my dermatologist, and more.
Everything has begun to suffer because of how things have been going in my life and I feel like if I don't take control of my wellness now, I never will.
The Daily Exercise Diary
From this point on, I am going to share what I can about my efforts to help myself. I will share my exercise routine, how hard it was to get out of bed, how I felt before exercise, how I felt after, how I feel at work, when I leave work, etc.
Please bear with me as I get back into the routine and thank all of you who have reached out to support me over the years. I know I haven't been blogging nearly as much as I used to but I stand committed to this effort. See you all tomorrow.
So, I had to travel down to Northern Virginia for work this morning. It was my first long drive since I had the accident on my return trip from the same area a month ago.
I had been dreading this day, but I knew it was coming. In my line of work, I have to travel to meet with teaming partners and customers. It doesn't mean that I wasn't terrified as hell that I'd 'lose consciousness' or 'fall asleep' or whatever happened last time.
I was edgy as hell and didn't sleep well last night as a result of it. I got up early and hit the road wondering if I was going to be ok, but felt seriously spooked.
I arrived in one piece without the slightest hint of drowsiness...
Wondering if I'm EVER going to be able to drive without fear again.
What I realized is that while the accident and the drive today triggered my PTSD, I was surprised to discover it wasn't the event that triggered my PTSD. It wasn't the fear either. It was the memory of waking up, wondering if today was the day that I was going to die, having to confront that reality, be ok with it.
For obvious reasons, the memory of that reality was not exactly one that I cherish. But is was a necessary reality. Every day you go outside the wire in Iraq, you have to confront your fear, otherwise it can paralyze you and make you freeze when you can't afford to. Accepting every morning that each day could be my last saved my life.
There's a false equivalence between the two experiences that is bothering the hell out of me though. This is the definition of scripted behavior. So how do I address this? I can't go into hypervigilant mode every time I have to drive a longer distance. It's not sustainable and neither is the adrenalin that was flowing through me all day today. It's exhausting and frustrating all at the same time.
I just don't know how to fix this feeling. I'm a bit out of practice with contending with and deconstructing new scripted behavior. I guess we'll see how the return trip on Friday goes.
So I said I would explain more - here I am. After the accident, I thought I was ok. I didn't seem any worse for wear. About five days passed and something changed. Maybe it was the shock wearing off, I don't know. All I know is that I suddenly started having constant nightmares.
It was different this time.
Rather than being the 'usual' reliving of the friendly fire incident, I find myself on a cot in a hallway when another soldier - a sergeant, comes running in, dazed and hysterical, with blood all over his face. He keeps on saying that there's been a vehicle accident and that the other passenger was killed. I had to keep him from going back out there.
This is where it gets weird for me. I can't tell if this happened or not in reality. Talk about screwing with your head. The recollection (if that's what it is) seems too specific and too detailed not to be real but I have no clear memory of this incident when I'm conscious. Is this what a repressed memory resurfacing is like? Talk about terrifying. What else is out there that I don't know about?
Needless to say, this is triggering the hell out of my PTSD when I'm awake and making it very hard to fall asleep most nights. Last night was the first night since the insomnia started on Wednesday that I slept for more than two hours in a night. And here I sit, wondering what will happen tonight.
The one thing I do know for certain: It's not a coincidence that this is happening after I just survived an accident I never should have. I have survivor's guilt and I don't know why. It's somewhat surreal.
So in a nutshell, I don't feel in control AND feel powerless to do anything about it. Add that in with my current reality that I am still adjusting to at work and you've got a recipe for PTSD to overwhelm me.
But it's not. I won't let it. I may be triggered but I can honestly say that the strength and support I get from family and friends help be find a way through my minefield of emotions, just waiting for an unsuspecting foot.
Writing this is definitely helping, though. It's good to be back in the swing of things. Maybe soon I will figure out what the hell is going on and why I can't shake these new nightmares. In the interim, I will do my best to cope with what comes. Here goes nothing.
I've been going through some stuff recently that made me get online and look back at some of the blog posts I have written. This last time, I was curious to see how long it had been since I last posted on the blog and was absolutely STUNNED to find out that it's been almost two years to the day.
While I never meant for that to happen, the last two years have been crazy, different, life-changing, and somehow the same. PTSD has been my constant companion. I wasn't sure how easy it was going to be to write again but it's easier than I thought it would be. Let me fill you in on the last few years and what has transpired in my life to get be back here and back to blogging.
My Job, My Mission, and Finding Meaning
I know I spoke about my new endeavor previously. Since the last time I blogged about the company I now co-own, Netizen Corporation, we have grown to 40 employees across 13 states and have been more wildly successful that I would have ever thought possible. We have realized 3910% trailing 3-year revenue growth and we were just named as the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce Veteran Owned Company of the Year.
It's been a wild ride and my job is to continue to drive growth and help steer the vision for the company's future success.
For the remainder of 2016 and all of 2017, I was doing well, coping well. Everything was going well, we were growing, we were hiring, we were making all the right decisions. At some point in early 2018, something changed and I was triggered a lot earlier this year. I struggled mightily to cope and to stay balanced and functional at work. For the longest time I couldn't figure out what the HELL was wrong and why everything was going sideways for no damn reason at all. I even went back on mood-stabilizers I have felt so out of control. Then something happened in early August that changed my perspective on a few things and started me down this road back to blogging.
The Car Accident I Shouldn't Have Walked Away From
I'd been working myself to the bone, I was on new medication, I was exhausted. I was so tired I actually stopped at a hotel for the night on my way back from Northern Virginia. I got up early and was less than 5 miles from my house when I lost consciousness at the wheel.
TELEPHONE POLE: 1 // MAX: 0
I somewhat remember the impact, but really came to when my airbag smacked my hand into my face and the car was careening into a cornfield. If the corn wouldn't have been there, the car would have rolled for a good 50 feet. Instead, the car was settled, almost gently, back down on four tires.
I got out of the car with a slightly bruised hand and some mild chemical burns on my face from the airbag.
By all rights, I should have been hurt a lot worse, if not dead.
Talk about a wake up call. That happened on August 9th. I still do not now how I walked away from that crash but a lot of things started bubbling up as a result of it.
Work Life Balance? You're Funny
Here's the saddest part with all of this and a crazy indication of how out of balance my life was less than a month ago: I was back in the office in under three hours after the accident took place and was head down preparing for the coming month. Everyone kept on asking me if I was OK and seemed alarmed that I was at work at all that day. It didn't register with me at all.
It did that weekend. The shock of the trauma I had been through started to wear off and I thought to myself,
Dolphins, Work Trips, and Nightmares
Vacation was wonderful, I enjoyed my time with my daughter immensely. We went swimming with dolphins and it was amazing! I came back refreshed and ready to go. My first night back, I had nightmares - bad ones. I didn't think anything of it at the time, thinking it was some residual stress working its way out of my system. I left for a work trip the Sunday after I got back and all I did was work during the day at the convention I was at, write proposals in the evenings, meetings during the day, more proposals....you get the idea. Then something happened that triggered my PTSD that I couldn't help but obsess over and now I'm going on 5 hours of sleep in the last three days. I was shocked and taken aback at how quickly my condition devolved - especially after having just come back from vacation. It was like my stress bucket was either full or a lot smaller than it should be. I couldn't figure out what was causing this 'relapse' so out of desperation, I started writing in Word on my computer, just to get some stuff out and lo' and behold...the 'aha moment' came quickly to me.
What Did I Discover?
The epiphany was multi-faceted. I was stunned at how my PTSD had 'mutated' to wheedle its way into my day to day life. What I realized was that the company was growing so fast that I was no longer in complete control of every facet of the company's growth. This lack of control was a death by a thousand cuts until I found myself moody and manic on a daily basis. I've also been having nightmares and I didn't realized that there was addional trauma that I hadn't been addressing that happened overseas in Iraq. I won't go into it in this post, but I will explain later in a future post. I was also terrified to get behind the wheel of my car this coming week, even though I have a ton of strategic meetings in DC that I can't miss. All of these stressors, plus the day to day tempo at work finally sank in and I found that I wasn't coping well with anything and was constantly tired, just like I was before I went on vacation.
I don't know what motivated me to try writing again but once things started to become clearer for me, I knew I had to start up blogging again.
So here I am, still struggling but at least feeling like what's bothering me is now known to me so that I can address it, confront it, accept it, and learn to cope with it.
Thank you all for your patience. There will be more to follow but hopefully this helps acclimate everyone to where I am right now. Thank you all fo listening to the rambling of a tired guy and have a great night!
So it's official. The non-profit is shutting down. The remaining bank balance is being donated to a local established veterans charity. It may come as a disappointment and a shock to some of you that it's come to this, but please allow me to explain how all of this has come to pass.
Thank you all for your continued support. I'm getting back to basics and adding my voice to the choir once again.
Yours in Health,
I still can't believe I haven't blogged since last August...
Well, in a way I can. The divorce was finalized July 30th and it wasn't very long after that my life began to change dramatically. I don't really know why or how it happened but I just couldn't bring myself to sit down and share anything.
The words just wouldn't come and I was at a loss - because I needed the outlet but just couldn't bring myself to share. Why was this happening? Did it mean anything?
After the long hiatus, I think I know what happened:
After everything I had gone through, I needed to step away from everything that I knew so that I could find a way forward for myself.
So here's everything that's happened in the past too many months since I last blogged:
And everything felt EMPTY, bereft of meaning, bereft of hope, bereft of happiness - except when I was with my daughter.
Something started to change in mid-September. I don't even know why, but I just quit smoking cold turkey on September 15th. I haven't touched a cigarette since.
By September 30th, I was moved out of the apartment I had been married in and was living in my parents' basement while I looked for a house.
In December, our company was awarded 2015 Emerging Business of the Year and I had been responsible for 700% year over year revenue growth. As a result of my dedication, I was granted 15% ownership in the company as sweat equity. I lived for the work I was doing - in total control of my professional destiny.
I moved into a beautiful 1835 sq. foot townhome with my daughter on January 5th. As I moved in, I started to put all of the stuff back out the way I liked it, reasserting my sense of personality and style. Things that I didn't realize I had put in a 'box' both literally and figuratively over the last few years of my marriage.
In early February, I joined Title Boxing Club and immediately found my rhythm and routine there, losing 18 pounds and 4 inched off my waistline as of last week.
An then my mom asked me a very simple question:
Are you ever going to blog again? I don't think you realize how important your blog is to so many. I know I miss it. Do you even know why you stopped?
It made me stop and think. Why did I stop blogging? Did I even know when the last time I blogged WAS? I sat down and I thought about it a lot and I realized something very profound.
I'd been on autopilot, going through the motions and yet...even in my haze of pain and endings, I had somehow found the strength to make new beginnings.
So I'm sitting here and I realized that I am at a crossroads and I've been here before. I wrote a poem about it:
It is hard to see the good things in life
So it's time to make a choice. I have my daughter, a job I love, a new home, and a fresh start. What I don't have is connections with other people outside of family and work. I don't have a social life. I'm standing here watching my life pass me by like I'm a stick stuck in the mud, wondering why the rising tides of time's passage are making me feel like I'm starting to drown.
It's time to choose - do I fight free so I can float to the surface - OR do I decide to look up, take a deep breath, and step into It, Submerging self once more to be baptized by Life.
Tomorrow will tell.
Sorry it's been so long since the last blog post. I'm not going to make any promises about where things are going from here. I'm going to take it a day at a time and see what happens. Hopefully, you'll join me on this journey.
Yeah, you read that correctly. I recently met someone. She's intelligent, passionate about languages and culture, and attractive as hell. I had a blast speaking with her about cultural experiences and could have talked for hours more.
I have zero expectations and I think we could become good friends. The problem is, I can also see the potential for something more and it scares the living shit out of me. I just got through this divorce and I'm not ready for anything else, but...
I find her intellect and her kindness incredibly appealing. She hung on my every word with keen interest and it's been so long since someone outside of my family or work did that.
My emotions are a jumbled mess. When she finds out about the PTSD, will she think me irretrievably broken? Do I have it in me to be a good friend?
I never thought that meeting someone who shares so many interests would trigger my PTSD, but there you have it. The old PTSD fallbacks are pushing to the forefront. All I want to do is withdraw into myself and avoid the uncertainty. In my mind, it's also fear of 'inevitable alienation' that's twisting me up in knots.
The catastrophic thinking has me on my heels. When she finds out I have PTSD, will she think, "I could be friends with this guy, but boy is he a mess. Do I want to invite this drama into my life?"
This is what I was talking about in my previous post - I've grown in so many ways...but at times, I'm still crippled by low self-esteem, self-doubt, and fear hurting others and getting hurt in return. So, this is apparently my latest struggle. I don't want to spend my life alone. I want to meet and be surrounded by friends who love and respect me. I want to find someone who's committed to me for the long haul, someone who I can be committed to in return.
And I have no freaking clue how to take that first step.
Don't get me wrong, I've found a great community at my temple that makes me feel included and respected, but this is something else. After everything that I've been through, I'm not in any rush to jump into anything. I just wish I knew how to take the first step without tripping over my own two feet.
I'm a single dad with an energetic almost five year-old. I have PTSD. I'm a very busy entrepreneur and I have a non-profit to revitalize. I know I need to make time for myself and I can't put my life on hold but when am I supposed to find the time to relearn how to socialize?
If anyone has any ideas, I'm all ears. I haven't been in the right frame of mind or situation to even think about this when the divorce was still in process.
Still, it feels good to be back and blogging and getting this all out.
Hello all. I'm so sorry to have been gone so long. It's been a very challenging past few months in some ways and a revelation in others. This is going to be a pretty long blog post, so hold onto your hats. I have a lot to talk about and it's been too long.
Why I Haven't Blogged in Such a Long Time
With everything going on with the divorce proceedings, I needed to disconnect. It was killing me not being able to blog about what I was going through. You see, the thing is, my blogging about my PTSD has always been about sharing what I've learned and what I'm struggling through. With the divorce proceedings, it wasn't about just me - it was about my ex and about my daughter. When going through a divorce, there's no possible way to separate the personal from the interpersonal and I had to seriously think about how what I might possibly write might unintentionally negatively impact the outcome of of the divorce.
More importantly, I was seriously concerned about my daughter. Some day she's going to read this and I don't ever want to write something that could confuse or hurt her. She loves her mother and she loves her father. Nothing should ever change that. Our daughter needs to know that, despite the divorce, she still loved just as much.
I think that the biggest thing is that this divorce was emotional hell. To be there for my daughter, my everything, I had to compartmentalize what I was feeling until the divorce was official. Now that the decree has been officially signed by the judge, I can talk about how this has impacted my life, and just mine. It's a complex mess of emotions and they're coming down on me like a ton of bricks right now.
Which, of course makes this the perfect time to talk about all of this.
So, here goes...
Where Things Stand Now, Personally
For those of you who know a little bit about my story, you know that July 30th is the anniversary of the friendly fire incident. Well, now it's also the anniversary of the official divorce decree - the ignominious end to my marriage. Well it's also the birthday of Caley's brand new cousin, born last Thursday, to Caley's aunt on the other side of the family. What does that mean for me? It means that I will never get to know him, love him. I will never get to see him grow up and I'll never have the opportunity to share in the joy that this baby has brought into the world.
Pardon my French but...talk about a mindfuck.
On top of all of this, I had compartmentalized the biggest emotional hurt in all of this - the fact that I am now going to miss out on half of my daughter's childhood is really screwing with me. The emotional devastation just the thought of that could cause is terrifying to me and, now that the divorce is final, the box surrounding that wonderful little tidbit of joy is spontaneously combusting.
To say that the next few days are going to be rough would be a bit on an understatement.
With all of this, I've still managed to make some positive changes. I've managed to make some friends, one of whom is a fellow combat vet. The other, his father. Both of them accepted me as I am, no judgement. It's a feeling I haven't had in a very long time. I've even reconnected with a friend I knew back in 2006 and lost contact with.
For the uninitiated, this is big stuff for me. I had somehow managed to alienate pretty much all friends I had due to my inability to put up with outside bullshit. My strained marriage was all I could take at the time. When the marriage effectively ended last August, I couldn't handle the prospect of losing even a distant friend and closed myself off from everyone except for my family.
And then there's my family. Oh, God, my family. If they weren't around to shower me with their love and support, I can't even imagine where I'd be right now. Since the separation, I've grown close with my parents in a way that I didn't think was possible. With everything going on, we were able to completely look past old hurts and 'circle the wagons', so to speak.
My parents have been amazing. Their only concerns in all of this were my welfare and the welfare of their granddaughter. This divorce could have emotionally devastated my daughter. Instead, she's well-adjusted and emotionally healthy. A part of that is due to the love my parents made sure to shower her with. That may sound weird but when all of this was new and confusing for Caley, my parents were there to give her all of the love and support possible to give. And they were there for me when I didn't have Caley and needed to just cry or vent my anger (the healthy, grief-related kind). Through everything I went through to get through this past year, good and bad, my parents were there - every step of the way.
And then, on top of all of this, my sister moved back to NYC from Syracuse. Caley and I have been able to spend more quality time with her in the past year than we have been able to in the past few. Again, more love and support from family, when we've needed it most.
The biggest positive change has been in how I see myself. I know I'm a good guy and a great father. I want to be even better in both of those categories and that's something I'll never, ever stop striving for again. For the longest time, I'd lost sight of who I was and what I'm capable of. Being able to feel deep hurt also means you're able to feel deep love and joy and I wouldn't have it any other way. Some people think showing emotion and feeling deep emotions is a liability and a weakness, but I think it's just the opposite. My ability to feel everything in my life, unflinchingly and without reservation, is where I derive my strength. If I wasn't in touch with what I feel, I shudder to think how difficult it would be to cope with my trauma. The faster you feel what you need to, the faster you confront your trauma, the faster you learn to cope with your trauma.
And. That. Is. COURAGE.
It's a kind of courage that few understand, most either don't or won't acknowledge. It's what gets me through the rough days and makes the good ones even better.
Where Things Stand Now, Professionally
After years and years of struggling with employment for a decade, I can honestly say I am now living the dream. I am Chief Business Development Officer of a veteran-owned Cybersecurity startup and I love every minute of my work. I've really thrived in this new environment and I now have very clear insight into why. Entrepreneurship is, counterintuitively, a perfect environment for veterans with PTSD. Here's why:
Needless to say, alleviating workplace stress has had a huge impact on my personal outlook and by ability to cope with my PTSD.
My Spiritual and Emotional Reclamation
After ten years, I have finally gotten to the point where I was ready to explore my emotional and spiritual health. For the longest time, the only place where I felt like I belonged was in the military. In the civilian world, I never felt like I had 'people', either before or after my time in the service. When I started thinking about what to do to re-engage spiritually, I started by looking at where I came from.
My dad's side of the family is ethnic Jewish, but I knew next to nothing about my Jewish cultural heritage. Well, I became curious to explore my heritage and reached out to a local rabbi. He told me about the different Jewish denominations and how they believe, without telling me what they were called and asked me which belief structure rang most true to me.
After sharing which denomination resonated with me the most, he referred me to another rabbi. Well, I met him and discovered that he was a retired Navy chaplain. My first time attending Shabbat services was Veterans Day last November. The experience was unbelievable. The entire service was dedicated to making sure everyone understood the depth and seriousness of the sacrifices made by our service members. It was surreal. I felt like I was home, that I belonged somewhere, that I had a people.
I've continued to attend on Fridays when I don't have my daughter and it's helped to make me feel more connected and engaged. I finally feel ready to reconnect and take the risk to make new friends and meet new people. How about that?
Post-Traumatic Growth: Why It's Not Mutually Exclusive from PTSD
I always hated the term. It's sounds so cliche and for a full decade seemed unobtainable. I think, on some level, I hated the idea of Post Traumatic Growth because I couldn't imagine that I'd ever experience it for myself.
Well I was wrong. I've been thriving and growing and becoming more and more comfortable in my own skin, asserting myself more and more.
I've been reticent to acknowledge the idea that I may be experiencing it because so many people equate it with, CONGRATS, you're HEALED!
Ummmm, No? That's not how this works. While I am experiencing a personal and professional renaissance, it doesn't mean I don't still have to content with my PTSD. I still get triggered and I still battle with hypervigilance, depression, insomnia, low self-esteem, and more.
It's confusing as hell. How can I be experiencing growth and still struggling with PTSD every day? When I figure it out, I'll let you know. I'm at a total loss right now.
So What Next?
I know this is a lot to absorb and I'm still working through all of this myself but there are a few things I do know for certain. I'm free to blog again and I won't be stopping again if I have any choice in the matter. I took a lot of time this past week to write this post and it's amazing how much this writing process has cleared up my head.
Thanks to everyone for sticking around. See you in the next blog post!
First off, I wanted to thank everyone who has continued to show their support and the overwhelming response to my last blog post. I know I still have a lot of comments to respond to and I fully intend to respond to them, but I had to get this off my chest.
For those of you who know me, you know that separation and divorce has been particularly hard on me. I've continued to fight, but I've been weary to the bone of fighting to keep moving forward.
That being said...
There have been some major milestones this past week. The last of my ex's things are out of the apartment. I have spent a lot of time cleaning and reorganizing the apartment to turn the page and get a fresh start.
I had no idea how emotional that would be.
I also had no idea just how much of my identity I had sacrificed over the last few years.
As I pulled out statues and figurines, reorganized my bookshelves, and thought about where I wanted to rehang things that haven't been on the walls for quite some time, I came to the very hard realization that my guilt had caused me to make sacrifices I never intended. Over time, I slowly carved away pieces of my identity and put them, literally, in boxes. Physical things that reminded me of who I am. And I did this because I was trying to mold myself into who I thought my ex wanted me to be. (No, I'm not blaming her. I need to be clear here.)
I was really pissed at myself at first. I didn't understand how this had happened.
Then I made the second hard realization in as many days: The writing had been on the wall in my marriage for a long time and I was sacrificing my identity out of vain hope it would salvage my relationship.
It was quite a gut shot to come to these realizations, but this weekend wasn't done with me quite yet.
As I continued to reclaim those pieces of myself that I had packed away, I started to feel an incredible sense of relief. I felt a vastly increased sense of security in my home. Most importantly, I started to remember the thing I used to love about myself that I haven't allowed myself or anyone else to see for way too long.
The ultimate realization came earlier today. There's something a lot of you don't know about me:
I've been singing since I was three years old. Music and, more importantly, SINGING has been central to my identity my whole life. I've won over $4,000 in karaoke contests. I've had people tell me I should try out for American Idol or the Voice. I don't normally bring any of this up. I'm not the type to brag and my singing has always been about the music, not the accolades.
I wouldn't have brought it up at all if it wasn't important.
Why, you ask?
Because I realized that, with the exception of singing with my daughter, I HAD STOPPED SINGING.
Talk about a bombshell of a realization. I haven't been doing something for YEARS that is central to my physical, spiritual, and emotional identity. I finally realized just how much of myself I have lost in the last few years, how out of touch with my own health I had become.
I made this realization this weekend of all weekends because the latest season of GLEE came out on Netflix and I had some free time to watch. That's right, GLEE. I was singing along with almost every song and something amazing happened.
It was like someone parted the curtains to let the light into my soul. In that moment, I was truly happy.
I wasn't just satisfied. I wasn't just less depressed than usual. I wasn't just pleased with the turn my professional life has taken.
I was uplifted. Emotionally and spiritually fulfilled.
Why? Because I was creating my own harmony to Beatle's 'Yesterday'. I was adding my flavor to the song, directly and freely sharing the deepest and truest part of myself. I was singing for the pure joy of it.
So what now? I have a choice. I can beat myself up over the mistakes I've made and continue to hide myself away and joy I can bring to myself. I can hide myself away and lose the opportunity to share my joy with others.
I can reclaim the life and vibrance music and singing has brought to me and hopefully lift others up to share in my experience through song.
I'm going to start by making sure I make time to sing every week. I'm going to go out and find a venue to sing and reconnect with that part of my that I didn't realize I had lost.
I might even eventually record some of it and share my joy with you all. Who knows.
All I know is that I need to raise my voice. To sing and to be heard.
Music adds so much context to the tapestry that is my life. Just like writing my blog, it allows me to freely express what I'm feeling.
I intend to reclaim it.
I've been blogging for a while now - since January, 2011. It's hard to believe it's been that long, but it has. I've shared my struggles and my victories and I have been gladdened to see that by sharing my struggles, I've made a positive impact in the lives of my fellow service-members and in the lives of the ones who love them.
Over the course of those years, I've gotten to know quite a few bloggers sharing similar stories. One, in particular, has always had a deep impact on me: Living with PTSD & TBI. The author, Uncle Sam's Mistress has a talent for clearly and emotionally depicting how difficult life is for someone deeply in love with a veteran with PTSD.
Over the past few years, we've gotten to know each other tangentially through our respective blogs and through Facebook - sharing posts, insight and a kind word.
I began to grow concerned that I hadn't seen a blog post from her in a while, as I know my readers have been for me these past few months. One of my greatest regrets is that I couldn't see past my own challenges to check to make sure everything was OK.
When she posted her latest blog post, From A Stigma to A Statistic, I sobbed. I sobbed for the loss of her husband, I sobbed because of the profound and heartfelt pain she expressed through her words, and I sobbed because PTSD had taken another veteran too early. I did my best to let her know through comments how deeply distressed I was for her loss, but don't think I ever found the right words.
So that's why I'm writing this tonight.
Dear Uncle Sam's Mistress,
To One in Sorrow by Grace Noll Crowell
Let me come in where you are weeping, friend,
And let me take your hand.
I, who have known a sorrow such as yours,
Let me come in -- I would be very still
Beside you in your grief;
I would not bid you cease your weeping, friend,
Tears can bring relief.
Let me come in -- I would only breathe a prayer,
And hold your hand,
For I have known a sorrow such as yours,
To my family, friends, fellow bloggers, and faithful readers, I ask the following: Show your solidarity. Write your name (or pseudonym) in the comments along with a kind word. Just a moment of your time would mean so much.
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.