Ok, so the past few days were rough on me. I needed a few days off from everything and it really helped me gain some much needed perspective. My daughter was the one that really brought me around. She seemed to know that I was very upset and was adamant that every waking moment she had be spent smiling and giggling at daddy. Not only that, but she gave me my first REAL hug and my heart melted. All of my problems went away for a little bit. She is as compassionate as her mother and has eyes only for me. I love every moment of it can't think of anything else I would rather end the day with: A kiss from my loving wife and a smile from my daughter. The best medicine in the world.
The day started off great. We went down to her parents' house and I guess, after church, the exertion from the past few days caught up with me and I passed out on the bed with my sleeping daughter. I woke up having partially aspirated bile that came up the back of my throat while I was reliving me most horrendous experiences as nightmares. Needless to say, that set the tone for the rest of my day. Gagging and almost vomiting in the bathroom because of aspirating a little bit of bile didn't help and I felt like I had to puke for the next few hours. I was afraid to draw a full breath because it made me want to gag and vomit all over again. It's the first time in a long time that something like this has happened outside the safety of my home and it really shook me. I also have to deal with feeling guilty because I partially ruined my wife's birthday. How do you explain to your in-laws that you just had a traumatic event and need to get the hell away from everyone and everything? I know that my behavior at their home probably left them feeling clueless and, I wouldn't doubt, insulted and a little concerned. I would be if I was in their shoes.
But, hey. I am home, my wife and my daughter are safe and I am back to some semblance of calm. I now have to worry about what caused this to come out of left field the way it did. Did something trigger this? I am completely lost on this one and it's going to take some time to figure out.
One thing I know I don't handle well: disrespect. I don't even know why this person is disrespectful to me. Either it's a character flaw on their part or they don't like me. Either way, I don't tolerate that kind of crap in my AOR. It's easy for my anger to get the better of me in a situation like this, but I am not going to let it take control and ruin any chance I have of fixing this in a constructive way. I had to catch myself today to keep the anger from coming out and I think it flashed across my face for just one second. I didn't respond to the disrespectful behavior in words, but I think that my facial expression for that split second paired with my change in body language got the message across that I am not someone to be trifled with. I just don't want people to be scared of me. I have a large, intimidating frame to begin with and it's hard enough to break down the barriers of wariness that I get from others on a regular basis. I do eventually succeed, but many people's initial reaction to my presence when they meet me is fear. They hide it well, but their body language tells a different story. I hate it, but I can't change that aspect of who I am. I just have to learn how to disarm people better.
Yesterday went really well. We've established that. Here's what ended up happening to end the day. The problem was twofold:
1) I didn't want the day to end, because it had gone so well.
2) I hunkered down in my 'PTSD Fallout Shelter' and played Xbox 360 and waited...
The end result is that I didn't go to bed until much later than I normally do and now I am exhausted. My wife was relatively annoyed with me last night because I was in a good mood and didn't want to have much to do with her or our daughter. How do you explain to someone that you are afraid that the other shoe's going to drop and you don't want them to see it when it happens?
OK, so maybe yesterday wasn't as good of a day as I thought. Everything was going well and then I started to catastrophically think about what was going to happen and it spun me up and made it hard for me to be around my family. Wonderful. It's never been quite like that before. Yet another facet to my PTSD I could have done without...
I had one of those elusive good days. I got up refreshed from a good night's sleep (really, it's true) and went to work and had a blast at work. I came home and the washer was finally fixed. My baby-girl was so excited to see me when I got home and I got to spend to giggle time with her. It was a relaxing evening and nothing went wrong. Yet in the back of my head, the question lingered: Is this what 'normal' feels like or am I manic? It still makes me worried about tomorrow, because I know that this feeling will not last and I will have to contend with the PTSD tomorrow. yay...
Why is it that people just know how to push my buttons without even meaning to? I got really angry today and had to check myself before I said something I would regret later. I find it reprehensible that other people can't be more considerate. I know I have a short fuse because of the PTSD, but getting this angry all the time is getting frustrating. I managed to keep my cool (externally, anyway) and dealt with the situation, but it was way too close. I am definitely going to spend some quality face time with my xbox 360 tonight to relieve some of this...
I had a bad moment at work yesterday and the night was followed up with repetitive dreams of the soldier that died...go figure. I never would have seen that one coming. The end result: I slept in really late, screwing up my sleep schedule and I have been grumpy all day. What a way to spend a day off. The worst part is, I know it's the PTSD making me feel this way and I STILL can't stop it from making me feel out of sorts and grumpy. The only two solaces I have had today are the wonderful antics of my wife and daughter. They at least distract me for a little while.
I was at work and I saw someone who looked a lot like a soldier I knew from Iraq that didn't make it home. I don't know how I didn't lose it right then and there. I was hyper vigilant for the rest of my shift, checking my corners and evaluating everyone that came through my area for threat level. It was ridiculous. I work in a freaking grocery store! I don't know how my co-workers didn't notice my change in demeanor. Well, maybe it did and it scared them. I guess time will tell. It's hard for me to ascertain for myself how my PTSD affects others in a situation like that. When I got home, I took an extra dose of my anti-anxiety medication. I was so amped up I couldn't sit down for the first 30 minutes I was home. I did eventually calm down, but thinking you're seeing a ghost doesn't help your mental stability. But hey...I made it through and tomorrow's a new day, right?
I had an amazing day today. I went down to Kutztown University as a guest speaker. I talked to the Finance Club and had a blast talking to all of the engaged and eager students. It almost didn't go that way...When I got to the building where I was going to be talking, I noticed everyone on cell phones. When I got to the room where I was going to be speaking, everyone was on cell phones. The first thing that went through my mind was, "The kids had better put their f**king cell phones away or someone's phone is going to have an intimate meeting with the cinder block walls..." I knew right away that I was annoyed by this from the get-go and worked to keep myself calm and to not judge anyone until such time that a student started using a phone during the presentation. The second that I was introduced and started engaging the students, all the cell phones went into pockets and I didn't see one or hear one for the duration. I was pleasantly surprised (and a little shocked) by the level of attention I was given by the students. It was gratifying to know that they were listening. It also made me feel incredibly guilty for even thinking that they would be disrespectful. I got home from the event (after being taken out to lunch) and thought this all through. Why was my response so instantaneously enraged? I recognized, after a lot of introspection, that I don't like anyone messing with something I am passionate about - especially when it involves getting in front of a large group of people I don't know. That's where the PTSD kicks in. I love giving presentations to groups large or small. My PTSD is diametrically opposed to being anywhere near crowds of people that I don't know in an environment I can't control. Is it any wonder that the anger came to the forefront of my thoughts when I was in this situation? No. Is it gratifying to know that the PTSD didn't win and make me say something I would have regretted later? Hell YES!
In short, no. When I first got home in early 2004, the system hadn't seen many or any invisible wounds of war yet - it was too early into the conflict. Because the VA wasn't overwhelmed, my claims process was only two months long. I was assessed with a rating in short order. As more and more veterans have returned home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the VA quickly became overwhelmed. Seven years later, I get to see a doctor every four months, if I am lucky. Here's the catch: So many people blame the VA for not caring. I don't think that this could be further from the truth. I know that all of the doctors and social workers that I have talked with are incredibly frustrated by the lack of staffing and funding the VA is getting to contend with this ever-growing issue. Granted, no system is perfect. The biggest issue I have is with the bureaucratic oversight. Just like every other government agency, there are a ton of superfluous jobs. It's incredibly difficult to fire someone from a Federal job, so people in unnecessary 'fluff' positions keep their jobs while the VA continues to be run into the ground. I think that government agencies should be run like businesses. Cost savings and improved efficiency in operations would equate to more jobs where they are needed and less waste. It's time to separate the wheat from the chaff or all of the veterans returning home are going to lose their trust for the government and country they swore to uphold and protect. What message is being sent to the youth in our country when they witness the general apathy that veterans get treated with upon returning home?
OK, I've said my piece. Down off the soap box and back to talking about other issues...
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.