As I said in the previous post, the second outlet is a whole lot harder to articulate in a way that makes sense and doesn't make me sound like a complete control freak. What I have discovered is that I need an outlet where the only limiting factors to success are the limitations I put on myself. If there are barriers or external constraints on what I am trying to accomplish, my efforts can be frustrated and my drive turns inward rather quickly. But that's not it either - I am not saying that any little bump in the road causes me to implode and become frustrated. I am talking about arbitrary constraints that have nothing to do with achieving the goal. As you can tell, I am still having a little trouble articulating exactly what I mean. I need to know I am the one in charge of my my own destiny.
Easier said than done. I need this but I don't know how to find it. If anyone has any ideas, I'm open to suggestions. Work isn't that outlet. Too many arbitrary constraints. Maybe I can put this drive into getting myself back in shape after all of my medical issues. I will have to think about this a lot more before this is all said and done. The last outlet, which I will discuss tomorrow is the need for an artistic outlet - the need to create something beautiful.
I thought long and hard again last night about the changes I need to make to provide my drive with an appropriate outlet. What I discovered is that I need more than one. In today's post, I will cover the first criteria:
In Service to Others: I need to be doing something that is in service to others. I need this because it provides the emotional context I must have to find fulfillment. Doing for others because I want to, not because I desire recognition is key. I think I am on the right track with this one. I have the website and the blog and am involved with national (and international) PTSD advocacy. That's a good start but I need to have something personal that I can measure the progress of in a more tangible sense. This is where the local advocacy comes in. I have potentially found a local initiative that will allow me to find the fulfillment I so strongly desire. As I have discussed my ideas with local organizations, they have all come back with one major question - why do I want to pursue this program? My response is always the same. Out disabled veterans and veterans in general deserve better chances to be successful in the business world. I am going to stay vague on that point until a few more pieces of the puzzle click into place, but I am very excited for what the future holds. Most importantly, it would allow me to do something life-changing in service to others.
That's the first outlet. Number two, not as easy to articulate, so I will take more time to think on it and get back to you tomorrow. Have a great day all.
So, I did a lot of thinking yesterday. Especially last night. I thought about this intensity that Rod mentions in his blog - this part of me that kept me alive in Iraq and is causing me so many problems now. For most of the evening yesterday, I was at a loss - what the hell do I do about this? How do I know what a healthy outlet is for me?
To do this, I needed to create a personal definition of my intensity, my drive. Ugh. Easier than it sounds. I have tried a billion things, using anything from meditation to rug hooking to video games to exercise. They all left me feeling dissatisfied, chomping at the bit to do more. All of these outlets just ended up delaying the inevitable implosion that invariably followed. It has been a vicious cycle for me and it's a cycle I really want to break.
I have thought about a related question: Doesn't being a good husband and a good father motivate you enough? Doesn't that give your drive a healthy outlet?
In short: No.
I need people to understand that I love being a father and a husband. Love it. They are my reason for living, for persevering. What they do not provide is an outlet for this intensity, even though they have experienced the fallout from that intensity when it turns inward. This intensity, this drive is something that is entirely and deeply personal and not something that I share with others to find fulfillment. The drive, when properly directed, provides me with a sense of fulfillment and peace.
If this is the case, when was the last time my drive was pointed in the right direction? This is what I thought long and hard about last night. I wanted to identify what I was doing that gave me that feeling and what was the criteria for feeling that way again. And then it hit me - having the freedom to direct my own destiny - when the only person I would have to blame for failure was me. The last time I was in that position was when I was in Iraq, leading a life of service, responsible for keeping our troops safe from insurgency.
That left me with even more to think about. I live in Pennsylvania. Is there a way to recreate that feeling here? That's the mission I have given myself - figuring out how to recreate that feeling. What are the fundamental underlying threads that I need to recreate? Is this activity something I have to do for myself or can I get my family invovled? That's where I am now. I think this may have been a major breakthrough, but time will tell. I will write on this more in the coming days as my purpose for 'being' becomes clear.
For those folks out there who can identify with my definition of intensity and Rod Deaton's description of drive, it's time for a gut check. Take the time to sit down and think about this. Talk to your families about this, your parents, your spouse, your siblings, your friends. This has the feeling of momentous change for me and I hope it does for you too. Time to go think for a while. Enjoy your Sunday and I will follow up tomorrow!
I was talking with Rod Deaton on Friday and we had a very constructive chat. He mentioned to me an idea he wanted me to consider. As he was telling me about it, I recalled that he had mentioned this very idea to me the last time we talked. For a second I grew frustrated and then it hit me - I had heard him last time, but it didn't register on a deeper level. This time around, as his words rolled over me, I felt light-headed. I had to sit down on the bed. What he asked me to consider was that my incredible intensity that had kept me alive was also a major part of the problem I was having right now. As he described what he meant, I felt his words resonate with me, down to the core. I felt like a bell that had been rung too hard. My nerves in my skin felt like they were crawling. Rod, in a few carefully chosen phrases and words, had gotten to the very heart of matters. I am still working through the things that we talked about but it explains a lot. I ask that you all read his latest blog entry and think about what he says very carefully. I am going to take the night to sit back and reflect. Who knows. Maybe tomorrow I will be able to flesh out the frame that Rod Deaton has so thoughtfully put down in words:
Rod Deaton's Blog Entry: Combat Vet Seeking Outlet, References Available upon Request
As you all know, I have struggled mightily recently with my PTSD and newly diagnosed Bi-Polar tendencies. I have taken things a day at a time and worked very hard to focus on the now. I think that's the right approach I think I may have taken it a step to far and inadvertently told myself that tomorrow's a new day and therefore today has no consequences. I don't think it was a conscious decision, but the end result is the same. I don't know how it happened or when, but I am now obese. Not just overweight. Obese.
Enter a Reader's Suggestion: "Would losing the weigh for being sponsored be an idea? Money could go to charity which would make you feel good about it. But I guess it depends where you are mentally, could you cope with folks knowing you need to lose it and how would you feel if it really was a struggle. Just an idea, bit of motivation really"
Hmm. Guess I have some thinking to do. Would it bother me? Would putting myself out there in support of a veteran charity help or would it feel like too much pressure? This is really something that I need to think through and discuss with my wife. I think the hard part is if I went through all of the work to set it up and didn't get any backing from the community - that's where I think the concern would be for me. It would be incredibly demotivating if the community didn't come through.
So this is where I need input from all of the people out there that are reading this: What are your thoughts on this? Do folks think it's a good idea? I want to look at this carefully and make an educated decision. And please don't candy coat it. If you think it's a bad idea, I need to hear from all sides on this.
Sorry to everyone for leaving in a flash this morning. I needed to collect myself and work through some things. I had an appointment today at the VA and I thought a lot about what I am going through right now. Talking with the docs, one thing has become abundantly clear, the clinical depression has evolved. Co-morbidity is a bitch. What the docs have evaluated in my behavior now indicates I have substantial bi-polar tendencies that are screwing with my sense of stability.
That would definitely explain the short bursts of motivation (manic behavior) followed by long periods of lethargy, apathy, and emotional withdrawal. So I will be spending the rest of the day thinking this all through and trying to come up with a plan to work through all of this with my wife. Signing off for now. Knowing what you are facing makes you fell less helpless. At least I have that.
Talking with my wife last night I came to the realization that I have been talking a good game. I am the heaviest I have ever been. I have little to no motivation to do anything that is not sedentary. Ugh. What a gut check. I have to do something about this. I need to figure out how to put my money where my mouth is. I forced myself to admit that I hate the guy looking back at me in the mirror. I don't recognize me. I'm fat, I'm lazy, I'm the guy that finds an excuse for everything - all of the things I find repulsive.
So what to I do about it? How? It's amazing how eroded self-confidence can destroy a person. I used to be confident that my body would be able to handle whatever was thrown at it. Then I end up in the hospital, allergies out of control. I realized that I felt betrayed...by my own body. The allergies played right into my PTSD. Because I am allergic to every damn thing in the air I breathe outdoors, I now view going outside as subjecting myself to a life-threatening environment. Even leaving the apartment has become close to impossible unless it is absolutely necessary.
You know what the worst part is? I am completely aware of the train wreck I have become. I saw it all happening and felt powerless to do anything about it. I have, once again, come full circle. My PTSD is again dictating how I live my life. Yup. Definitely a gut check. I hate feeling helpless, powerless. Yet, here I sit, on my duff while my wife takes my daughter for a walk. Time to put my money where my mouth is. Time to stop talking about making changes, time to start doing. My wife and I purchased a bike seat for my daughter because my wife knows how pointless I find walking. The problem is that we don't have room to store the bikes where we live. Gah! Are you fucking kidding me? I'm already trying to talk myself out of it. I have got to sign off.
For the past few days, I haven't felt like doing much. About four days ago I had gotten some time of intestinal bug and had been miserable. For the days following I continued to feel fatigued and slept a lot during the day. My wife kept on asking if I felt OK, if I was still sick. I told her that I was just tired, like I couldn't shake the fatigue. I don't know when I realized it was depression. I think it was some time yesterday. I really can't put a finger on the moment I became truly aware. I just know it made me really annoyed with myself.
When I woke up this morning, I realized that even though I was aware of feeling depressed, I didn't seem to be able to shake the feeling. Once again, I had been blindsided by it. I didn't write a blog post yesterday. It wasn't because I didn't have the time. I felt so demotivated. I had a scheduled meeting with a local veterans advocate and I almost didn't get out of bed in time to make it to the meeting. Yeah. That's the kind of day yesterday was. I don't want today to be a repeat of that.
I am so annoyed with myself. How could I not realize it was the depression? I kept the blinds shut in the living room. I sat in the dark and stewed while I watched meaningless crap on Netflix. How many more clues does a guy need? I missed out on opportunities to play with my daughter in the park because I was caught up in my own bullshit. Well, not today. I refuse to let this happen again. I want to see my daughter laugh and play outside. It's such a joy to watch.
*sigh* As I sit here trying to type this, I feel the anxiety building. Anxiety about what, I have no idea. Great. Wonderful. It's like my body is trying to hold me hostage. Not today. Yeah, that's my new mantra. Whenever my PTSD tries to take over my life I am going to say, "NOT TODAY". I just need to stop worrying about what could happen in the future or what already happened in the past. One you can't control and the other is already history. That leaves the one day I can control the outcome of: today. I plan on making the most of it.
Recently, with Federal initiatives aiming at pushing for veteran employment, more and more attention is being given to the plight of the veterans of current conflicts. As the conflicts come to a close, the numbers are only going to go up. The programs that have been put in place look great on paper, but how much thought have they actually put into considering the needs of the transitioning service member and the veterans who have been out a while who are still looking for work? It's time to take a closer look at this situation:
I hope that this has put the issue in greater context. My greatest desire is that we all have the opportunity to pursue our wildest hopes and dreams. We are uniquely qualified to turn those dreams into reality if someone would just afford us the opportunity to make it happen.
PTSD advocacy and education hasn't come nearly far enough. We have made strides in ending the stigma, but Dr. Phil is a prime example of just how far we have yet to go. Changing the name of the disorder (I call it that because that's what it is) won't change a damn thing except make it even harder for VA benefit evaluators to quanitfy. Some people believe that this is an attempt by the government and US society at large to avoid living up to their responsibilities to our service members. While I gave this some serious thought, I finally came to the conclusion that this was not true either. Do you know what I see as the motivation for the classification change?
Incredible hubris on the part of the psychology/psychiatry professions at large. These no talent idiots actually think that they can 'heal' us. They give those who do 'get it', like Rod Deaton (his blog is amazing), a bad name. So now, I want to hear from the horse's mouth. Docs, prove my assertion wrong. Let me lay this out for you in terms that you can identify with:
If my strong opinion offends people, so be it. I have never been known to candy-coat what I perceive is the truth, no matter how much it hurts or offends others (a personal flaw, I know). I sure as hell won't start now. All that will ensue from making this classification change is people will be even more confused. I have already heard, "PTSI? Is that different from PTSD? I thought you guys coming home had PTSD. What's the I stand for? Illness?"
Think on that last quote for a second. Does anyone here really truly think that reclassifying PTSD will reduce the stigma? Or is it more likely that it will just add another layer of 'crazy' for people to label us with? Think long and hard on this folks. I can't say that my opinion is the correct one. I am no more the moral expert on this subject than the docs are. All I can say is that serious discourse needs to take place. A precipitous decision to change the classification doesn't do anyone any favors.
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.