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!
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.