For some folks, this one is going to seem out there, but it is something I have discovered I need. The desire to create something original is incredibly cathartic for me. It started off with rug hooking (think latch hooking, but smaller knots). I have been working on the same rug for close to six years. I don't care that it's not even close to being finished. The simple act of creating order from chaos is incredibly relaxing for me.
Then came the blogging and designing the website. I think we all know how well that had turned out for me. I am grateful that I have the ability to give back and create something that is meaningful to so many. I find blogging incredibly rewarding and, believe it or not, it allows me to explore my writing style more fully with no repercussions. With non-fiction you don't need to convince anyone of the veracity of your comments. It is the perfect venue for trying out writing styles and prose and looking at how well they are received by the readers. I love it and I often find that describing something that happened to me in real life is easier to explain in figurative terms.
Then comes the last piece of the puzzle - writing fiction. I have had ideas bouncing around in my head for years and just this year decided it would be a good idea to start writing a serial novel. I just published the prologue on Amazon. It feels amazing. A little surreal. I was able to draw on my life experiences to create a fictional story line. If you are a Amazon Prime member, may you could check it out and borrow it. I want you all to know that I have found the process of writing incredibly enjoyable. The reason I share it here is because I want you all to know that this desire to create something is in many of you as well. Tap into this greatness and reap the benefits. I am going to go recover more from my surgery yesterday, but I wanted to share this passion with you all.
If you are interested in learning more about Part One of my book, here's the link.
At 0830 yesterday morning I headed into pre-op to get septoplasty done. The hope is that opening up my nasal passages will allow me to breathe better and alleviate the buildup of allergens in my sinuses and give my lungs a much needed (and hopefully permanent) break from post nasal drip. When I woke up after surgery, I was in an extreme amount of pain. I was moaning. Yeah, that went over about as well as a fart in church. My own moaning caused intrusive recollections.
Enter my wife. She held my hand and soothed me and did everything in her power to keep me prescient. It worked pretty damn well until I started quiet moaning because the pain killers were wearing off.
After I got all of my post operation care instructions, we went home. I was an insufferable whiny ass for the remainder of the day and my wife, again, handled it like a champ and pretended not to notice. Here was the routine. Pain meds started to wear off about an hour before I was allowed to take more. I would get grumpy. I would then be able to take the pain meds and they would take another hour to kick back in. I would then have about two hours of manageable pain before the cycle started all over again.
Needless to say, I was not the most pleasant person to be around. Add to that having wadded gauze stuffed up your nose that had a propensity for oozing a mix of snot and blood...I didn't sleep much last night. I am sure that I am still not the most pleasant person to be around. I feel like someone heel stomped me square in the nose. I smell blood all the time for obvious reasons. It's causing random flashbacks that distract me in mid thought, sentence, conversation...I really can't wait for this to be over. It better have been worth it. The idea that people have nose jobs out of conceit...idiots. All idiots. Maybe it's just the pain talking, but I D 10 T's as we used to call them in the Army.
Yesterday was a really good day. Dani and I were so tired that we went to bed early. I was awake and out of bed less than three hours later. The nightmares made a very strong visit. I was concerned that this may happen with the surgery coming up in a few days. I was up for about an hour and a half before Dani came out and ordered me to come back to bed. I am glad she did, but I woke up still agitated and irritable. I think Dani recognized the signs of me needing a day for me and took Caley for a walk. It's raining out so I am sure they went for a walk at the mall or somewhere else far away.
This anxiety is killing me right now. The surgery is two days away and the only thing I can think about is that they are going to have to put me under local anesthetic on Thursday. The thought of that is freaking me out. It is the ultimate in not having control over your body or faculties. The concept is freaking me out a whole lot more than I thought it would. I need this surgery. I don't have a choice but to get this done. I just need to find a way to calm myself down so that I am not spending the next two days wound tighter than a spring.
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.
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.