Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Authors: Dr. Harry A. Croft, M.D. and Rev. Dr. Chrys Parker, J.D.
I do not make that claim lightly. While some aspects of their approach have been written about before, it's the manner in which they organize it all that has a huge impact on the way you, as a reader, will absorb it. The biggest impact they make with their approach is their focus on the physiological underpinnings that cause the behaviors attributed to PTSD. Having someone tell you it's the 'battle brain' doesn't tell you anything. When they explain to you that the basis for PTSD is physiological, when they explain in a way you can understand what is going on inside your body, I guarantee you will feel a great sense of relief. I know I did. I now have a reference to help me explain to others that my PTSD is not 'just in my head'. It will make the reader more aware of the way they respond in varying situations and facilitate recognizing the signs of being triggered much faster.This can also have another major impact on the lives of veterans everywhere: You now have a resource to give to your family to help them understand how you are different that 'before' and what they can do to support you effectively.
Their approach to writing this book is exceptional. For every issue or topic they address, they clearly delineate who is presenting his perspective. At first I didn't think that would work out. Two people writing about the same issue as separate and distinct voices? Wouldn't it be better to write collectively?
Yes, they both have their own unique perspective on the issues. Yes, their tone and reasoning varies, No, their rationale does not conflict - it complements. Croft has a tendency to take a more clinical, yet still conversational, tone to his commentary. Parker, the more spiritual. The change in voice also helps to keep the subject matter from getting dry. It provides you a unique opportunity to learn about these issues from all sides.
I don't want you to just take my word for it. Let me give you the guided tour and you can make the decision to read the book if you find it as beneficial as I do. For those of you not familiar with my review writing style, I break the book into sections and give my account of the 'good', 'bad', and 'unexpected' in each section. I take this responsibility very seriously and strive for objectivity. So let's dig in, shall we?
Recognizing when PTSD is in Your Life:
The Good: In this section, the authors describe the types of behaviors that can be indicators of the presence of PTSD. They cover all of the bases here and make some very astute and pointed observations about the behaviors attributable to PTSD that made me squirm. They give anonymous real-world accounts of these behaviors from veterans in all different situations. They focus on the different ways in which our ability to socialize is compromised in both personal and professional settings and if you don't know whether you have PTSD, reading these depictions will leave you with no doubt.
The Bad: Depending on your state of mind, the examples they give could lead you to adopting a very stark outlook for the future. The authors could have done a little more at the end of the chapter to temper this potential reaction by offering encouragement and empathy rather than ending with a three sentence blurb that says 'if this is you, read on'.
The Unexpected: They depict relationships and how they impact all parties involved. Their descriptions detail reactions and behaviors of those affected by the veteran with PTSD and allows loved ones reading the description to evaluate more fully, from both sides of the interaction, whether PTSD is in their lives.
Educating Yourself About PTSD:
The Good: Croft and Parker explain how the things you experience can lead to PTSD. They explain how experiencing trauma causes the stress that gets us 'stuck in survival mode' and how this causes those affected by PTSD to behave a certain way. They go over the three major categories of symptoms: Re-experiencing, avoidance, and increased arousal. They explain how doctors evaluate you and that no two people manifest symptoms in exactly the same way. They do an amazing job of explaining all of this without getting lost in jargon that would be lost on the average reader.
The Bad: N/A
The Unexpected: They explain that the basis for PTSD is more than just behavioral. This is where they first posit that there is a strong physiological aspect of the disorder that is often overlooked. While this is delved into in depth in the next section, even hinting that PTSD has underlying physiological causes left me feeling a profound sense of relief.
Connecting Biology to Your Psychology:
The Good and Unexpected: The authors explain how people with PTSD have been done a huge disservice by the behavioral symptoms being discovered and documented before the physiological aspects of the disorder could be ascertained. They explain how, physiologically, your brain and your hormones play a huge (and I do mean HUGE) role in PTSD. They explain how the parts of your brain dedicated to survival become overstimulated. They present it in a way that makes you understand that the underlying physiological effects on your memory, your subconscious, and endocrine system are real - not imagined. PTSD is not something you can overcome with strength of will. You didn't make it up and it's not just in your head. To go into any further depth, I would have to plagiarize. This section of the book does so much to relieve the stigma we put on ourselves. If you know anyone who thinks this whole mess is just in your head, kindly shove this book in their face and tell them to shut the hell up and read.
The Bad: N/A
Organizing a Comprehensive Care Plan for PTSD:
The Good: Croft and Parker do an excellent job of explaining the different types of treatment available to help manage your PTSD. They talk about therapy, group and individual, and the most common modalities used to treat PTSD. They talk about medication. They talk about alternative treatments including massage, yoga, acupuncture, and meditation. They even talk about naturopathic alternatives. Most importantly, they explain that this is a plan - one that you control and direct. If something's not working, try something else. In essence, be your own advocate. Learn what you need to learn about the treatments available to you and make educated decisions. Don't let doctors throw medication and therapy at you and hope that something sticks.
The Bad: N/A
The Unexpected: In this chapter, they explain how some treatments need to be approached with caution. Some forms of therapy require that you need to be ready to actively engage in them. They also explain that certain medications can inhibit the positive effects of some forms of therapy. If I would have known these things previously, I would have demanded a change in my medication. This is powerful knowledge that will help every veteran with PTSD better direct their own treatment. In fact, some prescribing doctors and practicing therapists should be reminded of these 'minor' details.
Viewing Your Issues in a New Light:
The Good: In this section, the authors discuss how looking at your PTSD from a different perspective can be life-changing. They ask you to consider how it affects your spouse, your family, and the importance of protecting your children from trauma, emotional or physical. From my experience, PTSD is inherently ego-centric. You are in your own head all of the time. In this chapter, the authors forcefully suggest you take a look at how your behavior impacts those you love and what you can do to manage that aspect of the disorder. They also discuss how you can learn to view your environmental triggers as manageable. They even offer up an approach that was developed by one of the authors, Chrys Parker. It is called the 'I Am Able Method' (Copyright 2010, Chrysanthe L. Parker, All rights reserved). It is a quick and functional way of helping you manage your triggers and associated behavior. What astounded me is that it took until 2010 for someone to come up with this approach. Lastly, they talk about high risk behavior and substance abuse. While I am not an adrenalin junky or a substance abuser and these portions of the chapter did not pertain to me, I could see how they could be helpful to a veteran who is at risk.
The Bad: N/A
The Unexpected: N/A
Empowering Yourself Through Strong Systems of Support:
The Good: Croft and Parker explain the necessity of having strong systems of support. They detail how disparate the effects of PTSD are on people that have created strong support networks and those that haven't. The talk about family support, support from friends, getting support by giving support, and spiritual support. I have mentioned how lucky I am to have a strong support network. My family is loving, compassionate, and supportive. While my PTSD has caused me to alienate many of my friends over the past ten years, I am finally learning how to make new ones. For two years, I have been offering insight and support through my website and blog. Just one small problem. My life has no spiritual component. None. Zip. Nada.
The Bad: N/A
The Unexpected: I didn't know why blogging and giving to others always made me feel better, more stable. Now I know. The authors explain in physiological terms why showing compassion for others and giving of yourself is so rewarding. When I finished reading that section of the chapter, I felt vindicated and motivated. It was a wonderful feeling and one that has persisted. Additionally, the authors forced me to evaluate my spiritual health. The verdict - on life support. I have said on more than one occasion that what I experienced shattered my soul. While I have attended to healing and gaining support in the other three areas, I have conscientiously avoided confronting the spiritual pain and loss I have felt. It was an unpleasant but necessary revelation and one I plan on addressing as soon as I can figure out who to talk to about it.
Redefining the Meaning of Your Life: Posttraumatic Growth:
The Good: In this final section of the book, the authors talk about how to 'keep the faith' long term. They talk about dispositional optimism, the importance of maintaining your support networks and social ties. They emphasize the insidious nature of self-doubt. They also talk about the importance of holding onto your core value system - the system of morality and beliefs that define you, Those who tenaciously hold on to this core of their identity are better equipped to manage their PTSD.
The Bad: After all of the insight I gained in the other sections of the book, this section seemed slightly anti-climactic. While I understand their intent to leave the course of your recover open, it felt like it was rushed.
The Unexpected: N/A
Croft and Parker have done something amazing in this book. They have tied together all of the pieces of the puzzle - and have done it in a way that speaks to the experience they have working with veterans. Their R-E-C-O-V-E-R Approach is comprehensive, simple, and approachable by all, regardless of their progress on their personal road to recovery. The most important aspect of this book is the emphasis that they place on the physiological nature of PTSD. It has given me much clearer insight and understanding into my behavior. I highly recommend that veterans and their loved ones read this book. You can't understand what you don't have knowledge of. Take the time - you won't regret it.
I wanted to reach out and make you all aware of the amazing work these folks are doing for veterans and service-members with PTSD and TBI. The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund (IFHF) is responsible for building the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE). The NICoE is a proof of concept for what a state-of-the-art treatment and research facility for PTSD and TBI should be. The work they are doing is inspiring and they want to do more. Right now they are in the process of raising 100 million dollars to build nine more of these centers around the country to make the level of treatment available at the NICoE available to the veteran population all over the country.
I learned a few days ago that they were involved in a fundraising competition and wanted to help spread the word. In a nutshell:
'The Crowdrise Veterans Challenge is a unique opportunity to engage the public to take action, share with their networks and compete with other teams (veterans charities) in fundraising efforts. It's a fun and social platform and Craig Newmark, of Craigconnects is offering incentives to donors, team members and top fundraising charities. The top 3 fundraising teams will receive grand prize donations from Craigconnects and the Rahr Foundation. The campaign began on Memorial Day and ends the 4th of July.'
Top fundraising organizations have a chance to win additional money for their organizations. Their mission is incredibly important for veterans with PTSD and TBI. If you can afford to support this cause, I ask that you do so. Even if you can't support with money, please help me spread the word. The competition ends July 4th, so we've got a month to help them realize their goals! The best part - you can become a team member and help raise funds for the team as a whole! With everything going on trying to get my own non-profit up an operational, I do not have the time to dedicate to actively fundraise for this amazing cause. Considering how involved and passionate this community is, I wanted to make sure you all knew about it and help raise the money they need to succeed.
As always, thanks to everyone who supports PTSD and TBI awareness and treatment. It is your compassion and dedication that inspires me to drive on every day.
Yours In Health,
Recently, I have noticed an uptick in the severity of my PTSD symptoms and my coinciding depression. It's starting to make me worry a little bit that not having a functional group to attend is slowly eroding my ability to cope and adversely affecting the effectiveness of my coping mechanisms. Or...It could be just a temporary uptick because of the uncertainty surrounding my upcoming TBI evaluation. Either way, it's decidedly annoying and not something I am handling well.
What to do? I am going to have an individual therapy session this week and I plan on talking to my therapist about my concerns and my frustrations with not having a group to attend. My PTSD is fighting to get through - the anger, the depression, the nightmares, and the insomnia. I also have been dealing with a higher than usual level of hypervigilance. Most nights I toss and turn so badly that I end up sleeping in my recliner, uncertain as to why I don't feel safe - I just don't.
What's even more frustrating is that there is a very clear dichotomy in my life. Everything is going so well with my non-profit and my plans for it. The more I work at it, the more I feel fulfilled and stable. When I have days where I don't have time to work on it, I feel a hair's-breadth from snapping at people. Today would be a prime example. I had to go to work early and I have not been able to do anything for my non-profit. I knew I wasn't going to have the time when I woke up this morning and it made it exceedingly difficult to deal with people at work. I am not even certain what ticked me off so much - they just did.
So, time to hold it together and hope I can figure this out. I only have ten more days to go until my TBI eval, so we'll see how it goes. I guess we'll see if I can hold myself together until them Fingers crossed.
The day started off so well. My wife and I took my daughter down to a local mall and we walked outside and enjoyed the weather, ate at Red Robin, and my daughter played with the other kids in the fountain next to the Starbucks. No really, she did:
I feel relaxed. I am enjoying the day. In the mid-afternoon, we get in the car and head home. When we get there, I very quickly fall asleep in my recliner...and wake up choking on my own bile from a nightmare. I bolt out of my seat and start gagging and puking up bile into the sink in the kitchen. My daughter saw the whole thing happen and it's a first I could have done without. She is scared out of her wits and very worried about her daddy. I stay as calm as I can since I am still gagging and trying to clear my wind pipe and my wife is a champ, explaining that daddy's ok. I did my best to reassure her that I was ok, but she wasn't satisfied until my gag reflex receded and I was able to pick her up.
Caley: "Daddy, you cried."
Me: "Yes I did, bear bear."
Caley: "It's OK, Daddy, It's OK" (hugs me fiercly)
Me: "I'll be OK, Caley. Daddy just had a bad dream."
Caley: "I love you, Daddy."
After that exchange, my heart melted into my figurative boots. Caley asked to be put down and went back to playing in the living room and I was left to reflect on my nightmare. It was about the death of an Iraqi translator that was killed for working with the US. He knew it was dangerous but worked hard to ensure the safety of our troops wherever he was. He wasn't the only Iraqi to die protecting us. The Kurdish Peshmerga (Special Forces) guarded our safehouse in Khanaqin. Many were murdered after they returned home to the Kurdish North for disobeying orders and staying to protect us while we got set up in town. These are not isolated incidents. These men were believers in what the United States stands for and died to protect our troops. They paid the ultimate sacrifice too, but you will never see a monument to their courage and selflessness. The men and women have always been there in any war - the forgotten heroes. The locals who believe so strongly in us that they protect our troops and sacrifice themselves for our cause.
I don't know why I had that nightmare in the middle of a wonderful day. I think I may actually be grateful for it. All of us are mourning the loss of those we served with who didn't make it home. All I ask is that you take a moment to reflect on the nameless ones who never expected to be remembered. Take a minute to praise and give thanks for those who have selflessly sacrificed themselves to ensure our troop's safety in a hostile environment and paid the ultimate price for their efforts.
Because, In My Eyes, They Were All American Service Members, Too
I have been trying and trying to write this blog post and every time I start to write it, I can't seem to get anywhere. Honestly, the whole prospect of TBI has been a lot to wrap my mind around and I have been having issues with my PTSD as a result. It scares the hell out of me. What makes it worse is that I don't even know if it IS TBI - and that's what's killing me right now. If it's not TBI, is it because I am not getting good sleep? Or could it be that my brain chemistry has changes drastically and my med cocktail is out of wack? What if it's all three or none of the above? It's driving me nuts and I haven't been able to concentrate at all. My ability to focus has gone right out the window.
Then there's the PTSD. As a result of all of the added uncertainty and fear, I have been struggling to keep emotionally involved with my wife and daughter. Granted, when I start to withdraw, I have been able to catch myself and pull myself back from becoming a cave-dweller, but it scares me that this whole situation has had such an adverse effect on my ability to cope with aspects of my PTSD that I have managed very well over the past six months.
The TBI evaluation cannot happen fast enough. It's amazing how uncertainty can throw my life into total disarray. If anyone has any brilliant suggestions on how to work through this, I am all ears.
Well, I had another session with my individual therapist today. We did a lot of talking about my recent realizations about being black and white about everything. We still haven't come anywhere close to a work around or work-through. One realization that I did make was that survivor's guilt plays a huge role in setting the standards I hold myself to (and my inability to forgive myself for not being good enough) and why I can't forgive others for disappointing me (well, violating my trust is more accurate). There's a lot more to this that I still have to work through, that's for sure. One of the things she told me is that she's concerned that because I need to have people fall into one category or another (Trusted or Not), I may try to force people to fit into those narrow categories, even when they don't belong there.
We talked about this for the vast majority of the session and she asked me if there was anything else bothering when I unintentionally dropped a bomb on her. I could tell it concerned her greatly because her demeanor went from relaxed and attentive to focused and intense. Here's the situation:
Last week, Thursday night into Friday, I lost a day. What do I mean by that? I went to sleep a little after midnight and the next thing I remember coherently is waking up and realizing I have to be at work in 45 minutes - work started at 2PM. I slept for over 12 hours. I remember nothing in the interim. The next thing I remember clearly from that night is helping to clean the slicers at the end of the night. I know interacted appropriately with my coworkers, but I have absolutely no sense of the passage of time for that night. None. I have no idea whether I was asleep all that time either.
I drove home that night wondering whether I was going to be walking into a shitstorm at home. I had no idea. After talking about this with my therapist today and seeing how concerned she got, it raised some alarms in my head and I ended up not working on the newsletters I wanted to send out today - I could barely concentrate on writing this blog post. So I decided to take a break and watch a movie or two. I couldn't concentrate on anything and it was starting to ratchet up my anxiety something fierce.
What I thought was strangest was the timing. Everything was going well. My PTSD symptoms were wll-managed. The only thing I can think of is that it happened the night after I talked to the consultant about incorporation and foundation documents for the non-profit and I had a funding proposal that I put before a local veterans group for consideration. I was extremely excited. I was thinking that maybe my body doesn't know how to tell the difference between excitement and fear. I know my adrenalin was pumping like crazy.
Unfortunately, the end result was the same - I lost a day.
So now, I have to track when this happens to see if there is a pattern. I did some looking online and the specific information about the symptoms of TBI seem to fall in line with some of the issues I have with short-term memory, loss of sense of time, anger, etc. Anyone out there know more specifics or resources online that articulate this better? I don't want to pee up a tree and send doctors looking for ghosts if there's nothing to this.
This past Wednesday, I had my weekly meeting with my individual therapist and she expressed some concern about how black and white I was. She didn't express concern with the way I was black and white in the fiasco that was my last group session. She asked me if I was this black and white about most things in life in general. I said I was. She asked me if that bothered me and I said that it didn't really. Then she went on to give me scenarios: work, social gatherings, making friends, working with others in my non-profit. What happens in those situations when someone violates some aspect of my code?
My response? I rationalized it all away. The upsetting part is that I didn't realize that's what I had done until after the fact. It hit me later that night and ran me over like a train when I had time to think through it more fully. The inability to see and accept shades of grey is what has held me back at work and from making friends.
At Work: I voluntarily stepped down from a management position because I was too stressed out all of the time and was having difficulty handling my anger when people did little thinks that would trigger the massive overreaction that would ensue. Most of the time, I didn't show the overreaction and that's what made me so stressed and so exhausted all of the time. Up until this moment, I didn't realize that it wasn't the job that was stressing me out - I was my PTSD getting triggered. How about them apples?
Friendship: I haven't been able to make any friends for a while. Every time I make one, they do something that violates some minor aspect of my 'code' and I refuse to bend because 'I don't operate that way'. I have alienated almost all of the people I considered friends not solely because of what they did, but also because they violated my personal code which I have been treating as inviolable. The end result? I write them off and cease all contact because 'I don't need their shit'.
The End Result: Through unwitting actions I have taken, I have succeeded in halting my career progression and alleviated myself of friendships that should have been long-standing ones. Way to go me. The worst part is what it has done to my self-esteem and estimation of my self-worth. I feel like a pariah. I don't like the person I see in the mirror. I feel worthless.
The Solution?: Hell if I know, but at least I have made that realization and have somewhere to start from and something to work on. If this is what many of us go through in professional settings and in friendships, no wonder we have a tendency to live very isolated lives. Well, at least I know what I am going to be working on with my therapist over the coming weeks and months. I can't let this stand. Having success in starting my non-profit has only made me realize that I need more than an hourly wage at work. I need to live up to my level or experience and knowledge and work to put myself in a position to affect real progress in my professional life. Having started the non-profit also made me realize that, other than my wife and my parents, I have no one to share my passion with - no one to celebrate with. I'm tired of feeling lonely. Maybe it's time I go find a wading pool...
I am so frustrated, encouraged, worried, angry, disillusioned and exhausted all at the same time. This past week and a half has been ridiculous. Every time I would be ready to sit down after thinking through things that have transpired, something else would happen and I would delay the blog post and process the new insight. Well, I can't hold this in anymore, so I am going to break this down by associated emotion.
Frustrated: I just found out today that in the span of a year I went from perfect reading on my blood screenings to being pre-diabetic and borderline high cholesterol. I feel like no matter what I do to better take care of my physical health that the PTSD is slowly killing me and it frustrates the hell out of me. What do I have to do to get these train wreck of health problem after health problem under control? Live like a monk? Deny myself all pleasures? Develop workout anorexia? Starve? GAH! I want to throw things in frustration but the inanimate objects don't deserve that kind of abuse.
Worried, Exhausted: My daughter is seriously sick for the first time. Bronchitis and bronchiolitis. She woke up Friday night crying and coughing, post-nasal drip, and a fever. I didn't sleep from Friday night until Monday night when her fever finally broke. With already being on heightened alert after the bombings in Boston, I started thinking that something was seriously wrong with my daughter's health. I was the youngest and never was around sick kids so I had no idea that this kind of sick was normal. I never really got sick. I remember having the pukes once as a kid and mild fevers a few times, but that's it. I never got strep, maybe bronchitis once, chicken pox was only three or four spots and a fever. I had no idea it could be this bad and not be life-threatening. I was relieved Monday night and was looking forward to catching up on some sleep on Tuesday. The cough was resurgent Tuesday night. My daughter didn't pass out until after 5AM Wednesday morning and didn't sleep at school either. Needless to say, I'm worn a little thin right now.
Angry, Disillusioned: I went to group today, looking forward to talking with them about stuff. Very shortly into group, the new therapist told me I could not blog about what I learned in group anymore. I got very angry as blogging about what I learn is at the core of my ability to cope. I explained to her that I have never once violated anyone's privacy and only bring up things that I learn and have worked through as a result of going to group. I told her that I had received express consent from the group members before I blogged about it. My previous group doc had signed off on it and over the course of the past year, it has become an integral part of my therapeutic process. She still refused even after directly asking the members of the group who all said they were fine with it. When I stated if no-one has a problem with it...
She raised her hand straight above her head and said she had a problem with it. That behavior, in and of itself, was exceptionally unprofessional. I got really angry and told her that I would no longer be part of her group. She professed to not understanding why it had to be that black and white for me. New flash, moron. Everything is black and white with veterans with PTSD. The fact that she didn't know that, combined with her extremely confrontational attitude illustrated to me that the 'new hires' at the VA are 'warm bodies'. I continue to wonder if she got her degree out of a cracker jack box. It took me eight years to try group therapy again after my first horrible experience. What I have come to recognize is that aside from Doctor Casagrande, I have never had a client/doctor relationship at the VA that I felt was constructive. When I talked about it with my father tonight over dinner, he made an incredibly astute observation: "She doesn't care about the welfare or privacy of the veterans in the group. She doesn't want to see herself critiqued online." Wow. Boy did that hit home. Her refusal was all about her ego.
Encouraged: I got the money into my account from the crowdfunding and started the ball rolling. I also got all four of my first choice board members and they are a perfect fit to effectively govern the non-profit. I have started the process of incorporating and have gotten the landing pages for the websites up and running and am incredibly proud of the landing page for Support No Stigma. I still can't believe I have been so fortunate to be surrounded by such good people in my life. Honestly, I think that the love for my family and the good works I do on here and now in forming my non-profit are the only things that have kept me from institutionalization. Especially over this past week.
So there you have it. What a ride, huh? It's all about the timing. Individually, any one of these issues would have been manageable. The fact that timing crammed them all together in a seven day span almost put me under. All I know is I am relieved and grateful that I am still here. A year ago, things would have played out very differently.
Boy was I glad to have off Sunday. I talked in my previous post how the Boston Bombings had really triggered my PTSD. Well, I did what I said I was going to do and I turned off the news.
Too bad it made absolutely no difference whatsoever.
Every day I went to work, people wouldn't stop talking about the latest developments in the bombings. Yippee. Everyone knows I am a veteran and this situation was the first time I wished people didn't know. Everyone wanted my opinion on the situation. Everyone wanted to tell me about it and hear what I thought. People kept on telling me they were afraid it wasn't over - that something was going to happen again, and soon.
Not exactly the type of thing I needed to hear. So, work became trigger after trigger. The only thing that's kept me from hiding in my hole is my love for my family and my advocacy work. The gym has TVs suspended in front of every piece of cardio equipment. Any guesses as to what was on every one of those TVs?
I couldn't escape it until Sunday, my day off. I took a break from things all morning and early afternoon and just spent time with my wife and daughter. We met my sister-in-law and her two Blue Tick Coon Hounds and we went for a walk in the local park. It was really nice just to get away and enjoy a cool spring day. I felt revitalized and came home and got to work on website design for the non-profit.
So what happens now? I need to rethink my strategy for coping with this and not getting triggered at work. I can't keep this up or I am going to exhaust myself. I guess I can talk about it in group therapy this week and see what we come up with.
I don't think I need to recount what happened yesterday. When I heard about it from my father when I got home from work, I had to (and I mean HAD TO) see what was going on.
The descriptions, the blood, first-hand accounts, everything, triggered my memories of stuff that I had seen and been through over in Iraq. The second I knew I was triggered, I slammed shut my computer and I walked away and tried to do stuff that would take my mind off of what had happened up in Boston. I succeeded pretty well and was able to go to bed at a fairly normal hour. Then the nightmares came. They weren't so bad that they woke me up, but it was an endless cycle of suffering and emotional pain. When my alarm went off at 0600, I didn't get out of bed. I barely made it to work and I knew that I was going to be anxious as all hell.
And I was. An hour in, I had to pop an extra anxiety med to keep my self going. Another hour later, another.
Wash, rinse, repeat for five straight hours. I didn't have any more with me and I knew that my anxiety was still getting worse. I gutted it out but told my boss that as soon as the evening shift came in at two, I had to leave. To his credit, he didn't question it. He thanked me for gutting it out today. I think he knew that something was really rattling my cage.
So, I came home and I unwound. I took another pill and ended up passing out in my recliner, only to be woken up when my wife and daughter got home. I still feel triggered, but I am hoping that is something that I can work through with my individual therapist and group therapy tomorrow. I guess we'll see,
This is where I want to do a little explaining. Why was work so hard for me?
Everybody, and I do mean EVERYBODY was talking about it. The customers, the employees, everybody. Everybody had a theory about who did it, why, how, everything. To make matters worse, I came into work and the flags were still at full mast. It just tweaked me that much more. I immediately went to the store manager and asked him if he knew why the flags weren't at half mast. He said he'd look into it. Thankfully, the next opportunity I had to check, they were or I think I might have lost it. All in all, it was one conversation between two customers that I overhead that almost made me blow a gasket:
CustA: You heard about that Boston Shit, right?
CustB: Yeah, that's what happens when you let those dirty Arabs into our country.
CustA: I know, man. They already got a Saudi in lock-up.
CustB: They should have just let that sand-N****R ass bleed.
Yup. This shit brings out the best in people, don't ya think? I almost didn't walk away. All I can say is this:
If you are a veteran who has been triggered by this bombing, don't watch the fucking news! Just leave well enough alone. If you don't trust yourself not to, ask your family or spouse for support in this. It makes things easier when I am not constantly re-triggering myself. It's not that I don't care, it's that I care to much and the feeling of helplessness, not being able to do anything to help kills me. I know you know what I mean.
So there it is. Avoid triggers and avoid people you know that are ignorant and hateful. Now I am calling it a day and I am going to spend time with my wife and daughter who I suddenly find even more precious than I did yesterday.
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.