When I woke up on Veterans Day, I was really looking forward to it, as I always do. I was going out to enjoy a free breakfast at the local Friendly's with my dad (who is also a veteran). After that, I was going to a promising meeting for work and then the Netizen Crew (all veterans) were hitting Texas Roadhouse for a team lunch. Then, that afternoon, I had another really promising meeting for work.
I started off the day full of vim and vigor, ready to seize the day and enjoy the company of my fellow veterans.
To say that the day proceeded a little differently...well, that would be an understatement.
When I arrived at Friendly's, I met my dad and we went inside. The place was packed. There was one cook in the kitchen, one very stressed waitress, and ZERO management. I looked around the seating area and saw a lot of disgusted faces. To attract veterans (yes their food is free) and their families (their food is NOT free) with free food to honor their service and then not staff up was a complete failure on Friendly's part. It wasn't the fact that I wasn't going to get free food that really rankled me. What really angered me was that now, because of the absolute ineptitude (and apparent apathy) of Friendly's management, I no longer had time to find another place to eat breakfast with my father and was denied the opportunity to celebrate our service and spend quality time with my dad.
That was TRIGGER#1
I walked out into the parking lot a little edgy. I saw my dad off and as I was walking to my car, I witnessed a lady t-boning another lady in parking lot adjacent to Friendly's. I didn't think, I just reacted. I ran over to check on the two drivers. The lady who was t-boned was standing outside of her car next to the open driver-side door, visibly shaken and wobbly. I quickly instructed her to sit down, as I was afraid she was going to pass out. She complied and I asked her how she was feeling, whether she had any medical conditions and told her I was going to call 911. The lady said she had hypertension so I again reassured her that I was calling 911 and that everything was going to be ok. I called 911 and when the cop arrived, gave my statement. While we were waiting for the police, I helped the lady to call her husband so that he could come and pick her up - her car was totaled.
After my information was taken and I was released by the police, I went back to my car and was shaking from head to toe with adrenalin. I didn't need to remain calm anymore, as the welfare of the accident victims was now in the hands of the police. I had to consciously focus on slowing down my breathing. I was having intrusive recollections of the aftermath of an IED attack in which I was one of the first responders. I felt like I was a hot mess, so I swallowed my memories, bit my lip and drove to my first business meeting.
That was TRIGGER#2
I arrived at the first meeting feeling like I must appear outwardly to be a hot mess. Somehow, I got through the meeting without imploding. I even asked our CEO, who I was in the meeting with, if I looked visibly shaken or distracted. I felt like is had to be obvious to everyone that I was a hot mess. He reassured me that it didn't show and I started to relax a little bit.
After the meeting, we headed to lunch with the team. Texas Roadhouse was packed. I was still on edge, so I was really hoping that the staff was on point and that I would be able to sit with my back as close to the wall as possible.
Thankfully, the staff was amazing (Texas Roadhouse, you ROCK!) and I was able to sit where I could see most of the people coming and going. The lunch and the company was great. I was starting to relax and decompress as I was finally getting to celebrate the day and enjoy the company of my fellow veterans.
I headed home to check on a few things for work and to prep for my afternoon meeting when I got notification that an article that had been written about me and the nonprofit work I am doing had gone live. My stress level went up instantly. They hadn't afforded me the opportunity to fact check what they had written and had not notified me that it had been published. I quickly checked the article on their website and I almost put my fist through the wall. They had gotten every fact about my service wrong. They had the wrong suffix for the nonprofit's website. They screwed up the name of the entrepreneurship initiative I am working to roll out. They directly attributed quotes to me that were such poor grammar that they made me sound like an uneducated idiot.
To say I was furious would be an understatement. I immediately called their managing editor and chewed him a new one. He took down all of the fallacies that needed to be corrected and told me that he would correct the article online, but there was nothing he could do about the print version.
That was TRIGGER#3
Before anyone jumps the gun and comes to the conclusion that this is about my ego, let me clarify a few things:
After all of this went down, I had to get back in my car, again, and head to my last meeting for the day. The meeting went well, but it was exceedingly hard to keep the agitation and adrenalin in check. I was a hot mess.
I got out of the meeting and met my parents for dinner at Red Robin. I ate quickly and departed quickly. I just wanted to get home. I changed clothes and headed over to the Yoga Lab to take advantage of a free mat yoga class. I figured doing some yoga would help to work out the adrenalin and anger and allow me to focus on my breathing.
The class was intense and I struggled to maintain the motivation to finish the class, but I was able to purge a lot of the anger over the course of the class (Thank you, Yoga Lab!)
I went home and putzed around, desperately hoping that my body would allow me to actually lay down and get some sleep. I went to bed and closed my eyes, desperate to put this day behind me. I tossed and turned for hours and finally fell into a fitful sleep around 2 in the morning.
I woke up a few hours later when the alarm went off, feeling like I'd swallowed a cup of sand. My eyes were gritty and blood-shot, my tongue was swollen, and my lips were stuck to my teeth. The bed was soaked with sweat. I looked in the mirror and my lips were literally glued to my teeth in a grimace.
I didn't remember any nightmares, but they must have been intense.
My body ached from head to toe. I let my boss know that I was going to be working from home today and explained that I was a bit worn out from being triggered yesterday.
His response? "No sweat, take the time you need".
I've never been so grateful to be working for Netizen as I was this morning.
I'm feeling a bit more like myself, but it's going to take a few days to come down fully off of this. I hope I recover sooner, rather than later, though. Startup Weekend is this upcoming weekend and I'm one of the organizers.
As always, the timing couldn't be better...
It's been a long month. I have had to get used to things I never wanted to have to get used to again. The house is empty for at least half the week. I never realized how much it scares me to be alone and the nights when I don't have my daughter have been the hardest. I can count on one hand how many times I have seen my wife since she moved out and every time I see her, I feel like I have lead in my stomach. It hurts my heart to see her so distant, and closed off from me. Yes, we're on the same page when it comes to parenting, but I fear that the hurt I caused her when I was depressed is too much to overcome.
I wish that there was something that I could do to help her see that I love her beyond words and that I have stayed strong through all of this. I haven't disappeared back down the rabbit hole. I'm still working out and still going to MMA. Work continues to be a revelation.
So, what to do? Where do I go from here? The only thing I can think to do is just stay steady and continue to do what I have been doing - Living my life as best I can for me so that I can find fulfillment. So I'm going to keep on making the most of my workouts, MMA, and work. The biggest thing is keeping busy, especially as the major holidays approach. There's always the temptation to stay in and not go out at all. I swore that I would never go down that road again. It's the first time in my life where I have been thankful for hypervigilance. I've been able to repurpose it to help me keep from going down that road ever again.
I have been afraid to sit down at the computer to write any of this because is makes it real...Does that make sense? Acknowledging my new reality is one of the hardest things that I have ever had to do. It's one of the reasons that I haven't been blogging that past few weeks. I had to come to terms with how things are and fight my fear and the anger.
It took a while...
But I'm getting there. Bit. By. Bit.
And I'll keep on fighting to make the most of my life for as long as it takes and as long as I live. I never really thought that Post Traumatic Growth was really a thing. When I was in the throes of my PTSD, it seemed unattainable. I don't think that it's the bright, shiny future that they make it out to be in the press, but I do believe it's real. So, no matter how things turn out, I'm going to learn to be happy - with someone or by myself.
But that's a subject for another post...and one I'm working on writing as we speak.
So, I disappeared off the radar, again - this time for good reason. All of my spare time has been dedicated to contending with family issues at home. The end result: My wife and I are entering into a trial separation, as of today. Before anyone overreacts to this, I need to make this clear - it was a mutual decision. We have taken this step BECAUSE we love each other and want to save our marriage.
Seems counter-intuitive, right?
It really isn't and I'm going to explain why so that maybe the lessons we've learned from all of this will help other couples in distress for the same reasons. I wasn't sure whether I really wanted to write about this, but I felt I needed to articulate in writing our thought process - that and blogging always helps me process through my emotions, so...Here we go.
If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that I've been struggling with PTSD and depression for years now. Back on November 8th, 2010, my amazing and wonderful daughter, Caley, was born. When I held her for the first time, I was overwhelmed with the profundity of my love for her. It was at that moment that I had the insidious and destructive thought: "If anything ever happened to her..."
My PTSD headed very quickly into a downward spiral and the depression followed, gleefully riding the coattails of my PTSD on the way down. I withdrew completely from my wife and from my daughter over the course of the next year, leaving my wife to contend with caring for two kids on her own: Our beautiful newborn, and me.
I hit rock bottom in early 2012 when my wife confronted me with my withdrawal and gave me the ultimatum: Get help or we are leaving. This sounds really blunt but my wife had tried every other way of getting my attention and nothing had worked. I was so deeply in the throes of my own despair that I needed the emotional slap in the face to be able to see through the fog of my depression. When I did, I was horrified. I had emotionally abandoned my family. The guilt I felt was crushing - so crushing that I seriously considered committing suicide so that I wouldn't be able to hurt them anymore. That's how insidious depression can be. I couldn't see the forest for the trees and almost deprived my daughter of a father and my wife of a husband - Not because I wanted to selfishly end it all, but because I couldn't see any way of preventing my family from getting hurt again.
To this day, I still don't know what, exactly, pulled me back from the ledge but I'm grateful that I found a way. Just thinking about how close I came still horrifies me and always will. Over the course of the next few days, I started to gain a bit of clarity and was able to make a compact with myself - that I would never, EVER, let things get this bad ever again. I knew that the road ahead of me was going to be long and painful, but I needed desperately to be the Father and Husband I know I can be when the PTSD and the depression haven't taken me hostage.
Over the course of the next two and a half years, I have put in the work. I've gone to therapy, learned how to effectively cope with my PTSD and depression, learned how to watch for warning signs that I may be headed in the wrong direction and also learned that I needed to remove as much unnecessary stress from my life as I possible could.
The end result:
Up until a few months ago, I thought that the whole concept of Post Traumatic Growth was a load of crap. I found myself, all of a sudden, full of drive and energy and motivation to live life and live up to the ideals I had always striven for. I finally felt I was WORTH fighting for.
What happened next completely blindsided both my wife and I. It sucks and it hurts, but I think you will see clearly how we got to this point.
I Need Some Time Apart to Clear My Head
Over the course of the past few months, I noticed that my wife was getting angrier and angrier with me over the smallest of transgressions. I started talking to her about it and expressed a desire to get help and get therapy, for both of us, if necessary. Nothing ever came of it and I thought, after some very serious heart to hearts, that we were moving past the anger and emotional distance (things have deteriorated so far for my wife that she's completely emotionally closed off and unable to show affection or appreciation - we've been living like roommates for the better part of the past year).
Over the course of the past few weeks, things had gotten progressively worse between us and it seemed like the hurt feelings and emotional distance were gaining momentum, regardless of how I tried to reconcile with my wife. The end result: I told my wife that I couldn't live like this anymore - that I felt like I was walking on eggshells because the was angry all of the time and was either unable or unwilling to be intimate or reciprocate my affection.
That's when she said those fateful words: "I think I need some time apart to clear my head". I felt the bottom fall out from under me and I clung desperately to the edge of my sanity.
Over the course of the past week and a half, I've climbed out and things have settled down. Yes, my wife and I are separating but it's a mutual decision and I'm going to take the time to explain why this doesn't mean the end of our marriage.
The Five Stages of Grief
It was only after I had finally accepted what needed to happen that I just gone through the five stages of grief for the state of our relationship. It's analogous to the stages of grief that a person would go through when the doctor had told them that their loved one being kept alive by life support was going to be taken off of it according to wishes presented in their living will - the machines would be turned off and the person would either breathe on their own or they'd die. For our marriage, things were very much the same. My wife needed to get the space she needed (turning off the machines) so that she could process through the intensity of her emotions and figure out whether she was able to move past them and recommit to trusting me and loving me the way she knows I need (finding out whether our marriage will breathe on its own). Here's how the five stages of grief play into this:
However, rather than a means to an end, separation can be a helpful tool to stay together. This seems counterintuitive when a marriage is troubled and relations are fragile. Most of us believe that when we feel our spouse slipping away from us, we should merge together more, get as close as we can, and do more to "make the marriage work".
After reading that excerpt, things started to make a whole lot more sense. Our lives were financially stable, our work was stable, and most importantly, I wasn't only stable, I was ME again - the guy with the inner fire and the sense of purpose. It was finally safe for my wife to not be in survival mode anymore and when she let down the walls she had put up to survive, she was completely overwhelmed with how angry she was. She fully recognizes that I never meant to hurt her, but the end result was the same: She felt like she had been betrayed and abandoned by me for the better part of the past almost four years, since our daughter was born. As anyone will tell you, the more deeply you love someone, the more deeply you hurt when you feel abandoned and betrayed by him.
All of a sudden, I understood completely why she needed separation. The emotions she was feeling were so intense that any time she saw me, it triggered her emotions and none of them were particularly happy ones. The only way she could possibly start to work through all of this is by removing the source of the pain: Me. So, a few nights ago, I explained to my wife that I accepted her need for separation and why. Believe it or not, it was a huge relief for both of us. Up until that point, my wife was concerned that I wouldn't be able to find a way to accept her need for space and that the marriage would end before we even had a chance to work on it - not because we wanted it to, but because of irreconcilable differences.
Over the past few days, we've spent a lot of time getting on the same page and laying out the groundwork for separation and what it means for us and for our daughter. By loving my wife and supporting her in her need for space, we have already started down the right road. It may sound weird, but working together to coordinate the separation has been the closest my wife and I have been in years - because we are working together to save our marriage and working together hasn't been in the cards for a while now. In the next blog post, I will detail our Separation Contract, what it entails, and why. I could continue on and make this all one massive blog post, but this seems like a logical place to split it up. I know that there are readers out there that are probably in the same position we are in and can't seem to find a way forward. I hope that the struggle that I've gone through, both with the PTSD and Depression and with coming to terms with my wife's need for separation can help those of you out there that find yourselves facing a similar scenario.
Thank you all for your constant support and continued readership.
The Best TV Episode You've Probably Never Seen About Combat-Related PTSD, Suicide, and the Long Road Home.
Have you ever heard of the TV Show, 'Hack'? I hadn't either, but it was available in Netflix and its premise sounded interesting. I cop that made a mistake, lost his badge, and started over as a cabbie or hack in Philadelphia. The show starts Andre Braugher and David Morse so I figured I'd like it.
I'm glad I gave it a chance. The show ran for two seasons in 2003 and 2004. It has excellent lessons in morality and it's massive scale of grey, love, hope, and family. Then I started watching Season 2, Episode 14, named "Fog of War". The main character's godson came home from Iraq after being wounded and they depicted PTSD, raw and unfiltered. They showed how he tried to numb his mind with pain killers and alcohol. They showed how corrosive the effects of survivor's guilt can be on the soul. They illustrated the particular way in which our anger can flare - by raging against inanimate objects and scaring the crap out of our loved ones. It illustrates moral injury and the cost of war upon the human condition. What gave me chills was the manner in which the actor playing the soldier depicted intrusive recollections. The unconscious twitch of the body, the quasi-nauseous shudder and the thousand yard stare.
It also shows how quickly dependency and depression, combined with survivor's guilt, can lead to suicidal ideation.
One thought kept on popping into my head: "This Could've Been Me."
PTSD didn't really reach mainstream awareness and acceptance as the signature wound of this conflict until 2006 and 2007. What really gave me goosebumps was the date that this episode aired: Feburary 7, 2004. Just five days after I returned home from overseas - I was one of the vanguard. One of the first to return home from Iraq. They didn't even have support services in place for the conflict in Iraq. My support group was comprised of veterans of previous conflicts, predominantly Vietnam.
I watched the episode four times in a row, with tears in my eyes every time. Every time I watched it, the more poignant I realized it was - and just how aware the writing team was of the enduring costs of war. I would warn against watching this episode if you are still learning to cope with triggers, but if you are in the right frame of mind - take the time to watch this episode. It will be particularly educational for family members. The show demonstrates just how important fidelity, unconditional support and love are to our returning veterans.
The veteran depicted in the show had a father who was a hard-nosed cop. Old-school. The show no weakness type of man who thought his son should just forget what happened and 'just move on' in his life. The main character, who over the course of one and a half seasons has found his compassion and his own code of morality, lights the way to a positive solution to the show - not with his virtues but with acceptance of his flaws. It is masterfully done and in such a way as to give hope to those who watch it that their loved ones with PTSD can learn to cope and live with their experiences.
I really didn't see this episode coming at all. It even depicted the politics of the time from both sides of the aisle in a way that showed the validity of both standpoints without being argumentative.
Take the time to watch this show if you have Netflix. You won't regret it. It is truly an episode for the ages.
There's been a lot going on with Veterans and the VA in the news recently. The revelation that administrators all over the country have been cooking the books to hide criminally long wait times may have rocked the political and civilian landscape but comes to no surprise to those veterans that have been going to the VA for care for years. None of this is new territory. Over the past few weeks, representatives of the major VSOs have been called before Congress to testify. Among those that testified is a fellow Veteran I served with in Iraq and Deputy Legislative Director of the VFW, Ryan Gallucci. What you may not know is that he is also a member of Support No Stigma's Board of Directors. Gallucci has dedicated his entire professional life advocating for our veterans, at the VFW and at AMVETS before that. There is no one I know who has more integrity. After what happened late this past week, I felt compelled to respond to to Senator Richard Burr (R) of North Carolina. Here is what the Senator wrote in an open letter: (Click Here for Official Release)
To the Nation’s Veterans,
This sparked immediate outrage and response from the leadership at the VFW, PVA and the DAV. Before I say my piece, I want you to read their responses: (Click Here for Official VFW response, Here for the PVA response, and Here for DAV response. The full transcripts are also readable below:
Well, that's a lot to absorb. I was furious earlier today. So angry I could spit. I wanted to throw a rant out on the blog to emasculate Senator Burr, but my better judgement and a cooler head prevailed. I thought a lot about what I would say to him if I had the chance and I decided I could also write an open letter. I choose to take a stand with the VFW, DAV, and PVA and I hope, after reading my letter, you will choose to do the same.
In Response to Senator Burr's Open Letter to Veterans:
I really should be thanking you right now. By publishing your letter, you have removed the scales from my eyes. I see clearly now. Your reprehensible choice of timing on the release of your letter, combined with your choice of targets truly show how small of a man you are. Your self-serving and politically motivated message to our nation's veteran community has not fallen on deaf ears. You've roused a giant from his slumber. Despite your service as the Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, you have unequivocally and demonstrably illustrated to veterans everywhere just how out of touch you are with our community.
I have been in the care of the VA since I returned home from Iraq in 2004. When I first received treatment, I was one of the first to return. I could see a therapist as often as needed for an hour at a time, my needs seen to immediately. My disability claim was submitted and decided upon in a few short months. Fast forward to 2014: I wait four to five months to see a therapist for twenty minutes at a time, at the mercy of an underfunded and overwhelmed staff at the local outpatient clinic. Veterans wait so long for decisions on their claims for disability compensation.
Why is this happening?
I hold you and the political establishment at large accountable. Over the past decade, our political process has been hamstrung by political partisanship. While Republicans and Democrats have held due political process hostage with a reprehensible disregard for doing what's right in the name of toeing the party line, they have also clamored to claim that their respective party is the only party that cares about veterans and our plight. What has become abundantly clear is that our veterans are viewed by many in Washington as nothing more than political tools to bolster political agendas, couched as actions being taken on our behalf. This cannot continue. From now on, I will be paying particular attention to the track records of incumbents and how well they have ACTED to care for the veteran community in reality. I know this concept may be lost on many in Washington, but actions do speak louder than words.
Senator, since you have such a skewed sense of reality and seem unable to grasp simple concepts, I am compelled to elucidate a few matters that have led to endless partisan bickering in recent weeks:
I hope this has made things a little clearer for you Senator. Considering your position, you should already know all of this. I shouldn't have to explain all of this, yet I am not surprised that I have to. Veterans are not tools to be used to further a political agenda. Supporting the veterans of this great country should be apolitical. If there's one thing elected officials claim to support, it's our community. We will no longer tolerate political posturing. You do what's right by veterans or you lose our support and our votes. Veterans, as a whole, pay attention to what is going on inside the Beltway. We also have a deeply ingrained sense of honor. Maybe next time you consider spewing vitriol at honorable men and women and the organizations they represent you will think twice. Don't worry, Senator. I'm not holding my breath.
Support No Stigma
It's been a long month and an even longer beginning of the year. Granted, the changes that have come fast and furious over the past few months have been positive changes. They were changes, nonetheless. You know what that means, right? Stress. Lots and lots of stress. I know I haven't written nearly as often as I had been in the past. I won't try to make excuses. There are so many things that I have wanted to write about and I just couldn't bring myself to sit down at the keyboard. Too much of everything was too raw. After I stopped taking the meds, it's like every day and every experience has been an open wound and it has taken me a bit of time to adjust. Quite honestly, I'm still adjusting, but at least now I know what I write stems from a position of sound mind and reason - not one held hostage by the anger and the fear that have come close to overwhelming me.
I really wasn't expecting it to be quite this intense, but it has. My new job and my routine are what have brought me back around. I just couldn't bring myself to focus on writing what I was feeling and experiencing when I wasn't even sure myself what my feelings meant. Well, with the passing of this period of upheaval comes respite. I now have the ability to make routines - routines that make time for myself, time for my family, time for coping and writing. I'm learning to cope with my PTSD in a whole new way - a way that not only teaches me about myself but in a manner that will sustain me and give me the strength I need to help others. So during my period of unintentional isolation and reflection, here's what has happened:
Yeah, I think this blog post has been a long time coming. I'm settling into a new lease on life and I am once again ready to share my struggles and my triumphs. So keep your eyes peeled and your inboxes open, 'cuz I'm back and I'm not afraid to 'use my words'...
It's been a bit of a crazy few weeks. A lot has happened and, for once, some of what happened was actually good! That being said, some aspects of what happened these past few weeks were stressful and exhausting.
You all know that I have returned to work on a part-time basis. That has actually been really good for me. I have a relatively set routine and it has been particularly good for me. For a few weeks, I didn't have any issues - and then last week happened. I had been working an average of about 30 hours per week and that seemed to work out pretty well for me. Then I decided to pick up and extra shift, work six days out of seven and I paid the price. My anxiety shot through the roof. I started staying up later and later and getting less and less sleep. This past week, I had nightmares, serious nightmares, for the first time in weeks. Things were a little frayed around the edges and I truly felt at wit's end. Seriously? I try to work 40 hours and I start bugging out?
Well, before I started down the well-trodden path to depression and self-recrimination, I asked myself a question: Is It You or Is It the Work? That one stopped me dead in my tracks. Could it really be that simple? Could it really just be that Retail and I are like oil and water? We may have appeared to be mixed at first, but over a longer period of time, it becomes readily apparent that no matter how hard I try to make it work for the sake of financial stability and peace of mind for my family, Retail Work and I don't get along.
We are getting absolutely pounded with heavy snow right now. So, with nothing else going on, it seemed like a perfect time to catch you all up a bit on everything that's been going on. There has been some concern expressed by family, friends and readers that recent posts have expressed a lot of anger. Yep, they sure have. I'm less angry than I am frustrated, but that's just part of the story.
I'm 35 years old and I have had no luck starting a meaningful career since 2007 when I graduated (Magna Cum Laude, I might add) from college. I have continually been told that I'm 'overqualified'. Well, now I'm seen as too old and too experienced for entry level work, but I don't know the requisite computer applications that seems to be required for mid-level management (seriously? It's a computer application - I could learn a stupid computer program in a day or two). I've also come to the realization that I really don't play very well with others. I'm demanding and exacting and hold people to the standards I hold myself to and that seems to cause me a lot of problems in the workplace. It's made me realize that the education and skill set I currently have isn't doing me any favors. As a result, I'm exploring whether VA's Vocational Rehabilitation program could help me get the training I need to go into business for myself (or at least on a contract basis).
So, that's the work side of life. Things on the personal side are settling down substantially. I go to train MMA as often as I am able to get out to the gym. I am learning to deal with my emotions better (anger and frustration still need a lot of work). I've been off the medication for about two months now and I feel a whole hell of a lot better. My psoriasis is much more manageable, I have stopped having constant stress headaches, and my asthma is almost non-existent. My instinct that the medication was having an adverse impact on my physical health definitely appears to be right on the money so far. I feel more energetic, motivated. I've still got a lot to work through and think through, but I feel like I'm finally headed in the right direction.
As for the non-profit, well...The backlog on 501(c)3 Tax Exempt status is so big, we won't gain our tax-exempt status until 2015 at the earliest. It has made getting the non-profit off the ground exceptionally time-consuming and frustrating. As a result, I've had to change the short-term focus and just get down to the basics. The crowdfunding rewards are finally done and in hand - sort of. The company that made affortable static window clings went under. The other companies charge more for a single window cling than I paid to purchase and print a t-shirt. Same goes for the 550 cord key chains. As a result, I've decided to send all supporters a silicone bracelet and a t-shirt. So keep an eye out for the email I'm sending out to confirm mailing addresses. The silicone bracelets I got for a song - the website I purchased them through gave me 200 free when I bought 100 debossed two-tone bracelets. At least I'll be able to make a little money for the non-profit by selling them and the extra t-shirts.
So there you have it. That's pretty much everything going on right now. I've been much better about recognizing my limitations and am finally making the lifestyle and professional changes I need to so that I can live a less stressful and better balanced life. I won't lie and say that things have been easy as I have worked on making this transition. It's been stressful as hell, but I finally feel like I'm thinking long-term and making the changes I need to provide for long-term stability. I'll keep you posted as things progress. Thanks to all of my readers for your continued support and readership!
Enough is Enough. I Say Who I Am. Screw Your Molds and Your Proprietary Behavior - A Much Needed Wake Up Call
You read that right. I'm done bowing down to social norms. I have been second-guessed and told that I need to be more 'respectful. more caring'. I need to learn how to work in a civilian workplace. I need to learn tact. And so on and so on and so on...Every turn I have taken in my professional life since I have gotten home, I have discovered that morality, ethics, and merit don't have any place here. I have been told I am too rigid, too uncompromising. I have been put down, knocked down, condescended, treated poorly in every situation I have tried to stand up and do what's right. I have been made to see myself as the weird/broken one who has my priorities skewed.
This is exactly what's wrong with this country. The people who fuck up, move up. The people who don't have the courage to stand up and do the right thing keep their job. What happened to honor? Integrity? Courage? Loyalty? Duty? Are these traits only instilled in the military nowadays? Every place I look all I see is people wondering how they can get over on others.
Let's recap: I stand up for what's right, for what I believe in and I get stomped all over. A prime example is when I was working in the Middle East as a contractor. One of the guys was I worked with was too lazy to clean the dirt from the equipment. In stead he showed me the 'easy' way and took black spray paint and painted over the dirt. When I reported this to my immediate supervisor, he did nothing. I was forced to report it to the boss back in the states. He did nothing. He said it was my word against the other employee's and never bothered to look into it. When nothing was done, I was put in an untenable situation. My PTSD flared up something fierce and I resigned my position. I felt I was powerless at the time to do anything about it. No one was willing to step forward and do the right thing. They were too concerned with covering their own asses that they refused to step forward and take responsibility.
In every job I have had since I got home from Iraq, I have ended up in a situation where I have been confronted by the disparity between my ethics and integrity and the lack thereof on the parts of the people or companies I have worked for. It has forced me to recognize that there is no place for me in Corruptorate America. I don't want to be someone else's manager. I won't modify who I am and what I stand for just to squeeze myself into someone else's mold for the 'perfect yesman'.
It's been ten years that I have tried to do things 'their' way. Now it's time that everyone learn to do things the right way, with honor and integrity. I served my country to protect an ideal that is obviously dead. Well, I may just be one man, but I will fight for its resurrection, come hell or or high water. People here take what we have for granted and I have had my reputation, identity, and confidence stripped from me at every turn. Even my family sees what I am going through now as just another disappointing turn for the worse. They can't bring themselves to trust my judgement and support my belief in what is right. They see my unwillingness to compromise my beliefs and my integrity as foolhardy - that I should be the one to learn to fit in.
It tears me apart to see even my family so broken. PPL Corporation rode my dad for over 25 years. He got merit pay raise after merit pay raise after merit pay raise. When the economy tanked in 2008, PPL looked for ways to save a buck. My father's reward for all of those years of exemplary performance at work was to be ignominiously shown the door just a few years from retirement because HE HAD FUCKING EARNED HIS HIGH SALARY THROUGH MERIT, DILIGENCE, AND HARD WORK.
Now, for those of you who are seasoned readers of my blog, you will recognize that I normally have a more subtle way with words. Well, the time for subtlety is over. I will fight for what I deserve and for what I know is right. I will show every Doubting Thomas out there that doing the right thing is something worthy of respect, something worth looking up to.
Yes, this blog is about my struggles with PTSD. I am also going to use it to speak out against all of the things that make it difficult for veterans with PTSD to live in peace when they return home. Part of living in peace is being able to make a living. As long as corporate ethics and morality continue to be absent from the workplace, this is not possible. It's high time that people stand up and work together to put an end to a culture of corporate ethical and moral turpitude.
As I said, I'm done with all of this. If you get between me and my right to make a living, to support my family, to live in health in happiness, I will eviscerate you in this blog. The gloves are coming off.
I'm giving everyone notice. If you don't trust my judgement, if you don't believe in me, to Hell with you. I know who I am and what I stand for. Doing the right thing is never easy. It's also lonely. If that's the price I have to pay I'll gladly pay it.
At least I'll be able to look myself in the mirror again and like what I see there.
I know I haven't blogged in a while. I haven't kept up on a lot of the things that I need to be. I have been feeling really burned out and have been struggling in a lot of ways that have not been easy on me or my family. This is really raw and emotional for me, so bear with me...
I have been working in a high tempo, high stress, retail environment for four years now. When I first started working there, I was a rising star. It took two years for me to implode and end up on short-term disability. When my daughter had been born a few months before I went out on disability, it sent me into a tailspin. I obsessed about being a supernatural provider and withdrew emotionally at home, cutting off my wife and daughter from love and companionship. Thus, I went out on disability.
When I returned to work after fighting through my PTSD and learning to cope, I swore that I would always be prescient at home from now on. My goal was come home from work with the energy and emotional awareness to be a good father and attentive husband. What ended up happening is that my reliability at work and my availability suffered greatly. It was made clear by my employer that they needed a level of reliability that I have not been providing over the past few months.
This raised my stress level at work, making work a 'non-permissive' environment - a place where I was at risk of losing my job or benefits or both if I couldn't sort this out. It made me realize, regress my performance to a mean over time and it is readily apparent that retail work is grinding me down and taking a long-term cumulative toll on my performance at work. That toll has sped up since I swore to always put my family first.
So now I have some hard decisions to make. The only work I find fulfilling is being of service to others. I have to balance what is best for me long-term with the welfare of my family. It's not a fun place to be, but one I am confident I will work through.
I know I haven't been active recently in the community I created. I know I haven't blogged as much. For that I am sorry. I needed to set myself in motion and resolve this issue with employment. Now that I have the short-term leeway to figure it out while ensuring the welfare of my family is giving me the time and space I need to figure all of this out.
I want to thank all of those people who have reached out to me via email to express concern over not hearing from me and from my readers who reached out to ask how I was doing. I truly value your compassion and understanding!
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.