Can you tell how much sleep I got last night? Not much. I'm making goofy references to The Shining...
On a serious note, I hadn't had the heartburn/reflux in a really long time. I thought that it was attributed more to stress. Maybe it's also due to lack of quality sleep over a long period of time. I can't stand it. The inability to lay down just makes you that much more tired and makes the heartburn that much worse. Last night was out of control...
I guess I need to take a look at what could possibly be contributing to all of this. I know that finding out I WAS exposed to burn pits ratcheted up the stress for a little bit. I also know that quitting smoking didn't exactly help my eating habits at all. I have gained a lot of the weight back that I had lost, but that's a temporary sacrifice I'm willing to take to get off the cancer sticks. A bad diet though...Shit. I am really going to have to find a way to buckle down and eat proper portions again. I can't afford to continue to lose even more sleep like I have been. Not to mention that lack of sleep exacerbates my PTSD symptoms, which makes the heartburn even worse. Yup that seals it. Gotta change the eating habits...again.
I have had serious jitters recently and I am not sure why. It's almost like my body is pissed that I am sitting down. I could pace all night and still not wear through all of the nervous energy. It's played havoc on my sleep . I get the jitters so bad when I am trying to fall asleep that I have to sleep on the couch - it drives my wife nuts and I don't blame her. It's driving me nuts.
What makes it even worse: I can't get my brain to shut down after being jolted awake by my body. So I stay up for a good portion of the night after I wake up. Woo. I am so frickin' tired right now, it's ridiculous. I have doctors' appointments coming out of my ears for the next few weeks. When is this all going to end?
I feel like someone is at the wheel today and It's not a fun feeling. I hate feeling this way, but how do I stop it? I am hoping that the sleep testing actually has some effect and resolves some of these ridiculous sleep issues. Is this the way it's going to be? PTSD wearing my body down to the point that I get sick all the time and it starts to break down.
Of course, all of this uncertainty just makes the nerves and the jitters worse. I won't live like this. There has got to be some way of fixing this or at least mitigating the effects of all of this on my body. If anyone has any sage advice, I'm all ears!!
So, if you go back to yesterday's post, you will see that I wanted my wife to push me to exit my comfort zone and confront my anxiety about being outside: Anxiety about my lungs and anxiety about other people being able to see right through me. So...My wife made me go for a walk with my her and my daughter. I didn't even realize that I was doing it, but I was procrastinating on getting my vacuuming done because I didn't want to go outside. When my wife saw through that, I checked the weather on my phone and freaked out when I saw the pollen warnings. My wife studiously ignored me and made me go for a walk. Dani pushed me, whenever I would start to get nervous about being out there, she would push me harder. I hated her for it every step of the way and was grateful she was there for me to hate. The anger took my mind off the anxiety and allowed me to get much needed exercise and sun.
Then this morning came. I woke up early with my wife and waited for my mother to arrive to watch Caley while I went to exercise. What did I do? I stayed home and tried Power 90. I got about 15 minutes into when the anxiety got the best of me. I had to sit on the floor and close my eyes and concentrate on deep measured breaths to keep from having an anxiety attack. I had to sit there for almost a half hour, trying to slow my heart rate and breathing down before I could even try to get up. I feel so pathetic right now. Where is the strong, vibrant, and virile man I used to be?
Well, back to my mantra: "Every Day is a New Day". I am sure my wife will want to go for a walk again this afternoon. Maybe I can go this time without trying to come up with excuses to stay in. Tomorrow morning, the goal is to go longer than I did today. I refuse to get discouraged. Not again.
OK, so I am starting to wonder how much of me staying home is me hiding in my cave. There's a difference between staying home and spending quality time with my daughter and being sedentary. When a person isn't being active, it doesn't exactly improve his mood. My wife pointed out to me yesterday that I didn't seem to be doing much activity. Even when I was playing with our daughter, it was always when I was sitting down or laying on the floor, etc.
She's right. I'm being sedentary. Inactivity is making it hard to get active. So what did I do? I asked my mom to come over and watch Caley so that I could go do something active - go to the clubhouse and use the gym, go for a walk, run, ride...
Guess what I did: Nothing. I couldn't get my tired ass out of bed. Again. What is so frustrating about this is I LOVE being active. I mean I really love it. I never used to be one of those guys who would sit on his duff all day and essentially do nothing. So I thought about this while I was feeding Caley and came to a realization. I am scared witless that I will go into respiratory distress again and end up back in the hospital. The doctors cleared me, but it made me scared for my life and I haven't felt that way since Iraq. So here I am, sitting. Wondering. Feeling guilty. Feeling scared. Feeling like a failure. How do I fix this. The thought of going outside to exercise scares me stupid. When my wife makes me go for a walk or I take my daughter for a walk, I don't last very long.
I refuse to let this beat me. I am going to talk to my wife about this try to come up with a plan to beat this. I want to beat this, but I need a drill sergeant to light a fire...
It was one of those nights. I don't remember the nightmares, just feeling of nausea and the smell of blood. I woke up too many times to count so this was repetitive. Really repetitive. I was so exhausted I didn't hear my alarm and my wife was back from the gym before I was able to drag my ass out of bed. Needless to say, my wife was justifiably annoyed with me.
Here's the weird part. I'm in a good mood today. Despite the start to the day, I'm in a good mood. It's almost like my body and my mind are saying, "Screw you, PTSD!" While I wish this could be the case every day, it's not. It's not even frequent at this point. It starts to wear on the soul. When you look at the past week and all you see is sadness and anger broken up with small bright spots of happiness, it's hard to remain hopeful or optimistic.
That's what I wrote this morning before I went to the VA. I was sitting in the waiting room and realized that I was falling prey to the same cycle that I had been trapped in before. God Damn It All to HELL!!
I will not let my PTSD take over. Not again. Not ever. I looked back over the past week. Yeah, a lot of it was rough. It was not a great week. Much of this past year wasn't rosy. What I realized is that I am so physically exhausted all of the time that it's making me more vulnerable to the catastrophic thinking, the depression. That sleep study can't get here soon enough. If I can get just one good night sleep, without the use of medication to put me under, I may just cry. I feel that my inability to get a good night sleep is making it near impossible to have a healthy outlook on life. Is it May yet?
So here's my two cents for the day. VETERANS: If you find you are physically exhausted all of the time and you have a hard time staying asleep, ask for a sleep study. Find out it there is a clinical reason for your physical exhaustion. Don't write off what your body may be trying to tell you as a side effect of your medication or depression. Be your own advocate. Don't ever settle for the status quo.
I really have my work cut out for me. I made the realization that I have been living in fear of my PTSD for a lot longer than the past year. I have been living in fear of it for 8 years. Yeah. That blew my mind. I kept on asking myself, how the hell is that even possible? Well...
When I first got home from overseas, I had a lot of issues with my anger. One of the defining moments that spurred me to get help was almost beating my dad. I was freaking out about how the Army was trying to intimidate me back into the service. My Dad was presenting logical arguments why they would fail. His cold, hard logic set me off. I didn't want to hear logic. I wanted validation for my fear and anger. I took one step toward my father, realized what I was about to do and crumpled to the floor, paralyzed by my guilt and fear. This was a defining moment for me. It spurred me to get help. It is also when I started living in fear of my PTSD.
Because of that incident, I was deathly afraid that my PTSD would 'take control'. This feeling was only reinforced when I heard about a few veterans in our area who had been arrested for aggravated assault after returning home from deployments. One guy in support group was only allowed to leave house arrest to come for therapy and group sessions. All of this made me even more fearful that my PTSD was going to sabotage my life. What I didn't realize was that it already had because I was afraid to live my life because I was afraid of potential consequences. I wouldn't go to concerts, malls, public places, etc. Whenever someone invited me to an event, the first thought that would run through my head was always 'how is my PTSD going to affect me?' That's a good thought, but what followed that was pure catastrophic thinking. Going to a diner to meet friends would end in bloodshed because there would be a drunk idiot in the diner that would cause problems. Mmm. Does that sound particularly likely to anyone? No. Not really.
So Veterans, learn from my massive mistake. Don't get caught living in fear of your PTSD. Learn to live with it, not around it. The worst part is that my fear of my PTSD taught others how to view it. I did that damage myself. No I have to retrain everyone's thinking and my own. I have my work cut out for me, but for the first time in nearly a decade, I am pissed off AT my PTSD for getting in the way of me living my life. NEVER AGAIN.
I have a major problem. I have not been able to quiet my mind and get a quality night of sleep for weeks now. I have so many ideas and thoughts and issues I am trying to work through bouncing around my head it's giving me a chronic headache. I need to slow everything down. I am going to try to create a place at home for meditation and relaxation. The recommendation was made to me that I explore the idea of 'just being' for a little and not thinking. This presented an interesting challenge to me. I think this idea scares me more than I care to admit. To slow down my thoughts and to 'just be' would invite memories and destructive thoughts to visit.
Well, today I am facing that fear. My wife is taking our daughter down to her parents for a while and I plan on using some of that time to 'just be'. I don't know if I know how to clear my head of thought, but I am going to try. I think that the greatest lessons in life are the ones taught to us when we aren't paying attention. Introspection or 'soul searching' have always played a key role in informing me about my PTSD and how it impacts my life.
I think a good portion of the emotional detachment that my wife experiences from me is attributable to not being able to get my mind to shut up long enough for my day to day life to register in a meaningful way. I plan on talking to my wife about making time once a week for me to focus my mind. Before I was in the military I had the uncanny ability to focus on a single problem or idea and explore it meaningfully from all angles. It made me VERY good at chemistry and drafting. Maybe I just need to find something that will appeal to my affinity for spatial relations. Building models. Wow. Where did that thought come from. Time to search online for local hobby shops. I think that's what I am going to do to focus my mind and clear it of all the other junk. Time to build a model.
My wife made it very clear to me yesterday that I have obsessive compulsive tendencies that have been manifesting more and more over the past few months. This scares the crap out of me. I am going to talk to the docs and the social worker about it as soon as possible. That's a relatively new wrinkle that I need to get ironed out. I start doing something that I am passionate about and I lose sight of everything else. I can't get my mind to focus on other things. I think the obsessive aspect of my PTSD that has manifested over the course of the past year had played a major role in making me seem emotionally inaccessible. Is being my kind of intelligent a curse or a blessing? I can disappear into a thought or idea for days and not realize the passing of time. Before the PTSD, I had ideas and thoughts like this, but I was always grounded by the passing of time. I have lost that sense. How do I regain it? I don't know. I wish I did, but I don't.
So now I have to be even more careful: I can't afford to start obsessing about whether or not I am obsessing. That sounds confusing right? I almost laughed when I wrote it. It's true, though. Looking at this another way, catastrophic thinking is, in my mind, a form of obsessive compulsive behavior. Is it that much of a stretch to think that the obsessive behavior could manifest in other ways? I don't think so.
I ask that you, my readers, think deeply on this. I am asking for your input. I hope everyone has a great weekend. I will continue to think on this as well. Maybe together we can find a workable solution for coping with this.
I know I stated as much in previous posts, but I am done letting the PTSD be the focal point in our lives. As a result of this promise to myself, we tried something we haven't tried in a while: We went out shopping at a department store. Here's how it went.
My wife needed new shirts for work so we went to Kohls. We walked in, wife next to me and Caley in the stroller. The place was packed, I mean packed. For those of you familiar with Kohls, yesterday was a Kohls Cash day. Yeah. Oops. My wife, Dani, turned to look for my reaction. I immediately turned down the aisle with the least amount of people. Dani asked me, "Isn't women's clothes the other direction?" I told her it was. She looked back at the crowds near the registers and we both started to chuckle.
Then Dani's face turned deadly serious and she asked, "are you going to be ok?" I told her I would be ok and told her that I just needed to stay out of the middle of the crowds. We went 'around the block' and avoided the mess at the registers. She got her shopping done and we headed up towards the registers. I started feeling a little nervous, because it was very crowded. I looked at my daughter, who was straining to get out and run around. I got her out and we ran around in a wide open space, while we waited for mommy to check out.
When mommy was done, we collected Caley up in the stroller and left. Dani was looking at me with thoughtful eyes. She didn't say anything but I think my reactions surprised her. Here's why:
I the past, I would have walked in, seen the crowds, become instantly super anxious, and turned right back around and back out, leaving Dani and Caley in the store. Usually, Dani would get frustrated - she wanted to do something as a family - and turn around and we'd go back home. See how the resentment builds? Well, NOT THIS TIME!
Yes, I recognized that the crowd made me anxious. The jump I didn't make was to assume that something bad was going to happen and that i was going to flip out and do something stupid.
Yesterday was refreshing. We'll have to do it again some time soon. Just not today. Baby steps, baby steps.
After the holidays were over, things got even worse. My wife was getting desperate to get through to me and was emotionally, spiritually, and physically spent. In February, she sat me down and figuratively slapped me out of it. Those details are too personal to share, but boy did it snap me out. It went into a serious introspective period that lasted about a week and half. When my wife snapped me out of it, I gained a clarity I hadn't experience for the better part of a year. I looked back and felt crushed by the guilt - of not being there for my wife and daughter. The guilt was so oppressive at first I felt like I was suffocating. I had a significant sense of the loss of time. Much of the past year I don't remember - at all. I missed doctor appointments at the VA, I had really let the PTSD take control. So what the hell happened? After a lot of talking with my wife and a lot of introspection, these are the things that I figured out that sent me down the rabbit hole for the past year:
OK, so those were the big three. My wife and I have talked about all of this and are working to fix all that we put out of place. I love my wife for her strength and her commitment. Not many women have the intestinal fortitude to hang around when they get put through the emotional wringer like that. I am back in therapy and I am starting back up group sessions again. I am going to make sure I continue blogging because it helps to clear my head and get out the 'bad shit'.
Most of all, I want to thank everyone who has read my blog and expressed gratitude. Your gratitude has been like the sun breaking through the clouds after a storm. I never intended my 'online diary' to turn into this. Let's move forward. Together. For Every Day is a New Day.
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.