OK, so I think I figured out part of my problem. Biting off just enough that I never get to stop chewing. Here's a list of my current responsibilities:
So, as you can see, I am not doing much of anything right now. I wonder why I feel tired a lot and emotionally spent. While I am passionate about all of these things, I need to manage my time better and prioritize what I do on a daily and weekly basis. I really need to simplify my life.
So where do I go from here? Well, some good news. Aside from final editing, the next part of my serial novel is complete and will be published in a few days. So that will be one item off the list for a while. The guest speaking engagement is going to be scheduled for sometime this fall, so that's not really a worry. The website is due for some updating and revamping as HTML5 tools are more readily available now. That's not urgent, though. The website layout is clean and easy to navigate, so I can put that on the back burner. LVMAC and the entrepreneurship program go together for the most part. That whole project is on pause until we finish the current round of communication. We are not sure we have all of the players on the board yet, so we are taking our time to make sure we develop this program carefully.
As for the last few items on the list, well...They should be the easiest and they are the hardest. Being a good husband and good father are all I really want to be. The rest is just icing on the cake, so maybe I need to remember that before I commit to any more meetings, programs, memberships, book writings. I can manage a department in a grocery store like a well-oiled machine. Here's to hoping I can manage myself and my personal life with the same level of grace in the future.
A while back I wrote a post called It's Not Her Fault. To this day it is still one of the most talked about posts I have made. It resonated with a lot of people. Yet despite all of this, I seem to be forgetting a lot of these pearls of wisdom myself.
I need to focus more on making sure my wife knows I love her, no matter how horrible I am feeling. I need to make sure that my daughter understands that daddy always loves her, even when it is hard for him to show it.
Life doesn't pause to let you catch your breath. There is always something happening that will have the potential to change your life. I know this, but I can't seem to beat it into my thick skull. I have started down the path I was treading before - getting revved up for work, making it through the day, and then gassing out when I get home. I can't live like this and I won't.
My wife has said it very succinctly: Parents never get a day off. Yet with my PTSD not being under control right now, she is left caring for our daughter, more or less, alone. How can I expect to rebuild a strong relationship with my wife when I keep on letting her down, disappointing her?
I am a naturally driven person. Driven to succeed, driven to be the best husband and father in the world, driven to be the best employee, manager, and leader...Whatever I set my mind to, I am driven to be the best at it. Needless to say, this has caused me no end to stress and anxiety in recent years. I don't have the energy to be everything to everyone else and to myself. I invariably burn out and shut down, closing myself off from success at work and shutting out my family emotionally.
I can't accept this as normal, as the status quo. I am aware that I push myself too hard, but that is my nature, down to the very core of my identity since I was young. How do you change something that ingrained? This question continues to hound me as I encounter even more change in my life that is upsetting the fragile balance that always seems to be just out of reach...
I need to think about this some more. I am going to talk to my wife and spend time with my daughter. I would love to hear from any of you out there reading this, too. CPT is helping but if I don't get this underlying drive under control, I will only be able to get so far...
Once again, it is becoming harder to roll with the punches. I had an asthma attack at work on Saturday. I had to leave to come home and use my nebulizer to get it under control. It is the kind of thing I don't need to happen after all that I have been through the past few months.
I am rolling with them though. Punches that used to knock me on my ass just make me stumble now. I am slowly returning to pre-anniversary me. It has taken me longer than I would like to regain my footing, but substantially less time than I thought it would.
When everything settles out I hope that less of my time will be spent exhausted. I apologize for the gaps between posts, as I do try to write every day. I am getting there. Shooting for another post tomorrow.
On another front, I did receive some exposure in an online article. The author of that article wants to do a profile on me - and how I use technology to better the lives and health of others. Who knows what may come of this. I leave you until tomorrow with the link.
I had an interesting day on Wednesday. When I was getting ready to go to CPT my daughter jokingly closed the door to the bathroom. The lights were off and the central air was on. In that moment, I was in a state of perfect relaxation. It felt amazing.
After this amazingly relaxing episode of cool, dark, quiet, I headed out to the local VAOPC for group. This session was a little different. Doc said every now and then it was good to pause and see what kinds of issues or questions bubble to the surface. So I asked why I felt so at peace in the cool, dark, and quiet. Doc had a really interesting observation: I wasn't unsure of what was going to happen next. I also wasn't sure that whatever happened next was going to bad. Hence, the absence of anxiety.
So this begs the question - how do I recreate this feeling of blissful emptiness in daily life? How do I use this to alleviate or reduce daily anxiety? This got a chuckle from the other guys in the room. I even got a smile and a joking roll of the eyes.
The doctor came back to the topic of acceptance but in a little bit different context than last time. It was two parts:
I accept that what happened in the past can't be changed and that worrying about the past doesn't help me change the present or the future.
I accept that others will never understand what I have experienced.
Hmm. Time to think on those too. It may seems simple on the surface but many times the simplest ideas are the hardest to accept. Don't ask me why, I haven't the foggiest. I will follow up in later posts this week once I have had more time to absorb this information. I can say this for sure: CPT is making a difference for me.
This is getting ridiculous. I can't seem to break out of the funk I am in. Maybe when I talk to the guys tomorrow in CPT group I will have a breakthrough. I want so badly to be present for my family and I have been more successful today than I have been over the course of the past week, but I shouldn't have to work this hard just to show my love and affection.
Maybe I am putting too much pressure on myself. God knows, that wouldn't be the first time I have done that. Maybe I should try putting this into a little bit different perspective. Last year, my life fell apart after the anniversary. Eight months later, I was out on short-term disability - my physical and psychological health were in shambles. This year, things are starting to return (albeit slowly) to normal already after just a week.
Huh. How about that. Talk about a silver lining.
So, yeah. This past week really sucked. After the anniversary, I disappeared inside myself. I knew it was happening and felt powerless to stop it. But I am back and I return bearing a warning. Adults can handle emotional withdrawal - children can't. They think they did something wrong. Something so horrible that you are ignoring them. It is an easy road from guilt to hatred and resentment for a parent who is never accessible to you. Your child is informed on what it means to be a good husband and father by your actions. A male child will have that example. A female child will have that expectation.
As much as I am aware of this, I still fall victim to emotional withdrawal. I hate myself every day for it. That, of course, just makes it harder to get over and prolongs the agony. I see the confusion in my daughter's face and I see her withdrawing from me more and more...exactly what I worked so hard to overcome before. This has to stop. I am going to address this issue in CPT this Wednesday. Maybe the doc and the others in group will have some advice, for I am at a loss.
July 30th, 2003. The day the course of my life irrevocably changed. The day that I remember every year with trepidation, sorrow, guilt, anger, and gratitude. It made me question everything I believed. It shattered my psyche, shredded my soul.
Quite honestly, I am surprised I survived long enough to make it home. Every day after became harder and harder to bear. The horrific scene that haunted my mind, the smell and taste of blood...
Yet here I am, writing about how that experience and others that followed after changed me. I don't want to remember what I experienced, yet I am afraid to forget.
Change the date and any veteran could have shared this. The scary truth: Every veteran with PTSD I know has an anniversary. A day that makes them pause, unwillingly, and remember horrific experiences. A day they can't reconcile with physically, mentally or spiritually.
I have had many people ask me why I mark this date on the calendar. They don't understand why, when it is so horrific, that I am forced to remember. The answer I give them is always the same - Because I still am unable to accept what happened. That, to me, accepting it would feel like a betrayal of those that died. After almost a decade, I still feel this way. I feel this so strongly that you might call it conviction.
My answer leaves many people shaking their heads in incredulity. They ask me why I punish myself this way. The answer: I don't know. Is it self-imposed punishment for surviving to talk about it when others never had the chance?
I'll make you all a deal. When I figure it out, I will let you know.
Yet another day and more frustration and anger. People have a tendency to try to push the boundaries of what is acceptable and what is not. They just push, push, push...
So I pushed back.
I didn't do anything violent. I didn't verbally abuse anyone. I just let people know, unequivocally, what I expected of them. I think I need to do that more often. Things went very smoothly after.
The real problem: I couldn't let the frustration go. I care too much. It makes me anxious as hell. I have already been down this road. The anxiety and the PTSD continually push me toward the cycle I was in all last year: gear up for work, exhaust myself, come home useless. It pushes and pushes...and shoves.
So I push back with all my might.
I will not let this happen again. I will continue to take my medication, I will continue to do things with my family, I will never stop blogging, and I will learn how to cope by attending CPT.
Next week is going to be a rough one for me. It always is. July 30th is the big anniversary. The one that feeds my nightmares the most. I have yet to make it through this without the PTSD shoving me squarely on my ass.
But I will push back. Hard. And maybe this year, I will maintain my balance.
I had to go to work early this morning and I still had last night on my mind. I knew that today was going to be a day I just had to get through. And I did. I had to fight the depression, the lethargy. I knew that the changes that returning to work would bring had the potential to put a serious strain on my coping mechanisms.
I had been hoping to have the time to catch up on all that has changed at work. No such luck. The basic business strategy has changed and it is a challenge to keep everyone on point. I also have the challenge of learning to relate to everyone at work again. While most have forgotten what it is like to have me around, some seem to have forgotten that I was out of work at all. The learning curve has been intense.
I knew that the change of returning to work would be difficult. The anxiety and anger have been difficult to keep in check at times. When it gets tough, I think about my family. It helps tremendously. Spending time with my wife and daughter, blogging and advocating for local veterans help me remain positive and leave me feeling fulfilled. I don't know where I would be without my friends and family. I know for certain that I wouldn't be sitting here writing this.
So...Here's to Victory.
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.