And everything was going so well...
I had the kind of day that triggered my anger and my PTSD. I got frustrated a lot and it was hard not to bring it home with me. When it was time to leave and come home, I got out as quickly as possible and tried to leave work at work. I was not successful. I helped my wife get dinner on the table for the little one and talked about the anxiety that I was feeling. It was the day we both knew was coming but were hoping wouldn't.
My wife convinced me to go for a walk after dinner and it seemed like it was going to help and then I felt and heard a loud concussive explosion. My wife jumped and I immediately turned toward the source of the sound. My mind was no longer in Pennsylvania. The reaction and change in body language was instantaneous. My wife knew my instinct was to run directly at the source of the explosion. Her grip on my arm was like a vise. The only thing that kept me standing there was the absence of screaming. There was dead silence. No birds chirping and no cicadas sounding off. Even the sound of car traffic sounded far away. With every instinct screaming at me, I turned away from the source of the explosion and continued on our walk.
We never did find out what caused the concussion wave. I can feel that nagging doubt that everything is OK and it won't go away.
It's gonna be a long night.
It's my first day off and I'm exhausted. I had nightmares last night and I didn't sleep well as a result, I am out of it today. It's not what I needed on today of all days. I have a meeting with the Director of the Baker Institute and the Chairman of the Veteran Affairs Committee from the Lehigh Valley Military Affairs Council (LVMAC). We are going to be discussing local veterans' issues, particularly what we can do to create opportunities for veterans in my home town in the Lehigh Valley, PA. I know that veterans can be the backbone of economic growth and development. They just need the right tools to make it happen. That's what this meeting is going to be addressing. I was hoping that I would have more specific information to bring to the table, but the established programs that are out there already know how to navigate the bureaucracy that is the SBA. I explored their website and felt completely overwhelmed with the sheer amount of information and options available.
With the lack of sleep, things aren't feeling any easier. I have been excited about all of this for a long time and now I just feel like I am a fish out of water. Who the hell am I to try to organize this? I wish I could just hide in my hole today. I really do.
That's all later today. The rest of the day belongs to family. I am really looking forward to spending some quality time with the little one and momma bear. I know I am a little distracted because of the particular clarity of last night's nightmares, but I promised myself I wouldn't let my life return to the shambles it was before. Time to go be a participant in my own life. Off to the park.
OK. I have been almost a week back at it. Work has been going well and so has home life. I won't lie and say that it is easy. I am struggling still with motivation to do the little things. The difference this time around is that I am not letting myself sit and do nothing. If I am tired, I don't sit and veg in front of the TV until after Caley is asleep and until I have done all I can to help my wife around the house. I think, honestly, that it is the harder part. Work, by nature, tires me out. I am surrounded by people I don't know all day long and it pushes and prods at me, making me anxious. I do my best to do my job and not let the little things bother me.
I will say that being able to get a good night's sleep helps me get through the day. Having my medications stabilized seems to have really paid dividends as well. My overall physical health is probably better than it has been in ages. I just need to shed the weight I gained in the interim.
My biggest fear, still, is that I will end up being in absentia when I get home from work and that I will head back down the path I took a year ago. I think that I am doing all of the right things to ensure I stay focused on what matters. The other thing that still remains important to me is my blogging and my advocacy efforts. I make sure that I take a little time out of every day for myself. We'll see how things continue to go in the coming days and weeks.
Three days have come and gone and I have worked eight hours on each of them. I am exhausted physically and mentally, but happy. The return to work was a lot smoother than I thought it would be. I was really anxious when I first went back on Sunday. I wasn't sure how things were going to go and I wasn't sure how I'd feel about being back.
A lot had changed in the four months since I was last working and I felt like I was the new guy all over again. Here's the weird part: I didn't mind it. I am approaching every day at work like I have a lot to learn and I do. It's a nice feeling. Just concentrating on making sure the work gets done. The best part of my days was always when someone I hadn't seen in months got excited to see I was back. It always helps the transition when you realize that people actually missed your presence. I may have been out for four months, my boss treats me like I never left. He is an incredible manager and an amazing person.
The hardest part for me is the time away from my daughter. I had gotten used to being around her all day and it has been particularly hard to get up in the morning and leave for work before she is awake and then not see her until near dinner time. It has really helped me to keep my work/life balance so far. When my work day is over, I don't stay extra time. I get the hell out of dodge to get home to my family. I definitely know which one if more important to me this time around and have my priorities set straighter.
There have been a few tensions when I got home from work, though. The job I do is physically demanding and I came home exhausted, mentally and physically. It is getting a little easier each day, but I still come home tired every day. The difference this time around is that I am helping with stuff around the house. I am going for walks with the family. I have struggled to stay awake when I get home, but I am fighting through it. I think it will get easier as I get back into shape.
All in all, a good few days. We'll see how the rest of the week progresses!
So tomorrow's the big day. Almost four months after my entire life imploded, I am headed back to work and nervous as a school boy on his first date. I have all of these useless negative thoughts bouncing around in my head and driving me crazy. What if people think I'm nuts? What if everybody knows? What if people don't respect me anymore? What if people treat me differently because they think I'm fragile or broken? Is it possible to come back to the same department and not feel weird? Does my boss still respect me? Will he still trust me to lead and manage after all that has happened? What happens if it is weird? What happens if I can't hack it? What happens if I freak out and have an anxiety attack? What happens if...
Yeah. Anxiety and catastrophic thinking are doing their best to work me over and it's hard not to let them. I have been very good about getting outside and exercising lately and that seems to help keep me in a more stable mood, but the weather outside is oppressive today. I think I need to find ways to distract myself and just get through the day as quickly and uneventfully as possible. I have a lot of love and support from friends and family and it has made it substantially easier to get back on my feet. I am looking forward to just doing my job and coming home at the end of every day. No frills, no crazy workaholism. Just go to work, work hard, and come home to spend my time with the people that matter the most to me: My Family.
After spending the last week out and about with the family for the holiday, today is a much needed down day. I woke up tired and am still exhausted. I just don't have the energy to do much on anything even if I wanted to. Even if PTSD wasn't an issue, finding a day to relax would still be important. It's just more important to me because PTSD is and always will be an issue I have to deal with.
Yesterday was July Fourth. Yes there were fireworks galore. There were big displays all over the area. I handled it OK yesterday but my nervous system is a little raw and I feel like my skin is being pricked by tiny little pins, head to toe.
So, today I take for me. Gotta take a little time to re-charge the batteries. I slept in a little this morning and I am looking forward to a day for me. See that cat in the picture? Yeah. Just like that. The weather here is still unbelievably hot so I will be drinking lots of water and trying not to burn to a crisp.
Before I go, I do have a shout out I would like to make to three young boys who are trying to make a difference for veterans. Their names are Owen, Sully, and Turner. These brothers befriended a veteran with PTSD and witnessed for themselves the healing power a dog can have. As a result, they have started a petition to force Congress to address the issues facing veterans with PTSD and the challenges involved with getting a service dog. Here is their information:
Their Facebook Page
Have a great day all!
During this past week, one of the appointments I attended was with my prescribing psychiatrist at the VA. We were concerned that the VA's mandate to lower all Citalopram HBR users' prescription to 40mg from higher doses would have a deleterious effect on me. What they discovered is that the arbitrary reduction in dosage caused many guys to experience a significant amount of emotional instability that manifested as bi-polar tendencies. The doc said I do not have Bi-Polar disorder but stated I needed something to specifically fight the depression that seemed to be winning out.
As a result of this, 100mg of Wellbutrin was added to my cocktail. I won't lie. I was really skeptical at first. It's been four days and I can honestly say that there has been a noticeable difference in my behavior. I was out all day with the family yesterday. Here's what I did yesterday:
Yeah...couldn't have done all that in one day a week ago. It wasn't that I didn't feel the anxiety and that I didn't have the urge to go hide in my hole. Not at all. The depression that made me infinitely more likely to lose the battle has been buffered a little already. It is a nice feeling. Granted, it was a lot of effort and I was exhausted by the time the day was over, but it was worth every moment.
The rest of today and, most likely the weekend, is mine to relax now. I am going with mama bear and cub down to her parents' house. We are going to go swimming and my fish, I mean daughter, will have a blast. I am going to bring down my rug-hooking kit and get some of that done as well. Then tomorrow is all mine. I am going to write my novel a large portion of the day. Have a great weekend everyone! I pland
So yesterday, I traipsed out to the local outpatient clinic to attend my first scheduled group Cognitive Processing Therapy session. I finally made it through the gauntlet of individual assessments to get into the group. There are only a few slots per group so they want to make sure that the person they are bringing in is dedicated to coming and to learning. Well, I finally made it.
As I entered the room, I noticed that I was the first one there, early as usual. I sat down and pulled out my kindle and started to read over some of my book that I had written the night before. I didn't get very far. I started wondering if this was going to be a waste of my time. I started feeling anxious. I wanted this to be a good thing but was afraid to get my hopes up.
As I sat there thinking about all of this, the doc and the other member arrived. Yeah. One other member. Needless to say, the anxiety ratcheted up another notch. Then I found out that a lot of the regulars were not going to be there because the folks that had been attending regularly were in residential inpatient treatment programs of some nature or another. Needless to say, I started to relax a little.
As introductions were made and I learned some about the other member that was there, I recognized that we were both in the same place, relatively speaking. We were both too smart for our own good. We are both introverts and recognize that we have problems and triggers, but we also recognize that things are never going to get better unless we learn the tools to cope with our triggers.
There was one other interesting commonality. We had both been participants in support groups previously and been particularly disillusioned. We had no patience for people that were going to sit around and cry in their soup. We are both solutions guys. We don't focus on the problems and want desperately to add every tool we can in order to best control our PTSD.
For the first time in a long time, I am hopeful that the treatment I am receiving will make a difference for me and my quality of life. As I learn things, I will share them moving forward. Have a great day all!
Last night, I snapped at my wife again. I lost my temper with my parents. In other words, I have been an insufferable ass. I knew what was happening and felt powerless to stop the train wreck. I didn't know what was causing these outbursts of anger. Well, last night for the 10th straight night, I woke up to the smell of blood and the screams and moans of the wounded and dying. You heard that right - TEN FUCKING STRAIGHT NIGHTS.
The power of hindsight made me realize how close I came to destroying my family again. Here's the scenario:
The Weeping Buddha - A corner of it was barely visible under the crap that had collected on top of it that we had put there to keep out of my daughter's ever expanding reach. I pulled it out, I wiped off the dust and sat and stared at it for over an hour. I returned to bed with a level of spiritual serenity I haven't felt in ages.
Once again, I had dodged a very dangerous bullet. You never think you could become one of those 'weak junkies' addicted to pain killers or other prescription drugs. I now know how insidious and dangerous that particular addiction can be. Something at a deep and personal level told me something was vitally and dangerously wrong. It took seeing my Weeping Buddha again and meditating about my loss, about the sorrow I feel that allowed me to put the pain back into some semblance of proper perspective.
Yes I still smell and taste blood every day. It's not my imagination. My nose is still healing from the invasive surgery. It will heal, though. I just have to make it through the physical healing process and keep my grief in a healthy perspective. I just have to remind myself of the incredible strength of the Weeping Buddha. His incredible countenance and the stories whispered in hushed tones about the warlord who was the motivation for the carving have had a profound effect on my life. Back when I got this statue, the information about the Weeping Buddha was much less commonplace than it is now. I encourage you all to take that particular journey and learn about this amazing statue. I hope it resonates as strongly with you as it has with me for over six years.
Yesterday was a really good day. Dani and I were so tired that we went to bed early. I was awake and out of bed less than three hours later. The nightmares made a very strong visit. I was concerned that this may happen with the surgery coming up in a few days. I was up for about an hour and a half before Dani came out and ordered me to come back to bed. I am glad she did, but I woke up still agitated and irritable. I think Dani recognized the signs of me needing a day for me and took Caley for a walk. It's raining out so I am sure they went for a walk at the mall or somewhere else far away.
This anxiety is killing me right now. The surgery is two days away and the only thing I can think about is that they are going to have to put me under local anesthetic on Thursday. The thought of that is freaking me out. It is the ultimate in not having control over your body or faculties. The concept is freaking me out a whole lot more than I thought it would. I need this surgery. I don't have a choice but to get this done. I just need to find a way to calm myself down so that I am not spending the next two days wound tighter than a spring.
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.