Sometimes I wonder how I get through the weeks in one piece. This past week I interviewed for a new position at work that would limit my exposure to mold so that I could have a healthier working environment. My employer has been incredibly supportive through this whole process.
The part that has been hardest for me is how it affects me at home and my past ability to contribute there. I have really thought long and hard about what my wife needs from me. The biggest thing that she needs from me is help around the house and with our daughter. While I recognize that I do sometimes need time to be alone and decompress...
As a husband and a father, sometimes I just need to suck it up for a little until my daughter is asleep and the chores around the house are done. As I said, I thought about this for a long time and I have wanted to commit to being that man again - the man she fell in love with. I had PTSD when I met her, so I know I am capable of being that man again, in spite of everything. I have wanted to do this for a while, but I wanted to make sure that I was emotionally stable when I verbally made that commitment to her. The last thing I wanted was to set myself up for failure and hurt and disappoint my wife. She deserves so much more than I have been giving her.
Yesterday at work, I suddenly realized I was ready to commit. I called my wife on lunch and told her not to make plans for the evening. I made reservations at our favorite restaurant and I talked to Dani about my thoughts and renewed my commitment to her.
Last night was good for us both. My parents were watching Caley so that Dani and I could get an adult night out. It was wonderful and we talked about all of the obstacles we had overcome in the past year. When everything was said and done, Dani recognized that there was something different about the way I was committing this time. I think we both felt it. Like we were finally closing the door on everything that has happened the past few years.
So no all that is left is to follow through. And I am. I will. If I have a bad day, I wait until everything is taken care of for the day and then I can take my 'leave me the fuck alone to decompress' time. Being there for my daughter and my wife make this all worthwhile.
*NOTE* I know I have a lot of people to write back to via email. I apologize for the delay and will write responses as soon as I am able.
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.
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.
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
OK, so today I went to see the allergist and here's what I am very allergic to: Animal Dander, Feather, Mold, Dust Mites, Cockroaches, Trees, Grasses, Ragweed, Weeds, and Wheat. In essence, my environment. I have to completely change my diet, stop burning candles and other fresheners, keep the windows closed at all times...Change my life around completely to improve my long-term health and wellness and bring my asthma (that is what I have, the allergist says) under control. Just when I was starting to feel some semblance of stability and regularity in my home life, I have to change everything all at once.
This is just about the worst thing a person with PTSD can do. Needing to change everything at once erodes my sense of security and stability. If I am not careful, I am concerned that I will regress. So most important things first. We closed the windows and turned on the central air. We are no longer burning candles. Now I have to figure out how to eat and be satisfied without eat food with wheat in it...good good. This is a lot harder than people realize. I have to completely change my diet. No pasta. No cereal unless it is 100% corn. No bread. The list just keeps on going. That's the next big hurdle. On the bright side, I won't be able to eat all the junk food I love. I won't feel like eating much either. It won't be nearly as satisfying.
I have to stay focused and be there for my wife through all of this too. This is going to completely change her habits as well. My daughter is the only one who seems to be unaffected by all of this. Smiles and hugs all around.
I still don't like the feeling. I feel like I am snorkeling away from shore and am looking over the shallow shelf and the bottom of the ocean is dropping away. It gives you a sense of vertigo. So how does a person recover and maintain their equilibrium? I guess I will have to find out...
i woke up this morning and looked around feeling very dissatisfied. I look in the mirror and all I see is a tired, overweight, man with circles under his eyes in the mirror. I don't even recognize myself. I think about all of the things I am working to improve and I feel like I haven't made any progress at all. My memory is shot...again. I feel like a pall of malaise is settling all too comfortably on my shoulders. I have been living like a hermit except when my wife forces me to leave the apartment. I haven't left by choice in weeks. Yup, I'm depressed again. Woo.
What makes this such a pain to deal with is that I know I am depressed but I don't have the energy or motivation to do anything about it. I am going to do what I can to fight it off, though. I am going to freshly shave my head and trim my facial hair back into a goatee (I currently look like a mountain man). I am going to have about a billion pots of coffee if that's what it takes to fight off the lethargy.
I want so much for my family but this PTSD and depression keeps on getting in my way. I feel hamstrung. I derive so much satisfaction from being an advocate for veterans with PTSD. I'm on short-term disability right now from my current employer but I don't even know what is going on there because of all of the health issues I have that are still currently up in the air, PTSD being just one of them. I feel like my life is put on hold and I can't make a decision on how to live it until I get some guidance from the VA, from the sleep specialists, from the allergist, and from the pulmonary specialists. I haven't had a cigarette since I was hospitalized in early March, but I want one so badly. Not only am I feeling depressed, I am feeling anxious too. Too much uncertainty and not enough direction. I hate feeling this way. I wish there was a way I could alleviate this feeling without drinking or turning to drugs (neither of which I would EVER do). If there was a viable alternative, I would try it in a heartbeat. But there isn't. So I continue to fight and struggle and shuffle my feet, hoping I'm headed in the right direction.
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.
OK, so here's the cut and dry of it. Even for a person without PTSD, moving is one of the most stressful events in life. So what do I do? I plan ours for mid-week, right before Memorial Day Weekend. I am such an idiot. I started getting snippy when our stuff was being packed into boxes. It only progressed from there. By the time move day came, Dani and I were 'grumpy'. We have moved beyond this fun little episode, but it was not an easy time for either of us. By the time we were half way through Wednesday, I was so emotionally drained that I couldn't function properly around anyone. I was exhausted and sore. My filter was in absentia.
Yet, we made it through that day and the next and our new place is already less of a stress impact on our lives. I didn't even realize it at the time, but the decision to move into this new place was the best move we could have made. There is something to be said for calming memories. I used to go down and visit my grandparents in St. Croix and one of the most relaxing things that I loved to do was lay on the bed and watch and listen to the ceiling fan, hanging from the vaulted cathedral ceilings. It is, strangely, one of my fondest memories of childhood and it had hidden itself away for a long time.
When we moved into the new apartment and slept on the bed for the first time in our new bedroom, I slept like I was in a coma. I woke up before the alarm clock went off and I was refreshed and relaxed. I tried to figure out what it was about the new place that was having such an immediate impact. That's when I relaxed back onto the bed to think about it and realized I was staring up at vaulted ceilings with ceiling fans in every room - just like my grandparents' house. I think this is going to be a really good thing for me. It will allow me to reflect on my day while reaching a state of relaxation much faster than before.
I don't remember much of the specifics of this past week. My PTSD was in full control and I had extreme tunnel vision. My short-term memory went out the window. I was distracted my first day back to work, but was able to make it through. I was still emotionally raw, but returning home to our new apartment was imminently more relaxing than the last place...
Then came Memorial Day. I was asked to be in charge of ensuring that the flags were put at half mast and back up to full later in the day. They even participated in a moment of silence in the store. I didn't think that today would be as rough on me as it was, but the memories came back today, stronger than they have in years. It was like I was watching HD video in a theater reserved for me. The intrusive recollections would not go away. I came home from work so exhausted that I passed out on the bed for over two hours and don't even remember laying down.
Why was today the worst day I have had in years? It's hard to articulate. I don't feel as emotionally unbalanced as on other occasions. I think what made it so bad is that I had already strained my coping system to the limit earlier in the week to move. The gas tank was already on 'E' before today. What made it even worse was I knew it and was aware that I was completely helpless to do anything about it. It was like having a dream where you are aware of what is going to happen but can't change what is coming because your mind has already scripted out the next act...
This has been a valuable learning experience for me. I am never moving myself again. I will not be leaving this place until it is absolutely necessary and will pay for someone else to do the honors. I can't afford to let my guard down or compromise my ability to cope. Never again.
Whenever a big change happens in my life, I can feel the anxiety start to ratchet up a notch or ten. It's not that I am nervous about the change, it's that my head starts processing all of the things I need to tie up loose ends and I think about all of the things that I am going to want to do to get down to the nitty gritty as soon as I get into whatever it is I am getting into. In this case, I am taking up a new position at work. I have always pressured myself to drill down into the knowledge I need to know to be successful in any given position and until I have successfully done that, I will be anxious that I haven't learned fast enough. Reminding myself that not learning fast enough won't get anyone killed doesn't seem to have much of an impact. I wish I knew what did.
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.