I couldn't have asked for a better time to have all of the counseling that I have had in the past day and a half. Group CPT ended up being one on one because none of the other members of the group were able to make it. I individual therapy we discussed why the intensity of the anger, nightmares, and hypervigilance have been increasing recently.
When I got there and realized that no one else was coming, I almost left disappointed. I really needed to talk out what transpired over the past week. When the doc expressed a desire to talk with me relieved, I was really relieved. So I went over everything that happened. He grew very serious and we discussed two topics.
Needless to day, it was a productive session. It has helped me to put what happened into proper perspective and helped me identify an underlying issue that causes my PTSD to have such a deleterious effect on my health and life.
My therapist's major concern is the increasing intensity of my nightmares, my inability to fall asleep easily, and my hair-trigger temper at work. She asked me how much physical activity I am getting outside of work. I told her that I don't really get much. She said that I needed to find a way to work exercise into my week. She said that I didn't need to go all out every day of the week. She said to start small - one or two times per week. Her concern is that only talking and thinking about things doesn't help to drain off the energy I build up over the course of a day. When the physical doesn't have an adequate outlet, it can have a very detrimental effect on the mind. So I promised her that I would talk to my wife about making sure that I have the time to exercise at least twice a week without distractions.
So there you have it. I have a few new things to consider and act on. It gives me a sense of direction, of purpose. I don't feel like I am just reacting to my PTSD right now, which is a pleasant change. We'll see how it goes over the coming weeks and months as I work on these new tasks.
I experienced a new level of nightmare on the night before Thanksgiving. The smells and sounds were always there, but these new recollections/flashbacks now include the fear, anger, horror, and disbelief that I experienced in the moment. The end result: I fell asleep on the couch at the in-laws and had nightmares. My daughter was the one who startled me awake. I became aware of what I had done when I looked over and saw her kneeling on the floor in the middle of the room and the looks or horror on everyone's faces. My startle reflexes had caused me to scare the bejesus out of my daughter.
Needless to say, for my sanity and safety and that of my daughter's, my wife and daughter have been sleeping at her parents' house so that, God Forbid, I don't actually hurt her. She was scared by my startle response, but unhurt. She's over it but I can't forgive myself. It is my worst fear - hurting my daughter.
I was at work yesterday and had a breakdown. I effectively hadn't slept since Friday night. My father took me to the VA and they are putting me back on Trazadone. The doc said that it would keep me from being physically able to act on any startle response.
I needed someone to talk to about what had happened that wasn't emotionally invested in a positive outcome. So, naturally, I talked to Rod Deaton. Rod may be a doctor at the VA and I may be a veteran with PTSD, but we are friends and do not share a doctor patient relationship. What is great about having someone so knowledgeable to turn to in situations like these is that he can stay calm and talk me down from my figurative ledge.
Talking to him last night definitely did that. He made me remember that I am a good and honorable man. That, in and of itself, would ensure that there wasn't a repeat of what happened on Thanksgiving. Additionally, he made me realize that my I was allowing me fears to blow what had happened out of proportion. I am, and always have been, my own worst critic. When I get into situations like this past week, I verbalize my irrational fears to those I love, causing them to worry excessively. I force them to think the worst.
It's form of self-flagellation. On some level I have been punishing myself continually since my daughter was born. I think about all of the worst-case outcomes to my behavior and believe myself capable of making those outcomes a reality. It's self-fulfilling prophecy. I have been hamstringing myself like this ever since my daughter was born. It all stems from irrational fears of losing my family, my daughter.
I won't go into all of the details but my conversation with Rod last night led me to make some incredibly substantial realizations about myself:
So what's the end-result of the mess of a week? Blessings dressed in wolf's clothing...
So it has been a traumatizing and productive week all at the same time. I am still exhausted and have to work at not being too hard on myself, but my wife and daughter deserve to enjoy the man I am - not the man I was afraid I could become.
Today, I woke up groggy and out of sorts. I had intense nightmares last night for the first time in a while. They were particularly intense and I am not sure as to why. I have had the nightmares about once a week pretty consistently for the past few months, but they haven't been very intense and they haven't had that HD replay reel feel or the scent memory of blood for a while. I have actually been looking forward to the holiday this year and what happens? Yeah, nightmares...
Regardless, I am not going to let that ruin my holiday. With that in mind, I want to recount all of the wonderful things I am thankful for this year:
Add all of this together and you have the mother of all support networks. My wish for everyone reading this is the grace and luck to find such amazing people to empower them. I firmly resolve that, despite my incredibly bad night, I will not let it take away from the gratitude I feel for the amazing people in my life. This post is for them - those I have mentioned and those I
I wish everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving! Now stop reading and go enjoy some turkey and football!
What a long week. I keep on trying to find the time to write this post and others, but life intervenes. What is frustrating is that I always feel better after I get out my thoughts in this blog, yet right now there doesn't seem to be enough time in the day. *sigh*
Anyways, this past CPT session was pretty stressful. One of the guys brought the kid of a friend to group. The kid was in his early to mid 20's (wow - I just called someone in their 20's a kid. Must be getting older...). He was shot in the shoulder over in Iraq by a sniper. He was ghost white from the pain and the pain meds. His PTSD was deep and very severe.
And it felt like I was looking at a shadow of myself before I got help, when I first got home from overseas. His life was in shambles and he was pushing everyone in his life that cared about him away but you could tell he was desperate for the loving touch of the ones who loved him. He was a ball of jitters, anger, depression, catastrophic thinking, paranoia and guilt. It was hard to look at, hard to watch. I wanted to reach out to him and let him know that he was going to be OK. The state he was in, he wouldn't have believed a word I said, even if I said the sky was blue. He had insomnia, partially from the pain of his injury and partially from his wounded soul.
I didn't have the physical injury, but the rest...well, I don't like to think about the shriveled husk of a man that I was before I got help for my PTSD.
Here's the good part, the part that gives me hope: Every guy in group, no matter how bad their situation was, reached out to that young man with compassion and knowing love and support. We all told him he had a place with us if he needed it. The common bond of traumatic experience brought us all closer in that one moment. I think is was a benchmark moment for all of us in group. I don't know why, but something about that moment changed the dynamic in group and changed it for the better.
A lot more happened in group in addition to this. It was an eventful session. But that is a tale for another post. Off to hug my daughter now.
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 finally got a good night sleep last night. I used a neti pot to clean out my nasal passages and a huge clot came out when I purged my nose. The smell and taste of blood went away immediately. I think my wife could tell that my relief was more than profound - it was physically palpable. I feel energetic and motivated to face the day for the first time in almost two weeks.
It was awesome. No nightmares. No waking up with my heart racing. No smell of blood, no profound feelings of loss and sorrow. It was a much needed respite last night.
Today is about focusing on other aspects of my life for a change. I got the green light to return to work and will be heading back to work in two weeks. In a way it's a relief as well. I need to get back to living a somewhat normal life so that I can finally put all of my physical health problems in the rear view mirror. I hope everyone else has an amazing day!
Good God. This is unreal. It has been eleven straight nights now that I have woken up with the nightmares, smelling and tasting blood. I really need my nose to heal faster or I may lose my very tenuous grasp on reality. I knew what to expect this morning and I have been able to adapt my behavior toward my family, but I think it would be a really, really, really bad idea for me to go out in public today. I think today I will stay in and write more of my novel. At the rate it is proceeding, I am going to be able to publish well before the Labor Day deadline. It's something to do and it keeps me busy. It has been a really good outlet for my destructive emotions. I'm off for the rest of the day. Let's hope this trend ends at day eleven.
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.
All I smell is blood. All day long. All night long. Last night, the pain meds made me pass out. Less than an hour later, I was awake again - head throbbing from the adrenalin and my nose was seeping like crazy. This was the routine last night as I sat in the recliner and tried to sleep. The trend continued during the morning today as well. I'm exhausted and emotionally spent (not to mention that I look like someone heel stomped me in the face). I don't even have the energy to get irritable. I'm am half delirious. Just gotta make it through the weekend. Have a good weekend everyone. I will
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.