Today I got to test my anger management ability. I got really angry at work today. Really angry. I had to walk away and get something to drink. I know what set me off and I can't wait until I learn how to disengage the knee-jerk anger reaction.
Here's the beauty of it, though. I hid it really well and went about my business after drinking down some water. When push comes to shove, as long as I am able to keep my cool and my professionalism, I can live with a little anger. The important part of the equation is that I didn't take the anger home with me. I didn't even keep it with me for the rest of my shift. I seem to be able to let the anger go a lot better now that my medication is properly balanced. I am sure restful sleep every night helps too. I have one more day of work and then I get two days off. It will be nice to enjoy some time off and write more of my book. Here's to hoping tomorrow goes well and I can officially put one week back to work securely under my belt!
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.
Yesterday I attended my second Cognitive Processing Therapy group session. I think I am really going to like this group a lot. Two positive experiences in a row. The doc started by letting those of us who didn't know each other introduce ourselves. We then talked about what had transpired since the last meeting. One of the items that came up was how relating my experiences last meeting had reminded one of the other members so much of himself that he had a lot of issues with his PTSD for the two weeks between sessions. Needless to say, this made me feel really guilty that I had unintentionally caused another veteran distress. I didn't say anything about it at this point, though.
There was a new guy there I hadn't met before and he described how he and his unit had received intel that sent him into a situation that put him and his unit in the blast radius of an IED. This was a new facet I hadn't considered much until yesterday, mostly because it is incredibly painful to think about - intel I provided probably sent guys just like him into similar situations. I know in my heart that some of our boys died as a direct result of intel sent in by me and others like me. Again, I felt really guilty.
It was in this context that we talked about what we all had in common - confrontation with death. An intimate knowledge of death. We discussed the concept of moral injury as a result of this. I know a lot of people don't like this term, but it is really appropriate. We have all been confronted by things that fundamentally violate our moral code. My response to this was to adhere strictly to my morality, getting angry with anyone who did not adhere to my morality. Obviously this caused a lot of problems with other service members over in Iraq. This moral injury is a constant companion and my morality is still just as black and white.
The doc asked to stop the session there and I asked to say one more thing. I wanted to express my guilt to the other two for having caused the one veteran difficulties and for having sent guys just like the other veteran into harm's way. They both jumped on me immediately to let me know I was being an idiot. The one veteran said he was concerned that I may take his regression over the past two weeks as being my fault. He assured me that it was his PTSD that caused the problems. Not me. The other veteran told me that he wished that he would have been sent into a situation backed up by quality intelligence. Then, at least, he wouldn't be going in blind. By the time he was serving in Iraq, intelligence collection efforts were hamstrung so severely that we constantly sent our guys into situations without really knowing what awaited them. He said I was the kind of guy who saved lives with my intelligence. He said I can't hold myself responsible for combat arms guys going into a situation and doing their job. Death in combat is one of the risks that they assume is par for the course. Good intelligence meant less guys got injured or killed.
That was how we ended the session. Whew. What a day. More to follow in the coming 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!
Over the past two days I have spent a lot of time with my family outdoors and I discovered something amazing: Being out in the sun improves my mood.
I found myself smiling and not knowing why. That was new. I haven't felt this good in a long time. I felt my body responding to the sun, turning toward it like a plant thirsting for nourishment.
For the first time in a long time, life feels stable. All of my physical health issues are behind me. As long as I continue to take my medication for my allergies, I will continue to experience easy breathing. As long as I continue to take my PTSD medications, my mood will stay mostly stable. As long as...
There it is again. The subtle warning I need to keep in my mind at all times. The reason I am feeling so good is because I am doing all the right things to make sure I am stable. A lot of people don't realize how much hard work goes into being able to feel this good for someone like me.
As we are all out in the sun, swimming in pools and laughing with family this holiday week, lets keep in mind all of the hard work our veterans with PTSD have done to ensure that they can be there laughing with their families. Take a moment to reflect and be thankful for your loved ones who are fighting to keep their minds in the present. Maybe this year, you watch those fireworks on TV.
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!
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!
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.