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.
Man, it's been a rough week. I was on some serious pain-killers until early this morning and they sent me into la-la land. Now that I am partially recovered from the surgery enough to think more clearly, I wanted to send a heartfelt thank you to everyone who send me well-wishes. I am going to enjoy the rest of the day with my parents and my daughter while mommy is in class. I will start blogging for real tomorrow. I know I have a lot to address, a lot of blogs to write and a lot of questions to answer. I wish you all a wonderful Saturday!
For some folks, this one is going to seem out there, but it is something I have discovered I need. The desire to create something original is incredibly cathartic for me. It started off with rug hooking (think latch hooking, but smaller knots). I have been working on the same rug for close to six years. I don't care that it's not even close to being finished. The simple act of creating order from chaos is incredibly relaxing for me.
Then came the blogging and designing the website. I think we all know how well that had turned out for me. I am grateful that I have the ability to give back and create something that is meaningful to so many. I find blogging incredibly rewarding and, believe it or not, it allows me to explore my writing style more fully with no repercussions. With non-fiction you don't need to convince anyone of the veracity of your comments. It is the perfect venue for trying out writing styles and prose and looking at how well they are received by the readers. I love it and I often find that describing something that happened to me in real life is easier to explain in figurative terms.
Then comes the last piece of the puzzle - writing fiction. I have had ideas bouncing around in my head for years and just this year decided it would be a good idea to start writing a serial novel. I just published the prologue on Amazon. It feels amazing. A little surreal. I was able to draw on my life experiences to create a fictional story line. If you are a Amazon Prime member, may you could check it out and borrow it. I want you all to know that I have found the process of writing incredibly enjoyable. The reason I share it here is because I want you all to know that this desire to create something is in many of you as well. Tap into this greatness and reap the benefits. I am going to go recover more from my surgery yesterday, but I wanted to share this passion with you all.
If you are interested in learning more about Part One of my book, here's the link.
At 0830 yesterday morning I headed into pre-op to get septoplasty done. The hope is that opening up my nasal passages will allow me to breathe better and alleviate the buildup of allergens in my sinuses and give my lungs a much needed (and hopefully permanent) break from post nasal drip. When I woke up after surgery, I was in an extreme amount of pain. I was moaning. Yeah, that went over about as well as a fart in church. My own moaning caused intrusive recollections.
Enter my wife. She held my hand and soothed me and did everything in her power to keep me prescient. It worked pretty damn well until I started quiet moaning because the pain killers were wearing off.
After I got all of my post operation care instructions, we went home. I was an insufferable whiny ass for the remainder of the day and my wife, again, handled it like a champ and pretended not to notice. Here was the routine. Pain meds started to wear off about an hour before I was allowed to take more. I would get grumpy. I would then be able to take the pain meds and they would take another hour to kick back in. I would then have about two hours of manageable pain before the cycle started all over again.
Needless to say, I was not the most pleasant person to be around. Add to that having wadded gauze stuffed up your nose that had a propensity for oozing a mix of snot and blood...I didn't sleep much last night. I am sure that I am still not the most pleasant person to be around. I feel like someone heel stomped me square in the nose. I smell blood all the time for obvious reasons. It's causing random flashbacks that distract me in mid thought, sentence, conversation...I really can't wait for this to be over. It better have been worth it. The idea that people have nose jobs out of conceit...idiots. All idiots. Maybe it's just the pain talking, but I D 10 T's as we used to call them in the Army.
As I said in the previous post, the second outlet is a whole lot harder to articulate in a way that makes sense and doesn't make me sound like a complete control freak. What I have discovered is that I need an outlet where the only limiting factors to success are the limitations I put on myself. If there are barriers or external constraints on what I am trying to accomplish, my efforts can be frustrated and my drive turns inward rather quickly. But that's not it either - I am not saying that any little bump in the road causes me to implode and become frustrated. I am talking about arbitrary constraints that have nothing to do with achieving the goal. As you can tell, I am still having a little trouble articulating exactly what I mean. I need to know I am the one in charge of my my own destiny.
Easier said than done. I need this but I don't know how to find it. If anyone has any ideas, I'm open to suggestions. Work isn't that outlet. Too many arbitrary constraints. Maybe I can put this drive into getting myself back in shape after all of my medical issues. I will have to think about this a lot more before this is all said and done. The last outlet, which I will discuss tomorrow is the need for an artistic outlet - the need to create something beautiful.
I thought long and hard again last night about the changes I need to make to provide my drive with an appropriate outlet. What I discovered is that I need more than one. In today's post, I will cover the first criteria:
In Service to Others: I need to be doing something that is in service to others. I need this because it provides the emotional context I must have to find fulfillment. Doing for others because I want to, not because I desire recognition is key. I think I am on the right track with this one. I have the website and the blog and am involved with national (and international) PTSD advocacy. That's a good start but I need to have something personal that I can measure the progress of in a more tangible sense. This is where the local advocacy comes in. I have potentially found a local initiative that will allow me to find the fulfillment I so strongly desire. As I have discussed my ideas with local organizations, they have all come back with one major question - why do I want to pursue this program? My response is always the same. Out disabled veterans and veterans in general deserve better chances to be successful in the business world. I am going to stay vague on that point until a few more pieces of the puzzle click into place, but I am very excited for what the future holds. Most importantly, it would allow me to do something life-changing in service to others.
That's the first outlet. Number two, not as easy to articulate, so I will take more time to think on it and get back to you tomorrow. Have a great day all.
So, I did a lot of thinking yesterday. Especially last night. I thought about this intensity that Rod mentions in his blog - this part of me that kept me alive in Iraq and is causing me so many problems now. For most of the evening yesterday, I was at a loss - what the hell do I do about this? How do I know what a healthy outlet is for me?
To do this, I needed to create a personal definition of my intensity, my drive. Ugh. Easier than it sounds. I have tried a billion things, using anything from meditation to rug hooking to video games to exercise. They all left me feeling dissatisfied, chomping at the bit to do more. All of these outlets just ended up delaying the inevitable implosion that invariably followed. It has been a vicious cycle for me and it's a cycle I really want to break.
I have thought about a related question: Doesn't being a good husband and a good father motivate you enough? Doesn't that give your drive a healthy outlet?
In short: No.
I need people to understand that I love being a father and a husband. Love it. They are my reason for living, for persevering. What they do not provide is an outlet for this intensity, even though they have experienced the fallout from that intensity when it turns inward. This intensity, this drive is something that is entirely and deeply personal and not something that I share with others to find fulfillment. The drive, when properly directed, provides me with a sense of fulfillment and peace.
If this is the case, when was the last time my drive was pointed in the right direction? This is what I thought long and hard about last night. I wanted to identify what I was doing that gave me that feeling and what was the criteria for feeling that way again. And then it hit me - having the freedom to direct my own destiny - when the only person I would have to blame for failure was me. The last time I was in that position was when I was in Iraq, leading a life of service, responsible for keeping our troops safe from insurgency.
That left me with even more to think about. I live in Pennsylvania. Is there a way to recreate that feeling here? That's the mission I have given myself - figuring out how to recreate that feeling. What are the fundamental underlying threads that I need to recreate? Is this activity something I have to do for myself or can I get my family invovled? That's where I am now. I think this may have been a major breakthrough, but time will tell. I will write on this more in the coming days as my purpose for 'being' becomes clear.
For those folks out there who can identify with my definition of intensity and Rod Deaton's description of drive, it's time for a gut check. Take the time to sit down and think about this. Talk to your families about this, your parents, your spouse, your siblings, your friends. This has the feeling of momentous change for me and I hope it does for you too. Time to go think for a while. Enjoy your Sunday and I will follow up tomorrow!
I was talking with Rod Deaton on Friday and we had a very constructive chat. He mentioned to me an idea he wanted me to consider. As he was telling me about it, I recalled that he had mentioned this very idea to me the last time we talked. For a second I grew frustrated and then it hit me - I had heard him last time, but it didn't register on a deeper level. This time around, as his words rolled over me, I felt light-headed. I had to sit down on the bed. What he asked me to consider was that my incredible intensity that had kept me alive was also a major part of the problem I was having right now. As he described what he meant, I felt his words resonate with me, down to the core. I felt like a bell that had been rung too hard. My nerves in my skin felt like they were crawling. Rod, in a few carefully chosen phrases and words, had gotten to the very heart of matters. I am still working through the things that we talked about but it explains a lot. I ask that you all read his latest blog entry and think about what he says very carefully. I am going to take the night to sit back and reflect. Who knows. Maybe tomorrow I will be able to flesh out the frame that Rod Deaton has so thoughtfully put down in words:
Rod Deaton's Blog Entry: Combat Vet Seeking Outlet, References Available upon Request
As you all know, I have struggled mightily recently with my PTSD and newly diagnosed Bi-Polar tendencies. I have taken things a day at a time and worked very hard to focus on the now. I think that's the right approach I think I may have taken it a step to far and inadvertently told myself that tomorrow's a new day and therefore today has no consequences. I don't think it was a conscious decision, but the end result is the same. I don't know how it happened or when, but I am now obese. Not just overweight. Obese.
Enter a Reader's Suggestion: "Would losing the weigh for being sponsored be an idea? Money could go to charity which would make you feel good about it. But I guess it depends where you are mentally, could you cope with folks knowing you need to lose it and how would you feel if it really was a struggle. Just an idea, bit of motivation really"
Hmm. Guess I have some thinking to do. Would it bother me? Would putting myself out there in support of a veteran charity help or would it feel like too much pressure? This is really something that I need to think through and discuss with my wife. I think the hard part is if I went through all of the work to set it up and didn't get any backing from the community - that's where I think the concern would be for me. It would be incredibly demotivating if the community didn't come through.
So this is where I need input from all of the people out there that are reading this: What are your thoughts on this? Do folks think it's a good idea? I want to look at this carefully and make an educated decision. And please don't candy coat it. If you think it's a bad idea, I need to hear from all sides on this.
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.