For the longest time, I have struggled to consistently go to the gym. There was something unrewarding about going to the gym, working out by myself and not getting a workout high. Granted, some of the lethargy may have been attributable to the meds, but I just didn't enjoy it at all. I enjoy working out WITH people. Pushing myself to get better in comparison to the people I exercise with has always been a strong motivator for me. I think that's why I always worked out so hard in the military.
I finally got fed up with the lack of motivation. I started looking for other ways to get back into shape. I've always like the martial arts - Tae Kwon Do as a kid, and Nin Jutsu when I got older. There was also a crew of us who got together when I was in the military and sparred using various styles varying from Kung Fu to Muy Thai to Brazilian Ju Jutsu. I looked to see if there were any good Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) schools in the area. To my surprise, I found a top notch gym - Hammer Training and Fitness. I went out to tour the school and talked with the owner, Rodney Guignet. I was very impressed with the facilities and the school in general. I knew, right away, that I wanted to train there.
That was about a month ago. I have been training there every since and it has been a life-changing experience for me. With MMA, you only get out of it what you put in. I leave every class soaked in sweat and practically gasping for breath. My core strength has improved drastically and I feel stronger and healthier than I have in a long time. The best part: I leave the gym feeling calm and emotionally balanced. As I push myself, I am able to train for longer and longer stretches, but I won't lie - when I first started training, my body hated me with a passion. I didn't care. I continue to push through it and feel so much better for it. I have even met another veteran who trains there.
I can't say enough about Hammer Training and Fitness. They have been a pleasant surprise, providing me with a safe place to work out my emotions and PTSD angst. They are also very supportive of veterans. So far I know of one other veteran who trains seriously there and I am sure I will meet more. It's a safe environment for me to socialize as well. I didn't realize how much I needed a safe, judgement free place to exercise and make friends until I experienced it at Hammer.
I'll keep you posted as things progress. When I started there, I weighed 292 pounds. I'm currently at 284 and am carrying a lot more muscle on my frame than I was a month ago. I wonder where I'll be by my birthday in May!!
Talk about passionate responses from the Previous Post.
Some of the points that were made I wanted to draw attention to because the points they made were incredibly important.
He talks about being accused of not being a team player. We talked about how when he was in the Army he could trust his team with his life but the "teams" here he can't even trust with his cigarettes. Those are days he has his anxiety/panic attacks. Thankfully those are decreasing since we have started dating (together about 4 months now). I know it sounds cliche but it is reassuring for him that I support his decisions and understand that with the training he has had, the situations he has been in, and his own personality he is going to react to things differently than other people. That doesn't mean I use kid gloves, it means that when either of us feel we are in the right and are following our hearts we will stand up for what we want/feel is right.
Anji, I couldn't say this any better. If you have PTSD or are in a relationship, you need to sit down and talk about this. I would bet money on the fact that the way a person with PTSD in a relationship responds in many situations puts a lot of strain on things. I would also be willing to bet that is disturbs the loved ones of a PTSD survivor that they are so black and white. Recently my wife and I have talked about this extensively and one major concern that has come to light is how my black and white view of the world could negatively impact out daughter. I have since explained to my wife that I understand that the rest of the world works in shades of grey. Part of raising a child as a parent with PTSD is to make sure you educate your child about the realities of PTSD. It is a responsibility I take very seriously.
Yet, the question remains: what kind of life can I, being so black and white about everything, expect to have if I can't operate in shades of grey? If I knew for certain, I would say - but I don't. All I know is that I am not going to apologize for being true to my code. It does mean that I need to find a different line of work, though. It has become abundantly clear that I can't operate in a corporate or service setting without it slowly causing the deterioration of my physical and mental health. With that in mind, I am currently evaluating my options for future career options - careers in settings/industries that accommodate my needs.
Amen, Max. The lack of honor in today's world is crushingly depressing to me, and I haven't gone through your experiences. You might want to read the stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius -- what do we have left but our honor and the quiet knowledge we are doing what is right.
I hadn't thought about Marcus Aurelius in a long time, but I always loved his teachings. I pointed to one of his teachings, one that has always been at the core of my beliefs and identity:
I haven't been able to stop thinking about this and some of his other less famous quotes that have resonated with me for a long time - so I thought I'd share them because I think that they are critically important - especially to people suffering from Survivor's Guilt.
"You have power over your own mind - not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength."
I learned about Marcus Aurelius from my grandpa. Grandpa Ray Harris was a man I still measure myself against to this day. He was a truly amazing man, husband, and father. He was the one who told me the measure of a man is determined by how he conducts himself when it matters. He also used to joke that if he wanted to know your opinion, he'd give one to you. As one of the most open-minded and tolerant people I ever knew, my grandfather taught me what it meant to aspire to a set of higher ideal - I still do. He was always so sure of himself. He knew, unequivocally, that his opinion, his judgement of a situation was always more trustworthy than the opinions and judgement of others. Somewhere along the line, I had lost confidence in myself was afraid to stand behind my assertions.
Not anymore. I am so glad that so many found that previous blog post so powerful - it validated my feelings and assertions.
These tenets will help me repair the foundation I built my identity on. Time to go think on this some more while taking care of my sick daughter.
Stay tuned for further updates and responses! Let's keep the conversation going!
Enough is Enough. I Say Who I Am. Screw Your Molds and Your Proprietary Behavior - A Much Needed Wake Up Call
You read that right. I'm done bowing down to social norms. I have been second-guessed and told that I need to be more 'respectful. more caring'. I need to learn how to work in a civilian workplace. I need to learn tact. And so on and so on and so on...Every turn I have taken in my professional life since I have gotten home, I have discovered that morality, ethics, and merit don't have any place here. I have been told I am too rigid, too uncompromising. I have been put down, knocked down, condescended, treated poorly in every situation I have tried to stand up and do what's right. I have been made to see myself as the weird/broken one who has my priorities skewed.
This is exactly what's wrong with this country. The people who fuck up, move up. The people who don't have the courage to stand up and do the right thing keep their job. What happened to honor? Integrity? Courage? Loyalty? Duty? Are these traits only instilled in the military nowadays? Every place I look all I see is people wondering how they can get over on others.
Let's recap: I stand up for what's right, for what I believe in and I get stomped all over. A prime example is when I was working in the Middle East as a contractor. One of the guys was I worked with was too lazy to clean the dirt from the equipment. In stead he showed me the 'easy' way and took black spray paint and painted over the dirt. When I reported this to my immediate supervisor, he did nothing. I was forced to report it to the boss back in the states. He did nothing. He said it was my word against the other employee's and never bothered to look into it. When nothing was done, I was put in an untenable situation. My PTSD flared up something fierce and I resigned my position. I felt I was powerless at the time to do anything about it. No one was willing to step forward and do the right thing. They were too concerned with covering their own asses that they refused to step forward and take responsibility.
In every job I have had since I got home from Iraq, I have ended up in a situation where I have been confronted by the disparity between my ethics and integrity and the lack thereof on the parts of the people or companies I have worked for. It has forced me to recognize that there is no place for me in Corruptorate America. I don't want to be someone else's manager. I won't modify who I am and what I stand for just to squeeze myself into someone else's mold for the 'perfect yesman'.
It's been ten years that I have tried to do things 'their' way. Now it's time that everyone learn to do things the right way, with honor and integrity. I served my country to protect an ideal that is obviously dead. Well, I may just be one man, but I will fight for its resurrection, come hell or or high water. People here take what we have for granted and I have had my reputation, identity, and confidence stripped from me at every turn. Even my family sees what I am going through now as just another disappointing turn for the worse. They can't bring themselves to trust my judgement and support my belief in what is right. They see my unwillingness to compromise my beliefs and my integrity as foolhardy - that I should be the one to learn to fit in.
It tears me apart to see even my family so broken. PPL Corporation rode my dad for over 25 years. He got merit pay raise after merit pay raise after merit pay raise. When the economy tanked in 2008, PPL looked for ways to save a buck. My father's reward for all of those years of exemplary performance at work was to be ignominiously shown the door just a few years from retirement because HE HAD FUCKING EARNED HIS HIGH SALARY THROUGH MERIT, DILIGENCE, AND HARD WORK.
Now, for those of you who are seasoned readers of my blog, you will recognize that I normally have a more subtle way with words. Well, the time for subtlety is over. I will fight for what I deserve and for what I know is right. I will show every Doubting Thomas out there that doing the right thing is something worthy of respect, something worth looking up to.
Yes, this blog is about my struggles with PTSD. I am also going to use it to speak out against all of the things that make it difficult for veterans with PTSD to live in peace when they return home. Part of living in peace is being able to make a living. As long as corporate ethics and morality continue to be absent from the workplace, this is not possible. It's high time that people stand up and work together to put an end to a culture of corporate ethical and moral turpitude.
As I said, I'm done with all of this. If you get between me and my right to make a living, to support my family, to live in health in happiness, I will eviscerate you in this blog. The gloves are coming off.
I'm giving everyone notice. If you don't trust my judgement, if you don't believe in me, to Hell with you. I know who I am and what I stand for. Doing the right thing is never easy. It's also lonely. If that's the price I have to pay I'll gladly pay it.
At least I'll be able to look myself in the mirror again and like what I see there.
Well, I'm back. I cannot tell you how relieved I am to not have my thoughts locked up inside anymore. I have tried for weeks to sit down and blog about my recent challenges and every time I sat down, I couldn't type a single word. I just didn't know where to begin. My head was a jumble. To some degree it still is, but being able to finally get this out in my blog will go a long way. Once I'm done telling you where my head has been, I think you'll understand why it's been such a long few months.
I'd been feeling particularly toxic and had not been able to figure out why. Then, about a week ago, after months of not being able to figure it out, it hit me. I've lost myself. I don't recognize myself in the mirror. I don't recognize my behavior, my attitude. I've lost confidence in myself. I never used to care what anyone thought of me but that's all I've cared about in recent months. It was a nasty confluence of events. Here's what's been going on:
Out of control is an understatement. Even taking injections for the psoriasis wasn't keeping it fully in check. It spread all over my face and scalp. If I grew facial hair or let my hair on my head grow out, it got worse. If I shaved to often, it got worse AND looked really irritated and splotchy. People started looking at me with disgust, like I had dry flaky skin because I have poor hygiene. Ugh. The one thing I didn't take into consideration is how pent up stress exacerbates the psoriasis. As the toxins in my body build up, they look for a way out. What I couldn't fathom was why the toxins were building up so quickly and continually. After talking about this with my wife, we came to the understanding that my psoriasis was really bad because I'd been holding my emotions in - unintentionally. It was my medication.
The VA Medication Quick Fix:
When I went to the VA with PTSD, they immediately put me on mood stabilizers and a whole bunch of other meds for insomnia, anxiety, jitters. The problem is that all of the meds they prescribe keep people from being able to feel and express the full spectrum of their feelings. I have been frustrated as all hell with the continual cycle I have gone through for the last decade - the ups and downs and outs. I've never been afforded the opportunity to truly examine what I am feeling because I the drugs prevent and/or mask the truth of my emotional experience. When you can't fully express how you feel because medication prevents it from being externalized, where else does it have to go? It goes deeply internal and toxifies the whole body. As this toxicity progresses, these emotional problems start manifesting themselves as physical health issues. Let's see here: Exacerbated Psoriasis Sypmtoms. Check. Worsening Insomnia. Check. Compromised Immune System. Check. Lethargy. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check.
You getting the idea?
I've been married for over seven years. My wife recently explained to me that the man she fell in love with has been MIA for quite a while. The fell in love with a man who was supremely confident in himself and his abilities. On top of that, he couldn't care less what others thought of him. My wife found this confidence and self-assurance extremely attractive. Then things started to go sideways. The economy tanked in 2007 and I couldn't find a job after graduating from college. The jobs I could find were crap service jobs making shit money with no room for true advancement. Things got really rough financially for my wife and I. And so on and so on. It was like one gut blow after another. I started to doubt myself. I started to wonder if I had been deluding myself all of those years. It just kept on getting worse and worse. Every new venture or idea I have had in recent years has been met with delay and disappointment. Even starting the non-profit has been a non-starter. The application process and wait time for tax exempt status is so long, I won't be able to raise funds until 2015 - IF - IF I'm lucky. Anything else?
Needless to say, realizing all of this over the past few months has been more than just a little distressing for me. That's some pretty profound stuff to digest. So, that's where I'll leave it for today. I'll explain what I plan on doing to rediscover myself in the coming blog posts.
Again, I am so sorry for the hiatus. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season!
I know I haven't blogged in a while. I haven't kept up on a lot of the things that I need to be. I have been feeling really burned out and have been struggling in a lot of ways that have not been easy on me or my family. This is really raw and emotional for me, so bear with me...
I have been working in a high tempo, high stress, retail environment for four years now. When I first started working there, I was a rising star. It took two years for me to implode and end up on short-term disability. When my daughter had been born a few months before I went out on disability, it sent me into a tailspin. I obsessed about being a supernatural provider and withdrew emotionally at home, cutting off my wife and daughter from love and companionship. Thus, I went out on disability.
When I returned to work after fighting through my PTSD and learning to cope, I swore that I would always be prescient at home from now on. My goal was come home from work with the energy and emotional awareness to be a good father and attentive husband. What ended up happening is that my reliability at work and my availability suffered greatly. It was made clear by my employer that they needed a level of reliability that I have not been providing over the past few months.
This raised my stress level at work, making work a 'non-permissive' environment - a place where I was at risk of losing my job or benefits or both if I couldn't sort this out. It made me realize, regress my performance to a mean over time and it is readily apparent that retail work is grinding me down and taking a long-term cumulative toll on my performance at work. That toll has sped up since I swore to always put my family first.
So now I have some hard decisions to make. The only work I find fulfilling is being of service to others. I have to balance what is best for me long-term with the welfare of my family. It's not a fun place to be, but one I am confident I will work through.
I know I haven't been active recently in the community I created. I know I haven't blogged as much. For that I am sorry. I needed to set myself in motion and resolve this issue with employment. Now that I have the short-term leeway to figure it out while ensuring the welfare of my family is giving me the time and space I need to figure all of this out.
I want to thank all of those people who have reached out to me via email to express concern over not hearing from me and from my readers who reached out to ask how I was doing. I truly value your compassion and understanding!
I seriously need to get out of retail. I used to love the holiday season. Getting together with family, good food, football, food comas...What's not to like? That has slowly changed over the last few years. Now I just want the holiday season to be over.
You wonder why? Let me break it down for you:
That's what I have to face every year. I fight really hard to keep an even keel and to be there for my family and this is what I have to look forward to.
I need a vacation.
I was talking with my wife about my inability to get to sleep at a decent hour on a regular basis, even though work has been very accommodating with my scheduling. She was confused why I couldn't seem to get into bed and fall asleep until after midnight when I have to be up by 5:30 most morning.
As we talked more about it, I discussed with her the regularity of my nightmares. The thing that she didn't understand was that I don't always remember having the nightmares. What I do know is that I wake up sore and stiff on the mornings following the nightmares I don't remember. It's like I tense up head to toe during the nightmares. What's worse, I am exponentially more susceptible to intrusive recollections and flashbacks on the days following the nightmares I don't remember.
Add this to the nightmare 'memories' I DO remember and I think you get the picture. I don't get many undisturbed nights. It makes me afraid of going to sleep. What I didn't realize is that when it gets close to bedtime, the adrenalin kicks in and I become hypervigilant. I am only able to lay down and go to sleep once I have gotten to the point where I am so tired that my physical exhaustion outweighs my fear of sleeping and the hypervigilance.
For those of you that understand the impact of adrenalin on the body, it takes an extreme sleep deficit to become exhausted to the point you can overcome the adrenalin and fall asleep anyways.
This is my world right now. Granted, I am coping with my PTSD very well right now. I am closer with my wife and daughter than I ever have been. Yes I have to take my anxiety medication for emergency anxiety control on a more regular basis than I ever had to in the past, but this fear of sleeping has become the focus of my frustration in recent weeks.
I discussed this with my individual therapist and she it looking into ways to work around this. Stay tuned...
So yeah. I was at work and unwrapping a piece of roast beef. What I didn't see was the pool of blood on the underside of the piece of beef. The blood ended up splashing all over my hands and my feet. Next thing I know, I have the smell of blood in my nose and the metallic taste in my mouth. It wouldn't go away. I took a break and took some extra anxiety medication and the memories just wouldn't go away. I hadn't had sensory recollection persist like that for hours at a time. Truly. Hours and the smell wouldn't go away. I tried eat something and all I could taste was blood. I just couldn't stay at work any longer. I ended up leaving work part of the way through my shift, distraught, and distracted.
I thought about it a lot for the rest of the day, worried that handling roast beef would cause more recollections. Fortunately, when I was at work the next day, nothing intruded.
It's left me a lot of anxiety and I haven't been dealing with it very well. Maybe it's more lack of sleep catching up with me. I know I had nightmares Friday into Saturday and Saturday into Sunday. I can always tell when I wake up after nightmares, even if I don't remember them - my muscles are sore like I was lifting weights all night. It makes it hard to lay down and go to sleep.
I need some time to think this through. More on this tomorrow...
On September 27th, my wife and I celebrated seven years of love and commitment to each other. I need to share with the world just how amazing that milestone is. It is a testament to my wife's love, commitment, patience, compassion, and intestinal fortitude. Let's recount the wonderful years of marriage that my wife has endured as my PTSD hijacked my life and our marriage:
THREE: The number of years I didn't take my meds because I was 'fine'.
TWO: The number of years that financial and employment instability undermined our financial well-being.
FIVE: The number of years that I wasn't getting quality therapy to help me learn to cope with my PTSD.
ONE: The number of years I completely withdrew from my wife and newborn daughter completely.
SEVEN: The number of years my wife stayed by my side and did what was necessary to get us through.
You do the math, there was substantial overlap on these 'blissful' years of marriage. I never stopped loving my wife. Ever. Now, more than ever, I don't take her or my daughter for granted. I have a lot to live up to in order honor my wife and the sacrifices she has made to stay by my side and to keep our family in one piece.
For me it starts by dedicating myself and my efforts to being an equal partner by helping around the house (I've been dedicated to this for about a month and it's been wonderful for our relationship). Also, getting myself trimmed down and healthy. No more half measures. Time to go all the way and tear it up.
It's going to take consistency to earn her trust back. I lost that and all of my credibility with her years ago.
There is nothing I want more is for her to be able to trust me and have faith in me again. I am not striving to be the man I was - the man she met. I am striving to be her partner, her equal. Whatever it takes.
So here's to seven years of commitment and love and compassion, given freely by an amazing woman I am lucky to have in my life.
Happy Anniversary, Baby. I love you will all of the pieces of my shattered soul.
I haven't had time to write a blog entry for almost two weeks. Now, regardless of anything else I have going on, I'm taking the time to write it now. My head feels fuzzy. My thoughts and feelings haven't felt this jumbled in a long time. It has led to feelings of dissatisfaction and disappointment.
Dissatisfaction with the progress I am making as a husband and father, dissatisfaction with the rate of progress I am making with the non-profit.
Disappointed with myself and my inability to successfully get myself back into shape and to better care for my physical health.
Never having enough time for all of the things I want to accomplish and getting frustrated when things don't play out the way I want them to. It seemed like everything was taking precedence over writing my blog posts. Considering how central to my ability to cope blogging has become, that was stressing me out big time. The longer I went without getting the thoughts out of my head and into my blog, the less I was able to effectively accomplish.
So, what to do? I work full-time to make the money my family needs to get by and then spending another 30-40 hours every week plugging away on the tasks that need to get done to convert my plans for my non-profit into actionable programs. Between those to things, it take all of my energy to ensure that I am not withdrawing from my family. I'm loving and caring for my wife and child. I don't want to be missing from their lives ever again.
By the time I attend to all of these things, the day's over and I am exhausted. I don't have time for anything else - and making blog posts were continually set on the back burner. I knew, with the formation of the non-profit that I would be overworked in the short-term. The problem is that it has become a long-term problem and one that I NEED to ensure the success of.
Then it hit me: maybe if I blog about this and continue to blog on a regular basis, I will be able to be concentrate on the current task. Maybe if I keep up my blogging, I will be more efficient because my head won't be cluttered with jumbled thoughts and ideas.
I need to figure this out and quick. I need to do everything in my power to get this all sorted out. It seems counter-intuitive, but I strongly believe that making the time to blog and keep my head clear will result in more efficient use of my time otherwise. Guess it's time to see.
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.