What is Warrior Pointe?

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Warrior Pointe was created to be the rallying point for all veterans who have honorably served this great nation. Whether you served in peacetime, wartime, or are still serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, or National Guard, you are welcome at Warrior Pointe. Every soldier, sailor, marine, and airman, each a hero in their own right, joins our ranks to buttress one another, and to help raise awareness of the issues we face as defenders of our nation. We are dedicated to maintaining the brotherhood we shared when we served.

Warrior Pointe is unique as our mission is simple and effective. In recreating the brotherhood we shared while in the service our members act as a safety net, not only for each other but also for those who are lost and searching for that missing connection with their brothers-in-arms, to ensure they do not fall and are not forgotten. This basic offer of friendship and camaraderie can end the veteran isolation that often leads to joblessness, homelessness, and even suicide.

While we are a countrywide veteran organization our focus has been, and will always be, helping the veterans who need us the most in the communities our members call home. Our local chapters provide a safe place to meet, connect, and assist fellow warriors. Their members direct the focus of our outreach events based on the specific needs of the veterans in their geographical locations. We know that each Region, State, and Chapter faces its own challenges, the fiercest fight to assist our warriors in one city is not always the same as the one being fought in another.

There are no membership fees to join Warrior Pointe. We believe that you, our brothers and sisters, paid your dues when you raised your right hand and swore to serve this nation. Our oath has no expiration date, our enlistment or commission may have ended, but our oath has not. We are the uncommon few that share the common bond of duty, honor, and country.

Image used was created as a part of a project by Russell Martian which is titled the Veteran Vision Project.  You can visit the project’s Facebook page here.

Alone in a crowded room?

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“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Over the last few years my expectations of living a life people would consider normal have been thrown out the window and run over with a mack truck.  Anyone who has expectations for my life can also go to hell if you believe in that sort of thing.  I don’t. My life isn’t normal. I care and I don’t care.

So on another note, I dislike large crowds.  Especially alone. Sometimes I can handle them if I am with people who can (most of the time) keep me distracted. (They often do so without the realization of how much I am leaning in them.) What it boils down to, is that I’ve developed the ability to seem hunky dory on the outside while feeling totally panicked and isolated on the inside.  I hate the feeling and I find it kind of kleshay to say but I can be alone in a room of 5000 people.  Lost inside my head barely aware of what’s going on around me. Every unintentional bump from a stranger sending me further into a panic.

That brings me today.  Yesterday I ventured out to the “Big E” in Massachusetts with my Parents and my niece.   I believe I can normally function pretty well when the large crowds are outside.  I don’t feel so crazy inside.  Much of the Big E is outside or in large buildings and my niece can provide a great distraction when inside some of the larger buildings.  Most of the day I was fine.  We were there for about 5 hours in total, had lunch and snacks from the vendors.  About two hours before we left, we went into a smaller building with crafty stuff and the building was overly packed and I found myself going into a crazy panicky overdrive.  I proceeded to the exit as soon as possible and we continued about our day.  What is unusual about it is that 1) I can normally spot situations when I’m likely to react and 2) several hours after the fact I find myself still on edge and very anxious.

That’s what bothers me.  My inability to calm down afterwards.  I normally can.  This time I cannot and I’m anti-anxiety meds.  Which is suppose to help in these situations.  Fighting these battles just leaves me mentally and physically exhausted.  I know sleep will call me down, but it’s hours yet before I’ll have my chance at that.  I have my minions tonight and this weekend so I have to keep my happy and normal face on while they are awake.  It’s important that I do so.  So why do I do?  What would you do?

My solution to all of this?  I’m going to work on getting a service dog.  Forget people.  They just bother me and most don’t understand.

Over the last few years my expectations of living a life people would consider normal have been thrown out the window and run over with a mack truck.  Anyone who has expectations for my life can also go to hell if you believe in that sort of thing.  I don’t. My life isn’t normal. I care and I don’t care.

Let’s talk about suicide

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So I can honestly say that I’ve only come to terms with admitting that these events actually took place within the last few days. I’ve mentioned them in passing in certain ways to help others or to make a point. The one thing I’ve never done is tell the entire story of events and I can tell you right now that I’m not going to be forthcoming with all of the details and this is one of the few posts that I will have comments disabled. If you have something you’d like to say, my blog tells you how to email me, but I’m not having this type of discussion in a public forum and I am only going to share the details that I feel need to be shared to show the events that transpired. Aside from myself no names will be mentioned. No dates, no places. Why do this then you ask? Because in my gut, that place where a lot of my feelings are lately, I need to say these things. Up until this moment that I’m writing this (and the moment you finish reading this). The only person who knows its my CPT therapist and she only knows about one event. I’ve never told a living soul before. Not even those who were unknowingly involved in the situations.

So. Now that you’ve read all of that, I’ll be your wondering what I’m talking about. Well, September is suicide prevention month. So I’m going to tell you how and why I hit the point two different times in my life that I was ready and willing to take my own life. I’m also going to tell you how one of those times, they only thing that stopped me was an innocent call from a friend who was a long distance away. That statement right there is enough to prove that buddy checks can and do work.

There is one event in my life that both of these events trace back to. The loss of a close friend and what I’m now learning is the perception that it was my fault. That event caused my PTSD and has made every day for the last 8 years very difficult. In the days immediately following that event I hit a low point. I was so determined that things were my fault that I was more scared of the potential consequences of my actions than I was living. I was overwhelmed with emotion, I had no local support system or family and those who I’ve learned since that I could have relied on, well I never made that connection then. I literally argued with myself for several days on the way I would do it, when I would do it that I would actually do it.

I had scheduled leave coming and hadn’t really made plans so it would be two weeks before I was really missed. So the day I went on leave was when I intended on taking my life. I had perception pain killers handy and I was going to take the entire bottle and just never wake up. Sounds simple in retrospect, but in my head at the time I was battling myself every moment. To push through the last hurdles in my head I got a bottle of vodka and started to get drunk and get some liquid courage. As it would turn out, in the actual moments when I determined I would end my life, drunken stupidity actually saved me. Instead of downing the bottle of pills that I knew would have killed me, I downed a nearly empty bottle of vitamin m and passed out on my kitchen floor. I would like to think that I made that mistake intentionally, that it was some part of my brain still fighting to hold on, but I’ll see it for what it was. I was too drunk to take my own life. When I awoke the next day, I punched a hole or seven in my wall and decided that maybe time on leave would change my mind.

For a time, it changed my mind and I went on with my life, I still fought the monsters every day but I just kept going. I through myself into my work and just kept busy. I managed to keep myself together for about a year before I started to sink back in the hole I barely kept myself out of. This time I lived with a roommate, one who was into guns and had several options. He was extremely safe with his weapons and I’m sure had he been aware of my issues, he would have been even safer with them.

I again had come to the point that I was willing to end my own life. Remembering my alcohol induced failure from the last time I tried, I determined I would take one of my roommates guns when he wasn’t around and shoot myself in the head with it. I fought with myself all day about involving another person, especially a good friends, in my actions and my problems. I found myself turning to alcohol again to push myself over the edge, this time with beer to make sure I didn’t repeat my failure. Just about the time I was ready to end my life a friend called me from a war zone to tell me about his problems. He needed to tell someone about something that had happened to him and felt I was someone he could tell. I am forever grateful that he did call me that day. He unknowingly talked me off the edge and I gave up my goals of not being alive.

I’ve thought about ending my life since then, but as I’ve been told by a professional, they are only passive. I have no intention of ending my life and despite the problems I have, I’ve found that I have more things to live for then to die for. The recent weeks have been especially rough going through a divorce and CPT at the same time. I’ve come closer to those two times then I have in a long time, I’ve been towing the line but I have that support system now that I didn’t have then. And I am eternally grateful to those who’ve helped me. Even those that aren’t aware they’ve ever helped.

Where I go from here

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So my divorce will be final soon, beginning of October.  So what are my plans now?  Frankly… I don’t have a clue and probably won’t for a while. I am content on trying to fix myself and the issues that I have.  It has taken a lot of time and engery to deal with everything I am dealing with.  Want to know what that stuff is?  It is wasy to figure out in my opinion, but if it is not I will spell it out for you.

  1. I’m unemployed/partially employed as a freelancer.  Mainly though, I’m unemployed.
  2. I have been diagnosed with PTSD and all the fun and joy that comes with it.  I’m currently in week 5 of CPT at the VA.  This shit sucks.
  3. I’ve divorcing my wife of 5 years and it is not by choice.  My lack of dealing with #2 above has taken its toal and she is alking away.
  4. Essentially, if it were not for my parents I would be homeless.  Thankfully, they’ve allowed me to live wth them.

I’m sure there are things I am forgetting, but I won’t get into details at the moment.  Therefor whats written is written.

So I guess the next question is what is my plan?  My plan with this blog?  My life?  In general?

  1. This blog is a way to express myself and share things I otherwise woud have a difficult time doing.  I do not have and specfic topics in mind.  When I want to write, I am going to write.  Hopefully you guys like to read it.  Either way, I am still going to write it.
  2. I am working hard to control my PTSD.  From my experience, it is not going away and it will always be there.  I just need to cope with things in the proper way.  This is a simple answer to a complicated problem.  But its my goal.
  3. I will get a job.  One that I can enjoy, one not in aviation.
  4. Buy a home, one with land so I do not have to see my neighbors.  Maybe I’ll build one.  Out of shipping contaniers I suppose. Maybe I am looking into it because it gives me something to focus on, but the concept intregues me.
  5. Maybe, one day in the future.  Just maybe I’ll be ready to renter the dating world.  But I am in no rush what so ever.

 

What else am I doing at the moment?

  1. Trying to be the greatest dad to my boys that I can be.
  2. Keeping myself busy working with Warrior Pointe.  Great Veteran organization.
  3. Yup. Yup. Yup.

The Memories I’ll keep forever

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The following post I wrote originally appeared on The Warrior’s Pointe.  It is a blog hosted by Warrior Pointe, Inc and is written by Veterans for Veterans.

One of the reasons it took me seven years to come to terms with the fact that I have PTSD is that I didn’t get it in combat. I wasn’t shot at and I never went to Iraq or Afghanistan; I just floated off the coast on a carrier. I have made many friends over the years that did serve in actual combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. I know that they were shot at and that they lived in situations that I could not dream of. When I thought about having PTSD myself I felt like, and I still feel like, acknowledging my issues was/is somehow discounting theirs. None-the-less, after seven years, a deteriorating marriage, and an incredibly kind but firm push by my soon to be ex-wife (who remains my best friend) I went to see a psychologist and the fine folks at the VA.

It was incredibly difficult for me to talk to the psychologist at first. It’s still incredibly hard for me to talk to anyone about it, even those who now know the details. I have worked hard to bury much of how I felt. I became a very good actor and I always gave vague answers. It’s not easy for me to dig up my demons that I have kept hidden. As I let them out of the shadows, they made the demons I wasn’t able to hide that much more prevalent. I must say it helped that the psychologist was able to guide me and help me say the things I struggled with. She was often able to piece together bits of information to help me understand the entire series of events so I didn’t have to say everything. It made it much easier. It’s only been a few months, but talking to her helps. Not with everything, but with a lot of things. I’ve learned a lot of coping mechanisms and ways to handle how I feel, and they work sometimes. Going to talk about things every week also keeps everything that happened in the forefront of my mind. Each week I learn something new about myself, and each week I struggle with keeping control of my feelings and myself.

It’s still difficult for me to talk about why I developed PTSD. I’m going to summarize it here, because I feel like I need to, and because I think every time I talk about it, it helps. You also never know who else may benefit from hearing your story.

Over the course of the first seven years of my time in the Navy my career pretty much paralleled someone who became a close friend. While stationed at our last duty station together, he was lost at sea in a plane crash with two other people. It still affects me because I feel that I killed them, and that I destroyed a very expensive airplane. I was one of the last people to inspect the plane before it left. It crashed within hours of me working on it and inspecting it. I’ve read the accident investigation and I know I had nothing to do with it. I know what caused the crash. Despite knowing that, I can’t change how I feel. No matter how hard I try, and how many people tell me otherwise, I cannot convince myself it wasn’t my fault. I constantly think about it. I have daydreams about it. I have nightmares about it. I even have visions of being in the plane with them as it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. For something I wasn’t physically there for it’s a very vivid memory, and the whole thing is something I’ll carry with me forever.

I learned I have anger issues: anxiety (it’s pretty bad sometimes), depression, and PTSD (and all the issues that come with it). What makes it worse is that as my marriage broke down, so did I. I held myself together for seven years, but I just couldn’t do it anymore. I all but stopped sleeping. I retreated inside myself in a world I’m only just beginning to come out of. I actually got lucky with a good Doc at the VA who started me on meds that help, not completely, but they are better than taking nothing. I have good friends that keep an eye on me, and some productive things to keep me occupied–my favorite being Warrior Pointe’s new website.

Changes in Life

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The following post I wrote originally appeared on The Warrior’s Pointe.  It is a blog hosted by Warrior Pointe, Inc and is written by Veterans for Veterans.

If we change within, our outer life will change also. – Jean Shinoda Bolen

As much as I choose to deny it, ignore it, or accept it, my life is changing. It’s changing big time. My divorce will be final soon. I moved out of the home I own and bought and let me soon to be ex-wife live there so my children don’t have to be without a home. My relationship with my children is changing; thankfully it’s mostly in good, healthy ways. I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that at this point in my life, this change is all healthy and good for me. I’m seeing myself much better off. It’s still a tough pill to swallow, as I’m sure it is for anyone in a similar situation, but I can do it. Like the little engine always said, “I think I can! I think I can!” We can all deal with and accept change when we have to, but we need to be much more willing to change because we want to, not because we have to. I’ve almost got that switch flipped in my head. A little more work is all it needs. A lot more work is what I’m going to give it.

I didn’t and still don’t have a choice in the changes in my life. The ball was rolling long before I paid attention to it and all I can do now is try to catch up to it and maybe even run along side it. I ignored PTSD for almost 8 years and it destroyed my relationship with my wife and thus my marriage and it affected many personal relationships with friends and family. I know I am not alone in that. I watch my feed on Facebook and read the stories of people in similar situations and we all see it on a daily basis. I watch friends deal with the same thing I am dealing with. I watch some succeed and I’ve watched some fail miserably. The common factor I’ve seen is acceptance. Please take this for where it’s coming from; it’s just me and my opinion. I am not an expert nor am I trained in anything related to what I’m dealing with or what other veterans are dealing with. I just want to help and if voicing my opinion helps just one other person then it’s worth the time I’m taking to write this.

I have a lot of things I need to change in my life. I need to eat better, get to the gym more, but more importantly than those, or anything else, I have to change. I need to change my opinion of myself. I buried myself in a pretty dark place by choosing to avoid and suppress feelings, emotions and opinions. It was not all done voluntarily. Some of it happened as a defensive mechanism to PTSD and it became how I coped. I’ve been on medication for about two months now and I’m surprised that it’s helping. I’ve watched medication not work for so many other people. Regardless, I’m glad it’s helping me and that I don’t feel like a zombie. Feeling like a zombie was one of my concerns when the VA first mentioned medication. My goal is to feel human again. Being a medicated zombie is not human in my opinion.

I have good days and I have bad days. Thankfully the good has started outweighing the bad. When I originally sat down to write this post, I was having a very good day; one of the best days I’d had in a long time. I could actually see things clearly and I was able to process things going on with a clear and level head. There was no yelling, no over reacting, no hiding or avoidance, and nobody telling me how I feel or what my opinion is supposed to be. Today is a different day. I’m not doing so well today. Had a good morning with my kids, but since I dropped them off at their mother’s, a dark cloud has roared in and I feel horrible. I’m sitting alone in a room in the dark. I want to drink and get drunk to forget my feelings, which have gone into overdrive with the anniversary coming up on the 15th. I’m trying to pull myself out of it, which is why I’m continuing to write this. If it doesn’t work, I may actually go visit my friends at the VA. My normal support system, which is great, isn’t as available as I’d like them to be.

I know what I need to do to be the best person I need to be not only for myself, but also for my twin boys. My boys are the reason I sought help in the first place. They are the reason I’ll continue to fight and they are the reason I never want to be apart of the 22. They’re the reason I’d go to the VA before I did something stupid. Heck, I’d even drive over and talk to their mother before that. As Peter Pan would say, “they are my happy place and they help me survive.”

Those of us who survive are uncommon. We have given are all in service to this great country and scars, visible or not, come with the territory. Our service has taken from us more than we may have wanted. Not everyone has returned and those who have are not always in one piece. We are all the uncommon few and we need to protect and help each other. We have to be there for each other. There is no other option.

I saw a man about a horse

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I saw a man about a horse and it changed how I feel about myself.

A while ago, I ran across the website for a program called Saratoga WarHorse. I reached out to Bob Nevins, Director of Veteran Program and Founder. Bob is a Vietnam vet and retired from a 24 year career as an airline pilot to start this program. Bob called me and we spoke on the phone about the program and then selected my date to attend the program and it was one of the best choices I’ve made in a long time. Saratoga WarHorse is an unbelievable program that works on a simple level. It is just you and the horse. This program is one of those things that I can tell you about, but it’s hard to actually explain and express how it feels. Bob has created a program that works and has had over 300 graduates with no failures. It is not that the program is pass or fail, because it is what you make of your experience that matter, but the program’s success rate is just that good.

It is a three day program that teaches you a lot and gives you an experience. One fantastic aspect of what Saratoga WarHorse offers is that the program is free to the Veteran. Through donations, the program is able to pay for travel to Saratoga, a 2 night hotel stay in a beautiful hotel and the meals while you’re there. The other fantastic aspect to the program is the retired horses. They are what makes the program work and they are in the program to graduate as well.

My horse, Volente, was a retired race horse. All of the horses in the program are retired race horses. They enter the program themselves to learn how to be something besides a racehorse. The program is as much to retrain the horse for its second life as it is for the veteran. The program is a new beginning for all involved. The veteran and the horse. Volente, and I’m directly quoting The Saratoga WarHorse website here, comes to SWH from Akindale Thoroughbred Rescue after an unsuccessful racing career. He has a kind and gentle personality and has been adopted out to several homes over the years, which due to circumstances out of his control, have ended up with his return to Akindale.

They are not joking either. Volente is my favorite horse and once our experience was through, Volente was a very loving horse, and even returned my hug. So, I’ve talked about the experience and I haven’t told you what it is yet. The day we go to the facility that houses the horses is the day everything happens. Melody, our wonderful and super talented guide through the whole process, started the morning by bringing in all sorts of home cooked food. You might actually gain a few pounds, the food is good and plentiful for both lunch and dinner. I’m not going to detail every aspect of this experience because it is not necessary to tell you them all. I’ll tell you the highlights and the things I can actually explain into words.

Throughout the morning we learned about the horses, communicating and working with them and about the program itself. It’s very personal, very well done and very interesting. Our afternoon started the work, there are some physical aspects to this, but nothing above what each individual can handle. We assembled the round pen, the area in which we will work with the horses (we disassembled it as well) and working as a team, we actually did it quite quickly. Inside this pen we were visually schooled my Melody and Bob before practicing our routine with Melody pretending to be the horse. That poor women ran and ran and ran all afternoon making sure we had everything down.

The moment that makes the visit is working with the actual horses. I cannot explain how I feel. I’m sharing the video of my experience below, you can see for yourself what we do. Immediately, I felt good. I enjoyed my experience, I enjoyed bonding with the horse. I did feel good and extremely glad I participated. It’s now though, several weeks later that I’m realizing the real effects of the experience. I find myself thinking about my time with Volente instead of the memories I used to refer back to. The horrible memories nobody wants to think about. It’s much more pleasant to think about hugging my horse and I do it and think about it naturally. I’m not going to say that I’m fixed and that every issue I have was cured by my time with Volente, but it sure helped me.

Bob talks about resetting a circuit breaker and I find it is an excellent analogy. I learned things about myself and I opened myself up. I gained a lot of traction in my personal battles and this experience jump started my recovery. I am forever grateful for my time with Saratoga WarHorse. I can’t thank Bob, Janelle, Melody, Brian, Troy, Volente, their many donors and all of the other volunteers who showed up to help enough. What they do is a fantastic service to the veteran community.

From the bottom of my heart, I can’t thank you enough.

If anyone thinks this program might help them, please reach out to Bob or Jennel, all it takes is a phone call. I can consider these folks family for what they do to help. Bob is a veteran himself and words aren’t needed. After 300+ veterans, he just seems to know.

Saratoga WarHorse Website
Saratoga WarHorse Facebook

I also cross posted this on The Warrior’s Pointe.  It is a blog hosted by Warrior Pointe, Inc and is written by Veterans for Veterans.