The last year…

Maybe it’s because it is raining outside or the particular music playing in my headphones on this train ride, or maybe it is an upcoming anniversary that looming in the distance that has me looking back in things. I could sit here and write a generally negative piece about all the bad things that have happened in the last year and even more if I went back to when this all started. I really do not want to be negative, there is not one single gain from being like that. So instead, I’m going to be positive. I recently wrote a similar piece to my friends at Saratoga WarHorse as a thank you letter for allowing me to attend their fantastic program last year. That reminds me, I need to mail that.

Before I get to the rest, I need to explain something. Between a conversation I have on Facebook with some folks who ask questions and another conversation I had with my APRN at the VA recently I think there is something people don’t realize when I talk about how good I’m doing. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder does not go away. It sticks with you. It has stuck with me. The difference between me today, and me of a year ago is that I have learned skills to handle it in a healthy way. I have learned to challenge my beliefs about things. The symptoms are still going to come, for me it is particularly in times of high stress, but they still come. I don’t drink to numb them or avoid them. I deal with them. I deal with them in healthy ways.

Anyways, it was a bit more than a year ago that things were going bad enough for me that at my wife’s (now Ex-wife) urging got me to go see someone. After some relatively wasted time with a civilian therapist (she just lacked the skills or knowledge to help) I got dialed into the VA and we frankly lucky enough to get several of the “good ones” that actually cared and actually helped. It certainly has not been an easy year for me frankly it has been anything but. What I am happy to add thought is that it has been worth it. Every single day has. Everyday has gotten better and better. More importantly than anything else is that I actually enjoy being me again and I am well on the path to knowing who I am again.  

Last summer I went to a program called Saratoga WarHorse and it was fantastic (you can read about that in a post titled I saw a man about a horse. ) Shortly after I got back , I started CBT and the program helped me overcome a lot of things. CBT is hard. It was upsetting and at some points downright terrifying, but what is important for you, my loyal readers, to understand, is that two things enabled me to get through those 16 weeks of CBT sessions. 
The first this was my children. I do not like to repeat that with it them it is highly possible I would have just given up but it’s true. The second thing is really two things I guess. I had a good support system in place. They might not have had much of a clue what I was going thru but they cares. Part two of my second thing was a very simple grounded memory of my time that I shared with Volente who was my horse for my experience at Saratoga WarHorse. I speak very highly of that program because it was not until I completed CBT that I truly realized how much of an impact that their program had on me. I continue to recommend that program to any veteran I talk to.
Another thing that has helped this past year is a job I got. It was set up thru a program at the VA and I’m positive that they just took a chance on me because the gentleman I was working with at the VA was in my position at one point and had worked there. He spoke highly of me. I am grateful they hired me. Anyways, I started working full time in a boat yard in Westport, CT last fall and I am still here enjoying everyday that I work here. It is hard work some days (hard enough that it’s helped me drop almost 30 pounds in the last 3 months.) In addition to that, I’m also trying my hand at starting/reviving my own small business doing website and graphic design. I’m not ready to quit my full time job yet, but maybe someday I’ll be at that point. It honestly feel good to be productive and useful again. It really does.
I got divorced in the beginning of the year. It wasn’t the most positive event. Frankly it sucked. It was not what I wanted at the time. I know now it is what was best. What I was dealing with took a toll on my ex-wife and she decided to move on. I am happy where I am now. In dealing with all that, and many other things this past year, it was a simple memory of my time with Volente that I was able to go back to. That majestic animal seems to find his way into my thoughts anytime I need him too. A year ago, I didn’t know myself and I sure didn’t realize in how bad of a shape I really was.

A year ago, I didn’t sleep. I was afraid to because of the nightmares that came with it. I drank too much, hid it from pretty much everyone, and it was all in a futile attempt to numb the pain (I don’t drink anymore either.) I was even sucidial and that is still difficult to admit to anyone. I have written about that before and while not nearly as strong of a feeling as in the past, I would be lying if I said the thought had never crossed my mind in the last year. 

Today I am living.

A glimpse into my mind

Today I am fighting the urge to run away to the wilderness and avoid life all together. Life is peaceful without the interaction with other human beings. It is not uncommon for a veteran plagued with PTSD to desire a solitary life in the mountains. I think the Adirondack Mountain’s is the ideal locale for me – far away and quiet. Darn rug-rats keep me here. They keep me happily stuck here in Connecticut. They make being stuck here in Stratford worth it. If it was not for their presence, I likely would have gone the route of Christopher “Alexander Supertramp” McCandless and roamed the country.  

I believe I was born to run. It is one of the reasons I think I joined the Navy after high school. New places to go, new things to see and I did not have to stay in one place for too long. If I stay in one spot too long I get uncomfortable. How do you run when the things that keep you grounded cannot come with you. I used to get happy when I would walk into work and be told I was on the next COD out to go rescue an airplane that broke down at some random airport in some random place. I guess those days are gone. Not really sure how to replace my itch to bolt with something healthy.

Not even sure it is possible, but I will sure try. Do you know what else sucks? Memories. Not getting into the specific ones, but they can be ever so clear. Memories are like that. They bring you to places that once where real, good or bad. Moments in time, their seemingly eternal nature betrayed only by the future that has followed those memories. That’s future is of course my now and some of my past already. For as well I am handling things, time is inching closer to a date I do not want to experience anymore. Last year I had just started everything and had all kinds of help. Even had an appointment, two actually, very close.  

Kinda did that on purpose but I still felt horrible on that day. While at the VA yesterday I talked about this concern, fear, problem, whatever you want to call it and it was explained that I was “Catastrophizing.” I guess there are two ways to Catastrophize something and I am falling under the second kind of Catastrophizing. While it is closely linked to the first, it is more mental and more future oriented.This kind of occurs when we look to the future and anticipate all the things that are going to go wrong. We then create a reality around those thoughts and because we believe something will go wrong, we make it go wrong.

So now my challenge is to change the future.

Happy 4th

Seem to have a lot on my mind tonight. Not really sure why to be honest. Had a relaxing weekend. Went away on a mini vacation to Mystic. Had a small family gathering Sunday and got to spend extra time with my boys this weekend. So why am I anxious? Why is my mind in overdrive? Oh. Wait. Pretty sure I know. It is the fireworks going on in celebration of my favorite holiday. No. It is not the fireworks themselves that have me anxious. Loud, unexpected noises raise my anxiety level. Really, anything like loud noises, lack of sleep, stress, etc.., immediately raises my anxiety level, and all anxiety seems to affect me in the same manner.

Anxiety is a definitive trigger for me. It sucks sometimes. A person can just walk into the room without me noticing. A train horn can sound. Fireworks I am not expecting can do it. None of it is intentionally done by anyone but it gets to me none the less. I know for a fact that fireworks affect some folks far more than it does me. But they still get to me.

So. Aside from that, what else is on my mind? Things that I frankly just have no idea what to do about. Not really even sure I can do anything about some of them. I really feel like, and this is probably for the first time in about 7-8 months, that I am just along for the ride. Since I became aware enough of my issues, the one thing I have constantly disliked and put tremendous effort avoiding is that “along for the ride” feeling. I guess you can call me some what of a control freak about certain aspects of my life.

When your short term memory seems to suck some days it becomes very easy for people in the know about my life to essentially get one over on me. I try to write as much down as possible but it does not help when people with questionable morals know they can convince you your still wrong. What short term memory issues you ask? Well if you read almost any article dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder you will see and read about short term memory issues amongst the symptoms and this is due to PTSD’s effects on the hippocampus. It sucks.

It really sucks some days.