Who am I?

I won’t apologize for who I have come to be because who the hell am I if I can’t be me.

So who am I?  I have been asking myself that question for a while now and I am disappointed that I do not know the answer.  I know what I feel like on a day to day basis.  I know that some days I feel like I am drowning from the moment I wake up until the moment my eyes close.  Some days I think I feel like I am myself, or at least some form of who I think I should be.  Other days I barely keep my head above water.  Quite a while ago, and yes I am aware I have not been posting much, I wrote about getting off the variety of meds the VA had put me on.  I wrote an entire untitled post about stuff about it.  In May of last year, I stopped taking the meds against the advice of those at the VA and did just fine.  I kept my head above water for a long time.

Three days ago I actually asked them to put me back on them.  I am tired of just barely staying afloat.  I am tired of second guessing myself.  I am tired of sucking at being an adult.  I am tired of forgetting simple shit.  I am tired of being tired.  I took nearly a month to admit to myself and convince myself to go.  I made it 250 days and it pisses me off that I need them again.  Yes, I realize there is nothing wrong with needing them.  I have heard all the comments from those who have shared them with me.  To quote myself from 250 days ago, “I needed to know who I was without them and I wanted to know. I was going to find out with or without the support of the folks at the VA.”  250 days and I still do not know that damn answer.  It is elusive. It sucks and I do not like it one bit.

 

Some way, some how, somebody is sorry

The words I'm Sorry written in pen on lined paper
I am really not sure why I decided to write this and I am also not positive you will ever read it. If you actually do read it, I am not entirely sure you will ever acknowledge that you did. Here goes… You never bothered to ask what I was really going through. I do know that you assumed you knew. You never bothered to ask how I was when I got better. My guess is that you felt you no longer needed to care by the time that happened. More than anything, though, what I am writing here does have a purpose. I need to get it out of my head and by writing it down I may just be able to do that. I want to say I am Sorry.

It is all really simple at this point. We both played our parts. We both made our mistakes but after the fact, everything that happened can be broken down into a few lines of writing. There are things that I know now but never could have put my finger on then. I thought that this was something that wasn’t wrong to hide from you. The impression I got was that you did not believe that was the case. I did not understand what it is was or what was actually going on with me. How would it have been possible to really know what to share with you anyways?

You need to understand that I was scared of what I felt. How I felt and what it did to me can still turn my best days into nightmares and this is after I learned how to handle it. The truth was that it hurt far too much for me to share with anyone let alone you. I am aware that I should have been able to and I really wish I could have. I know that I should have but you genuinely never understood that I was incapable of it. It took a trained professional to even get me to process it and understand it all.

I can look back and see many things that should have been different. If I had only known what was going on with me. I know what it all is now, I can read article after article . Everything that happened and how it all went so wrong. The pain I caused. The pain I was in. The points in my life I did not think I could carry on. The points in my life you simply saved mine by being you and living yours. I could not change it then and it will not change anything now.

There is a lot of things I do not miss. There is a lot of things that cannot be undone. At this time in my life, I find that it is simple: I thought that I had found somebody who understood me. Somebody who understood me when I could not even understand myself. I was wrong in that belief because I am the only one who understands me and there are days where even I do not understand myself. It seems not that you did not really want to understand me. However, it is nobody’s fault but my own that I’m difficult to understand and I own that now.

Honestly, though, I still do not know what happened. What started the downfall? What was it that I did that ended it all? I know many things I did wrong but not what sealed the deal. What caused you to consider us a lost cause? The answer might have been right in front of me but I was too far into a cloud of utter chaos to see it. It is more that likely I will never know the answer to that question and that is my burden to bear.

Where were you when I really needed you? You shoved me into someone else hands to get help and then nothing. If I had cancer instead of PTSD, would you still have gone? Would anything have made a difference? I guess it was just too little, too late on my part. A consequence that I will add to the list of things I will live with forever. If I had been less blind, where would we be now?

Would things still have turned out the same? I can speak my mind about things now because I know what to say. It is actually getting pretty easy to talk about what is on my mind now. What would have happened if I could have spoken my mind then? Would that have changed anything? Things have gone the way they have and I will not change that. I do not choose to change that because ultimately it saved my life. Whether you will ever truly understand it or not, the one thing you need to I need you to know is that you saved my life. I have tried to find a way to say thank you but the words seem just seem so insignificant when I try to say them. You may read this, you may not.

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.

When do you draw the line?

quote

When do you draw the line between something that matters in your mind but in reality, is none of your business at this point? If you decide to draw the line, where is it? What portions of your internal monologue get repeated and what portions do you continue to keep to yourself? There are things in my mind I with I could control. I find myself with two separate and distinct paths. Two completely separate trains of though. One that I know is logical, correct and justified. The other, a distorted reality corrupted by years of my brain allowing my thoughts to take the long way around my mind. I know one path is correct. I continue to battle the second to remind myself that I know the thoughts are distorted. Where do I draw the line to satisfy both paths?

I have placed a significant investment in myself in my efforts to learn how to control something that is not really ever going to go away. I have written before about the tools that I have learned to help cope. A misconception I seem to notice amongst people is that someone with PTSD gets cured. Well. It does not. You learn healthy ways to deal with it. You learn to recognize patterns of thought that you know are incorrect.

You cannot always stop the negative thoughts or the self doubt. When PTSD wants to pull certain strings, it can move you like a puppet. What you end up learning to do is challenge the puppet master and cut the strings. But just because you cut the strings does not mean that the puppet master gives up. Sometimes he just sits in the background yelling in his loud voice hoping that you will just give up and reconnect his strings so he can control you again.

I realize that I am being vague in my explanation. It is on purpose. Some problems are my business. At the same time, I need to voice my thoughts to get them to stop playing on repeat in my mind. So that is what this is. This is me getting the thoughts out of my head. Thoughts about my life, my interactions with those around me. Thoughts about how I should feel about certain life events.

I know, mainly because I have spent a tremendous amount of time thinking about it, that I am far better off where I am in my life now, than I was before. It becomes difficult to write what I want to now. If I were to continue to put words to paper (or this blog) things would be come transparent so I pretty much have to stop here.

Until next time.

Crowded Train = BAD


I take the train because I hate traffic more than I do the people in the train. I can generally turn up my tunes and block out the other people. I know others, mainly a coworker with similar life experiences to mine, who are completely the opposite than I am. But anyways. Here I am thinking I have a great handle on things when it comes to strangers and being in public….

Then I make an attempt to ride the train this morning. I knew before hand that the train would be crowded. Thanks to a fire in NYC some tracks were closed and trains were operating on a limited schedule. Don’t like that. As you can tell from the photo, that was what awaited me on the platform when I got to the train station. Still, I thought I was good to go and I waited in the crowd to get on the train. Still doing okay. Train arrives. Train, my normal train that I take every day, is packed to the gills with people. I still got this. I follow the crowd onto the train like a herd of penguins.

Hmmm. People are standing in the isles. No open seats. Wait…is that people standing in the bathroom? I am starting not like this. Turn the music up and let’s pretend all these people aren’t here. Hey, look… The doors are closing. I no longer like this. I need to get off the train. I cannot get off the train. People on the way. Getting off in between stations is probably frowned upon. I guess I’m going to Bridgeport. I can make it one stop. Then I will call and get a ride and then drive to work. Forget this stupid insanity.

“Attention all passengers, due to overcrowding this is now an express train to South Norwalk….blah blah blah…”

Umm. Okay so I’m stuck in this insanity until South Norwalk? This may not end well but at least is close enough to to work.

“For all those needing local stops to blah blah blah a new train is leaving the yard in Bridgeport and will be a few minutes behind this train and will stop in blah blah blah..”

I am getting the heck of this train in Bridgeport. If there are not people on the next train, I’ll take it to work.

That gibberish is only a fraction of what was going they my mind this morning. I do not want to be near people I don’t know today. I do not want to ride the train today. Probably not tomorrow either. I do not like the train right now. I do not want to like the train tomorrow either.

Some positive that I can take away from this mornings unpleasant adventures is that I seem to have developed a willingness to try things I know would likely cause issues and trigger certain thoughts and behaviors. I also learned I know when the previous statement was a bad idea and it’s time to get the heck out of dodge. 15 minutes of pure insanity nearly made me go crazy.

Untitled Post about stuff


When you start doubting yourself, remember how far you have come. Remember everything that you have faced, all the battles you have won, and all the fears you have overcome.” – Unknown

When I first started this reconstruction journey I was hesitant to try medication for a couple of reasons. Reason number one was that I was still not 100% convinced I had a problem at that point and reason number two was that I had not heard positive things about the VA and meds. I had dove into the deep end of the veteran community that existed online at the time and a lot of people had nothing but bad things to say about the VA and how they chose to medicate veterans. Despite all that, my primary care Doctor gained enough of my trust to convince me to try them. One to help during the day, one to help during the night. They helped, and I am not entirely sure that I would have or could have made it through CPT if I was not on medication.
But anyways…

It’s been a little over three weeks since I stopped all my prescribed medications from the VA. Three weeks is roughly the time is takes all that medicine to completely leave your system. I wasn’t exactly sure how I would do, how I would feel or even if it was a good idea. Frankly, the combination of medications the VA had put me on, worked. Well, they worked 95% of the time and I am grateful that they did work that much. But about a month ago and somewhat impulsively, I reached a point where I no longer wanted to be on meds. I needed to know who I was without them and I wanted to know. I was going to find out with or without the support of the folks at the VA.  

They decided to agree with me which made the long drawn out argument I had planned out in my head useless. I had come up with all kinds of reasons why I should be off the meds and they were all deflated with the words, “oh, I was just going to bring that possibility up to you.” With that, I was done with meds and I intend on staying done with meds. I have not noticed any adverse affects or behaviors since stopping the medicine. Nor has anyone mentioned to me that they have noticed any change in behavior or attitude. So far I believe I can say that Operation No More Meds is a success but only time will tell.

Somewhere, years ago at this point, I lost who I was. I do realize that I have changed through experiences that I have had and that contributed to loosing sight of who I was. It is time to start figuring out who I am. I am honestly not entirely sure where to start. In addition to the changes in me over the last year, changes in my life have left me pretty much with a blank canvas to start on. 

The question I am asking myself is what do I want to paint?

Waging War against the Black Hole


So I actually have stuff that I would like to write about and I want to do so mainly to get them the heck out of my head. But… I cannot. So I must find something else to write about. I need to find some other topic that would not offend anyone. One would assume that since I have started writing that I have something to write about. Well today if you assumed that, you would be wrong. I have actually started writing an entry for this blog and I have no chosen topic to write about. Seems kind of pointless to write without a topic does it not? It does. But hey, look at that. Nothing to write about and I have already written the first paragraph. Go me.
I have been relatively quite lately, especially on this blog, because I have just been busy with life. And work. Work leaves me wiped out by the end of the day. It is nice though; when I close my eyes at the end of the day, meds or no meds, I am asleep until morning. There is something I can talk about… Meds. I do not and have never liked the idea of taking the meds that I am on. I willing accepted them at the time I did because I needed something to change. I needed to try something because I was not doing it on my own. However, I am in a much different place than I was then. I have stopped taking my nighttime meds, mainly because I ran out and I need to schedule an appointment at the VA to get more. 

I have been sleeping fine. No issues, no nightmares. I did have a dream about Star Trek the other night. Yes. I am fully aware of my nerdiness and I embrace it. The VA will be hard pressed to convince me to take them again unless something reverts between now and the day I go to the VA. I am a little more hesitant to stop taking the other med I am on because I do notice a difference when I miss a dose of that. I’m not entirely sure I want to fight that battle yet. But I will at some point. I need to figure out who is me again and who is the medicine. 

It is amazing how far I have come in the last year. Regardless of what anyone else might think or believe, I know how different I am from the day I decided to try and come to terms with my fucked up life. I am far from perfect, far from better, but I am far from the black hole that was trying to swallow me. Everyday I will continue to wage the little war that I have to I order to survive.

My American Dream

  
Many years ago on some random weekend during my time as a Californian, I found myself sitting on the diving board of some random SoCal residence having a beer induced conversation with a gentleman that I consider my brother. At this point in time (some 12 or 13 years later), I have no clue how we got on this conversational topic or even what the rest of the conversation was about. But one portion of the conversation has stuck with me over the years. Maybe it is because of the topic, maybe it is because of how close to my heart that topic was. I frankly have no clue at this point why it stuck with me, just that it had stuck with me.

I was in my early 20’s when I was stationed in California. Already more than two years into my first enlistment when I picked orders to the World Famous Wallbangers be with a friend from my time in Pensacola. I mention how old I was because I drank a lot then. We all seemed too. Likely like those in college at the same age do. Never for an particular reason. Most often just to blow off steam and have fun. I had a fantastic group of friends then, they were more than friends, they were my family. I still talk to most of them. Most of us have moved on to new things and new places. But we still talk when we can and it is always a relief to hear from some of them.

My last paragraph took me slightly off of my original point. It was more of a back story and random tangent. While it adds to the original intent of this post, I could easily have continued without it. So back to the random pool, back to the diving board. I have a tendency to either play the piano or become philosophical when drinking and on this occasion I am pretty sure I did both but the aspect I’m referring to is my hopeful look into what I wanted in my future. While I do not remember the exact word for word conversation I had, I do know what I was talking about because for a long time, those hopes persisted in my mind.
I wanted what I have always called my American Dream. I wanted a family. I wanted a wife. I wanted children. I wanted a home and land that belonged to me. This things I could call mine. That is what I wanted. For 2160 days (186,624,000 seconds, 3,110,400 minutes, 51,840 hours , 2160 days, 308 weeks and 4 days of you want a different way of counting) I thought I had my American Dream. It did not come all at once, but one by one I checked off things from my mental checklist. Man, I had them all. My list was complete. I had a wife. I had kids. I had a home with a little patch of land that I could call my own. Even had a bonus dog that I added to my list. That was then. 

My American Dream imploded. I do not particularly feel like going into the reasons it imploded. It is rather irrelevant to what I am writing at the moment and I am also in a good mood so I would like to keep it that way. I no longer have a wife. She has moved on. My house is for sale. I do not see my kids nearly as must as I wish I could. The dog went with my ex-wife since he was a present to her when he was a puppy. Other than my children I am pretty much back at square one. The things that I focused on achieving for so many years is not what matters to me anymore. In many ways I am not sure it really mattered anyways. You can see things so much differently after they happen and after age brings with it a little bit of wisdom, things change.

I want three things now. I want my kids to be happy. I want a safe place for them to live. I wanted to be happy. That is it ladies and gentleman. That is all I want. Right now I have that. I might not own a home that I live in, but I live in a place that is safe for my kids. I am doing everything in my power to make my kids happy. That last thing I need (and I am making good progress on) is being happy myself. It takes some effort to climb back from what was basically rock bottom. But step by step I will get there. Mainly I need to figure out what things, aside from my children, will make me happy. Many of the things I thought made me happy before, really do not have the same appeal to me anymore. I do not really know of some of the things ever will again.

So. There you go. A short trip down memory lane and I shared my feelings with you. Hopefully the time you took to read this was worth it. I cannot promise life lessons or empirical wisdom. What I can promise my readers is honesty in my writing. I want to share my life experiences, wether it be with PTSD or something like what I have written today, with anyone who will take the time to read it. If something I have lived through and what I write helps even one person than I do not feel like I am wasting my time. Either way, I will continue to write because this is the easiest way to get things to stop floating around inside my thick head.