Riding the Crazy Train

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Sometimes it sucks having memory issues.  I went to bed last night having something on my mind to write about but I put it off until the train ride to work this morning because I was tired.  Good news, I guess, is that I was tried even to fall asleep even with crazy thoughts running through my mind last night.  Crappy news is that it was a good topic to write about.  So instead you shall get a post with various topics and nothing to specific.  Honestly they only hold PTSD in common, everything else about what you are going to read is likely to be off the wall and driven by a boring train ride. (I found that I had more to say than originally planned so it’s all about music and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.)

I have found that music is a great tool when it comes to having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Not playing music, because I can only seem to play the piano drunk just like Peter from Family Guy, but listening to music.  I often find myself struggling to organize my thoughts or find words to say something.  I have developed a playlist of songs that seems to help much of those problems.  I have a strong dislike of dealing with strangers so having music to block out the world is a fantastic thing.  Songs, good ones at least, can have a good and strong effect on my emotions.  I don’t clearly understand the connection but the result is there none the less.  Certain songs and genres can calm me down when I’m angry, others seem to relax my anxiety, and some seem to help me concentrate.

Some songs, this one in particular is last to Know by Three Days Grace, seem to say what I wish I could say out loud.  The song does a very good job of explaining (at least to myself) how I feel about certain events in my life.  The other day I actually found myself listening to that song on repeat.  I just really liked how it started.  Another song, Jekyll and Hyde by Five Finger Death Punch, just does an awesome job of explaining how it feels to live under the thumb of PTSD and I know the relationship with this song fits a friend just as much as it does me.  He called it “his PTSD song” and it is a fitting title for me also.   I’m sure it is an appropriate song for many people.

In addition to verbalizing or conveying feelings I cannot, I find that it worked wonders for getting me through uncomfortable situations.  For instance, the train ride to and from work.  People want to talk to me and they sit next to me.  These M8 trains do not give much space.  Headphones generally give people notice that I don’t really want to talk to anyone.  The music also serves to block out the people sitting unnervingly close to me.  I kind of zone out to the music.  Right now in particular, the train is exceedingly crowded and evidently bumping into people and not even apologizing is the cool think to do.

When I starting writing this this morning, I had really intended on writing about more than one thing but I guess that I have more to say about music and PTSD then I expected that I did.  To continue my real world example started in the last paragraph of this post, even though I had a good day at work today, I am now over-analyzing and getting worked up about a meeting I have to have with someone later this evening.  This particular meeting, its unknown topic of discussion and the potential for angry disagreement has sent my anxiety hit the roof.  In addition to that I’m finding myself particularly irritable.  Translate irritable into I really want to punch everyone on the train. The music loudly blaring into my ears from my lovely Bluetooth headphones is allowing me to concentrate on writing this instead of the concerns I have about the people around me.

If your one of the countless souls with PTSD, and music is not a source of help for you, I recommend you looking into it.  It helps me, maybe it will help you.

This post also appears on The Warrior’s Pointe, a blog written by America’s Warriors and supported by Warrior Pointe, Inc.  It can been viewed at The Warrior’s Pointe.

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.

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.