I have a daily routine down for taking my medication.
I take medication at night before I go to bed and in the morning when I wake up. Being the practical person I am, I came up with a great (if I may say so myself) routine. I use a fairly full cup of water to take my pills at night, I use the remainder of the water in the morning to take my morning pills. It sounds like a good idea, as it reminds me to take my morning pills. At first the plan worked perfectly, just as I had envisioned. Everything was in working order and I was pleased with the outcome. After a brief time of success, I began to notice that sometimes the water had a weird taste in the morning. Over the ensuing weeks I made a few comments to my wife about the strange taste of the water. Not long after, I noticed sometimes there was an oily film floating on the water. So obviously, I avoided drinking the water and would get a fresh cup. I mentioned to my wife how strange it was to have an oily film develop on the water over night. So I decided I would check the water in the morning before I drank it, if their was a film on the water I would simply toss it out. if there was no film, I would drink the water. However, sometimes the weird taste was still present. So I finally decided to use a fresh cup each morning. Then one night Zike the Angry Cat, who sleeps with us, walked over my head to get to the nightstand beside my bed. I woke up and turned towards my night stand and saw this sight.
Sometime I wish I had physical wounds I could look at and tell myself “Yea, you have PTSD all right, just look at the scars.”
When I was first diagnosed with PTSD I was pretty critical about the diagnosis. I thought the diagnosis was just a convenient way for my treatment team to wash their hands of me. It seemed in my mind; by labeling me with PTSD they could resolve themselves from the responsibility of actually helping me through my problems. I did not believe I had PTSD, I had not engaged in combat, I had not been “blown up” or received any type of physical injuries. I was a chaplain, a non-combatant; I did not even carry a weapon of any kind. There was no way I could have PTSD. What right do I have to claim such a diagnosis when so many others have a legitimate reason for having PTSD? For years I struggled with the question “Do I actually have PTSD or am I just making all this up?” To be honest there are still times I wonder if I really have PTSD. I often feel guilty about being labeled with PTSD when there are others that truly suffer from PTSD. Sometime, I wish I had physical wounds I could look at and tell myself “yea, you have PTSD all right, just look at the scars.” What I really wish for is some traumatic story of a horrific event that I survived, so I can look back and say, “This is the event that triggered my PTSD.” But my PTSD did not come from one event alone, it came over a number of events. For me, it is like I have to string together all theses “little” events to somehow form a reasonable justification for having PTSD. I think some of the feelings come from Hollywood and the string of Iraq war movies that are coming out. There are a number of movies that tackle the issue of PTSD. Pretty much all the movies are based on the Service Member going through a horrific battle or ambush where they survived while others died. The other scenario that seems to get a lot of attention in movies is a Humvee being blown-up by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). All this leads to a sense of guilt for me. I often feel as though I’m playing a game and one day the truth will come out that I never had PTSD. Then I will be exposed as a fraud, a dirt bag, and a lazy bum just trying to get one over on the government.
“Sometimes the Greatest Wound a Soldier Suffers from is the Wound No One Can See”
It is hard some days to deal with my PTSD. There are days when I want to wake up and say “It’s all a lie, I’ve been duped by all these doctors and counselors who just threw this label on me.” Sometimes, I want more than anything to tell myself “Get over it and stop acting like you have PTSD, start living your life like a normal person.” There are other days when I wake up and I tell myself, “Its all over, I no longer have PTSD, I’m cured and I have conquered it.” Then a memory creeps into my mind, I have disturbing thoughts and dreams, I hear a loud sound, I see something that reminds me of Iraq, a car speeds up behind me on the freeway, I get lost and end up on a narrow road that I don’t know where it goes. So I become hyper vigilant, I get scared; I have the urge to defend myself or run away from danger, I’m overcome with an urge to hide and disassociate myself from the world around me. When I first went through treatment for PTSD, I heard people say “I would never wish PTSD on anyone.” To be honest, I thought they were being melodramatic; they were simply seeking someone to feel sorry for them. I know better now and I understand what it means to “not wish PTSD on anyone.” Yet despite my desires and wishes that my PTSD would just go away, I still wake up each day facing another day with PTSD. Some days I am very good at it, other days not so much.
The lesson three notes are now available to view on my website. Just click on the “Where is God in the Hard Times” page. This week we look at the principles of Biblical interpretation as we seek to interpret Job19:25-27.
I have also updated the notes from Lesson Two, correcting and adding a few comments under the overview of Job’s discussion with his friends.
Today marks my 50 years here on planet earth, the “big 5 oh”, “the over the hill” birthday, the “your eligible for AARP birthday”, the “your half a century old” birthday. I suppose most people approach their 50th birthday the same way I have. I am looking back on my fifty years and I am thinking how different my life would be if I had the wisdom, understanding and experience I have now when I was 20. To have what I have gained in 50 years and still have my youth, to be in shape and have all my hair would be tremendous. I imagine many of the decisions I made would be greatly different. I imagine I would accept those opportunities that were presented to me instead of passing them up, only to later regret not taking them. I wonder if I would still have made some of the same dumb decisions I’ve made over my 50 years of living? Hindsight allows me to look at the good choices I made and the bad choices I made. I am able to take pride in the many accomplishments and good choices I made as well as recognize the bad choices I made. As I look back on my life thus far, I realize hindsight is 20/20. Hindsight makes it easy to ask myself “what was I thinking.” It allows me to feel both regret and delight in the decisions I made over the last 50 years. It also allows me to play the “what if game” What if I had said no instead of yes, what if I had gone to another school or college? What if I had accepted or stayed at a particular assignment? While hindsight can give us a better appreciation of our past experiences and decisions, it cannot answer the “what lays ahead” questions that I am now faced with.
When I went to bed last night I thought how different my life’s course has taken. I had many plans for this time of my life. On my 50th birthday I expected to have reached the golden milestone of military service, 20 years on active duty. I expected I would stay on active duty for another five years and retire at 55. Our goal was to retire and live in our RV full-time traveling across North America. What I did not anticipate was the results of spending two years at war. I went to war knowing I could be killed or even come home with serious physical injuries. I was ok with that and I freely took my chances and went to war. What I never thought about was coming home with the unseen injury of PTSD. I was unprepared for the emotional and spiritual struggles that go along with having PTSD. I did not anticipate the years of depression, hopelessness, suicidal tendencies and gloom that would follow me years after returning from war. I did not anticipate the long psychiatric hospital stays, the treatments I would under go and the medications I would end up taking. When I went to war, I never anticipated that soon after returning from war I would lose my military profession at the very pinnacle of my career. It never crossed my mind that going to war would cost me the opportunity to continue my life long love of being a full time minister.
These were the thought I had last night when I went to bed. Then this morning I woke up and saw for the first time the horror that took place in Las Vegas. I was shocked and horrified with what I saw as the news was unfolding before me. I felt the same sense of disbelief I experienced when I turned on the TV on September 11, 2001. I watched about an hour of news this morning then I left for a doctor’s appointment. As I drove to my appointment I took the time to rethink my thoughts from last night in light of what happened in Las Vegas. I did not come up with any life changing insights or thoughts, I simply reflected on the fact that for many people life does not go as they plan. Not one of the 22,000 plus people who were at the concert last night had any expectations the night would turn out the way it did. Over a long ten-minute period, the lives of tens of thousands of people changed forever. Hopes, dreams and expectations all vanished in a hail of fire. Lives were lost, people suffered horrific injuries, while others suffered less threatening injuries. Some escaped the shooting with little or no injuries at all. Some will suffer the hidden emotional and spiritual injuries of PTSD. In light of this terrible event, my life story seems small; my struggles don’t seem as bad as others. My complaint of how my life is different from what I had planned, really does not seem all that important. My experiences, twists and turns and where I find myself today is just part of life.
My story is not unique; I’m not the only one whose life has taken a traumatic turn. I do not stand alone as an example of how life can unfairly mess with someone’s dreams. Although my life has taken a different course than I had anticipated, I still have my life. I still have those who love me and I love them. I still have a future before me. I still have years of living before me, if God so chooses to grant me more days on this earth. I still have opportunities that lay ahead of me. I have no idea of what the rest of my life will look like, all I know is, I have this very moment in time and it is my choice on what I will do with it.