I wanted to find some way to start living my life again.
My goal for 2017 was to start living my life again. For the past five years I was living with the burden of having PTSD and being controlled by the symptoms of my PTSD. Each year I faced a significant trial and had to make difficult choices on how I would handle the struggles. Some choices I made were good, others not so good. 2016 marked a high water mark for me; I saw no future for myself, had no passion or purpose and was spending the vast majority of my day doing nothing. I stayed inside my house as much as I could, only venturing out if there was a real need. Towards the fall of 2016, I was beginning to really get discouraged with the direction or lack of direction of my life. In September of 2016 I went to a Wounded Warrior event, I spoke with one of the combat stress recovery specialist who told me of a new program they offered. The program partnered with different treatment programs around the country, which offered Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) for combat veterans free of charge. He recommended I look into the Road Home Program at Rush in Chicago, Illinois. I looked into the program and made a phone call about attending the program. After a multi-part review process, I was accepted into the program and headed for my three-week IOP in January 2017.
I did not go with a great sense of optimism, my goal was simple; I wanted to find some way to start living my life again. I wanted to stop hiding in my house and avoiding people, events and places. I did not want to be controlled by my loss of purpose any longer. I went to hopefully find some sort of spark that would set me on the track to living again. I noticed about 10-days into the program nothing was happening for me. I began to think this whole experience was going to be a bust. Then I had a break through, I recalled a very traumatic experience I had in Bosnia in 1999. The experience served as
the basis of an overwhelming feeling of danger and a view that I was a liability to my fellow Soldiers. I never understand why I was so upset during my deployments to Iraq for not having a weapon and for having to rely on others for my protection. I knew as a chaplain, I would never carry a weapon and I would have to rely on others for my protection. I accepted that limitation and was ok with it, but my view changed when I deployed to Iraq. I saw myself as a liability to others; I thought I was putting people in danger. I resented the fact that Soldiers were assigned to provide protection for me. I wanted a weapon so I did not have to rely on others and put others in danger because they were protecting me. Once I was confronted with those feeling in therapy, I was asked why I felt this way, knowing as a chaplain I could not carry a weapon. That question led me to explore where those feeling came from. It was then; I was reminded of the very dangerous and traumatic event that took place in Bosnia. As we worked through the traumatic experience in Bosnia, I began to see some amazing changes in my thinking and my view of myself. When I graduated from the program and I returned home, I brought with me a new hope. A hope that I just might be able to regain my life again.
I came home with just a small spark of hope that 2017 would be different.
February 2017 was a challenge, as I had to make the decision if I was actually going to move forward or fall back into the pattern of 2016. I chose to move forward and in March I formed the foundation of Healing the Storm Ministry. My focus with the ministry is to help people find spiritual healing. With this goal in mind, I established healingthestorm.com. My purpose of the website and blog is to share my experiences with living with PTSD. I want to also share from a Biblical perspective how we can overcome the spiritual injury we experience as a result of trauma and traumatic experiences. There are many who think the only ones who suffer from PTSD are combat veterans. But we know this is not the case. PTSD can and does affect anyone who has experienced trauma in his or her life. I want Healing the Storm Ministry to reach all those who suffer from the effects of living with traumatic experiences. I want to share how a loving God and a loving Savior can bring healing to our wounded souls.
So far 2017 has proven to be a significant year for me.
Not only have I made the decision to start healingthestorm.com but I have also made efforts to overcome my desire to hide in my house. I have even gone so far as to consider getting a job for the first time since I was medically retired from the Army. 2017 also marked my 50th Birthday and the 10-years since my last deployment to Iraq. It was in 2007 that I began to experience my PTSD symptoms from my first deployment to Iraq in 2004 and from my deployment to Bosnia in 1999. More importantly, I do not want my 50s to be like the last five years of my 40s.
My goal for 2018 is to make even more progress in living my life. I realize if I am going to make my 50s different from my 40s I must start now and not wait until later. At this stage of my life, I don’t have the luxury to wait until later. If something is going to happen it must start now. I cannot afford to allow 2018 to be another year of simply existing. When I first thought of the concept for Healing the Storm Ministry I wanted it to more than just a website and blog. My desire was to one day develop it into an active fulltime ministry. My hope is to start a ranch for those who are seeking spiritual healing for their trauma. I had no idea how this would be accomplished or what was needed to actually make it happen.
I am currently working with a mentor who is helping me get back into the work force. I met with him last week and gave him some of my business cards. On the cards I have my website listed and he took a look at the website last week. He approached me yesterday and asked me what my thought was about expanding Healing the Storm Ministry into a non-profit ministry. He shared with me how as a non-profit I could pursue faith-based grants focused on reaching out to those who suffer with PTSD. He told me some grants would allow me to teach or conduct seminars and retreats. My mentor has experience with non-profits and is successful in securing faith-based grants to conduct seminars and retreats. He told me yesterday he would be very interested in helping me through the process and help take Healing the Storm Ministry to a new level. This is just what I needed to make 2018 and my first year of my 50s different from the previous 5-years. There is lots of work, challenges and discouragement waiting down the road, but there are also many rewards, successes and life changing opportunities down that same road.
This morning I was reminded of the Psalmist who wrote
Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him Ps 37:1-7a