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Accentuating The Positives

Many Thanks

I have notice I have a tendency to focus on the negative while ignoring the positives in my life.

I am sure I am not the only one who ignores the positive to focus on the negative. It seems many of us who live with trauma maintain our focus on negative beliefs and feelings. We tend to look at the “what’s not going right” instead of “what is going right” in our lives. We are quick to declare our treatment and recovery process too slow or not working at all. When in reality, many things are going right for us. So during Thanksgiving day week, I set out to post on Facebook, three times a day, to share what I am thankful for. It was an enjoyable experience to spend the last few days thinking of the positive things in my life. So here is a list of some of the things I am thankful for.

 Things I am thankful for:

  • I am grateful for Mr. Robinson a teacher who always told me “Kevin, I expect great things from you.” I’ve strived to not let him down
  • I am thankful for U.S. Army Chaplain Jim King, who was a great mentor and an outstanding pastor. He helped shape me as a Chaplain.
  • I am thankful for Therapist Dr. Carrin Harper who literally kept me alive and would not let me give into my suicidal ideations.
  • I am thankful for the LA Baptist Rescue Mission. I was able to preach every Saturday during my first year of Bible college in 1986.
  • I am thankful for all the Godly men and women who invested their lives into our lives so we could spend our life in Christian ministry.
  • I am thankful for those who developed Cognitive Processing Therapy and for those who took me through the painful process.
  • I am thankful for Candice, Samantha, and Jacob, our young adult children who still want to spend time with us.
  • I am thankful for the Pastor and the congregation of Oswego Baptist Church for sponsoring my ordination in 1986.
  • I am thankful for “Train a Dog, Save a Warrior” for providing training and certification of my service dog Delrin.
  • I am thankful for my beautiful bride Elizabeth who has stood by my side in the darkest moments of my life. Love you, Honey!
  • I am thankful that I had the honor of serving in the United States Army for 21-years.
  • I am thankful for LTG Funk for giving me the freedom to minister to his Troopers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08.
  • I am thankful for my Cardiologist in Danville, NJ for discovering my heart anomaly and for the surgeon in Morristown, NJ who corrected the problem with open heart surgery in 2010.
  • I am thankful for the Wounded Warrior Program and the leaders of the Male Odyssey retreat who helped me realize I am not “unfit” to live my life.
  • I am thankful for Paster Jared at  First Baptist Church New Braunfels for letting me lead a small group Bible study.
  • I am thankful for the great memories we have as a family while we enjoyed family vacations together.

This is by no means even close to a complete list, but it is a good start. Why not start your own list? You can start by sharing in the comments below what you are thankful for. 

 

 

 

Tired of Just Exsisting

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 decisions 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 specialists who told me of a new program they offered. The program partnered with different treatment programs around the country, which provided Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) for combat veterans free of charge. road-home 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 breakthrough, I recalled a very traumatic experience I had in Bosnia in 1999. The experience served as

MVC-006S
My Office in the Camp Eagle Chapel Tuzla, Bosnia 1999

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 feelings 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 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 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. Many 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.

goal

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 then. If something is going to happen, it must start now. I cannot afford to allow 2018 to be another year of merely existing. When I first thought of the concept of Healing the Storm Ministry I wanted it to be more than just a website and blog. My desire was to one day develop it into an active fulltime ministry. I hope to start a ranch for those who are seeking spiritual healing for their trauma. I have 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 workforce. 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 site 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 from 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 hold workshops 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

 

Lesson Four Notes: Where is God in the Hard Times

The lesson four 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 Application of the Biblical interpretation of Job 19:25-27.

Finding Meaning at a Train Show

I had to find a way to overcome and gain freedom from my conceived threats.

There was a time when leaving my house was something I dreaded. I often found myself not leaving the house and realizing at the end of the week I had never stepped outside.   Those were dark times. My fear of the dangers that existed in the “real” world kept me safely confined to my house. I knew that staying in the house, I could avoid the potential threats that were present as soon as I walked outside. These were lonely times, times of anxiety and times of avoidance. Eventually, I came to the point where I knew I had to stop living this way and venture out into the “real” world. I had to find a way to overcome and gain freedom from these conceived threats. Over time I have made progress. Although, sometimes I still find myself staying in the house for days at a time. There are days when it seems safer to stay inside the house when my wife is at work. So I give in to my need to feel safe and stay in the house with my service dog, three cats, and four fish. However, it gets boring, and I become dissatisfied with not doing anything. Which leads down the road to depression and that is just a quick downhill progression to disaster.

                       I Have Always Enjoyed Trains.IMG_1311

I like to watch trains and listen to the sounds the trains make as they pass. I enjoy listening to the clanging of the crossing bells and watching the blinking lights on the barriers as they come down. I enjoy riding trains and feeling the movement of the cars as they cross over the tracts. I appreciate the rhythmic clicking that is made as the wheels of the train pass over the rail joiners. IMG_0955

I enjoy train history especially the golden era of railroading in the 1950’s when the railroads ran both steam and diesel locomotives. I enjoy collecting railroad documents, timetables, brochures and ads from the 1930s-1950s. My favorite things to collect are railroad dining menus. It is fun to see what people ate 60-80 years ago and of course to see how much they paid for a meal. I am able to look at a railroad menu and determine the age of the menu by merely looking at the pricing. I also like collecting employee’s service and safety awards along with all types of railroad memorabilia (a word I can’t pronounce).

The most exciting part of my train fascination is attending train and railroad shows and the thrill of searching for and finding a great treasure. The fascination with trains and railroads eventually led me to start selling railroad items on eBay, which at best is a hit or miss endeavor. So one day, I had the idea of instead of just attending a train show, I might actually see if I could sell items at a train show. So my wife and I decided to give it a shot and see if we could actually sell items. Our first attempt, while not exceptional, showed we had the potential of selling at train shows. So we set out to start building a train show business, we are doing pretty well so far. We are still learning, trying to figure out pricing and the whole profit margin game. But we have found a right mix of items to sell and are now working with four wholesalers. Our next big step is to start looking for better places to buy our railroad memorabilia and documents at a lower cost than we are doing now.

We just finished our latest train show last weekend, and we were delighted with the sales and the outcome. We now have a small clientele that looks for us at the train shows they attend, which is nice. We are now ready to take our small but growing business to the next level by increasing the number of shows we attend as vendors.

There is a better way to live your life, you do not need to be stuck hiding from the “real” world.

You may be asking yourself, “what does all this have to do with my first paragraph?” When I realized I was stuck in my house not doing or accomplishing anything, I realized I needed to change. So the first thing I did was to start this blog. The blog gives me satisfaction and helps fill the time I normally dedicated to doing nothing. But while the blog keeps me busy, it also serves as a good excuse to stay in the house and continue hiding from the “real” world. My fledgling train business allows me to connect with people, to focus on something I enjoy and am passionate about. It allows me to get up and spend some of my days looking for products to sell and finding wholesale distributors. Finding wholesale distributors who sell railroad items is vastly harder than learning Greek and Hebrew in seminary.

My thought for you today is if you find yourself stuck in the dark void of living with your symptoms of PTSD or trauma and using the coping skills of avoidance. There is a better despair-1436325-1920x1280way to live your life. You do not need to be stuck hiding from the “real” world, you can take small steps to overcome the fear of going out. For me, one of the steps was to start selling railroad memorabilia. I started with eBay, and we have now expanded to selling at train shows. So the question today is, “what is it you are passionate about?” How can you use your passion to begin living your life again?” We don’t need to be stuck in a world of fear, darkness, and avoidance. We can live a life that is meaningful and fulfilling. But it takes courage and a willingness to step out into the “real” world. So my encouragement today is that you go forth and begin to live your life again.

The Dangers of a Daily Medication Routine

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 relatively 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 naturally, 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 overnight. So I decided  I would check the water in the morning before I drank it, and if there was a film on the water, I would just 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 nightstand and saw this sight.

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Mystery Solved 

WAKING UP TO ANOTHER DAY WITH 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.”

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.dejection 2 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. Sometimes, 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 many events. For me, it is like I have to string together all these “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. Some films 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 dirtbag, 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 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.

Lesson Three Notes Where is God in the Hard Times

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.

 

Iraq Pictures of Chaplain Doll and Team

I was going through some old files and found these pictures from my 2006-2008 deployment to Taji, Iraq. The female Soldier is my Chaplain Assistant Staff Sergeant Drain. She was the best Chaplain Assistant I ever worked with.