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

 

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.

Hallelujah Veteran’s Version

One of my veteran brothers who I went through the 3-month VA PTSD treatment program in Waco, Texas sent this out on Facebook. It made such an impact on me that I wanted to share it here on the blog. As I listened to the song, I was taken back to my time in Iraq, and as I watched the photos, I felt like I was back in Iraq. The song not only vividly reminded me of being in Iraq it also reminded me of the struggles I still face with my combat-related PTSD. This is a great song, sung by a veteran who herself struggles with her own combat-related trauma. Thank you, Sailor Jennifer, for sharing your beautiful song and sharing a part of your story.

From Sailor Jennifer’s website 

Hallelujah Veterans Version was actually written for a small group of Veterans that I talk to in support groups.  The original video was done just standing in my livingroom.  I’ve now recorded it and used pictures sent to me by the guys who followed this from the start.  It is FREE for anyone to download. I’ve tried to take suggestions into account when working with the musicians for the recording.  I hope you all love it.

Also I plan to post a downloadable version of the lyrics for everyone who has asked 🙂

Thank you for all of your support for this song.  The reach and messages have been amazing and overwhelming to receive.
~SJ

Sailor Jerri

Click below for the audio version of the song. 

https://sailorjerrimusic.com/track/1290183/hallelujah-

If you click on Hallelujah on the left menu bar of her site, it will take you to her video.