Living with the symptoms of PTSD and trauma is like living in a house full of pets.
Over the years we have accumulated a number of pets. At last count, we have 3-cats, 4-fish, 1-dog, and 1-bird. We never sat down and discussed how we were going to accumulate such an assortment of pets, it just sort of happened over time. Now you would think to have such a variety of pets would result in a house full of frenzy disarray and chaos. But somehow our pet population has found a way to get along. That is not to say there are no pet conflicts, but somehow it stays pretty peaceful.
Most of the conflict comes between the cats, as they tend to be pretty moody. Most of the time all three cats: Natasha, Bullwinkle, and Zika, the Angry Cat live in a precarious truce and co-exist in relative peace. Sometimes my dog will get a bit spirited and chase the cats around the house to demonstrate he is still the boss. Then we have the bird that belongs to my daughter, the bird is old and grouchy. If she does not like what is going on, she will squawk loudly, until someone pays attention to her. Then there are the fish, they are always quiet, don’t complain and pretty much swim in circles all day long.
Even though they get along pretty well, they are still animals with natural instincts. I’ve caught Natasha sitting on top of the fish tank looking through the opening of the tank lid. No doubt dreaming of the day when the fish will swim too close to the surface, and she will finally get to enjoy a tasty fish snack. We have observed both Natasha and Zika the Angry Cat, crouching behind the couch in the best tradition of Sylvester the Cat, waiting for a chance to eat the bird. Then we have my service dog Delrin, who out of nowhere will jump up and chase the cats just for the fun of it. From time to time Gracie the bird will get upset at something and let everyone know very loudly that she is unhappy. Usually, she does this when she is out of food, being ignored or her ladder is disconnected from her climbing tower. Living with the symptoms of PTSD and trauma is like living in a house full of pets. The potential for conflict is always there, in the instance a peaceful moment can explode into a major battle.
Continue reading “A HOUSE FULL OF PETS”
JUST EXISTING IS NOT LIVING LIFE, IT’S JUST PASSING TIME UNTIL ONE DIES
My 50th birthday is coming up in October. So I’m contemplating what the second part of my life is going look like. I have three different pictures of the direction of my life. The first one is to keep doing what I’m doing now and what I’ve done for the last three years, just staying home and existing. Existing as in not really doing anything important, significant or meaningful. The thought of doing that for another 20 or so years does not seem very appealing. Just existing is not living life, it’s just passing time until one dies.
I’ve thought about selling our house, all our stuff and heading out to the open road with our 5th wheel trailer. Stopping to flip a quarter at every major intersection to determine our direction. We have seriously considered doing this and were pretty close to actually making it happen. The excitement of traveling, going where we want to go and doing whatever we want to do seems very attractive. But eventually the traveling will get old and we would have to ask the question “what we were actually doing with our lives?” Do we really want to spend 20 years or so living in our 5th Wheel? Going place to place without any real purpose or direction? Establishing short-term relationships because we know we were only going to be around for a short period of time. Then head out again and show up somewhere different to start all over again. While on the surface it sounds great, it lacks purpose and significance and in essence is still a form of just existing.
Continue reading “GET A JOB”
When I Woke Up This Morning I Had Three Choices And I Could Only Choose One
Yesterday I was going through our closet as part of our ritual spring-cleaning event. As I was going through our “hopeful” section of the closet; this is the area where we put the clothes we like but have somehow shrunk on us. The cloths in this section are the clothes we hope to one day be able to wear again. However, we never seem to enjoy that experience. So from time to time reality sets in and we go through our “hopeful” section. As we are faced with reality, we finally relent and get rid of our “hopeful” cloths. However, we always make sure we leave some “hopeful” cloths to motivate us until the next onset of reality hits us. The far right corner of our hopeful section is where I have hung my Army dress and mess uniforms, they are in garment bags and simply occupy their space in the dark corner of my closet. As I was going through the hopeful clothes, I ran across one of my dress shirts and a pair of my dress pants for my dress uniform. They were on separate hangers so I combined the two and hung them next to the two garment bags that held my full dress uniforms.
As I looked at the garment bags I decided to unzip one of the bags and take a look at the uniform. I was greeted with my dress uniform, everything was in its proper place, my awards, my combat identifier badge, my name badge, my chaplain crest and all the other items I have on my dress uniform. The uniform was just the way I left it. I gazed at the uniform for just a few seconds and immediately felt a deep sense of sadness. So I quickly zipped the bag back up and walked out of the closet. For the remainder of the day I felt sad, I felt a little depressed, as the day wore on my feeling of sadness and depression grew. By the time I went to bed I was feeling pretty sad and went into a little funk. I told my wife that I was feeling down and she asked my why, my response was “I’m not sure.” Then I remembered how I felt after looking at my uniform this morning and it made sense why I was feeling the way I was. Those few seconds when I was looking at my dress uniform, I was reminded how much I miss being in the Army. It reminded me that at one point in my life, I woke up each morning with a plan and ended each day knowing I had accomplished that plan. I miss having that feeling of significance.
This morning when I woke up, I had a few decisions to make. Was I going to spend the day feeling depressed and just sit around the house all day doing nothing? Or am I going to sit around the house living in a “could have been” world? Would I spend the day imaging what my life would have been if I had not been medically retired due to PTSD? Was I going to imagine what my assignment would have been? Where I could be living and wondering what my promotion packet would look like. I also had a third and more difficult choice available. Will I get out of bed; appreciate the opportunity I had to serve in the U.S. Army for 21 years? Will I be thankful for what I have? Will I focus my day on the here and now and plan for my son’s arrival tomorrow from his first year of college? Will I prepare for and be busy getting ready for our family cruise on Saturday? Choices one and two are the easiest choices; I’m very good at sitting around feeling sorry for myself, and being depressed. I’m even better at choice number two. I have spent many days, weeks and months over the last few years living in my “what could have been” world.
The hardest choice is choice number three; it is the one that demands the most from me. It is the one that requires the most energy and the most commitment. It is also the one that has the greatest reward, the one that will continue leading me down the road of healing and overcoming the debilitating symptoms of my PTSD. It is the one that will allow me to enjoy the day, prepare for the homecoming of my son and the one that will move me a step close to living the life I truly want to live.
I loved my time in the Army, I am proud of my service and what I accomplished over the 21 years of my service. I am proud of the way my dress uniform looks. I am thankful for what I have now.
So I choose number three, the hardest choice of the three.
Webster defines the word reconciliation as “the act of causing two people or groups to become friendly again after an argument or disagreement”
It is common among those who deal with PTSD to find themselves in conflict with those around them. Whether it is among family members, spouses, friends, co-workers or neighbors. Conflict seems to be an issue that comes up frequently as we deal with our PTSD symptoms. Conflict happens. Some conflicts are resolved quickly and are forgotten. Other times conflict goes on for a while but at some point there is a resolution to the conflict. Then there are conflicts that take place and the result are long-lasting and may even bring relationships to an end. I call these conflicts devastating conflicts. These are the worse conflicts as they destroy the relationship between two people and bring pain and hurt to all involved. These devastating conflicts can last for years or even a lifetime. They have the real possibility of bringing so much pain and hurt that there is no probability of reconciling. Even in the best of relationships there are conflicts that happen. Conflicts are not reserved just for veterans or those who suffer from PTSD. However, devastating conflicts often take place within the relationships of those who suffer from the symptoms of PTSD. Some of the reasons are we have a tendency to hide and cover up our emotions. Some do so to “protect” those around us. We do not want our families and friends to know the horror we went through in war. Other times we are focused on self-medication as we try to forget the trauma we witnessed or were involved with. As we focus more and more on self-medication whether it be substance abuse, risky behavior, withdrawal and dissociation or other forms of self-medication. We pull further and further away from those who love and care for us. We freely give up the love and concern of our loved ones and friends to embrace our own self-medication as a way to cope with our PTSD.
Continue reading “Finding Reconciliation”
I have thought about doing some video recording to add to my blog and I finally decided to give it a try. I thought since today is Good Friday it would be a good day to try my first video by reading the crucifixion account from the Gospel of Mark and providing a few comments after. The ending is a little rough, but as I continue recording they will become smoother. Please let me know what you think and if I should continue to add videos to my blog. Thank you so much for your support, please feel free to like and pass the website onto your family, friend and veterans you may know.
When I started this blog in February, it was my intention to post a new post at least once a week if not twice a week. However, no matter how noble the intentions are, life gets in the way and in some cases the symptoms of PTSD get in the way. Last week I received a letter from the VA asking for a copy of my Physical Evaluation Board findings. They need the report to continue justifying one of the VA benefits I receive. This was no big deal, I had the form and it was no issue to drive to the VA hospital to drop it off. However, the emotional aspect of once again reading the report and seeing the phrase “unfit for continued military service” brought back a lot of uneasy feelings. I took the report with me to my Tuesday appointment with my therapist. We talked about it for a while and decided to continue the discussion during our next appointment. On the way home, I decided it would be a good topic to blog about. I started working on the blog post but found it was a bit harder than expected. While working on it, I came to the realization that it’s not going to be ready to post until next week. So I decided to write a short blog about one of our favorite activities. If you have read the get to know chaplain doll page, you will know that my family and I love to cruise
Taking our adult kids on a cruise May 20th, on the Carnival Valor.
Living in Texas, as we do, makes it easy to take cruises, as the port of Galveston is about three hours from where we live. Which makes it really convenient to cruise, as we don’t have the extra expense of air travel, hotel stays and transportation cost between the airport, hotel and the cruise terminal. Living close to Galveston saves us about $2000 per cruise. As a result, we take about one cruise a year. Sometimes it just Beth and I, which our adult children thinks is unfair. But hey, there should be some kind reward for us, for raising our kids successfully. Taking a cruise without them seems like just the right reward. But at last, they made us feel so bad last year that we have been cruising without them. That we booked a cruise for all of us for May 20th and gave it to them as a Christmas gift. So as of today, we have 57 days before our next family cruise, which by the way will be our first cruise where all of our children are adults. Which is scary in it self. Anyway, we are getting excited and the kids (adults) are also getting excited. We are going to Cozumel and to Yucatan, Mexico. We have booked a four-wheel ATV excursion in Cozumel, which should be lots of fun especially as we have never done an ATV excursion before. When we go to Yucatan, we are going to visit the beautiful Mayan City of Uxmal, (pronounced Ush-Mal) considered one of the most beautiful cities in the Mayan world. I figured we needed to do this because we are taking the kids. Everyone knows there has to be an educational moment when one takes the kids on vacation, even when they are adults. Sorry kids, but that is the price of going on a cruise with your parents.
Continue reading “Had to Take A Break To Watch Some Cruise Ships.”