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.

“DO”

“Doing” is not living in the control of our trauma or the symptoms of PTSD, “Doing” is going out and moving forward!

I am at a significant turning point in my life, one that will make all the difference in my future. I am at the decision point of either living the way I have in the past or moving forward. I have mentally made the decision to move on and start living my life again and return to full-time ministry. However, just making the mental decision and commitment to move forward does not equate to actual action. The actual action only takes place when I’m actually “doing” something.working-in-the-dock-1530932  It is all good and well to dream, think through, plan, talk and write about what I’m going to “do”, but until I “do” I’m just sitting around. I will not move forward until I “do”. Whether it’s looking for and applying for a job, improving my website or simply getting out and interacting with people. None of this will happen until I actually “do” something. I have had a desire for a while to minister to my fellow veterans. As a chaplain I’ve asked myself what needs do veterans have that I am able to meet, and how can I use my experiences to meet those needs. With talking with veterans and especially the veterans I have gone through treatment with there is one overwhelming need they present to me. That is “what do I do with God?” I have had veterans tell me their stories of going to war believing in God only to return questioning or denying the existence of God. Their stories are disconcerting. However, it’s more bewildering for a chaplain to return from war having those same questions. It is this need of my fellow veterans that I believe I have something to offer.

One of the reason’s I started this blog and website was to address some of the spiritual issues and questions. Since I started my blog in March, I thought at this point I would have hundreds of people reading my posts. However, I quickly realized developing a following as a blogger takes time and a lot of work. By writing and posting, I am “doing”. It would be easy to be happy with my “doing”, but my blog is not my entire vision, it is an important part, but only a part. I must continue to “do” or I will find myself hiding in my house behind my computer “doing”, but not really achieving my vision. For me, my vision is not accomplished until I expand my “doing” to actually meeting with and ministering to veterans face to face. This is the scary part; actually leaving the safety of my home to reach out to other’s who struggle with the question of “what do I do with God?” My next step of “doing” comes with holding veteran’s symposiums, where we deal with the question of “what to do with God?” we explore what moral and spiritual injury means and we look to the Scripture for the answer to these questions. The first symposium will be held on Saturday 29 July at First Baptist Church in New Braunfels, Texas. Where we will discuss the moral and spiritual injury, watch a DVD and look to the Scriptures to find answers to our questions of “What do we do with God?” This is what “doing” looks like for me.

If we miss out on our freedom because of our war trauma, then the enemy has won.

My question for you is simple, “what are you “doing”? “Doing” is not living in the control of our trauma or the symptoms of PTSD. It is not living in fear, anger, resentment, or refusing to “do”. “Doing” is going out and moving forward despite these feelings. The thoughts and feelings will never go away, we will always struggle with them. However, it is not an excuse to not “do” nor is it justification to simply hide and avoid. If you are not “doing” you are not living, you are missing out, your own prison that you have made for yourself traps you in doing nothing. I certainly know that “doing” is so much harder. I understand the fear, the anger, and the resentment, I understand what it is like to hide and avoid. I understand the distress that is felt when faced with the thought of venturing out of our comfort and safe zones. We must not allow ourselves to be controlled by our trauma! We cannot live a life with no joy, no happiness, no peace, and no relationships. We have sacrificed too much and given too much to this nation, to stay defeated in our trauma. We cannot miss out on what we have provided for others and that is freedom. If we miss out on our freedom because of our war trauma, then the enemy has won. They have not just taken out one service member but have taken out our families, friends, spouses, children, and grandchildren. If you don’t “do” then what you fought for and sacrificed for is in vain. Don’t live in defeat, Go out and “DO”!

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God Our Refuge

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.

While not my favorite genre of movies I do enjoy a good natural disaster movie from time to time. I think the last one we watched was San Andreas and to be honest we basically went to see it because of the cruise ship scene. Being that we love to cruise, we were eager to watch a cruise ship get carried away by a giant wave and end up in downtown San Francisco. At least for me that was the best part of the whole movie.Cruise ship wave

Almost all of the natural disaster movies I’ve seen are basically the same. Someone has the inside scoop of an upcoming disaster and although they try to warn every one of the impending doom no one is willing to listen. As the impending disaster finally occurs it is left to the one who gave the warning to save all mankind or at least their family from the devastating tragedy that is accruing. The majority of these movies depict building crashing down, dams breaking, and massive fires rising from the ground. There are always people running everywhere only to have buildings fall on them Lavaor overtaken by a mile high wall of water or worse yet a rapid flow of hot scorching lava. The movies seem to always end with the one who gave the initial warning surviving with their family, while countless thousands of people perished in the midst of this unprecedented and unparalleled disaster.

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