Friday, September 20, 2013

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Each day I grow more concerned with the stigma associated with PTSD. So I thought I’d take a few moments and write a few words about it. I firmly believe that PTSD is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. Not only veterans can suffer from it. Victims of a horrific car accident, victims of rape, or anyone that has had a traumatic life altering experience may be affected by PTSD. And frankly, I’m sick and tired of the terrible stigma associated with it.

I originally created this blog to share my struggles with survivor’s guilt, anxiety, and depression all related to my experiences in combat. My hope is that if a fellow veteran reads this, it will help them realize that it is possible to rise above your struggles. In some way, I hope to inspire others. God knows, I have many inspirations in my life, and it is because of them I was able to defeat my own demons. So I decided to put it all out there. In fact, I’ve found that writing about some of my experiences has been very therapeutic. I even recommend it. Whether or not you decide to share your story with anyone remains up to you.

I do hope that you’ll continue reading. And even like or share a comment.

I’ll be brief and describe just a few issues.

Acting out and feeling numb. Do you think it is possible for someone to do something so completely out of character just so that person can feel “something?” PTSD not only hurt my emotional state, but also those around me. I acted differently. I treated others without respect. I stopped being the friendly outgoing person I once was. I once yelled at my daughter for standing on a piece of paper! I remember that day like it was yesterday. It was nearly 5 years ago. She asked me: “Daddy, why are you yelling at me?” I didn’t have an answer. But that one event unfortunately wasn’t enough for me to seek help. I’m so glad she doesn’t remember it.

I felt disconnected from my family, like I didn’t belong there. When I left the Army, I was not surrounded by friends that had similar experiences. I felt like I couldn’t just talk anyone about my experiences. I didn’t trust them with my own heart or emotions. I was afraid everyone would call me “crazy” or worse. And because of it, I became withdrawn. I isolated myself. I didn’t want to leave my couch. It was safe there. The couch never judged me. And it gave me support.

All of these things impacted the way I work, eat, socialize, sleep, and have healthy relationships with people. It was a dark time in my life. It lasted for years. Some nights, I’d wonder what it would be like if I wasn’t alive the next morning.

Today, I’m so grateful for my life! So happy to be alive and to have so many wonderful people in my life!

Someone once told me: “PTSD never heals.” I’m not sure about that. But I do know from experience it does get easier! There is help out there! You are not broken! You are having a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. You are stronger than what happened to you! And that is why you live today. I urge you that if you are struggling with PTSD or know someone that is, please seek help. You are not alone!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Patriot Day

Do you remember where you were and what you were doing September 11th, 2001? I sure do. I remember it like it was yesterday.

I was stationed at Ft. Benning, GA. I was a machine gun instructor and was preparing to teach some basic trainee’s. Several other non-commissioned officers and I were inside our range building watching “Good Morning America.” And about the time the show was about to sign off, Charles Gibson reported that a plane had hit one of the twin towers. My immediate thought was that a small plane had misjudged course and crashed. However moments later, the television channel showed a live feed of the World Trade Center as smoke and flames poured out of the north tower.

Everyone in or small range building watched in stunned and silent disbelief. Moments later, we witnessed a second plane hit the south tower and part of the building erupt in flames. Seconds, perhaps minutes passed before someone said what we were all probably thinking. “We are under attack.”

Little did we know the events of that tragic day would send our country and many of us within that room to war.

Looking back, I can recall how our country and the citizens of this great country acted. We were united. We came together through a terrible tragedy. I think it is safe to say, that for the most part, we appreciated each other. We respected each other. And we were grateful for life. We were grateful for those first responders and innocent people that gave their lives. We stood united and most certainly appreciated the members of our military for answering their nation’s call to war.

On Patriots Day I ask that you do not waste a breath complaining about life. There were 2,977 victims that tragic day. Over 6,000 service members have been killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They cannot be here. Over 50,000 have been physically wounded in those wars. And an estimated 600,000 are battling the unseen wounds of war such as Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Be thankful and stop complaining.

I would recommend that you take the time to shake the hand of a first responder or veteran.

Be grateful that you have a life. Be grateful for those that have given their lives. Take time to remember that life is precious. Please remember the victims who gave their lives that day. And please do not forget the thousands of veterans and their families that have been affected by the wars that followed.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Replacing Pain and Negativity

Replacing Pain and Negativity

                As a combat wounded veteran I know what it is like to suffer from pain, both physical and emotional. Physical injuries typically heal in some way. Perhaps with less mobility or in some cases a lingering pain and even surgical scars, which may fade away after time. For some people a physical injury requires an amputation. However, in all of these cases people learn to adapt to their new lifestyle. They make a choice to adapt and overcome something negative and replace it with something that will help them continue living.

But emotional pain is different. This pain comes in many forms such as trauma, grieving, survivor’s guilt, depression and anxiety to name a few. It seems to follow us. Taunts us in our sleep. It may interfere with the way we work, the way we spend time with family and friends, and some of these scars never really heal. For some, it gives that vacant look in the eyes that everyone sees but very few understand. And because of this emotional distress we become negative. We look at life as something “we HAVE to do” instead of something “we GET to do.” We view life as a dark tunnel with no way out. A life in which nothing can kill our pain. We become lost and lose focus on what is truly important in our lives. We feel that we have lost so much and feel like there is a giant void in our heart and soul that nothing can ever replace it.

However, there is hope. There is a light at the end of that tunnel! There is something that you can do to fill that hole and live a life that is happy and rewarding. And it all starts with taking one small step to replace that pain and negativity.

The first thing I will recommend is something I was taught a few years ago. The man that taught me this is someone that I truly look up to, and have the utmost respect and admiration for. And if it were not for him, I may not be here today. I challenge you to go the next 24 hours without complaining one time. Go 24 hours without saying anything negative. No exceptions here! Take the day as it is. And remember that you are alive for a reason! I promise you will be surprised how quickly your life begins to change.

If you can do that, then you are ready for the second step, ridding your heart, your mind of negativity. You must find something to replace it with! Find something to be passionate about! Find something you are proud of! Say positive things! Spend time with positive and happy people that have been through similar experiences as you have. Trust me it works!

Do not be afraid to pick up the phone and call a friend. Talk it out. I do it.

Pretty simple, really. I assure you, if I can do it, than I KNOW you can! I BELIEVE in you!

Make it a POSITIVE day!