Some Days Are Better Than Others

A few months ago I started blogging again after a two year break of having nothing to say. I started telling my story as part of my recovery from my own life. I put myself on a schedule to post every Saturday. This gives me a set plan to accomplish something weekly at a given time. It helps. Having a schedule for posting to my blog gives me a weekly goal and motivation to get it done. This whole thing is designed to be my therapy, to help me along my way. I share my story in case it helps someone else.

But this week is different. Usually by Thursday each week I have my blog post complete, uploaded to drafts, just waiting for Saturday. A couple times I’ve had two blogs at a time ready to go. But not this week. It’s Saturday morning (U.S.) and I’m just now starting. I’ve thought all week about what to write but nothing. Actually, I have thought of a few things, but nothing I wanted to share here just yet. I have a lot on my mind, but I’m having so much trouble putting it all in order. And not to mention the book I’ve been writing, I haven’t worked on that in a couple weeks either. This is so much more than writer’s block, it’s life.

I have my plate full as far as life goes right now. But overall I’m doing ok with it, just going through some changes in life. I am now on a regular sleep schedule for the first time in at least three years. For the last five weeks since my wife moved out, certain things have fallen into place for me. I get up early every morning to get the kids to school. I don’t stay up late anymore. I haven’t been to the VFW for drinks since she left. I’m not sure if I have a plan or if I’m taking everything one day at a time, but I feel pretty good about most things right now. But I don’t feel good about not being able to write or compose my thoughts, but I know that will fall into place soon enough. Or eventually. It has too. I write, it’s what I do.

I pride myself on my writing. Not because I think I’m some great writer, but because I spend time on it, work on it, make sure it’s good enough to share. This week, not so much. I’ve got nothing. I’m just kind of making this up as I go along this time. I don’t like posting this way, but I put myself on a schedule and if I want to keep that schedule I have to put something on my blog today. So, here it is. I know it sucks, but next week will be a better post. I know it will. But thanks for taking the time to read today. Good day, God bless.

Dave

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PTSD is Contagious!

I’m still not sure how I got PTSD. I washed my hands after every time I came in contact with someone that had it. I used hand sanitizer, wore a protective breathing mask, and even kept my distance. Somehow I still contracted PTSD. Maybe it’s airborne, maybe that’s how I got it. Maybe I was sitting at a table with someone that had PTSD and they breathed on me. Maybe I touched a door handle that was infected by a PTSD sufferer. I’ll bet I loaned my ink pen to someone with PTSD and got infected that way. I’m not loaning my pen to anyone, anymore, ever again.

Does that sound silly? Of course it does. Mental illness is not spread like an infectious disease. But there are still so many people out in the world that don’t understand that. Those of us that suffer from any mental illnesses are sometimes looked at differently. People who don’t understand will often avoid the issue of mental illness with a sufferer. Perhaps they don’t know what to say or don’t want to trigger anything to make it worse. Maybe they don’t want to ‘catch’ the illness.

I can only speak for myself, but from what I’ve been reading, I think this is true for most of us that suffer from any mental illnesses. Don’t treat me differently. Don’t be afraid to ask me questions, either about my PTSD, depression, life, or my military service in Iraq or Afghanistan. Hey. Maybe that’s where I caught PTSD. I’ll bet it’s because I didn’t take my malaria pills daily like I was supposed to. Damn it. I think we figured it out, I wasn’t taking my Doxycycline Hyclate. If I had just taken my Doxy, maybe I wouldn’t have to take these other medications now.

But I digress. Back to whatever it was that I was talking about a minute ago. Don’t avoid me. Engage me, ask me questions. But give me space when I need it. Support my road to recovery by doing some research about what ails me. Help others understand that those of that suffer from mental illness are still normal, just a different kind of normal, our own normal. Understand that my memory is horrible. Understand that my brain does not work like it used to, but it still works, just differently from the way yours might work.

Things have changed for me since being diagnosed with PTSD and major depression. I see things in a different light now. I take medications and go to therapy. Both of those help. Once I decided to share publicly with what I deal with in my life now, It felt like a weight being lifted off of me. I’m pretty messed up in the head sometimes, but I actually feel better about it now than ever before. None of this is totally new. Well, the diagnosis is new, but the symptoms have been with me for years.

In 2011, a year and half after coming home from Iraq, I talked my way out of being labeled with PTSD. I convinced the doctor that I was ok and was ‘let off with a warning’, like I was getting out of a speeding ticket or something. It was noted that I had symptoms of post-traumatic stress and ‘situational’ depression, but would not have to carry the label of PTSD. That was a relief. I didn’t want that label. I was in denial and I was proud to have dodged that bullet. In 2013, because of the 2011 incident, I had to get a psychiatrist’s approval to be able to deploy again. I honestly thought I was fine since I didn’t officially have the label of PTSD. The doctor agreed and I deployed again, this time to Afghanistan.

I know that was my last deployment and that my time in the U.S. Army Reserves will be coming to an end at some point due to physical and mental issues. And I’m ok with that now. I had only came to the realization that the army will be fine without me after my failed suicide attempt last year, and that I can live my new normal life, whatever normal is. I think normal is overrated. I’ve embraced being crazy, it’s a lot of fun. I know, the term ‘crazy’ isn’t politically correct. But neither am I.

As always, thanks for reading. Enjoy, give feedback, share if you like. Good day, God bless.

Dave

The Pysch Ward

Last year I spent a week in the psychiatric ward of the local hospital after my failed suicide attempt. It was not a high point of my life. I did not want to be there and I was still very mad at myself for failing to kill myself. The first two days were very rough. I was antagonistic and uncooperative towards my assigned doctor, I avoided group therapy, and I refused my medications. I know the hospital staff is very familiar with how I was acting. I am not the first person to be involuntarily admitted to a psychiatric ward. Here in Florida, when you are involuntarily admitted, it is required by law to be observed for a minimum of seventy-two hours. I figured I’d do my 72 and get out. It was a very angering and shocking feeling to find out that in addition to the seventy-two hours, the doctor’s approval was also necessary.

I fought the system. And by fought the system, I mean that I complained to anyone that would listen, but of course to no avail. I did find out, however, that I could have a “court” hearing and present my case. If I made a good enough case, they would have to let me go. The proceedings were held right there at the hospital, in the psychiatric ward. My doctor was recommending I stay there for two weeks. I was going to fight that with everything in my power. I had no intention of staying in the hospital for two weeks.

By the time my hearing was scheduled I had complied with the doctor’s suggestion of taking the prescribed medications and I was participating in group therapy. I was sleeping better, eating my meals, and interacting with other patients. Surely, I thought, they’d have to let me go because of the progress I was making, or pretended to be making, or fooled myself into thinking I was making. I met with my public defender and he informed me that the judge (magistrate) usually sides with the doctor, but whatever I wanted to do, he would plead my case. He made it clear that he worked for the patient and his job to make sure my rights were not violated and that my voice was fairly heard.

The ‘trial’ began. The doctor went first after the swearing in process and the explaining of the proceedings. She pointed out my anger, my desire to die, my disappointment that I failed at killing myself, her opinion that I should not be released because I posed a threat to myself and others, and that I should stay in the hospital for two more weeks. She said a lot of things for which I had no defense. My defender asked for the tape recorder to be stopped for a moment to confer and ask me if I still wanted to proceed with my request to be released immediately. If that got denied, the magistrate would most likely take the doctor’s suggestion of keeping me locked up for two weeks. I asked my defender if I could counter with offering to stay for a week and have another hearing at that time. He suggested it to the judge. The judge asked the doctor if that was fine with her. The doctor said yes.

I was to be stuck there for a week but I felt like I achieved a victory at the hearing. I guess we can call it a plea bargain. But in any event, I did feel like I won something. At the time I still wasn’t very happy about being alive, but every little victory helped, even an artificial victory. Being put in the hospital was one of the worst experiences of my life, but it was the beginning of getting better. It is what I needed at that time. It’s been a rough road so far and there’s a million miles left to go, but I think I’m on the right track. And I’m still alive, that’s pretty good, too.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far. I will never be all the way “better”. In other words, I’ll never be the person I used to be, I have to learn how to be who I am now. The PTSD, the depression, the bad sleep and whacky dreams will likely be with me the rest of my life. The anger issues, the paranoia, the hyper vigilance is all going to be there for a long time.  It’s who I am now and I have to accept it and learn live with it. It’s not always easy, but I can learn to live with those things, manage them, and overcome some of the symptoms and find my new normal.

As bad as that week in my life was, the hospital stay wasn’t a complete disaster in that I did get some great stories to tell and met some interesting people. Crazy people, but very interesting. I’ll have to tell some of those stories in a later blog post about daily life in the hospital and the people I met, both patients and staff. Of course, I won’t use real names, but some of the stories are too funny not to tell. And those stories will be much more lighthearted than some of the more recent ones. So, stay tuned. You never know what’s coming next in the Story of My Life.

Thanks for reading. Good day, God bless.

Dave

The Cage With Prison Bars

I’ve met them all and put them in their respective places. I know each of them by name. We’ve come to agreements that, quite frankly, don’t benefit anyone involved, but there had to be agreements, whether they mean anything or not. I can’t make them leave, they are part of me and who I am now. I can get along with every one of them very nicely. Except one, except the one that wants to kill me. I keep him locked in a cage with prison bars. They are all my demons and I have them under control.

I entertain them occasionally, just to make sure they know I’m in charge, if I am in charge. Except the one that wants me dead. I won’t let that one out of the cage. But all the others come around once in a while, and if I feel like it I will pet them and send them on their way. They are free to roam because they have learned the rules and boundaries. Except Suicide. That one stays locked up. Behind prison bars. That one cannot be tamed like the others. That one does not play by the rules. That one scares me, even from behind the bars.

When all my demons ran wild and controlled me, it was chaos. I locked myself in that cage with prison bars to stay safe. But that didn’t work. They poked and jabbed through the bars. They laughed and made fun of me and threw things at me. And Suicide was the worst of them. That one won’t stop until you do. And I believed them for a while, every word. And they were right, they convinced me anyway. Except that they were wrong, I learned that later, after it was almost too late. It was hard, but I put them in their places, even the one that tried to murder me. Especially the one that tried to murder me. That bastard is behind bars now. But that one still scares me. That’s the only one I’m truly afraid of.

I look over my shoulder occasionally from time to time to make sure my demons are staying in their places, where they belong. They are for the most part, even the killer that is locked in a cage with prison bars. When I look over my shoulder at that one, it smiles calmly, not bothered at all about being locked up. That one knows that even from the cage it can get me if it wanted to, if I let it. I have all my demons under control except that one, which is befuddling to me since that’s the only one locked up. In a cage. With prison bars. No freedom to roam. Suicide stays quiet in the cage making plans for a reunion. I have no intention of showing up to that party.

But if you have demons of your own, maybe we can get them together for a play date party.

2015 Suicide statistics. Why is the government failing?

Good article.

Amanda Strah Gilliam

DoD_Quarterly_Suicide_Report_CY2015_Q4

Military suicide and ptsd related deaths in the past few years has risen to all time highs. As budget cuts amongst each branch of the military and zero tolerance policy for even the slightest mistake, service members now more than ever need help. The VA is taking advantage of this horrifying statistic. Most service members who are getting dismissed from the military with bad paperwork (a less than honorable discharge) are getting denied basic VA benefits they are entitled to. According to the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, Congress deemed that other-than-honorable discharges can only bar a veteran from basic VA services if the individual’s misconduct led to a dishonorable discharge in a court-martial due to serious crimes. Misconduct that the military would have reprimanded, but not deemed necessary, to give a veteran the boot are now experiencing this deplorable fate.

In 2013, according to a press release by Bradford…

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