Don’t Work Too Hard

My brain gets stuck on things sometimes. Some of those things don’t make any sense at all to be obsessing over. But I do it anyway. And in a week where nothing came to me for my blog, I’ll write about what’s been stuck in my brain. I have nothing profound to offer in this, but at the very least, this will be a glimpse into what goes on in my head occasionally. So, if you see me deep in thought and I look like I’m pondering some important life-changing knowledge, I might only be contemplating some trivial nonsense that popped into my thoughts and is driving me nuts. Like this….

I’ve always wondered about the phrase “Don’t work too hard.” What does it mean? Be lazy? Slack off? Don’t give your full effort? I’ve always answered that statement by responding with, “Too late.” In school, our teachers always encouraged us to study hard. In sports, our coaches implored us to play or run hard. When mowing the grass as a teenager, my dad would tell me to do a good job, or I’d have to do it again. So, why then, when we get to adulthood do we tell each other “Don’t work too hard”? Isn’t that a contradiction of everything we were taught growing up?

But I’ve been thinking about this lately because someone at work recently told me “Don’t work too hard” as they were leaving for the day. And it’s been stuck in my head ever since. I know this topic for my blog might be a little different or weird compared to most of my other posts, but that’s how my brain works. Or, in some cases, doesn’t work. It’s just a corny, cliché phrase, something to say that might be funny in an ironic way. But for some reason, my brain is fixated on it.

I have worked hard in my life at every job I’ve ever had, at least in my adult life. I pride myself on being a hard worker. I also pride myself on being a smart worker, efficient and productive. Work smart, not hard, right? Either way, I earn my pay, that’s for sure. But then I think about some of my Army Reserve weekends and wonder if I do always earn my pay. There have been a few times that I was amazed we even got paid for some of the unproductive weekends I’ve been part of at various units. In fairness, some of the boring weekends are a result of budget cuts after the wars “ended” and the Reserves was again put at the end of the money train.

And then I thought, I shouldn’t feel bad about getting paid for not doing much once in a while on my Army Reserve weekends. I’ve been on two deployments, one to Iraq and one to Afghanistan, where I earned my pay ten times over. No overtime, no bonuses. Just work, every day. Long days. Hard days. Every day. I’m not complaining. I did sign up for that, and I wanted to be there. I volunteered for both of my deployments and I would go back right now and do it all again, the same hours for the same pay. This is simply a comment on how things balance out sometimes. And I don’t in the least feel bad about it.

I’ve worked with people that have taken “Don’t work too hard” seriously. It’s bothersome to me. And I’ve seen road crews where one guy is working and four others are standing around not working too hard. I’ve been in the Veterans Affairs system where it seems like only a few of the people I’ve dealt with even work at all, and even fewer work hard. Maybe this is the part where it’s balancing out for them. Maybe they already met their quota for hard work. I guess I can relate to that on some level, considering some of my Army Reserve weekends.

So, if you can get away with it once in a while, “Don’t work too hard.” But I don’t recommend that being your lifestyle or motto to live by. And I’m not sure what I accomplished with hashing this out here as opposed to in my head, aside from trying to stay disciplined to post every week. In any event, thanks for reading. I’ll do better next week. Good day, God bless.

Dave

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PTSD Moments

For those of us that live with PTSD, depression, anxiety, or any other ‘invisible’ ailment that’s hard to describe or see, we have ‘moments.’ For me, I call them “PTSD moments.” All of us that are effected deal with them, sometimes it’s overwhelming, sometimes it’s not too bad. Most of my PTSD moments have to do with trouble falling asleep, weird or bad dreams, traffic, unexpected noises. Very minor stuff in the grand scheme of life. Since starting medication a couple years ago, and going through counseling, I have learned to deal with most of these things better than I used to. I have calmed down considerably compared to the time leading up to my failed suicide attempt and the few months that followed. But I do still have an overwhelming PTSD moment occasionally. This week, I had two of those moments, almost back to back.

The first of my two PTSD moments was at the restaurant I work at in the airport. I was changing out an empty keg in a walk-in cooler that has more stuff crammed into it than it should. It’s a confined space in the corner where the kegs are kept, and very difficult to change some of them. I got the empty keg pulled out with little problem, but when I was putting the new keg in its place, it slipped and slammed to the floor. The other kegs that were stacked on each other wobbled. The combination of the loud noise with the fear of being crushed by the kegs turned into a PTSD moment for me. I instantly got a headache. My vision blurred, I lost all focus, and just wanted to go home. I couldn’t even clearly vocalize my thoughts for a few minutes after that incident. It was a similar feeling to when I got rear-ended by a vehicle doing 40 mph while I was sitting still, but without as much of the physical pain.

My second PTSD moment was only ten hours after the first one, at 1:30 in the morning. My headache had finally subsided. I had gone to bed early and I was very much asleep. And sleeping well, I might add. I was awakened by a thud, loud voices, and the sound of a waterfall. I jumped out of bed, heart racing, trying to figure out what the hell was going on. I was ready to throw punches, but I had no idea at whom. To make a long story short, the upstairs neighbors had a plumbing problem that caused gallons of water to make its way from the bathroom in their unit to the bathroom in my unit until they could turn off the water behind their commode. Until then, it was flowing through the vent in the bathroom ceiling all over the place.

I went upstairs and knocked on the neighbor’s door. Partly to make sure everything was OK, and partly to make sure they knew that their water was showering down into my bathroom. One of them explained, “The porcelain broke while we were going to the bathroom.” What entered my mind was “While WE”? But I didn’t say anything, just wondered why were “WE” going to the bathroom? I don’t about you, buy the porcelain in my bathroom is single serve. Perhaps they exceeded the weight limit on their porcelain by trying “WE”. Yes, even though what happened next is not funny, I still try to find the humor in most everything, even with the upstairs neighbors raining toilet water into my bathroom. On a side note, that was the first time I met my upstairs neighbors.

After the commotion, I went back to bed. But I could not fall asleep. It was after 3am, probably closer to 4am when I finally dozed off again. And when I did, I had horrible, dark dreams. Very demented stuff going on in my subconscious while I tried to slumber. I won’t go into detail about what I dreamt about after waking up in full adrenaline and defense modes, but it was very disturbing to me. It was the kind of stuff my previous therapist would spend a whole session on. My dreams that morning had lots of death in them after I finally fell asleep after the waterfall incident and I’m still bothered by what my mind had going on inside it. I know I can’t really control what I dream about, but it is still unsettling.

Life went back to ‘normal’ after the two PTSD moments, whatever ‘normal’ is. But while dealing with those moments, it was tough. And not just the specific moments, but the aftermath of each moment was somewhat overwhelming. Debilitating headache, horrible dreams, brief loss of mental functions. It’s what I live with. All the progress I’ve made in the last year and a half doesn’t matter sometimes. I know I’m still, and forever will be, on a recovery road with PTSD and my PTSD moments. It’s uncommon for me lately to have a PTSD moment as severe as the two I’ve written about here. But they will still happen to me none the less. And I have little, if any, control of how I or my body and mind react to them when the moments seem severe. I think that bothers me just as much as the moments themselves, not being able to control it.

But I’m always making progress, even if I take one step back to my two steps forward. Thanks for reading this week. Good day, God bless.

Dave

Other posts related to this:

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/06/04/memories-and-afghanistan/

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/07/30/recovery-its-not-that-easy/

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/04/23/ptsd-is-contagious/

 

This Page Intentionally Left Blank

In trying to figure out what to post this week, I asked my boys if they had any ideas. They were less than helpful, but entertaining none-the-less with their suggestions. I thought I’d do something a little entertaining myself here this week.

We’ve all seen the signs. Funny signs. Signs that don’t make sense or just lead to more questions. Very much like the “This Page Intentionally Left Blank” page seen in most Army manuals. I have no idea what they are trying to accomplish with that. But I do have quite a few pictures of silly signs. I will share some of them here. Most of these came from my last deployment during visits to various bases in Afghanistan (unless otherwise noted).

Above, we have a sign that says it’s no longer a door.  But is has a door knob, door frame, and hinges. It is a door!  Next to it a sign I found at Fort Bragg where a door in the brick wall simply doesn’t even exist.  I wonder if it ever did. And I wonder why they had to put a sign there to tell us it doesn’t exist.

There’s even humor in the restrooms.  Not even going to ask what happened to prompt these signs being posted.  I don’t think I want to know. I’m sure I don’t want to know.

On the left, we have an informative sign about what not to do while in Kandahar.  Seriously, we were at war, not at the mall.  On the right, a sign so secret that you aren’t allowed to know what it says, and that’s an order.

Of course I’m going to give way to aircraft.  Duh!  And of course I’m going to take a picture of the sign that says, “No Photos.”  The irony of that makes me smile. I’m such a rebel.

First of all, that is a trash can.  I’m sure of it.  It also doubles as an alarm clock in Basic Training.  And your peanut butter may contain peanut products?  Who would have thought?

On the left, it says no more ID checks at this door, to proceed into the building.  Um, did the cutbacks effect security that much? And shouldn’t there be some kind of note on it that says if you’re one of the bad guys, DON’T proceed into the building?  On the right, I made the van stop here while at Fort Hood so I could have my picture made with that sign.

On the left… ok, can I really cut my way out of a C-17 with that little hand axe?  Shouldn’t they have just put a door there? Unless it’s no longer a door or a door that doesn’t exist.  And on the right, I’m pretty sure we already know that that’s a confined space. There were a number of those signs on the base I lived at. Not sure what their purpose was.

DSCN5735

And last, but not least, you gotta love the Brits.  This was an actual sign you must read when signing in for lodging at one of the bases we stayed at in Afghanistan.  When I asked them if I could take it outside to photograph it (no pictures allowed inside that building), they offered to let me keep it.  So kind, those Brits.  But I figured a picture was enough.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s post.  I enjoyed the memories of going through some of the pictures I took while deployed. I could write a complete story for most of these pictures, but captions will have to do this time.  Good day, God bless.

Dave

 

Back to Work

For the few of you that follow and read Story of My Life every week, you may have noticed that I missed two weeks in a row. I’ve been busy. A month ago, I started working again after a year of being self-unemployed. Except for my Army Reserve weekends, I wasn’t doing anything outside the home for employment. I really missed working. Now I miss being lazy. LOL. My psychologist I was seeing at the Vet Center and I discussed work and decided last year early in our sessions that I wasn’t ready for the stress of work. By the time he relocated to another job in December I had made great progress and started passively looking for work.

I had to find the exact right job for me. While I have improved in many areas in my mental health, my brain still has issues. I’m still easily frustrated, although I am dealing with my frustrations much better now. I’m getting better at not being so jumpy and anxious, but still have my moments. And I still hate crowds and being around groups of people that I don’t know very well or at all. And let’s not forget traffic. I doubt I’ll ever do well in traffic again. I know an argument can made whether I was ever good in traffic to begin with, but I see a difference between getting angry at a fellow motorist and having bad memories from deployments because of traffic. I actually don’t get angry much in traffic anymore, but the feelings I have from being in certain traffic situations can only be understood by someone who has “been there.” In my case, Kabul, Afghanistan. For others, somewhere else in Afghanistan or Iraq, or wherever.

I got hired to cook at a restaurant that was opening in our local airport. In my interview, I said I had not worked in a year and would like to ease back into things, maybe four days a week, perhaps working 30 hours or so. I let the interviewer know that I was still in the Army Reserves, that I had previously deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. And also that I was dealing with PTSD, among other issues, but that I was capable of doing the job I was applying for. So, I went to work. First, we had to get the restaurant cleaned, painted, and set up. Then we opened. And then I cooked. And now I’m tired.

My plan of easing back into work did not work as planned. I worked over 40 hours three weeks in a row. There was a time in my life that 40 hours was a piece of cake. I was told recently that I have a history of going from one extreme to another. While that has some truth to it, I certainly didn’t mean to go from doing mostly nothing to going full speed. But I’m glad I did. I’m very comfortable where I am. The kitchen is small. The staff is small. I work with some good people. And often I’m in the kitchen by myself since it’s a small operation. And the best part? Since the restaurant closes after the last departure, I’m out of there before 8 pm on nights I close. I found my groove, my niche, and a schedule I like. For those of you that work or have worked in the restaurant industry, you know that getting out before 8 pm on a closing night is completely unheard of.

Working at the airport requires a background check, fingerprinting, and a test about airport security that must be passed to get the ID badge. No problem. And working at the airport has a few perks. I took my twin girls to the airport this week for a class trip to Washington, D.C. I parked in the employee lot, no cost to park. I was able to go to the gate with them since I have a security badge while all the other parents had to say good-bye to their kids at the TSA checkpoint. On a side note about the class trip, an anonymous donor paid for most of the kids to go on that trip. That’s the only reason my twins could go. I have no idea who that mystery person is, but a huge Thank You to him or her. I am forever grateful.

Well, I’m back to work and handling it fairly well, except that I was too tired and busy to post here the last two weeks. My body is getting used to being on my feet all the time again. That is not a fun process, but one I must go through. I miss the Me that didn’t hurt so much after being on my feet all day. And that was only a few years ago. I’ll probably never be as fast or as good as I was in the kitchen back then, but I’m keeping up. I still have some memory issues, but not as bad as it was a year ago. And lastly, I’m very thankful for the opportunity I have with the company that hired me. I feel like they have taken a chance on me and I appreciate that. It was a huge confidence boost.

I’m still here. Busy, but here. Thank you for reading this week. Good day, God bless.

Dave

Related posts:

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/06/11/hostage-negotiator-or-hostage-taker/

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/06/04/memories-and-afghanistan/

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/07/30/recovery-its-not-that-easy/