Walk It Off

I saw a meme on Facebook that said, “Telling someone with PTSD to get over it is like telling someone who is deaf to listen up.” I guess the same thing could be said that someone with a compound fracture of the leg should just walk it off. Or that someone with a stutter should speak clearly. Maybe we could tell a blind person to look closely. None of this works that easily. There is some truth to that meme. But there are also some things we can do to better ourselves.

I will never “get over” this thing called PTSD that I was diagnosed with in 2015. I will likely have to deal with the symptoms for the rest of my life. Just this week, I had a mild PTSD moment at work, for about a minute or so. And I happened to be working with the only other army veteran in my department at the time. Yeah, he gave me shit, but he was also understanding and helped me out. I have explained to most of my coworkers at my new job how sometimes I might need a minute to regroup in certain situations. In five weeks at my new job, that’s only happened the one time, for that one or two minutes. I’m nowhere near the bad place I was three years ago. I’m not as trapped in the darkness of my mind as I used to be. I feel better now than I have in years, many years. Some of it coincidence of fortunate events, some it is that I’m making decisions to be better.

Other PTSD moments->  https://storyofmylife.blog/2017/03/18/ptsd-moments/

I do, however, still have some issues. I slept on my couch three nights in a row last week because I didn’t feel like taking my sheets out of the dryer and making my bed. Funny thing is, there are two beds in the guest room, made and ready to go. I still have trouble occasionally with sleep and dreams, even with the medications from the VA. I’m also lacking motivation. Especially with my writing, as can be evidenced with the fact that I haven’t posted here in a month. Depression is an ongoing issue, although I deal with it much better now than I have in the past. I’m continuing to learn how to deal with all this. It’s a process.

It’s not easy->  https://storyofmylife.blog/2017/09/02/harder-than-it-looks/

I took a new job last month. If you follow Story of My Life, you may remember that I left working at the restaurant in the airport for a new restaurant job. After two months at that job, I made another change, to what I hope will be my last job change. Here’s the thing. This new job is something I’ve never done before. Years ago, I had the self-confidence to do almost anything. Not so much the last few years. But I decided to make a complete career change. I built up enough confidence to take a chance and go to an interview for a job I had applied for. And to be honest, at the time, I couldn’t remember for which job I applied when they called me for the interview. But I accepted the interview. I had applied for a number of jobs late last year when I knew things at the airport weren’t going to work out. I knew it was time for a change.

https://storyofmylife.blog/2017/03/04/back-to-work/

At the interview I was asked, “Have you done this kind of work before?” Um, nope. I think I said, “Not exactly. But if you’ll teach me, I’m a fast learner, I work hard, and I show up on time.” In the last year and a half, I can count on one finger how many times I was late for work (not including the time I was subpoenaed for deposition last-minute or the time the VA took an hour and half to do something that should have taken 5 minutes). I was late clocking in one time, by one minute. And for the few of you that personally know me, you know that still bothers me. But my response to his question, along with me already having a commercial drivers license, got me in the door. On a side note, I’m glad I renewed my CDL a couple years ago even though I wasn’t using it at the time.

My newfound confidence paid off. I got the job. I’ve been there five weeks now. This confidence is something I’ve been rebuilding for a while now. It’s taken a long time. It’s not that I was able to “get over” having PTSD, it’s that I worked at it. I take my medications as prescribed. I go to my appointments. I work on staying calm in stressful situations, which doesn’t always happen, but it certainly works a lot better than it did just a few years ago. And I am open with people about what’s going on in my head. Believe it or not, that helps tremendously.

So, like a deaf person can learn sign language to communicate and function in the world, I can learn to deal with and overcome my PTSD. Yes, “my PTSD,” I own that shit. It’s mine, for life. And while the symptoms will always be there, I will continue to find ways to survive and function. It’s not always easy, but it is worth it. Just don’t tell me to get over it. It doesn’t work that way.

Thanks for visiting Story of My Life this week. Good day, God bless.

Dave

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Dreaming on the Couch

I fell asleep on the couch with the windows open. The rain briefly woke me, but I rolled over, snuggled into the cushion, and propped my leg over the back of the couch. I tried to go back to the dream I was having about a girl that never met her grandmother. It was in black and white. The grandmother died during the war. The Greatest Generation was not able to save her and was forced to let her go. I don’t know the whole story, but my mind had been filling in the blanks as I slept. Before the dream was interrupted, the grandmother was visiting with the girl, telling her stories of when the girl’s dad was a small boy. Only the girl could see her grandmother. The dad played along with the girl’s imagination when she would tell him the stories from grandma but got chills when hearing some of the events of his childhood that the girl could not possible know. Then, the rain stormed in.

I was unable to return to that dream. Instead, I found myself in a mystery upon revisiting my slumber. I am unsure if I was the mystery or if I was trying to solve a mystery. The clues to this mystery were in a large, yellow house from a dream I used to have as a child. A house I’m not familiar with during consciousness but knew very well in recurring dreams from many years ago. There were hidden rooms, stained glass, and a fireplace on every floor. All the stained-glass windows were framed in yellow creating an ominous feel to the house as the sunlight shined in. I could never make it to the top floor no matter how many flights of stairs I climbed. The house apparently went up without end. I’ve never seen that house from the outside, I would have no idea how to get there, except to go to sleep.

My dreams are vivid, almost always in color, and feel very real. They aren’t even about war that much anymore, but the intensity and adrenaline feel the same, sometimes waking me in a fit of yelling or punching. Often times I can feel my heart pounding when I wake after one of those dreams. Sometimes the people I served with at war are in my dreams, just doing normal stuff, but the dreams are still intense to the point of waking up fearful or startled.

When I fall asleep, I see tiny flashes of light inside my eyelids. I think that’s a side effect of the medication. The medications work well for me overall, despite being jolted awake occasionally from seeing flashes when I’m half asleep. The original PTSD medication the psychiatrist put me on a few years ago made it all worse. But we found the right one, despite the slight side effects. Some nights I start dreaming during that time between consciousness and sleep, while I’m still aware of my surroundings. For some reason, that can cause me to wake up freaking out. That usually makes for a long, restless night. It becomes difficult sleep. I think my body or mind, or both, are trying to prevent me from sleep, for my own protection. Am I trying to protect me from myself? Interesting.

Sometimes I’ll spend a whole day trying to decipher a dream from the night before, wanting to figure out if it has some meaning to me. Most of them don’t. But some of the dreams become reality. I would tell you about them, but you wouldn’t believe me. Hell, if I wasn’t the one having the dream and then seeing it unfold in real life, I wouldn’t believe it either. But I’m not even surprised anymore when it happens. I like daydreaming. I can control those, most of the time. Unfortunately, none of those come true. Or fortunately, who knows?

I envy those who don’t remember their dreams or are not affected by them. But if I didn’t remember mine, I might miss something. Because they aren’t all bad. I have good dreams, too. I guess the occasional good dream is worth suffering through all the weird, bad, vivid, crazy dreams. Just like life. Sometimes there’s more crazy restlessness and worry than good, easy, peaceful times, so enjoy the good when it comes. Sleep well, my friends. See you in my dreams. Good day, God bless.

Dave

Check these out, too, for more on my writing on dreams:

https://storyofmylife.blog/2017/10/28/the-illusive-dreams/

https://storyofmylife.blog/2017/09/23/abstract/

 

My List Is Complete

About twenty years ago I managed a pizza delivery store in Panama City Beach for a couple of friends of mine. During the spring break season, we were open 24 hours a day. It was busy. According to our food distributor, we were the busiest independent pizza store in the country based on how much cheese we ordered each week during that time. MTV was in town covering the festivities of party-goers, Spinnaker and La Vela were packed every night, and the strip was bumper to bumper traffic for miles all day, and continuing late into the night. Needless to say, getting everything done each day was a monumental task.

One of the guys I worked for there was a list-keeper. Everything he needed to do was on a list. It wasn’t always the neatest looking lists, but it worked for him. He kept everything in Steno pads. And he always seemed to have everything crossed off his list at the end of the day, for the most part. I was impressed with his ability to get it all done, but also not happy with myself for never finishing my list and always having to move things to the next day. I was a great manager, but for some reason, I could never cross everything off my list.

I finally asked him one day, “How do you get it all done? You have a page full of stuff, the same as me, but you get a lot more of it done than I do.” His reply changed my life. Well, that’s a little dramatic, but his words certainly have stayed with me for more 20 years. It was so simple. I still use his strategy today. He said, “When I get something done, I add it to my list and check it off.” Mind blown. Eyes opened. Life changed. The philosophy of that simple idea is amazingly deep.

He would start his list with what was important to be accomplished. It might only be a small handful of things. As he would get things done throughout the day, he would add those things to his list. Since those things were already done, as he added him to the list, he would check them off. That’s brilliant. Do you realize how much stuff we actually get done in a day? If you made a list, you would know. And if you knew how much you do get done, maybe you wouldn’t beat yourself up for not completing your to-do list, a list that might be unrealistic to begin with.

As 2017 draws to a close, I look back on the year and I know I did not even come close to getting all the things done that I wanted to this year. If I had made a list at the beginning of the year of all the things I wanted to get done in 2017, that list would still need some work, or the year would need to be extended. But I won’t lament or lose any sleep about not finishing my hypothetical list. I will, however, be happy with what I did accomplish, even if some of it is trivial or perhaps less productive in the big picture of life as I see it. I still got a lot done this year. I survived. And that is a rather huge accomplishment in and of itself in some respects.

I finish this year broke, but none of my bills are behind. Except my student loans, which will likely never get paid. I didn’t get much done this year on the novel I’m writing, but I estimate that I wrote about 30,000 words to my blog in 2017. Neither of those endeavors pay the bills. I really just want to make a living as a writer, but I like the job I have and the people I work with. I’m not where I want to be in life, but I am certainly not where I was a short while ago, which is a good thing. I didn’t finish everything on my list for 2017, but I am pretty happy with what I did get done, including the less important things I added to the list as I went along.

My friends, do not make an overwhelming list for yourself that you cannot finish. Once you start moving things to the next day, it becomes easier and easier to keep doing that. You will never get it done that way. Pick a few things that are important. As you move throughout your day, week, or year, add to your list the other, less important things you get done and check them off. You’ll be surprised by how much you really get done, even when it doesn’t feel like it. Happy New Year to you all. May 2018 be a year of checking off the important things on our lists and realizing how important the things not on the list are that we get done as well.

Thanks for stopping by this year. Hope to see you in 2018. Good day, God bless.

Dave

The Illusive Dreams

I awoke seven times from within the same dream.  I was stuck.  It was a dream within a dream, within a dream, within a dream, within a dream, within a dream, within a dream.  Each time I crawled out of my mind’s subconscious, I saw a new reality.  Each time I had to learn that I was still dreaming and none of it was real.  On the seventh time I awoke, I was awake, but wondered if I was still dreaming. I could not tell, at first, what was real.  I didn’t want to be fooled again.

My body was drained of any energy that should have been replenished during slumber. I got up to move around, as I had in each of the dreams. My eyes struggled for a moment to focus on my surroundings.  My legs were shaky as I tried to walk.  My thoughts were hazy with memories of weird, vivid images that were very real.  Except that they were not real. My body ached, but that was not proof enough that I was no longer trapped in a dream. I have felt pain in my dreams.

It is one of the strangest feelings, waking up to find out that you are still dreaming. How could I have fallen asleep in a dream, then fallen asleep with that dream, and then again, and again, and again, and again, and again? I remember during one of the dreams thinking that I was trapped in my mind, or that maybe I had fallen into a coma. While still dreaming, I tried to figure out what would have put me in such a state. I find it odd that most often I cannot control my dreams while I’m dreaming, but that I sometimes have my wits enough about me during some dreams to think rationally and try to force myself awake.

But each time I awoke, I was dreaming. Each time, it took me a few minutes to realize I was still dreaming. Each time I had to force myself awake. And even when I woke up from the last dream, I questioned whether or not I was, in fact, awake. I don’t often sleep well, but I deal with it. However, when a dream involving multiple dreams plagues my sleep, it’s horrible. It’s a nightmare. It ruins my day. I would be better off not sleeping at all. I think that’s why my body and mind will sometimes make efforts to avoid falling asleep. Maybe they’re trying to protect me. I don’t know. Just a thought.

By the way, Sigmund Freud was wrong. I do dream in color.

Sometimes I wake up yelling, sometimes shaking or sweating, or otherwise disturbed. Sometimes a combination of those. And it’s always worse when I can’t even remember what I dreamt. When I wake up in the middle of the night from a dream I remember, I can usually go back to sleep after coming to terms that it was just a dream. Not every time, but more often than not. But when I can’t remember what startled me from slumber to fear, I lie in bed trying to piece it together, trying to figure out what is causing the turmoil in my head. But I have no memory of it and it can’t be proven because I have no evidence that a dream happened at all. There are no pieces to put together. It’s gone. I am chasing something that does not exist. And I’m losing sleep over it.

I call these my Illusive Dreams, the ones that wake me up in a state of terror but I can’t recall them. The ones I know I had, but I have no idea what the dream contained. That bothers me deeply. No, we don’t always remember our dreams. On many of the nights that I do sleep well, I don’t remember my dreams more than half the time. But I think most of us will remember a dream that jolts us from sleep into a brief paranoid mess as we come to the conclusion that it was just a dream. What if the illusive dreams aren’t dreams at all? What else could they be? Although I wake up feeling like I experienced a nightmare, I still have no tangible evidence or memory of it. Maybe it wasn’t a dream at all. Maybe it was real. But what is real in the subconscious of slumber?

Or maybe my life is just a dream that someone else is having and none of this is real. If that’s the case, whoever you are, please wake up. And wake up soon, I really don’t want to go work tomorrow. For the rest of you who are awake and reading this, thank you for stopping by. Sweet dreams, sleep well, happy thoughts. Good day, God bless.

Dave

Chapter 6 Complete

This week I finished chapter 6 of the book I’m writing. This process is taking much longer than I anticipated when I started a little more than a year and a half ago. The first four chapters seemed to flow effortlessly. Then life, writer’s block, work, and occasional laziness with my writing project each took turns keeping me from the keyboard. I started this project in February 2016. I feel like I should be further along by now. To be honest, I thought I would be done and on my second novel at this point.

I seem to lack the discipline in using my time wisely to write like I had in the beginning of this project. My motivation I once had is not as consistent as it once was. I come up with some wonderful “writing” in my head most days while I’m at work or hanging out with my kids, but I fail to follow through by putting the words down. I’ve probably written two or three books in my head in the last year. But, for the most part, I still make time to write to my blog weekly. That is something important to me because I made it part of my personal therapy after coming out of the lowest point in my life a couple years ago.

Sometimes I go back through my blog posts and read again what I was going through at a particular time. For some of the posts, I see the title and can recall everything about the piece I wrote. For a few of them, I need to read every word again to remember what was going on in my head. I find some of my posts still very powerful. Some of them remind me the dark place I was once at in my life. Some of them remind me of victories or progress I have made. Many of them make me smile. And there’s a couple of them that are just bad writing. But in keeping with my effort to post weekly, that will happen sometimes. (That might be happening now since I didn’t really have anything prepared!)

I did have more I wanted to write this week, but sometimes life dictates how much I get done here. And that’s ok. I’m living life and sometimes that means I don’t get to write as much as I would like. I do need to be more aware of that, when life really does slow me down, and not just use it as an excuse sometimes when I’m staying up until one in the morning watching reruns on television. In my defense, sometimes that’s my only time to decompress and relax.

I don’t know if my book will ever be published, assuming I finish it. I have already looked at some options. All the traditional publishers want a finished product. I don’t think vanity publishing will be the way to go. There are some self-publishing options online that are interesting. But I’ve always envisioned my work being printed. I guess I need to finish it first. I’m about half way done. I WILL get started on chapter 7 this coming week. Stay tuned for more updates. And thanks for reading Story of My Life this week. Good day, God bless.

Dave

Previously posted excerpts from my book:

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/07/23/448/

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/09/17/2nd-excerpt-from-my-book/