Little Steps, Big Steps

I do this thing where I buy and sell penny stocks. It’s more like a hobby. I started trading stocks back in the mid-90’s, using a traditional broker. I made some money, I lost some money, I made a bunch of money (to me it was a bunch), then I lost it all. Now I do everything online in smaller dollar values, but with a greater number of shares per transaction. I like watching the stocks move. And with penny stocks, it’s anybody’s guess what they will do next. Never a dull moment.

So far, year to date, I’ve completed (bought and then sold) nine trades. I know that’s not a lot, but I don’t trade every day. I’ll go a month or two just watching, then make a couple trades in a week. Of the nine trades, seven have been profitable. That includes the fees to buy and sell. That’s a pretty good winning percentage, but don’t get too excited for me yet. Some of the trades were only minimally profitable. For example, I’ve made as little as $9.13 on a stock before. I’ve also made over $100 on a stock. Then turned around and lost almost all of that profit on the same stock. I’ve averaged a profit of about $53 for each positive trade I’ve made. Not great, but not horrible. This hobby won’t make me rich, but I’m taking a whole bunch of little steps in the right direction and I’m up for the year, even if only a small amount.

It occurred to me recently that I’m doing that in my life as well. A bunch of little, sometimes unnoticeable, steps in the right direction. Here’s the problem I have with that. My steps backwards are much bigger than any single step forward and will usually have a very negative impact. That seems to bring me down and get the depression going. When I go in reverse, I end up dwelling on it. I don’t stop long enough to realize that I’ve made far more steps forward, even if only small ones. And when added up, all those little steps forward are greater than a single big step backwards. Why do we sometimes get hung up on the one failure when we are still moving in the right direction overall? Why do we fixate on the negative like that? I don’t believe I used to be that way. I used to shake it off and keep moving.

For me, it’s probably because I’m my own worst critic. And I know I have my share of critics out there. I also rarely celebrate or “advertise” my achievements. I might mention something to a couple people if I’m happy about something I’ve done, but I don’t get too caught up in insignificant things. My little victories are not a big deal to me. Yet, my downfalls are atrocious in my eyes and in my mind. Not to mention, a lot of my forward and backward progress are just things that go on in my head, not something you can see. And let’s be honest, sometimes a small step forward is simply not smacking the crap out of someone that deserves it. I’m not sure I should share that little victory out loud every time it happens.

I will continue to take a hundred tiny steps forward and hope my occasional big step backwards doesn’t take away all the progress I’ve made, like what I’m doing with the penny stocks I trade. I have no delusions of grandeur that my stock trades are going to make me rich or that my life and mind will magically get back to where it used to be. I am content with small steps forward on both fronts. Although I’m content with just surviving at the moment, that should not be taken in a negative context. It wasn’t too very long ago that I did not want to survive at all. Another small step forward. I’ll take it, and I’ll keep surviving, and I’ll continue with my small steps forward.

Thanks for reading Story of My Life this week and being part of my small steps in the right direction. Good day, God bless.

Dave

Struggling

I’ve been struggling lately. Bouts of depression. Anxiety. Easily irritable. Minor anger issues, not eating right, and certainly not sleeping right. Weird, vivid dreams. Some about war, some about normal everyday life, but all of them so intense they turn out to be a nightmare. My body doesn’t feel good, I’m in persistent pain. I’m always tense, I can feel how tight my shoulders and neck are. I try to relax, but it doesn’t work. My breathing is not right. My focus and attention to detail is off. Way off. And lately I speak my mind without filter more than ever now, so, I sound like a dick. But if it’s the truth, get over it. Because I really don’t care. I do not subscribe to being politically correct. I never really have.

I think one of my issues is my medications. I’m not taking them like I should. I’m out of one of them and have started rationing the other one. Hopefully, my refills will be here soon. The first refills were sent automatically. Apparently, that was a one-time deal. I didn’t know to call and get the refills sent until I was almost out. The VA is genius about that stuff. Or they’re stupid. Or they just don’t care. (I’m going with curtain 3, they don’t care). And I’m still pissed at my new psychiatrist for changing how I can get my medications. If she had just let me keep getting them at the military base like I have for more than a year now, I would not be out of one and almost out of the other. I might be able to sleep at night and not worry about if I’m going to run out of them. I might be able to wake up feeling rested. She’s an ass. I plan on telling her that at my next appointment. Anyone want to go babysit me at my next appointment so I don’t need bail money?

https://storyofmylife.blog/2017/06/10/my-new-va-psychiatrist/

Another issue is work, my job. I love my job. And I love the bond I have with most of the other employees. But the drama, stupidity, and selfishness of a few of them is more than I want to deal with. I’m losing my motivation to keep being the awesome employee I have been since the beginning. I’m not really that awesome, but I work my butt off, never call out sick, and actually care about doing the job right. What I don’t understand is how some people can just stop doing their job just because they aren’t happy about something or someone. Get over it and do your damn job. Stop leaving other people hanging. I helped open that restaurant. I cleaned, I painted, I organized, I helped get the doors open. And I worked my ass off doing it. I feel like I have a stake in it. Or I used to feel that way. Not so much anymore. I told the corporate boss that I’m updating my resume, but I haven’t actually done that yet to put it out there. We’ll see if anything gets fixed soon. But I’ve already had a job offer in the last couple weeks before it got this bad at work, so maybe I won’t have to update my resume after all. We’ll see.

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

The third thing that has me discombobulated is where I’m at in the army reserves. (Yes, I used discombobulated, that’s your word of the day to use in conversation). The unit I’m part of doesn’t seem to have their shit together. Even my Sergeant Major suggested I write my congressman. He’s retiring this month, so it’s probably not a huge concern to him if a Congressional Inquiry gets opened. He wasn’t prepared for my response last month when he asked me what was going on. I think any other Sergeant Major would have done paperwork on me for the things that came out of my mouth. I won’t go into detail since I still wear the uniform, but the army (at least in the reserves), seems to not care about the fact that I’m not right since coming back from my last deployment. Both physically and mentally. I don’t care if I stay in or they put me out, I just want them to take ownership of the pains I’ve endured. I want them to acknowledge the problems I developed that are a direct result of serving my country. I’m damaged goods now, they can’t fix me. But they can take responsibility for it.

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/03/12/passing-the-torch/

(Damn it, I burned my popcorn. I need a new microwave. Or maybe I shouldn’t use the one I have while drinking.) Add burnt popcorn to my list of life-crisis issues. The current reality of my life is that even burnt popcorn contributes to the funk swirling around me. And I’ve only skimmed the surface of my troubles in this post. Or at least what I view as my troubles, the things that bother me, the things I dwell on. And how did popcorn make the list? Never mind, we just covered that. I’m struggling. Everything is on the list.

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/05/21/im-ok-i-promise/

Let me make one thing perfectly clear. I am struggling. But I am not in danger. I am not a threat to myself or anyone else. My outlet is here, where I write. This is my therapy. I’m ok, I promise. Thank you for reading this week. Good day, God bless.

Dave

(Between writing and posting this entry, my meds showed up in the mail, so that’s a good thing. I guess better late than never).

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/

 

Making Progress

I have finished Chapter 5 of the book I’m writing. Finally! I took an extended break from writing and when I came back to it, I had to re-read some of what I previously wrote to get back on track. In doing so, I ended up re-writing and correcting and re-writing and correcting and…. I do a similar thing when cleaning out a closet, a dresser, or box of stuff that has collected over the years. I make a huge mess, reminisce about what’s there, then usually put it all back. It’s time-consuming and sometimes feels like wasting time. But even if slowly, I am moving forward with the book.

The word count for my book through Chapter 5 is over 45,000 words. That’s half way to my target of 90,000 words. It’s shaping up pretty nicely I think. There’s still a ton of work to do on what is already written, but I’m going to try to just let that sit so I can focus on getting the rest of the book written, and then go back and edit. But as I mentioned, when I have to go back to re-read some of it from time to time to make sure I have good flow with the story, I’ll get stuck refining what’s already written and finding mistakes. But it’s a process. And I’m feeling good about it.

Here’s a short excerpt from Chapter 5. In this piece, the main character, James, is still stuck on the second day of being in the psych ward after a failed suicide attempt. He has already been to his morning session with the psychiatrist, a session which was very trying on him, and is now about to get lunch. I hope you enjoy this short excerpt. Thanks for reading this week. Good day, God bless.

Dave

(From Chapter 5)

James kept thinking to himself and occasionally mumbling, “This is only the second day.” He hated that he was lied to about day two being better. James was convinced there was a conspiracy against him and he had to figure out how to keep from falling into their plan. He was certain that he could not be helped in the hospital. James started having a conversation in his mind about how much worse he felt in the last two days than in the time leading up to his failed suicide attempt. The voices in his mind were reminding him that he was a failure and offering suggestions for next time. They scoffed at him for not being man enough to handle his problems and being a miserable disappointment to everyone. The voices assured him that he would be able to succeed in his quest to die once he was released from the hospital, that he only needed to be patient long enough to persuade the doctor and staff into thinking he was well enough to leave. Then he could finish the job and be free from the numbing anguish of life that he dragged behind him like a ship’s anchor.

This was not the first time James had a conversation with the voices in his head. This was, however, the first time he felt like he and the voices were on the same sheet of music, that he would stop fighting them and give in to their whims. James was accepting that the voices could help him and he believed the things they were telling him. He knew the voices were right, that he would be better off dead, that he was a burden to Kevin, that Donna could do better without him, and that his brother had enough on his plate that he would probably be relieved to not have to worry about James anymore.

In the past, the voices brought fear and turmoil to James, but now he found comfort in their existence and trusted their ideas. The voices were the only thing he trusted anymore. Since he had become unable to make decisions for himself, he now considered the voices an asset. James would now follow their lead and no longer fight or question their motives. The voices were going to lead him down the path of their choosing and he was going to follow, no questions, no resistance. He became oddly calm in accepting the fate that the voices were laying out for him. If he could only find a way to be released from the hospital, he could get a second chance at death.

2016, The Rollercoaster

As the rollercoaster ride known as 2016 comes to an end, many of us will reflect on the past year, make resolutions, recap major news or life events. I won’t do much of that here except to say that I’m glad 2016 is coming to an end and I know 2017 will be better. There is a wonderful adventure awaiting me with the New Year and I can’t wait to get to it.

Most of my highlights, and low-lights, for the year can be found here in my blog. And I don’t do resolutions. So, what I’ll do for my final post of 2016 is share my top three posts, according to number of views. And I’ll share what my three favorite posts were that didn’t make the top three in views.

For 2016, I made 42 posts on Story of My Life, almost the one a week I had planned. I had over 5,000 visitors with almost 10,000 views. My viewers covered 55 different countries. Amazing. This was truly more than I imagined when I resumed writing again to my blog. I only started again for my own therapy, to sort out my thoughts, to be vocal about PTSD and surviving a suicide attempt. I’m glad I could offer something that seems many people out there can relate to and understand. Thank you all for the support, the encouragement, and the kind words.

The rollercoaster ride of 2017 is coming. Please keep your hands and feet inside the ride all times and remain seated until it comes to a complete stop. Or…. Go out and conquer the world, chase your dreams, be happy, and discover life. I think I’ll go out and conquer the world while chasing my dreams. Enjoy the ride. Good day, God bless.

Dave

Top 3 posts (by number of views)

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/02/06/battlefield/

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/04/16/the-pysch-ward/

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/02/13/the-irony-of-life/

 

My 3 favorites (it was hard to pick just 3)

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/02/20/the-mirror/

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/08/20/the-storm/

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/03/12/passing-the-torch/