Milestones and Reflections

This past week, my blog surpassed 400 followers from all over the world. Granted, that’s not a huge number, but it’s still an amazing milestone to me, considering I write for my own pleasure and therapy. I didn’t set out to create any kind of following for this site, only a place for me to put some thoughts somewhere, like a way to journal. Originally, Story of My Life was a place for me to do some writing during my deployment to Afghanistan and share a few things with my family and friends. After returning from war, I took a two-year break from posting here. I then started using Story of My Life again in February 2016, as an outlet for self-therapy and recovery. Based on the number of followers, comments and likes on the posts, it seems like a lot of people can relate to what I’m putting out there.

As I celebrate a very modest milestone, I also want reflect on Story of My Life and share with some of you that might not know the progression this blog has taken the last couple of years and why I post (almost) every week. I say progression of this blog, but in reality, it’s my progression. These are my thoughts, feelings, experiences that I share here. Some entries are comical or silly. Some are dark and painful. Some are rants, usually complaining about dealing with the VA. I’ve posted poetry and short fiction stories, but mostly, real-life stories of me surviving my life.

While my first blog post to Story of My Life was 5 years ago, it’s only been in the last two years that I started a new journey of using weekly writing as therapy and sharing my story with the world. The beginning of this new journey started with me opening up about a failed suicide attempt, being taken to the psych ward at the hospital in hand cuffs by the police, and being diagnosed with PTSD and major depression. From there, I shared what I saw as obvious irony in the fact that I attempted suicide, being that I was the lead trainer in suicide prevention training in most of my army reserve units. Ironic, in a twisted way, I know.

I’ve shared stories from my deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, stories about my kids, and I’ve written some entertaining fictional stories. I’ve touched a little on the end of my marriage and I’ve exposed some of the flaws with the VA that veterans have to deal with. I’ve written about the struggles I have from time to time with depression and suicidal thoughts. I’ve also written about some of the victories I’ve had the last two years, which include sharing a couple excerpts and progress from the novel I’m writing (yes, still working on that). I’ve written about the weather, traffic, youth sports, investing, the Mississippi River, and I’ve shared some about my civilian job in a few posts. I cover most everything that pops into my head in any given week. We can all see the pros and cons in that. But I do it anyway.

I write every week and post it here because it helps me. I am able to sort my thoughts and put them in some kind of order that makes sense to me. It’s a way to track my progress as well as my low points. Each post gives me a record of what I was doing or thinking and I can go back any time and see what was on my mind. I know, I can do the same thing without putting it on a blog, but I feel that making some of these stories public forces me to put more thought and effort into this project. And I know that my story helps other people, too, which is a bonus for my motivation to keep writing and sharing. Knowing there are people out there that can relate to my issues and mental illness is helpful to me as well. I appreciate all the likes and comments of support on my posts each week.

I do this for me. But I also do it for everyone else that hasn’t found their voice yet in speaking up comfortably about their own mental illness. I share it with the world so that someone that might be in the dark places of the mind, like I have been, know they aren’t alone. If you need help, reach out. If you know someone that needs help, help them find help. You don’t have to be a professional to help someone that is thinking about suicide. You only have to get them to someone that is (hospital, police, fire station, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255). Helping is easier than you think.

For those of you that might be new to Story of My Life and want to get a bigger picture of my story, below are some links to previous posts that will highlight my journey the last two years.

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/02/06/battlefield/  (the beginning of my new journey)

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/07/16/depressed-ptsd/

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/11/26/suicidal-anonymous/

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

https://storyofmylife.blog/2017/07/15/my-worst-war-memory/

Thank you all for your support, I hope that I am returning the favor in some small way here. And thank you for stopping by this week. Good day, God bless.

Dave

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Memorial Day Weekend, 2017

Every Memorial Day Weekend I take time to reflect on the Service Members that paid the ultimate price. As you enjoy your long weekend, sales, BBQ’s, and family time, take a moment to remember how we got those freedoms. Men and women who willingly put on a uniform gave their lives to insure our continued freedom. Take a moment to remember them.

DSCN4755 Death Registers at Enduring Freedom Chapel at Bagram, Afghanistan. 

I invite you to check out a previous Memorial Day post I’ve made. It contains a piece of poetry about Memorial Day I wrote while serving in Iraq in 2009. https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/05/28/memorial-day-weekend/

I also invite you to check out another post I made while serving in Afghanistan that gives insight to the ceremony for the fallen of the NATO and Coalition Forces. https://storyofmylife.blog/2013/09/04/the-ceremony/

DSCN3370 The set-up for the weekly ceremony at ISAF in Kabul, Afghanistan that honors the fallen.  Only the countries with killed-in-action have their flag displayed during the ceremony.  The U.S. flag was displayed every ceremony I attended.  We gave a lot over there.

But most of all, I ask that you pause for a moment in your busy weekend and be grateful for the ones that gave their lives so that the rest of us didn’t have to.

Good day, God bless.

Dave

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/

Rest In Peace, Laptop

Well, I went a couple weeks again without posting. I’ve received a few messages asking about it, checking on me. Thank you to those that noticed and reached out. I’m doing well for the most part. Much of life is falling into place, or at least I feel good about life lately. It’s been a while since I could say that. It’s all a process, and I’m accepting that it all takes time. I have made progress in some areas and still have a ways to go in other areas. But I’m getting there.

 

I have no excuse for two weeks ago, but the reason I didn’t post last week was because my laptop died. Not just died, but DIED, all caps died. Services to be held at a later date, I’ll keep you posted. I took it to a local computer shop and the look on the guy’s face told me that my laptop had already crossed over to the hard drive in the sky and there was nothing to do to save it. He couldn’t promise that the data could be retrieved and saved, but that he would try. It took a while, but he saved most of my data. Thank you to The Tech Center on Eglin Parkway in Fort Walton Beach, you did a great job.

 

About a dozen pictures from the laptop were not salvageable, but here’s some of what I could have lost. The first five chapters of the book I’m writing. 4,000 or so pictures I took in Afghanistan. My writing, my poetry, everything I’ve ever written for my blog. Years and years worth documents I’ve been collecting from my army reserve career. All my medical stuff I had on the laptop for the VA. The only things completely irreplaceable, were the pictures. I have all the paper documents somewhere. I can rewrite the book, though I think it would be lacking since it was written with such passion when I started. I think I’ll start backing everything up on my next laptop. Currently, I have hijacked my kid’s desktop to get this done.

 

My laptop served me well. It was a gift sent to me while at Fort Hood by my parents after my laptop I had at the time died, very similar to the way the current one went, quietly, in it’s sleep. And where I was, on North Fort Hood in the summer of 2013, I was not able to just go shopping for a new one. For those of you who might have been to North Fort Hood, you know it’s a wasteland of Hell with very little in amenities. And it’s possibly home to the worst chow hall in the army.

 

My laptop was a low-end Toshiba that didn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but was perfect for taking to Afghanistan. It did everything I needed and allowed me to stay in touch with the outside world. Every time I escorted the chaplain on a multi-day mission, I took it with me. I kept a journal of our trips on that laptop. I would log were we went, with whom, what we did, where we ate, how many times we heard the thunderous booms of the incoming enemy rockets. The most booms we heard were at Bagram, but the ones that got closest to us were in Kandahar. I logged every helicopter, plane, and convoy ride. I even noted the one or two times we walked from our base to another.

 

For being a low-end laptop, I would say it held up very well considering it went to war, traveled to and was used in six different countries, was dropped more than once, and exposed to extreme weather conditions. The casing is broken, some of the plastic is cracked. The actual laptop will never be what it once was, but it didn’t lose the important information I had on it. It needed some help from a computer expert, but the data was still retrievable. I have access to it again and can continue with the things I was working on. This ordeal was actually a wake up call for me to get my butt in gear to work more on my book and other writings.

 

In the last couple months, despite some things just not going well, I think I’m doing pretty good, or at least better than I have in a long while. I came to the conclusion recently that I should not be content to be miserable in life. If given the choice between happy or not, choose happy. I choose Happy. I can see a huge difference in my relationship with my children. I can see some improvement in my attitude and reactions while driving. I have become more patient in general with most things. I still have many PTSD issues, but I’m making progress. My sleep doesn’t always go as planned, my dreams are actually getting worse and more vivid. I still have too many days where I am unmotivated and lack energy and don’t do anything. I’m still very hyper vigilant to my surroundings. But overall, I see progress.

 

I think in some ways I’m similar to my laptop. There’s nothing hugely special about me, I’m kind of low-end, but I did the job required of me and then some. I served my purpose, I served my country. I’m broken and falling apart and I will never be what I was before, but I still have most of the information in my head. I can still access so many things I have learned in my life. The data in my brain doesn’t flow like it used to and often times gets out of order. I get confused sometimes and frustrated with how my brain works. But I have my weekly visit to my psychologist at the Vet Center, I have my medications, and I have a friend that keeps me smiling everyday and helped me realize that I do not have to be miserable in life. I’ll be ok, sooner rather than later, I think.  I know.

 

I do plan on going back to posting weekly, every Saturday. But if I miss a week here or there, I’m ok, I promise. As important to me as my writing is, I think I’ve moved past it being a necessity for my own personal therapy. I think I’m working through life’s situations better than when I started writing here again back in February. I’m certainly doing better than I was a couple months ago. I will keep doing what I’m doing, keep moving towards that light at the end of the tunnel, keep hoping for the best and believing it will happen.

 

Thanks for reading. Choose Happy! Good day, God bless.

 

Dave

 

Write Your Own Story

Almost every day last school year, and so far this one, I have seen the same elderly couple walking when I drop my kids off at their respective schools. They seem to be in their early to mid-70’s, happily taking their morning walk which I imagine is part of a daily routine for them. They start at their apartment and walk about a mile down the road to a convenience store, or perhaps the grocery store I’m not sure, for morning coffee. They always have a coffee cup when I see them on the way back. Sometimes they have a plastic grocery bag on the way back from their trip to whichever place it is that they go. Some days they have an umbrella that woman uses when it rains. The man walks the same, rain or shine. He doesn’t seem to care if he gets wet.

The elderly couple and I wave to each other, sometimes as many as three times each morning as I drive back and forth to my kids’ schools (4 kids, two different schools, at three different times every morning). I have never met the elderly couple, never stopped to exchange pleasantries. We have never actually spoken to each other. I will not likely stop to meet them, I think that would be weird. But I almost feel like I know them as many times as we have acknowledged each other in passing at 20 miles per hour. And since I don’t really know them, I have written their story in my own mind.

I have imagined what their names are, how they met, what they did for a living, how many children they had, grandchildren, places they have been, all kinds of things. Basically, I have made up the whole story of their life without even meeting the elderly couple, as I picture their story. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? It is almost like people watching, but to an extreme I guess. We have all sat at a mall, or airport, or the beach and watched people and imagined what they are like or what kind of life they live without even talking to them. Not just those places, but we also probably come up with a quick story in our minds for the guy on the corner holding a sign about being homeless. Or the jackass with Georgia plates on his car that does not know how to use his blinker. Or the recluse neighbor that never speaks to you.

It might seem silly to take the time to make up all those stories about people we do not know and have never spoken too. I have no idea why we do this. I know I’m not the only one that does this. And if we are completely honest, we make up a person’s back-story even if we do know them. Maybe we don’t know them very well or it’s a person we only see in passing at work or school and do not have the time to get to know them. I am certain people have come up with a story about me the same way I have for the elderly couple. Even some people that do know me have their own version of a story of me and my life and my decisions. But that’s ok. If they don’t know my whole story, they can make one up. I wonder if the elderly couple has a story for me. I wonder what it’s about. I wonder if it is a good story or if it’s more like, “Crap, here comes that guy again that waves at us every day, just wave and smile.”

They don’t know my story and I don’t know theirs. But I am telling mine to whomever wants to know it, right here every week. This marks 30 weeks in a row, after a two year break, that I have made a blog entry telling my story. My story the way I see it. The way I live it. My weekly posts have become my best therapy. Most of my entries has been real life events. A couple of times I posted some fiction that I’ve written. I have put a couple poems out there. But all of it, in some way, shape, or form, is part of my story. Part of my life. I am writing my story. I tried to write the ending once; but apparently my story was not over at the time.

We all have a story. Actually, we all have thousands of stories that make up a greater story. Who knows your story? Your real story? Tell it yourself so not as many people have to make one up for you. Thank you for looking at my story. Thank you for being part of the Story of My Life. Good day, God bless.

Dave