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/

 

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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

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/

 

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

 

The VA is Killing Me

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted anything here. I just haven’t felt like writing. It’s also been a while since I’ve read any of the blogs I follow. It’s been a rough few weeks. I have been busy. My busy doesn’t equate to productive by any sense of the definition. But the thoughts in my mind keep me busy, yet also inhibit motivation and desire to do the things that I need to get done or even doing the things that I enjoy doing. I’m stuck in a cycle of doing the bare minimum to survive. But there is a light at the end of this tunnel. I can see it. It shines bright enough to lead me to the end of all this. I just don’t know how long before I get there. But I will continue to put one foot in front of the other and move forward.

There are two main issues lately that have my mind in the darkness that I fight on a daily basis. One is the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA). The other isn’t worth talking about and has no bearing on my future anyway. Some fights just aren’t worth fighting. The VA, however, is a fight that I have to keep fighting. And despite being set up for failure in that corrupt system, I must win. In reality though, who am I fooling? They would rather me die and save money for bonuses and art than to help me get well again. But I will go down fighting and swinging no matter what it takes. And before anyone reads anything idiotic into that, “going down swinging” is simply a figure of speech, not a threat. That disclaimer is for the one person that doesn’t know the difference, she knows who she is.

Concerning the VA. I had some appointments recently. Four out of five of them were with a medical group contracted by the VA to determine compensation and pension. My eyes were opened to how things really work, how things should work, and how veterans are just plain screwed in the system. First, every time I’ve seen my primary care physician at the VA, he tells me my breathing is fine. However, he’s the only one. I went to sick call at Ft. Jackson a couple months ago and the doctor that listened to my lungs wanted to order x-rays immediately because of how my lungs sounded. A follow up with a civilian doctor after returning home from that trip had similar results. The doctor I saw most recently for the compensation appointment asked me why the VA hadn’t already diagnosed me. She said there was already overwhelming evidence that the VA sent to her that I should have already have been diagnosed.

va_scandal_map

The breathing test is a scam. I didn’t realize the first couple times I took it that I was taking it multiple times each visit until I passed. That’s how the VA works. Make the patient test until they can say there’s nothing wrong. But the doctor is sent only the results of the passing test. They don’t realize that it took me four times testing to get the minimum score. All total that day I took two different breathing tests seven times and passed one time on each test. Basically, I can breathe well enough 29% of the time. That’s good to know. That must mean I don’t need any breathing treatments or meds to help. They can now spend that money on other things that don’t benefit the veterans.

I saw something a while back where a person made a statement that veterans shouldn’t complain about free health care. I wanted to reach through the internet and choke that guy out. (again, just a figure of speech that isn’t possible anyway). I paid for this so called care. I paid for it with my health and my sanity. I paid a dear price for it. In addition, it’s not free anyway. Everyone in the VA gets paid. And they get paid pretty well, some more than others. It’s not a charity. It’s not a non-profit clinic that treats the poor. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that has no accountability to the ones it is supposed to be serving. I don’t want free health care. I want the health care I already paid for. I want the health care that our taxes pay for with the VA.

In August of last year after my failed suicide attempt I went to the VA with the false hope of getting help. I spoke with the patient advocate at my local VA. I didn’t know where to start so I started with her. She assured me that I would get the help I needed and started making phone calls. When she finally got through to a live person the conversation switched from getting me help to her and the person on the other end of the phone bitching about not receiving their bonuses. And I quote the patient advocate, “Yeah, I haven’t got my bonus either. I’m about to drive over to Biloxi and ask her to her face where my money is.” I looked for her business card so I could call her out by name, but I don’t know where it is. Nice to see how much they really care, or what it is they really care about. She was going to drive 400 miles round trip to get in someone’s face about a bonus. Not sure why that needed to be discussed while I was sitting there.

My primary care doctor at my local VA has told me he didn’t want to diagnose me because it would have consequences on my career in the army reserves. Don’t treat me because I’m still in the reserves? In other words, “maybe you’ll die before the VA has to take full responsibility of you.” And at my most recent appointment he commented on my lungs, “We aren’t going to do anything yet. Let’s bring you back in in six months and see how they’re doing.” This is not what my body and mind paid for in Iraq and Afghanistan. I demand better service and better care. And I’m going to be as loud as I can to show everyone what veterans go through in dealing with the VA.

I know experiences vary. I know of a couple friends that got great service and care from their VA where they live. But they are few and far between. From what I can tell, most of us go through the same thing I’m going through with the VA. I can’t fix it. But I can make some noise. Maybe it won’t do any good, but I will be heard. The system will continue to remain broken. There’s nothing I can do about it. But I will keep moving towards my light at the end of the tunnel. And I will survive.

Thanks for reading this week. Sorry it was somewhat scatterbrained and all over the place. I only wrote it as it came to me. There’s no real flow in my writing lately, too much going on in my head. But I will make it to where I’m supposed to be. I am confident in that. Good day, God bless.

Dave

Other posts from me related to this:

https://davidegeorge.wordpress.com/2016/06/25/breathe-in-breath-out-if-you-can/

https://davidegeorge.wordpress.com/2016/04/02/crossroads/