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

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Road Trip

I’m on a road trip. When I post this, I’ll be somewhere on I-20, probably in Louisiana. While I have covered several topics on my blog during its existence, I usually focus on PTSD, serving in the Army at war, and surviving suicide. And occasionally I bash the VA because they suck. For example, Friday morning I waited an hour at the VA to be told they couldn’t give me a print out of a recent evaluation I had. Today’s post will be a little different from the more recent ones.

There are certain things about my home life that I have tried to keep off the blog. In a few posts I have mentioned some of the marital problems at home. There are no more problems. I have moved out. And now I’m on a road trip, heading to my sister’s house in Louisiana. I will most likely stay there until the new year sorting through my thoughts, decompressing, writing, and relaxing. I don’t get back to my old stomping grounds very often, so this will be nice.

I moved out because she wouldn’t. I had hoped she would move out and I could stay with the kids, but that’s not a fight I want to take on and make things worse than they should be for the kids. In retrospect, I should have filed for divorce when she moved out in March instead of waiting. Then there wouldn’t be anything to argue about. But I chose to pay the bills instead of hiring an attorney. That’s life. And I expect some negative feedback from our mutual friends. Be careful if you don’t know the whole story.

I left the house around 6 p.m. local time. I made it Jackson, Mississippi, before I needed to stop and get a hotel room, where I am composing this. I’ll get up in the morning and finish my trip to northwest Louisiana. I have no set plans and am not on any schedule. I hope to find the motivation to diligently work on my book. I have neglected it for too long now. I’m sure I’ll see some old friends and catch up on all the years gone by. I’ll spend some time with my dad. I’ll get some rest. I’ll miss my kids.

I talked with them earlier in the week and explained that I would be moving out this weekend. They knew it was coming since last month they were told that I had in fact filed for divorce. But that conversation was still hard. Thankfully, they are all very well-grounded and are old enough to have some understanding of what is going on. I feel like a complete schmuck that I didn’t call my two grown children that are out in the world making great lives for themselves. This whole thing happened a little quicker than originally planned and I was focused on getting my stuff together and making sure the school aged children were okay and getting a grasp of all that was going on. My children know that I love them with all my heart.

There’s a lot in my life that I’m not happy about currently. However, in my life as a whole, I am happy. I believe things are going in the right direction for me. I am not happy that I won’t see my kids for a few weeks. I am not happy that I will be going through a divorce. But I am happy to be starting the next chapter in my life. There was a time not long ago that my mind would have put me through some horrible, dark thoughts concerning the prospect of being away from children under these circumstances. Not now. Yes, my kids are my life. But if I can’t be in good mental health for them, things will get bad, like they were before. So, I guess it’s better to be away and in good mental health than to be in a bad marriage and lose my mind.

I have no idea what all this road trip entails, but I am looking forward to it. I’m in a good place in my mind. I am looking forward to the future. I don’t have all the answers and I have no idea where I’ll end up after this little sabbatical. But I am confident in myself, in ways I haven’t been for at least a couple years. The past is the past. And my future looks good from where I’m sitting. Thanks for reading my dribble drabble this week. 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.

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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/

 

2nd Excerpt From My Book

I got nothing this week. Except anger, pain, and horribly dark thoughts. However, I will not have a meltdown in the blogosphere that I did a month or so ago. I thought about skipping this week and not making a post. Instead I will share a second excerpt of the book I am writing. For the other update I posted from Chapter 3, you can find it here: https://davidegeorge.wordpress.com/2016/07/23/448/.

In this part from Chapter 5, the main character, James, is in the middle of telling one of the stories of his war experiences to the psychologist during his stay in the psych ward at the hospital. I am slowly, but surely working on my book. I have added some content since the last excerpt, but mostly have cleaned up and re-written much of the first five chapters. I would like to finish by the end of October. We’ll see if that happens. I hope you enjoy the small part of the book here. All feedback welcome. Thank you for reading. Good day, God bless.

Dave


One day when James was by himself in the office the warning sirens sounded as the first explosion shook the small building. James calmly, but with purpose, grabbed his gear. James could tell from experience that this blast wasn’t dangerously close, but close enough to get his attention. This was nothing new to him. He had been there for four months at the time and had probably heard over 200 explosions that originated from somewhere in the mountains. James and the others had become pretty good at approximating how far away the blasts were by the sound it produced and the shaking of the building. Most of the time the enemy was aiming for the airstrip, which was fairly close to their office, but far enough away that if the first blast didn’t get the small building, anything that followed would generally be getting farther away.

Before James could exit the building to take refuge in a nearby concrete bunker, the second explosion hit surprisingly close. This one shook the building with more force, causing books and DVDs on shelves to fall to the floor. James ran out the door with his weapon and protective gear and got in the bunker. He sat in the dirt and leaned up against the wall listening to the sirens and voices over the broadcast system. Looking back and forth out both sides of the bunker James noticed there was no one else around him. He was alone in the bunker. He wondered where his two office mates were and where on the base the last rocket fell. James knew it had definitely landed somewhere close, closer to him than any previous blast had landed.

The third explosion felt like it was right on top of him. It crossed his mind that he might become a statistic, a number on the list of those that never made it home. But then it occurred to him, he would still go home, just zipped up in a bag instead, that is, if they could find all the pieces. James knew the enemy was ‘walking them in.’ They would fire a rocket, mark where it lands, make adjustments, and fire again getting closer to the intended target. Based on the sounds of the first three explosions, James believed in his mind that if they got off a fourth rocket, it would land right on top of him. James waited alone in the bunker with only his thoughts. The noise from the broadcast system, still blaring the warnings as loud as it could, faded in his mind. He could only hear his heart beating and a couple voices in his head. He thought about his brother Bobby grilling him a few years ago about why anyone would want to join the military knowing they would go to war and possible get killed. This thought presented quite a quandary to him. James thought that maybe Bobby was right, but if James died Bobby wouldn’t be able to tell him, “Told you so,” like he always did when they were kids. James smiled a little at this catch-22 of a situation he found himself in. Then he thought of Donna and the possibility of never seeing her again. His smile quickly faded.

There was not to be a fourth explosion on that day. The sirens eventually stopped and were immediately replaced with a loud voice telling the base personnel what areas were now safe to resume movement. Sectors two and three were to stay put, but the area James was in was cleared by the big voice and those in that area could return to normal duty. He wondered where his co-workers were and hoped they were safe. James walked out of the bunker and headed back to the small building he had evacuated a short time ago. Though it felt like hours stuck in the bunker, in reality it was only about twenty-five minutes. He didn’t notice any damage to the outside of the building as he surveyed the area before entering, but saw the mess of books and DVDs that littered the floor inside from the shaking of the building. James sat back down at the main desk, picked up the phone to see if it worked, and logged on to the computer. He would give the other guys a few minutes to get back before he checked in for accountability with the unit. It was Sergeant Jacobs’ job anyway, but if he didn’t come back it would become James’ responsibility. James did not that responsibility, not this way. Miller came bursting through the door after a moment, startling James.

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The Storm

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The road ahead seemed to be getting darker, even unstable as the clouds reached down onto the horizon. A brilliant bolt of lightning struck somewhere miles ahead, right in his path. The vivid image was both beautiful and startling. Small drops of rain began to appear on the windshield as the sky became miserable, ready to unleash rage on the earth below. The treetops were swaying heavily in the wind fighting to stay in place. Leaves and pine needles swept swiftly across the road. He was driving right into the giant storm. There was no way around it on that westbound backroad in south Georgia. Things were about to rough for him.

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He noticed a lone pine needle on the radio antennae. It looked as if it were clinging for dear life. The odds were certainly stacked against it with both the speed of the truck and the wind from the oncoming chaos. He spoke out loud to the dangling pine needle, “Hang in there, don’t give up.” It was only another mile or so before the pine needle released itself and flew away into the swelling gusts and increasing rain. He knew that feeling. The feeling of just letting go because it was just too much to hold on anymore. He was also familiar with the saying, “Hang in there, don’t give up.” He had heard it many times from well-meaning friends. But it doesn’t help, it doesn’t change anything. It’s just something people say when they don’t what else to say.

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Off to the south the clouds were still mostly white and peaceful. The storm seemed to be only in his path. He wanted to be on a different road, somewhere that didn’t have a storm looming. But he was stuck right there in it. It was a disheartening feeling to watch the turmoil come at him and not be able to change his path. There was no way to get another road. He would have to stay on this one through the storm. He wanted to know what made him choose a road with such a spectacular and dangerous event to navigate through. He wondered if in fact he chose this road or perhaps the path he was on in life had chosen it for him. Did he have any control of his course at all? Or was he only able to suffer through it and get to the other side of the storm as best he could?

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The rain began to come down in sheets. His hands gripped the steering wheel, his eyes squinted in an attempt to focus. The truck was pushed around by the daunting wind. He corrected his course and let off the accelerator. It crossed his mind that he could let go like the pine needle had done before and finish what he failed at a year ago. Surely people would know it was an accident. He wondered who would see through the façade and convenience that the storm would actually be the cause of his death instead of him letting go. None of that actually mattered because his survival instincts had kicked in and he did not want to die. But he did want to be out of the storm at most any cost. He questioned whether he could handle the intensity of this storm since previous storms almost killed him.

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The rain became so heavy that he was driving 30 miles per hour below the speed limit. He considered stopping, but there was no suitable place to pull off the barren road. He was in between towns, only corn fields and livestock at that point. He could barely see in front of his truck. Then he saw the lights of a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction heading towards him. He wanted to stop and flag them down and ask how long this storm would last. The vehicles slowly passed each other without any communication or acknowledgement. Neither driver would be able to tell the other how much longer the storm would last. They had each been tossed around in the squall too long to remember when or where it started. And neither one could know when the swirling storm would end for the other.

The wind and rain made one last push to make him lose his way and give in to letting go. His knuckles were white from his hands gripping the steering wheel with all his strength as the lightning made its last effort to derail what was left of his confidence in making it through to the other side. He flinched but kept control. Then, almost as quickly as the storm appeared before him, it was now behind him. He made it.

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The rain was gone. The wind had calmed. The trees now stood still. The road no longer seemed as threatening. He took a few deep breaths and began to relax. He could see sunlight between the clouds and the horizon. The storm was ending but the sun would be setting soon. He made it through just in time for the darkness set in. The joy of the storm now behind him faded quickly thinking about what the darkness can bring. This was a repeated cycle in life. Storm, darkness, storm, darkness.  He hoped he had enough strength left in him to survive the darkness as he did the storm. But he was exhausted. He just wanted to rest. But when?  Will he ever truly rest?

David E. George, 2016.