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

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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 get 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.

Recovery, It’s Not That Easy.

I received a lot of feedback from last week’s post. A lot of it came in private messaging and email asking how I was doing. Last week was rough and I openly shared about how bad it was for me and of the things going on in my mind at the time. It was not pretty. But I’m ok. I promise. I think I will have those kinds of thoughts once in a while, from time to time, perhaps for the rest of my life.

Let’s see if this analogy makes sense. I think I will battle suicidal thoughts the same way a recovering alcoholic battles his demons. This friend of mine that I’ve known for half my life now is a recovering alcoholic. I asked him one day how long it took for his urge to drink to go away. He had already been sober for 10 years at the time of that conversation. He said, “Never.” He told me that every day he thought about and missed drinking, but most days the thoughts were just in passing and barely noticeable. But every once in a while, he said, it was hard.

I think I’m in that boat with my mental illnesses and suicidal ideations. Honestly, most days are pretty good. But I will always know in the back of my mind that I tried to kill myself. I will forever know what it felt like to be that low and the possibilities of what could happen if I get that low again. I will always be at risk. I know that. I accept that and I do what I can to make sure I protect myself.

Most days are normal, whatever ‘normal’ is. Most days I look at my past in a way that I cheated death, a battle in which I won. Well, I haven’t really won yet, it’s an ongoing fight. Because every once in a while life becomes so completely overwhelming that I slip into the dangerous darkness of my mind. Even though the thoughts of a couple weeks ago were horrible, I ended up not doing anything to harm myself. I just needed some time for the process to run its course in my head.

One question that stands out from some of the responses last week is, “How are you able to share things so personal and put it out there for the world?” That’s a good question. It wasn’t easy at first to be able to put all the words together in a way that would make sense to more than just myself. Even in my own mind I had great difficulty trying to figure out what the hell I was saying and thinking. But once it started flowing I became very comfortable with it. I decided that I would write about my life because it is great therapy for me and I would share to the world in case it helps someone else.

I fully understand that not everyone can do that. I get it. There are a million things going on in my life that I don’t share here. There are some things I will never share here. But some of it I need to, I have to. I have to get it out and try to make sense of it. When I post to my blog every Saturday it helps me, whether people read it or not. I get considerable satisfaction in being able to put my thoughts in order to be able to share stories of my PTSD, attempted suicide, the occasional dangerous mindset, highs and lows, depression and anxiety, the good, the bad, and the ugly. All the things that are The Story of My Life. Many things that others can relate to, but can’t share themselves.

Two very stressful weeks are behind me, but I wouldn’t say that life is all that great right now. And to be honest, I don’t see it getting any better any time soon. As a matter of fact, I can guarantee that it will get worse before it does gets better. You think I would be used to it all by now, but I’m not. I hate it. I hate the situations that I’m in. I hate that I’m not capable of doing the things I used to do. I hate that I have little motivation, low energy, and almost no desire to interact with the outside world. I don’t even want to write much anymore.

Even though I know it can’t happen again, I miss being deployed. I miss being in Afghanistan. For many of us, that is a normal feeling after coming home from war. We miss the camaraderie. We miss the feeling of knowing that someone always has our back. I know for me, I miss the chaos, the danger, and the excitement of being there. There is a weird high from being surrounded by the unknown that each day offered over there. Maybe I’m crazy, but I miss it. And I know that I’m not alone. I keep up with many of my friends I deployed with and many of them feel the same way. There was a strange level of comfort that I just don’t have anymore.

I’m sure all of that contributes to what is going on in my brain right now, this feeling like I don’t belong here, that I can’t adapt, that I can’t find a normal that I’m at ease with. I know my past experiences do not cause the bad or uncomfortable things in my life today, but I certainly do not deal with said things like I used to be able to. Not coping well is simply compounding everything. One thing after another, each making life worse than the one before. Or at least the feeling of life being worse. And I hate it. At some point it has to get better.

Until then, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. Thanks for reading this week. Hopefully, next week’s post will be more positive. But no promises. Good day, God bless.

Dave

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Update and Excerpt

If you saw my post from last week, here’s an update: It hasn’t gotten any better. Basically, if it can go wrong, it has. On the flip side, a lot of things have also fallen into place. Don’t patronize me with, “Oh, good, look at the positive.” The only things that are falling into place are a direct result of things that have gone wrong. I’m not making any forward progress, actually, going in reverse lately. It is not exactly balancing out. The bad is outweighing the good to me this week. The low point was last Friday. It was the lowest I’ve been since my failed suicide attempt last year and many of the same thoughts about death ran through my head. I spent about 10 minutes on the side of the interstate with my broke down pickup truck debating life and death before I called for a tow truck.

I blew a tire. At 75 miles per hour. Front driver’s side tire. It messed up the wheel well, the bumper, the hard-plastic mud flap behind the tire. And surely messed up the front end alignment, as one tire was facing straight and the other tire was off at an angle. Somewhere around Tuesday I realized how lucky I was that I maintained control of my vehicle at that speed and didn’t get myself killed. It sounded like an explosion and felt like I had run over something. The weird thing is, it was just the steel belts that flew off. The tire still held air, but the truck was not drivable. The tow truck driver said he had never seen a tire do that before and still hold air.

Whatever. I’m alive. Moving on to other things. Last week I mentioned that I might do an excerpt from the book I’m writing. I think I’ll do that since I don’t much feel like writing more about my week. Let me set it up for you. First, this is fiction. Yes, I use my life experiences and those of others, but the characters are fiction, this is not an autobiography. The main character, James, is a young war vet trying to figure out life after he failed to kill himself. The story I am writing will take you through the process and days that follow his attempted suicide and him coming to terms with the fact that he is indeed still alive. This excerpt is from Chapter 3.


James laid down in his bed and stared at the ceiling. He was restless and rolled to his side. He saw the dresser and remembered thinking about what reason they would want him out of his room earlier. He jumped up and opened the top drawer. It was still empty. He proceeded to check the rest of the drawers. Nothing. He was still paranoid. He looked under his bed, around the sink, peeked inside the shower room. He looked around the other side of the room where a roommate would be if he had one. He found nothing to confirm his paranoia but also found nothing that would put him at rest. He laid back down and tried to figure out the dream from last night. Perhaps he was dreaming within his dream and all this was just still a dream. But he knew this was real. And he knew he was really losing his mind.

James went back to the bed and laid down. In his head, he recounted the story he told to Dr. Andersen. Every detail. Every word. Every moment from last night that he could remember, he told the doctor. He hated that he survived, that he was still alive. He wondered what he did wrong, it should have worked. Or at least he thought it should have. He was becoming upset that the doctor didn’t fix anything for him. All that talking James did and Dr. Andersen didn’t fix a thing. He pondered the motives of Dr. Andersen. Was her plan to get him to talk, tell his story, and admit that he wanted to die, just so they have a reason to keep him longer? He realized that he got suckered into talking. How could he not see that coming? It was a scam and he fell for it.  James was angry with the doctor, the cops that brought him in, the paramedic that checked him out, and everyone he encountered since his incarceration to the psych ward. But most of all, James was angry with and hated himself. All James wanted to do was die. He couldn’t even do that right. And since his best effort had failed, he was now stuck in the psych ward.

James did not trust anyone in the psych ward, except maybe Nurse Angie. But even his trust in her was conditional and almost nil. He was paranoid of everyone and their motives. To make matters worse, he was now becoming paranoid of his own mind and thoughts. He wasn’t sure he could trust what his own mind was thinking or if it was even real. The dream he had was all too real. What if he did in fact venture to some other hidden place in the mind and that’s where his truth was hidden. What if he had become immortal and could not kill himself? Just thinking about these things, James felt crazy. He felt he had no control over his thoughts. And he certainly wasn’t free to have control of leaving where he was. He was trapped in his mind and in the hospital.

A nurse he hadn’t seen before showed up in the doorway to his room. She scanned the clipboard she was holding. “Hello,” she said, looking up “you must be James. How are you feeling?”

“I feel like I want to get the hell out of here,” he said in a dry monotone.   “Where’s the other nurse that was here earlier? From when I woke up?”

The new nurse looked down at her clipboard for a moment then asked, “Was it Angie? If that’s who it was, she’s checking on some patients in the other ward. But we’re all here if you need something and we’ll all be checking on you.”

“Great,” James said, showing no interest.

“Did you get shown around? Did you see the daily schedule? Were you shown how to use the phones when they’re on between group sessions?”

“I’m not going to group sessions,” James said. “I already told the other one. Ok? I really don’t want to be around anyone, thanks.”

“Well,” she started, “going to group sessions will be a way to show that you can function around other people so that you can get out of here. I highly recommend going. The better you do in groups and the more you go to, the quicker you get out. Why don’t you go down the hall and at least be around the other patients and get comfortable. There’s a group session starting in 10 minutes. You can make a good start on the road to getting better and out of here by going to it. It’s not as bad as you think. Let me know if you need anything, I’m Sue. I’ll be here until y’all go to dinner.” Sue smiled at him and left the room to continue her rounds that required all patients be check on every 10 minutes.

James laid there thinking about life and about how much easier it would be had he succeeded in his suicide attempt. He had no desire whatsoever to go to a group session. He also had no desire to be stuck in the hospital. He had no desire to be alive. How did he get in this situation? Could he find a way to escape or would he have to wait until they decided to release him? And how long would that be? He was frustrated and hated his life. He tried hard to figure out how he went from being a warrior to the sorry excuse for a man he was now. He didn’t even recognize himself anymore. He was a Soldier, or at least used to be. And he was good at it. He never feared anything and now he was scared of himself. “Who am I anymore?” he asked out loud as if someone or something could magically give him the answer he wanted.


It’s a work in progress. I know it needs some work, but it’s coming along. Thanks for reading. Good day, God bless.

Dave

The Cage With Prison Bars

I’ve met them all and put them in their respective places. I know each of them by name. We’ve come to agreements that, quite frankly, don’t benefit anyone involved, but there had to be agreements, whether they mean anything or not. I can’t make them leave, they are part of me and who I am now. I can get along with every one of them very nicely. Except one, except the one that wants to kill me. I keep him locked in a cage with prison bars. They are all my demons and I have them under control.

I entertain them occasionally, just to make sure they know I’m in charge, if I am in charge. Except the one that wants me dead. I won’t let that one out of the cage. But all the others come around once in a while, and if I feel like it I will pet them and send them on their way. They are free to roam because they have learned the rules and boundaries. Except Suicide. That one stays locked up. Behind prison bars. That one cannot be tamed like the others. That one does not play by the rules. That one scares me, even from behind the bars.

When all my demons ran wild and controlled me, it was chaos. I locked myself in that cage with prison bars to stay safe. But that didn’t work. They poked and jabbed through the bars. They laughed and made fun of me and threw things at me. And Suicide was the worst of them. That one won’t stop until you do. And I believed them for a while, every word. And they were right, they convinced me anyway. Except that they were wrong, I learned that later, after it was almost too late. It was hard, but I put them in their places, even the one that tried to murder me. Especially the one that tried to murder me. That bastard is behind bars now. But that one still scares me. That’s the only one I’m truly afraid of.

I look over my shoulder occasionally from time to time to make sure my demons are staying in their places, where they belong. They are for the most part, even the killer that is locked in a cage with prison bars. When I look over my shoulder at that one, it smiles calmly, not bothered at all about being locked up. That one knows that even from the cage it can get me if it wanted to, if I let it. I have all my demons under control except that one, which is befuddling to me since that’s the only one locked up. In a cage. With prison bars. No freedom to roam. Suicide stays quiet in the cage making plans for a reunion. I have no intention of showing up to that party.

But if you have demons of your own, maybe we can get them together for a play date party.