has been very fascinating in my experience… At first I was so absolutely unhinged by a degree of anxiety that I had never known before, far worse that the actual events that caused the PTSD. This was an amazing thing in my former mental health professional mind; quite unexpected and very challenging to cope with despite my considerable skills in meditation, alternative healing, NLP, Hypnosis, and strength based/solution focused techniques. I literally felt like my life was in danger and I had NO idea why I felt that way.
At first I wanted to just be NUMB and tried to use alcohol to get that effect and failed. All of a sudden, probably because of the excessive amounts of adrenaline coursing through my system, I could drink way too much and not even feel impaired. I knew I was in trouble and needed help so I called my primary care physician to arrange a psychiatric appointment for me. Long story short, things happened that prevented me from keeping that appointment and I felt an enormous surge of absolute RAGE flow through me and I knew I was no longer able to act appropriately so I drove myself to the Salisbury VA hospital emergency room.
While I was driving, I called the VA crisis line and let them know how I was feeling and what I needed and where I was going to be in 45 minutes. They took care of letting the ER know I was inbound and I was handled very gently and kindly by the triage nurse. The psychiatrist started out being a bit of an ass, but when she realized I was in extreme distress, became compassionate and helpful. I left the hospital with two medications, one was an Alpha blocker for PTSD and the other was an antidepressant that I had taken decades ago which had helped me then.
I was unable to tolerate the PTSD medication and experienced almost all the adverse reactions so I discontinued that one. The antidepressant made it hard for me to think and function, which was new for me and not at all acceptable since I am self-employed and if I cannot think and function at a high level, I cannot pay my bills. I discontinued the antidepressant and went back to doing things I used to tell other folks to try to cope with their anxiety. I was amazed that my anxiety was so extreme, I could not make myself follow these simple guidelines to exercise, meditate, avoid alcohol, etc. After four months of coping, I again called my psychiatrist and asked for another option for my anxiety.
I started a different anti-depressant, one that a therapist friend said worked well for her. It worked for a long time, but when my wife hit a very hard time in her recovery from PTSD, the two of us together were more than I could handle and I developed suicidal ideation without a plan. I felt like I had destroyed our financial security by my months of substandard functioning and was despondent about what that may mean on so many levels. I knew I was worth a lot dead that could help my family in my absence. I knew I needed to call my psychiatrist and try something else because of my belief that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I completely understand why a veteran is committing suicide every 20 seconds of every day. I remain horrified that our politician ever believed there was ANY reason for us to send our children to fight wars to protect the oil transit lines from the Middle East, and developed this ridiculous double speak campaign calling that carnage “patriotic”.
While I do believe there are many things worth fighting for, I hope and pray we have evolved beyond the place where combat makes any sense at all. If you look honestly at how things in our global economy work now, and how effective economic sanctions really are in facilitating diplomatic negotiations toward mutual conflict resolution, you will hopefully realize the obsolescence of warfare in our modern world.
War started to acquire lands, prevent invasions, and to change who could live safely within a country. In war, many thousands of innocent women, children, the infirmed, men, and the elderly are destroyed by either injuries, rapes, financial devastation, and death. In the wars before Vietnam, our service members more likely died on the battle field rather than return home with injuries because of limited health care. We heard stories about “combat fatigue” which we know now as PTSD.
Our service members witness uncountable horrors and suffer major losses to their bodies and minds, and experience grief fatigue from losing friends, comrades, and ideals. When our combat troops and service members are victimized by the predators in our military ranks who sexually assaulted them, all while in service to our country, return to civilian life, either physically wounded or mentally, emotionally, and spiritually damaged, how do our patriotic accolades serve them?
Our veterans experience many kinds of horror and extreme distress and sadly sometimes share it with their families and loved ones without wanting to do so. Veterans coming home often feel disenfranchised and lost; and then death or returning to the battle field are the only things that make sense. We are literally killing off the very people we pretend to be thankful for their service as we extol the virtues of our patriotic pride. This is INSANITY to me!
There is a reason Jesus tried to teach us how to love one another, forgive, and turn the other check over two thousand years ago. Sadly, it seems our culture wants us to remain barbarians and continue judging, punishing, hating, and spending billions of tax dollars a year making the military industrial complex and oil companies wealthy at the expense of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives and environmental ruin.
After being in an educational group, individual therapy, starting a new therapy group, beginning EMDR, and doing my own work to get healthier, I am feeling much better with the blessed, soft fuzzy edges created by antidepressants and sleeping pills. I used to have superior attention to detail, and now I leave stove eyes on and water running in the sink when I leave the kitchen. I am still too anxious to sleep without sedation. I am struggling to get my normal work accomplished while trying diligently to not judge myself harshly when I know I am missing deadlines and losing income because I fail to follow through. I recognize this process as a gift to myself to reclaim the parts of me that I lost on active duty, and believe it will be short lived since I have been working on my recovery for over 30 years already.
My intention is to attend the 7 1/2 week residential program to heal from my shame, depression, anxiety, and PTSD from being subjected to military sexual trauma for over eight years of my almost ten years of service. I do not believe I can really recover while juggling multiple businesses, managing our home and family issues, and provide care for my elderly mother, so I am going to put the air mask on myself first, finally. While I have jokingly told people for yeas, that ‘I work for a slave driver; I am self employed’; it has been a sad reality. I have demanded things of myself I would NEVER ask anyone else to do. Now I realize that was my unconscious coping strategy to avoid feeling the pain, shame, rage, and fear that I stuffed into the dark and deep crevices of my gray matter. I have really comprehended after much rebellion and resistance, that I cannot have quality relationships with anyone until I have one with myself. I am actually relieved to be accepted and expect that this will be the key for me to begin to experience the sense of connection with Source and joy that has eluded me for so long.
I am dreaming again which is novel. As a former mental health professional, I like to interpret dreams with the Jungian perspective that we are all parts of our dream, because it has been more effective in my work to understand the meaning in my dreams and the dreams of others. Last night, after having a very impactful group therapy session about shame resilience, I had a remarkable dream. For me it was remarkable because in my dreams, I typically do not experience feelings, only events and thoughts and usually do not remember most of what I dream.
I dreamed I was on a journey with some friends who brought a young girl along with us. We were in a hotel and there was something about upcoming bad weather and I realized I no longer wanted to stay there, that I had something important to do and wanted to return home to do it rather than risk being waylaid by weather. I remember talking with my travel companions who wanted to stay, and for some unknown reason, I became super annoyed at the little girl and uncharacteristically harsh words came spewing out of my mouth, telling her I did not want to hear what she had to say. This made perfect sense to me when I awoke because I have stifled my inner child for decades and treated that part of me very cruelly and in turn, I have become disconnected from my Source and joy.
Next in the dream I went to some store and everyone there was excited about the upcoming weather (remember I am all parts of my dream- the store, the people, that little girl, my traveling companions, and the weather threat). I got excessively and uncharacteristically impatient with the people and yelled something to the effect that they were all crazy and I was getting out of there and going home. I realized that I have capped my own anger for many reasons and many decades. I have not felt safe being angry or voicing my own annoyance to anyone other than close family and friends who have borne the blunt of my bad behavior beyond what I have done to my own self. When I awoke, I recognized this dream as a positive sign that at least in my unconscious, I am allowing myself to behave like so many other people do and put my needs and desires at a high priority in my decision-making. I am excited about what is coming and I will do my best to keep you informed!