Help for PTSD


Morning times are often roughest for me. My brain seems to wake up a few minutes before I do and the thoughts I have upon waking don’t always make me feel like my brain is on my side. I don’t want to feed that line of thinking too much because I treasure my mind and my thinking and I think to cast it as an enemy is not helpful. I’ve been dealing with depression for years, before and after getting sober. Also, I’m ever learning how to live in a more skillful relationship with the constellation of symptoms known as PTSD and I do know that, although certainly sometimes I (and other vets or recovering alcoholics I’ve talked to) feel like I’m not always able to control what I’m thinking, I do have some ability to redirect my thoughts (and then, therefore change my feeling) by using certain tools. Often, just changing my physical environment can make a difference. For example, rather than lying in bed and ruminating over whatever negative thoughts have greeted me upon awakening or swimming in the emotional residue of nightmares, getting up and getting outside—maybe talk the dog for a walk— can help out a lot. But if I’m very tired (like after a night of disquieting dreams and therefore unproductive sleep) I don’t always feel like hopping up and getting outside. It’s generally a bad idea to look at Facebook or even worse start scrambling for some process addictive behavior. Then the day is off to an awful start that can sometimes affect the rest of the day.

This morning I woke up feeling not-so-great and didn’t make it outside for a good dose of fresh air. As embarrassing is it is to admit, I ended up having a little “Skype date” with a man in Atlanta (whom I’m really looking forward to meeting) but it got a little bit more steamy than I would have wanted— before I was even able to get my day started in what I would consider a healthy way. It’s hard to not go (almost automatically) to things that promise some immediate relief rather than “sit with the unpleasant feelings” as we are so often encouraged to do. It’s hard especially when the unpleasant feelings are so strong and I don’t even yet “have my wits about me.” After I said goodbye to the Atlanta stud, what I really wanted to do was just collapse back in bed for a few hours— never a good idea for me. Instead I put a quick post on Facebook, “Any OIF/OEF vets up for a phone chat?” This proved to be a great idea and before long I had three or four offers from other vets from “my war.” I ended up having a great conversation with Charlie, a Marine from South Carolina. It’s amazing how, when I talk to another vet, we are able to skip a lot of “set up” because we seem to more-or-less “get” each other. I realize this statement is sort of hyperbolic but I do there there’s great truth in it to a large degree and I’m sure that many vets would agree with me. I’d offer that as a suggestion to any of you who are veterans if you find yourself struggling. I think usually both veterans end up garnering some benefit from the talk. Also, just as sort of a side note, if you are a veteran who’s struggling (as seems to happen even more frequently during the holidays) please know that there is a Marine in Alabama who’s pulling for you and if I can help you in some way, it would be my honor if you would reach out to me like I reached out this morning.

This vet-to-vet connection this morning did so much to turn my early day around, I was especially grateful when another Marine buddy of mine called today to invite me to hang out with him and his boyfriend (also a Marine) tonight in Birmingham. We went to a fourth Marine’s house and had some motivating hot wings and a great visit with that Marine, his wife and daughter, and a few other really nice people. After that gathering we went to a bar where it was “trivia night.” I rarely go to bars since I don’t drink. But every once in a while is fun and tonight was a great time. (Incidentally, I felt like I was an asset to our trivia team which was a great contradiction to that voice in my head that tells me I’m stupid all the time. Yes, I definitely have that voice.)

So it’s well after midnight and I’m home, tired, a feeling much, much better than I did when I started the day— yesterday now technically I reckon. I’m grateful for the day even the rough stuff. I’m taking some lessons into tomorrow. My intention when I wake tomorrow is to have a huge glass of water before pounding any coffee and to get out into the crisp Alabama morning rather than reading people’s rants on Facebook or going in Skype dates— no matter how hot he is.

Thanks, as always, for listening. I hope my experience benefits you in some way.

See y’all tomorrow.

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