Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Is PTSD an Illusion?

Is PTSD an illusion? For some that do not understand PTSD, it may well be.

But in all honesty, if we are to try to erase the stigma of mental illness in America, PTSD in particular as it relates to combat veterans, we must address this. We cannot alienate the American public. We as veterans need to be honest and forthcoming with our own side effects of PTSD. We all know anyone can have PTSD, car crash survivors, rape victims; they may also suffer from PTSD.  I believe that if we talk about our side effects, we can bridge the gap. And hopefully erase the mental health stigma. And let all of America know, that it is okay to ask for help!

But think about this….

“When does an illusion become a lie?”

Perhaps you are thinking, “With an illusion I can be somebody. Escape from who I really was…”

Maybe you’re asking yourself, “For when did running away become so essential to me…”

Why are you running? What are running from?

There are some things in life you never escape….

You cannot escape PTSD. There is no cure. But you CAN ask for help.

Here’s the problem. FEAR!

The majority of us that struggle with PTSD fear asking for help. We fear that by asking for help, we may seem weak. We may even fear that by asking for help, we lose our memories of something special. Or maybe, we might lose a memory of the worst time in our life. And honestly, from experience, I’ll tell you I don’t want to lose that.

But I do want to learn from it!

I do want help in dealing with it. I do want help in living with it every day.

So what do I do? I ask for help. From my friends, my family, and when needed a doctor.

You are NOT alone. So please, ask for help if you need it.

You’re never too big, too old, too experienced, to ask for help.

I’m here for you!


Make it a great day!!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

It's All About Fate. Or Is It?

I’m sure we have all asked ourselves; “what does fate have in store for me?’

Fate could mean, who we are destined to become, who we are destined to be with, or what job we are meant to have.

But, what if we could change our fate? After all, there are no written rules, nothing written into our genes that determine who or what we become.

At times, we may look to others to help us understand ourselves. We may even live our life to please others, which is far different from serving our fellow man, or from living for our own heart and soul. But is that really necessary?

Personally, I believe in chasing YOUR own dreams. Creating YOUR own happiness. Regardless of what others may have to say.

I believe that we must think about ourselves, without becoming selfish.

I also believe that each day we are given here on earth; we must do only two things to be truly happy.

1.)    Do something for someone that can never repay you. This is not restricted to a deed that is based on money.
2.)    Do something for yourself that makes you happy to be alive.

We cannot live our lives trying to please someone. If we do, we are living in fear. Instead, we must live our lives to make ourselves happy!

If you’re not happy, then only YOU have the power to change it.

We must live our lives to be happy. To set out to be, what WE want to be.

We cannot sit idly by and let the past rule our lives. Sure, some of us have struggled with or are struggling with PTSD. But so what?

WE have the power the change!

After all, the only thing you are ever in control of is your attitude.

We already know that PTSD attacks our spirit, our ability to love, and our ability to think clearly. PTSD attacks our mind, body, and soul.

And because of this our own perception of how we view ourselves changes.

But how do we change our perceptions of ourselves?

Personally, I don’t understand someone that accepts their fate, if they are not happy with it.

But someone, that has the chance, has the ability to change, but won’t…..

Then no, I don’t understand that.

Sometimes it takes a traumatic event in life to see clearly for the first time. Even if that means, we don’t see clearly for several years after that event.

We must understand two truths:

1.)    No one else can change our behavior.
2.)    No one else will accomplish our own individual dreams.

Regret is scary. Death is scary. But not living up to what you could be, is even scarier.


What do you want be?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

It’s time for me to talk about Iraq, with my heart and mind. I watch the news. Honestly, I watch it reluctantly. After I returned home wounded from war, I grew sick of watching every news network slant their stories to benefit their own political agenda. I thought it was safe to watch the news again. I was wrong.

However with the current crisis in Iraq, regarding Iraq being in turmoil, I am torn.

I’ve read stories of my fellow brothers and sisters that have served in Iraq, asking; What was it all for? Many have stated something similar to; “I watched my friends die and several others become wounded. We went there for nothing.”

Truth be told, the news haunts my dreams. I’m sick of it. In my humble opinion, the media only reports what they feel will scare the American public to watch, in order to gain more ratings. That’s pretty damn sad. Did I mention, I’m sick of it?!?!

But here’s my opinion of the current situation in Iraq.

From my reading via social media and major news networks, many veterans feel what we did there was not worth it. I ask them to define; “worth it.”

I’ve read that their brothers and sisters died or were wounded for nothing. I ask them to define “nothing.”
I’ve read that many of them would go back again, to help ensure Iraq gains a stable democratic government. I ask them to define “a stable democratic government” for a region that has been at war for far longer than we can imagine.

You know why I joined the Army in 1996? I joined because my parents taught me the impotence of service. They taught me about the history of our country, our freedoms, our rights, but more importantly the men and women that gave us those freedoms and rights.

I joined the Army because of the men and women that came before me. They came from the north, the south, the east, and the west. They may have had to face segregation, racism, or bigotry. Yet, they chose to serve. They served knowing they may die protecting every American’s rights and freedoms.

They served protecting men, women, and children that would never know their names.

It is up to us, the American people, to remember them, our brothers, our sisters.

For me, my time in Iraq WAS NOT for nothing. Why? I live for others! Because each day, each moment I get with my children, I not only do it for me, I do it for my brothers and sisters that never came home.
I do it for PFC Jody W. Missildine, KIA 4/8/06 in Tal Afar, Iraq. For SSG Emmanuel Legaspi, KIA 5/7/06, Tal Afar, Iraq.

I do it for my fellow brothers and sisters that came home with physical, mental, and emotional injuries.
Am I upset the Iraqi government cannot make things happen? Of course I am.

Would I go back? I’d do anything to serve my brothers and sisters.

But I will never say; I served there for nothing.

I once heard a dear friend, a combat wounded veteran from Iraq say; “If the insurgent that wounded me that day, had known he wouldn’t kill me, but make even stronger, by being a voice for others, he would have stayed home that day.”

For me, life is about serving others now.

And I like to think, I do it pretty well.

Serving others has filled a void in my life.


I believe everyone should serve others in some capacity. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

I Don't Want To Close My Eyes.

           “I don’t want to close my eyes” my son says as I tuck him in. He says it every night. He doesn’t want the day to end. He’s had too much fun, excitement, he has enjoyed the day. I lay with him every night; hold his hand till he falls asleep. Some nights it only takes 2 minutes, but others it takes upwards of 15 before he finally lets go of the day and falls deep asleep. He has made it a great day!

            He’s not afraid of the night or sleeping. He’s afraid of the day ending. He was able to play with is sister, his friends, and of course his dad. He was able to walk around our neighborhood. In some aspect, be on his own without me over his shoulder. Simply, he just didn’t want his fun day to end. For in his eyes, there is no way possible way the next day could be better than today.

            As he falls asleep, I think of his words to me. After “I love you.” After “thank you for a fun day.” After “goodnight.” All I hear repeating in my mind is “I don’t want to close my eyes.” It is then I realize how familiar those words are.

            As that replays in my ears I can’t help but relate that to my own combat experiences. His words make me think about my brothers and sisters that struggle with post-traumatic stress and how they deal with sleep, or as my son puts it: “bed time.”

            The innocence of a child makes it pretty clear. In his eyes he is probably thinking: “Why must today end? I was having so much fun!”

            But for some of us, the night brings very different thoughts. Such as; “How will I get some sleep tonight?” Or; “I can’t go another day without sleeping. But I am afraid to sleep.” Some of us scream in our heads; “I just want to sleep!!” But we can’t. Not like a child, this is what we really want.

            Why? Because of the terrible nightmares some of us experience. Those of us with post-traumatic stress understand how difficult it is to fall asleep, let alone have a night without nightmares. Or how we wish to sleep straight through the night! Some of us wish we could fall asleep and sleep peacefully without medication.

            We are more afraid of the night than we are of the challenges of a new day. The night is usually full of terrors and demons.  Not to mention our dreams/nightmares give us no promise or hopes for a brighter day tomorrow.

            Whether or not you are a parent, I believe you must accept the innocence of a child. Perhaps it’s not the night we truly fear. I believe we can make a subconscious effort to defeat what threatens us during our dreams. I tell my children, “Think of happy things before you go to bed.” Simple enough, right?

Maybe, it’s the new day we fear. Not being in the military we can no longer control what lies ahead. We are afraid that something will happen that we cannot handle! But in all honesty, we know in our hearts that is not true. But we can control out attitude. The only thing you are ever in control of is your attitude. That my friends, is simple. What’s stopping you from being positive? What’s stopping you from being as innocent as a child?

Oh you had to wait too long for coffee in the morning? Traffic light took too long to turn green? Yeah, that must have sucked!

I think we each of us should take a lesson from a 4 year old. Be hesitant to say goodbye to the day. However, as adults, regardless of our situation, be grateful for each new day we receive. And accept the day as a gift. 

Make it a great day!!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Appreciation

         If you are a combat veteran with PTSD, I know you. I may have never met you, but I know you. I may not know exactly the demons you face. But I can relate. You may look at other veterans with physical or mental injuries far worse than yours, veterans that are doing amazing things and see them and ask:  “Why can’t that be me?” You’ve lost something. And you are searching for it, although “it” may be difficult to describe. You are looking for it, right now in this moment. You want it back.

“The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug.” Chris Hedges.

Combat for “US” is nothing like nothing we have ever felt before. Combat is rush! Just like you, I will say we do not like the circumstances of war, it’s after effects, death, or devastation. But the rush, well that is something felt by few, that we as combat veterans relish.

After serving our country we have tried to replicate that rush. Some of us have tried to replicate the rush through drugs, alcohol, stealing, or worse. We have tried many ways, and most certainly, we have failed. Trying with these ways is of course unhealthy and in no way representative of one our most revered core values, service. 

WE do not want to actually return to combat, but would if asked. Not because we urn to besiege damage, but because our brothers and sisters need us.

WE need them, just as though they need us. We are not broken nor are we psycho’s.

WE are just men and women that aspire to continue to do good things with our lives. But combat has changed us. We know loss, we know sacrifice. We know what it is like to put another’s well-being before our own. But possibly, and even more importantly, we understand the importance of a team. 

When we leave the military, there is a void. The men and women we served with are no longer in our daily lives. Our purpose or our ability to contribute to something significant is gone. How do WE fill that void? The answer is complicated, yet simple all the same. I urge all of my fellow veterans to find outlets for your anger, depression, and anxiety.

YOU must find your purpose. If you’re out of the military now and struggling, guess what? The military was NOT your purpose in life! But if you don’t start searching for a new purpose in life then you are wasting your God given talent! I don’t care whether you believe in God or not. 

You must find “YOUR” way to put away the negativity and pessimism. Stop pushing people and life away! I sincerely believe that one of the keys to winning the constant battle against PTSD is finding people and things in your life that you passionately appreciate.

It’s okay to start small, just try it for one day. I challenge you to go one day, without complaining, even once. No grunting, mumbling, or exasperated breaths. Put a conscious effort into looking at every aspect of your life. At people and things you appreciate.

Are you able to appreciate the rays of the sun? Or the soft subtle drops of the rain?  Perhaps, you appreciate each new sunrise: another day to accomplish something amazing with your life!

The warm fuzzy feeling you get when looking into the eyes of your spouse or significant other or their touch. Maybe it is hearing the innocent laughter of children and seeing their smiles as they play. 

Make a list if you need to and write it down. Take each day as an opportunity to learn and grow. Look for new things every day to appreciate.

What do you appreciate?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

It is New Year’s Day! A time for making resolutions and a time to reflect on the past year. Like you, I have many resolutions, which I’m happy to share. After all, this blog was not created for me to be shy. But I also want to take some to reflect on this past year and see what I accomplished.

            At the beginning of 2013 I posted a picture on Facebook that read “Hey 2013, I’m going to kick your ass.” Sounded like a good thought at the time. Maybe I had too many beers while watching football. But, did I? After another year of battling PTSD and my own demons, did I finally do something worthy of writing about? Well maybe. I guess the answer is complicated.

            My biggest goal at the beginning of 2013 was to become a better father. I have 2 wonderful children. This year my daughter turned 7 and my son turned 4. For me, it is easy to say, that I have not always been a good dad. I can admit it. I hated going to the park. All I wanted to do was sit on the couch. That of course was before this year started. Why do I say that?

            Well a conversation I had with a very dear friend in February of this year changed that. This guy has never spent any time with my kids, never even met them. But he said something that will ring in my ears forever. He said: “I know your kids are happy. I can see it in their smiles from the pictures you post on Facebook. They didn’t always smile like that. You’re doing a great job, keep it up.”

            Is it possible for a stranger to my kids, but a friend of mine to see the difference? I think so. I know in my heart that this past year changed the way I spend time with my kids. It has changed the way “I father” for lack of a better term. I know that I appreciate my children more than I ever have.

            But today, I’m proud, extremely proud to say, that my parenting skills have never been stronger! I love my kids and treasure every moment with them. Some moments from this year will never be forgotten. For example a brief conversation Grace and I had while out to lunch. She said to me; “Dad, God made a lot of things.” And I replied; “Yes baby, that’s right.” And she never took her big blue eyes off of me and said; “But everything else is made in China.” Moments like that, I talk about every day. Moments like that make me smile on the darkest days I struggle with PTSD.

            But of course there is more to life than children. Unfortunately children cannot meet every need. Especially for a combat veteran with PTSD. What else is there? There is sense of belonging and accomplishment. But how do you get that?

            Another goal of mine was to do something with my life that makes a difference. I wanted to do something that serves a greater purpose than just me. This year I was blessed, fortunate, lucky, etc., enough to go to work for the organization that saved my life. And yes, it truly saved my life. And I hate to think about where I would be without it. I mean, this is what dreams are made of right?!?!   
        
            I have the honor and pleasure of sharing my story with the public and helping raise awareness for an incredible organization that directly impacts men and women that have served our country! I belong to something bigger than me! How incredible is that? Pretty damn amazing if you ask me! I'm finally making a difference!

            Hey, 2013? Did I kick your ass yet? I’m a better dad than I have ever been and have a job that makes a difference, that good enough for you?

            No, it’s not enough. Let me talk about my friends. The ones that, even though we live hundreds, and in some cases thousands of miles away from each other, never let me forget that I’m not alone. The ones that always call or send a text just to make me laugh. Before this year I didn’t realize how important my friends are to me. So, shame on me. But now, I don’t miss an opportunity to tell them how much I love them and appreciate them. You know who are!

            In late 2012, I had made a decision of trying to ease my survivor's guilt. This year I had the honor of meeting the family of PFC Jody W. Missildine, who was killed on April 8th, 2006 in Tal Afar, Iraq (I was only inured in the explosion). I’ve always felt guilty for his death. But his family let me know, that tis not the case. On Monday May 20th 2013, I did something I’ve waited over 7 years to do. I was able to visit the family of PFC Jody W. Missildine. Part of my guilt has come from not paying my final respects to him. In Iraq, there was a memorial service and of course I couldn’t attend because I was in a hospital bed in Germany. In Iraq, there was a memorial service, but I was already at a hospital in the states. I remember someone showing me an article in a local newspaper for our unit in Germany, and I just cried as I looked at his picture. Why had it taken me so long to come here?

            As I walked to Jody’s gravesite I was cold, nearly shivering. I stood, and saluted him while tears rolled down face. A few moments later I sat next to him. My first thought was that I I wished I was in the ground instead of him. At that instant I was overcome with a hot burning sensation and I realized Jody wouldn’t want me to think like that. Then the sensation faded. I told Jody I was proud of him and that he was a good soldier. I told him it was an honor to serve with him. I let him know that his family and friends miss him. I apologized to him for taking so long to pay my respects to him. I spoke to him for a while longer and said things I only wanted Jody to hear. I promised him that it wouldn’t be another 7 years before I came back. With that, I stood and saluted him one final time then walked away.

            I had decided to take Jody’s family to lunch on the day of my departure from Florida. I wanted to thank them for their hospitality. We sat and talked more about Jody and just life in general. As we were leaving, something very special happened. Jody’s grandfather reached into his pocket and pulled out a Gold Star pin. A Gold Star pin is given to the families of those that have lost a son or daughter in combat. I knew what it was instantly. I put up my hands up in protest and told him “I cannot accept that sir, it is only for families.” He replied, “You’re my family now and I want you to have it.” I looked down at the pin and held it in my hand and started to cry. He put his hand on my shoulder and said “Let it go son, it’s not your fault.” I felt a tremendous weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

            Love. Yeah, I found a girl. Notice I didn’t say “met.” Turns out we met in 2012 but were both too chicken to make a move. And she is pretty damn special! Everything happens for a reason right? Damn right it does! I made someone else happy. And she makes me happy!

            I still battle PTSD every day. But this year I learned that it is okay!  I have friends to lean on and talk with. I know you do too! As long as I’m moving forward, nothing else matters.

            Did I kick 2013’s ass? I’d say so. But there is much more to accomplish!

            Resolutions? For me, to blog more. In fact I plan to have my own Facebook page and website. Want to get motivated? Then keep following me. You will not regret it, I promise! I have big plans for 2014!!

            I want to continue building on my parenting skills. My children deserve it. I remain committed to serving others. It’s just the right thing to do with my life. I’m also very excited that I am in an extremely happy and healthy relationship and will do all I can to continue to make it great!

            But what about you? What is it going take for you to kick 2014’s ass? You are better than you think! People are depending on you! I believe in you! I’m depending on you! Here is a great quote for you heading into the New Year from Joel Osteen:

            “You must make a decision that you are going to move on. It won’t happen automatically. You will have to rise up and say ‘I don’t care how hard this is, I don’t care how disappointed I am, I’m not going to let this get the best of me. I’m moving on with my life.”


            What are doing this year to move on with your life?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Do you dream?

I started this blog several years ago. In fact, I was ashamed to publish any of my writings until earlier this year. I was ashamed of going through all that I have. At the time, I didn’t realize that so many of us go through the same things.  The following is something I wrote in 2008. At that time, I was battling one of the worst parts of PTSD. Nightmares. Then I wrote more about this subject in 2011.

I understand and respect the fact that many of my friends look at me and this blog as a source of “positivity” but please remember, I originally created this blog so that anyone could get an inside look of what it means to have PTSD. Remember, this is raw emotion and all up front honesty. As always, thank you for taking time to read this, and if you’d like, please leave me a comment.

2008: Do you remember your dreams? Have you ever had one dream that has stuck with you, even though you had that dream years ago?

I remember as young boy growing up how vivid my dreams were. Of course most of them were always sports related. Such as, “I hit the winning home run in the world series!!” Or, “I scored the winning touchdown in the super bowl.”

My dreams were regular. Sometimes I would remember them and sometimes I wouldn’t. But I distinctly remember having a dream. Of course they were not all good. I can remember one dream, I was being chased down the street by a taco! Seriously? I guess ate too many tacos that night.

But recently, my dreams haunt me. They interrupt my sleep. Actually, I cannot sleep without having a nightmare. I don’t have any happy dreams. Most nights I’m afraid to fall asleep. Because I know I’ll wake up screaming thinking I’m back in Iraq.

I live in northern California, where earth quakes are common. I remember one night, about 2 a.m. a small earthquake hit, but it rattled my house and windows. I ran outside to see what was wrong. I was thinking a car hit a telephone pole or worse my house. Nothing was there. But I couldn’t sleep for a good week after that. I had flashbacks to Iraq. And even more nightmares started.

The nightmares worsened. I found myself not wanting to go to sleep. Most nights I wondered what it would be like if I didn’t wake up the next morning. I didn’t care. I wished I had died. At least those that gave the last full measure of devotion didn’t have to suffer. But why did I have to suffer? Why couldn’t I sleep without nightmares? I just wanted a full nights rest.

But they continued. In one dream, I was at the checkout stand at the grocery store and when it came time to slide my card to pay….BOOM!!! The bomb exploded! It happened all over the place. At the bank, grocery store, even the toy store where I just wanted to by my kids a present.

In another dream, I was walking down a street in Iraq. The bomb would explode. I knew instantly it had killed one of my soldiers. But this unfamiliar voice mocked me, saying: “It’s all your fault! It’s all your fault!!” Regardless, of the nightmare, I awoke feeling worthless. And wondering why I was still alive. Wondering why I was being made to suffer.

They kept happening over and over again. I didn’t want to sleep. I wanted to pass out. I soon began taking medication to help me sleep. It helped. But I didn’t dream. I didn’t dream at all. I want to dream. But I want to have happy normal dreams. When can’t I have normal dreams? Why didn’t I just die? I’d trade just about anything to dream again. I’d always wake up feeling exhausted. Not wanting to face the day.

2011: I no longer take the medication to help me sleep. I sleep okay. But typically I wake up every few hours. I’m still startled by noises in the night. My daughter woke me up in the middle of one night and it scared me so bad! I think I scared her the way I woke up screaming. I took her back to bed and read her another story. She asked: “Daddy, what’s wrong?” And I told her she surprised me like at Halloween. And she laughed. This was good for both of us.

But I don’t dream. Neither good nor bad. At least I don’t remember any of them. But it makes me ask: “When can I have good dreams again?” I want to dream of good things. I want to dream of happiness for my children. I want to dream of hitting a homerun. I just want to dram of something positive, something happy. Why can’t I be normal? Maybe I should just give up wanting to dream and be satisfied without having nightmares. After all, they don’t happen every night anymore. I’ll take waking up every few hours over those terrible nightmares any day.


Each night I go to sleep, I don’t want to dream of money or material possessions. I want to dream a happy dream. The kind where you wake up smiling, knowing it was only a dream, but it made you happy. Instead I wake up wondering why I can’t dream. And instead of looking forward to a new day, a new gift, I look at it as another day I must suffer. Hopefully one day all of this will be better.