Distraction System

I keep myself pretty busy these days. When I got out of the army, I gave myself a month off. That month started out great but you can only run and go to the gym and watch burn notice reruns so many times. I had gone from the incredibly high op tempo of an army at war to couch potato literally over night. By the end of the month I was perpetually a grouch, drinking like nobody’s business, and being an all around swell guy. I got a part time gig working at a hospital moving patients from room to room. It was all fine and dandy other than the system was broke, management sucked, the kids I worked with were unprofessional, I could have run the place with my eyes closed better than what was going on, no chain of command, no follow through, and overall they were freaking slow. Besides that I loved it. I left as soon as school started next month. College, let me tell you about college. College is a game of accelerator and neutral. You spend most of your time coasting in in neutral and then all at once, the world of a college student collapses and for a week straight you are face down in a book with a coffee IV drip running , cursing the sun. Then the tests are over and its back to coasting and looking at the pretty girls. Not exactly an intense challenge. So the fall semester came and went and I crushed it. Spring was even slower with more classes added on to my schedule, I had the hang of it. So I turned to outside activities. Half-marathons, triathlons, 10K’s and 5k’s became a usual part of my life. Nothing like training to get your butt handed to you by a bunch of really fit chicks. This summer, its been about the organizations. I am part of two groups I am the president of one. I am taking summer school, still kicking my own ass in endurance races, and now I have had these extra responsibilities. Oh and did I forget to mention this thing, this crazy concoction, that has grown into a web page and is actually starting to help people. This web site is on my brain 24/7. I am always trying to think of ways to make it better. I think about it when I go to bed, and it starts up when I get up. I read over it with my coffee, check it at school on my phone, first thing I do when I get home and the last thing before the day is done. It keeps me very busy. Sitting here this morning, this post smacked me in theface. Am I running? Am I distracting myself from what is going on in my head? Am I trying to control the situation in which I find myself dealing with everything? Like viewing it in a cage or from behind bullet-proof glass or up on a monitor. Maybe this is the only way I can deal with all of this stuff. Perhaps, all these challenges and tasks I put before myself is to distract me from whats going on in the background until I can sit here and study it from behind a keyboard. Or maybe I just can’t sit still, I like pain, and being over-reached, lol. I love to forever be in motion. In any case, whether its healthy or not, I strongly suggest distracting yourself. Life after combat isn’t going anywhere but when I set to a task or a challenge I don’t see dead charred bodies or f@#$ed up friends. I don’t hear incoming rockets or walk around with my fists clinched. I am focused on the task, goal, or mission at hand, and in those situations; Those scary, difficult, trying, ass-kicking, face-in-the-mud-dragging, embrace-the-suck moments, I find it really easy to smile, because it is a paradise compared to what happens in my mind, when I sit still.

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4 responses to “Distraction System

  • Ted Engelmann

    Dude, looking at the picture with your comment, you need a haircut and shave…bad.

    Going to look at the rest of your site about PTSD, etc. Curious what you’re learning from your vet buddies…male and female. Some things stay the same (IEDs are pretty much same as command-detonated booby trap), some things might be different, i.e., US female soldiers in combat zone w/weapons, etc.

    Hope things stay good.

    Ted in Denver

  • Mike Orban

    Here is a comment I recieved from a friend on your post.
    Group: PTSD – A combat veteran’s experiences
    Subject: New comment (1) on “Very insightful post by an Iraq veteran. Give him some support on his blog at jollyrogertoolbox.wordpress.com”
    You can run, and run and run, and turn into a workaholic and stay busy and seek the rush, and embrace the suck – but ya can’t hide. When ya got a moment and are willing to just take alook at what’s going on inside – no judgements, no analysis, just ponder a while. I wonder what might happen.

    Posted by Jon Christensen

  • jeff startke

    In reading your post, I was carried back to when I returned from Vietnam. You are staying busy and always ahead of the enemy but now your your own enemy. try to focus on whats around you. the sounds and smells of society ring out now of combat ready to open up in a blaze and rifle fire. won’t help calm the nerves. But in your sleep and as you get older PTSD gets worse. You need a plan for that when your body can no longer stay ahead of your eneminies within. I found serving children and helping youth to discover america, and watching their new eyes sparkle, rather than the eyes of my commrades and enemy with tears. Best wishes. and peace for a warriors heart.

  • Mike Orban

    This is my experience is avoiding the memories of war. I returned from war believing life would be exactly as it
    had been before war, girlfriend, job, softball and beer with friends at night, riding my motorcycle etc.
    I was not prepared nor could I understand the volume and intensity of thoughts and memories that
    would play back in my mind and consume it. Memories and thoughts flashed uncontrollably through my mind from
    one to another and then another and another and………… . No thought was ever completed nor resolved.
    I was caught in a mental world of thoughts I did not expect and a mind I feared was going insane. I withdrew
    from family and friends. Unable to stay on a job nor concentrate on college courses, I withdrew further.
    Unable to explain my mind and behavior to family and friends and leaving them concerned and lost for me, I began to run
    in the physical world. I would keep my haunted mind occupied by moving, always moving, always moving. I’d buy
    a train ticket and just ride to the end of the line, then back ,absorbing the fast moving scene outside the window.
    Traveling through almost every state in the country and across Canada I kept moving. then on to the Carribean and all
    the islands, never stopping. And the moment I would stop there was always one person waiting for me, ME!
    Unable to control the anxiety and fearful of entering my own mind, I fled the country for the jungles of Africa.
    There I found peace living with a very remote culture of the Bantu people and visits from the elequent pygmies.
    deep in the jungles , no plumbing nor electricity and cut off from the world during the rainy season these folks
    restored my soul. They got me out of myself to see the connection to all life that a soul can find. These folks
    were not ‘on’ the earth, they were ‘of’ the earth.
    After years there in Africa I was forced by a rare disease , inflicted by a tsetse fly, to return home.
    I was not on the ground an hour and the hauntings of my mind returned to their savage attack.
    After 30 years of running I was admitted to the PTSD clinic in Tomah , Wisconsin.
    When handed a brochure with the syntoms for PTSD I was enraged! “WHY DIDN”T THEY TELL ME ABOUT THIS
    30 YEARS AGO”. It was then that I realized it was not the memories that were out of control but my ability
    in knowing how to think and process those memories. Through writing I was able to express these memories
    and continue writing for this purpose today. I realized it only took the courage to understand that what I saw at war
    was real, it’s what the human race has been doing throughout history. And I realized that those memories were
    not going away. I needed to face them to resolve them and make those memories a aprt of my real experience
    and be grateful for the experiences, for they are real. What worked for me was not to stop doing fun things in life
    and live in the memories of war but continue to do the fun, healthy things not as avoidance but as good healthy
    living. I could dedicate a certain amount of time each day to focus specifically on the memories of war. This way I knew
    I would not be avoiding those memories and they would be acknowledged and get attention during that designated time.
    This helped take away the anxiety and took away the power of those memories to haunt be. I OWNED the memories,
    they do not own me.
    Not sure this makes sense to you but it helped(s) me.

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