Monthly Archives: June 2012

Help those that help themselves

I am not a religious kind of man, but I was once and one of the things that struck me was the idea of helping those that help themselves. I am very much in the business of helping people and a lot of them are veterans. Over the years now, I have heard a lot of noise about we have to help veterans. They are struggling with ptsd or combat stress or homelessness or unemployment. While this is all true, it has really painted a picture of woe is me to be a veteran. That does not sit well with me.

If you are struggling but working at it, I am more than happy to help.

For those of you though that may be reading this and are bargaining with yourself saying but he doesn’t know about my disability, my injury, my ptsd, my TBI, what I saw in combat…. just go ahead and stop you are just lying to yourself and pissing me off. You do not quit with the first or the second or the thousandth obstacle. We do not fail. So they said no they couldn’t hire you move to the next open position. Go back to school. Hustle. You hustled in the military if you didn’t I am sure there was an NCO applying his boot to your fourth point of contact. Well allow me to don my old NCO facade and unf#$% your malfunction before I have to go about the nasty business of plucking out eyeballs and violating the holes… you know the old line.

Get it together. If you can’t, ask someone else to put their boot on your shoulder and pull on your neck until your head pops completely out of your fourth point of contact. Figure out what your objective is, find a job, find a better job, finish college, quit drinking so much, stop feeling sorry for yourself… whatever it is figure it out and write it down. Then set a series of goals moving in the direction of accomplishing that objective. One to be done by the end of the day, one by the end of the week, month and year. Repeat the day and week goal set, daily and weekly until mission is complete. If you are going for an interview, rehearse. Have someone look at your resume and tear it to pieces  and then you revise it. If you go to an interview wearing a polo, I will find you and kill you and then bring you back just to kill you more slowly. This is common sense, would you have gone to a promotion board in your PT’s? The answer to that is not unless you wanted the Sergeant Major to get his wish and finally get to smoke one of his soldiers until they puke through their nose. Then why do you show up to an interview half assed, unprepared, and looking like a bum. They already think you are a liability thanks to the stigma of being a ptsd ridden baby killing vet and you just backed it up by showing them you are inept. We didn’t do anything in the military without planning, take that skill with you. Set a goal, think, plan, prepare, rehearse, execute, revise, repeat… none of that should be a shocker to any veteran; then why are we failing to follow what was beaten and drilled into us from day one.

Am I mad? No I am freaking livid. I haven’t been this mad since my first day as a team leader driving all the way from Houston back to Fort Hood on my down day because my soldiers had decided to go all freaking UFC in a strip club because they had been drinking when news flash most of them weren’t old enough to freaking drink. I was very very mad. Why am I mad? Because I see veterans squandering there talents and skills and starting to prescribe to the notion that they don’t need to try someone is going to do it for them. You are the best the military could produce, undercut yourself and undercut the memory of the fallen. Get it together, put your war paint on, and destroy the obstacles in your way. If you are your obstacle, make a new you. I have the greatest respect for the ones that have tried, failed, and then got back up again to do it all over again. We fight, we persevere, we overcome. You are not your labels, you are not disabled, you are not PTSD, you are not TBI, you are not a liability, you are not a failure. You are the all singing all dancing crap of the universe. You are a veteran, a warrior, an asset. Figure it out or I will smoke you until you puke through your nose.

So this has been another episode of come to jesus meetings with dan.

By the by I made the news, lol.


Broken Record

So there I was no shit right….. How many war stories have you heard come out like that. I tell one as a joke to my friends about evil bunnies and a vertically challenged stripper, kind of a way of thumbing my nose at myself. I am a storyteller, at least that’s what everybody tells me. I mean I know I tell stories, hell most of my dinner conversations about this one time, in some place, in a crazy or funny situation, but they say I am good at it. Problem is I have not had many adventures as of late to match the intensity, humor, or humanity that war provided as story fodder. As a result I have been sounding like a broken record for quite sometime. There has been a slight shift as of late focusing on more of the trauma stories stuff I have seen in the ER or in the hospitals… those are mostly funny and focus on natural selection but don’t provide the same kick and so I default back to those stories.

This compulsion to tell the stories has an interesting feedback loop on my PTSD. The way I tell these stories I wonder if they keep me in it, if they keep me reliving it or if they turn the volume down to a sustainable level. I don’t really know the answer to that. I don’t know if I tell them because they are the crowd pleasers or if I because I can’t have a good time if I don’t acknowledge the fact that I still don’t believe in my worthiness to be happy. My biggest worry is that by telling these stories they actually accentuate the trauma. They make it worse than it ever was, they put it up on a pedestal and make it into something it never was. In addition to that this same act of putting it on a pedestal somehow makes it the greatest accomplishment period, no matter how hard something was.

Perfect example I just graduated from college. It was all pop and no kick (thats when the a bullet goes bang but doesn’t fire). My dad said he was proud and I just shrugged my shoulders like it was inevitable. Then I took my licensing exam and freaked out for 2 days until I got the results back and when I did, instead of going nuts, it was just a matter of glad that’s over.

Now I know what many of you may be thinking, after war everything has the volume turned down. I just don’t think that’s necessarily absolute. Give you a good example. I was home on leave shortly after Iraq with Allison (look at this I just realized I am subconsciously storytelling in my post about storytelling, that’s some down the rabbit hole stuff, anyways) and we decided to go to six flags over Texas in San Antonio. I rode on all the rides they were fun but never scary, never got my adrenaline going. They had the volume just above mute. A couple years went by and we went to the rodeo and a silly little rodeo ride gave me a huge adrenaline jump. The volume was back up. My point is by reliving this crap by telling the stories is, am I keeping the volume of life down and the volume of PTSD at a static level?

I am certain my friends and family are so damn tired of them. My best friend can call up stories for me to tell random people by a significant point in the plot of said story…. he has them committed to memory better than I do in some situations.

I have lately been telling myself no war stories before I go out drinking or go hang out with friends… I haven’t been successful. First uncomfortable silence and bam there I go, “So there I was breaking my fist on a hardened glass window even though I was a black belt….” It has to me become a form of Obessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD. Most people conjure up images of someone washing their hands until they bleed or locking the doors multiple times. The actual definition is an obsession that drives a compulsion… sounds relevant to this need to spout stories the second things get too quiet or too happy.

It also leads to issues of me never being fully present, fully appreciative of the company I am with. I am always between two worlds kind of doing the Limbo in roller skates while straddling a purgatory. So how do I pick the needle up off the  record? I am curious if by telling only hospital stories if that will somehow lessen the impact while I learn to not even tell them.

One of the other veterans I know commented on the fact that this Vietnam Veteran he knew was fixated on 1966 no matter what else he had done since then. He never got over his pinnacle and moved on to new moments. Is that where I am headed?

Declarative memory, such as autobiographical memory is the definition of self. Through a process called neuro-plasticity, I have by telling these stories over and over again turned faint memories into a declarative statement neuron that is a hulking monster compared to the other synapses in such a way that it drives my personality, my self. So in many ways I am still over there, I have by telling and retelling these stories kept myself over there, in the worst of the moments I can remember. I have created my own cell locked the door and threw away the key but I have been using a spork to tunnel out.

I am also concerned that just as I am keeping myself over there, I may be keeping myself from being here. Perhaps I just haven’t figured out how to fully be here, an inability to adapt to new surroundings and situations simply compounded by the fact that my measuring stick for normalcy is a place where killing a guy is a job well done.

Enough. I am going to enlist my friends and families help in this little experiment. I am going to ask them to say “blueberry pancakes” every time I start a war story, if I don’t stop right there, the guys may resort to physical violence and my wife can just start ticking off chores I will do when we get home or physical violence if she feels so inclined… somehow I think she might do both haha.

Look at yourself, are you like me. Are you keeping yourself over there by retelling it a thousand times over or are you keeping it buried and letting it burr a hole in your head and chest. Cut ties with it at all costs is my humble opinion.