Wednesday, 29 October 2014

To Understand this Thing Called Dying.

  I have to write something because it is eating away at me and I must put my observation out there.

  I imagine everyone is now familiar with the death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo. Many watched as I did the funeral for him on television this Tuesday. Many of those assembled were troubled by what had come to pass. I am troubled by what is to come.

  What stuck with me and troubled me the most was his young son, age five. I imagine others share these feelings with me.

  Aged five. A young age. An age at which death is very hard to understand. In fact the finality of death is all but incomprehensible for him.

  I was aged five when I lost a great friend. He was struck by a car just before Mothers Day.
Each day after that my friend did not return and I missed him. He has left and he can't come back. Why? Why not?
After a year I came to understand death.This thing called dying, I did not like it one bit.

  When you are young it is easier to accept things and move on because you don't fully understand. You live in the present. The past and future is comprised of yesterday and tomorrow. How can a child envision that there will be many years to come when they have only been here a few.

   People will always remember the soldier Nathan Cirillo. It is an historic and catastrophic event. A day that both a young boy and a Nation lost they're innocence.
The boy will be forever reminded during his lifetime of that day. There will be no escaping it.

  Innocence will be lost for Nathan's young boy as one day passes to the next. I hope it doesn't ruin his life. I hope he will be accepting. I hope others will help him accept.

  My hope is that he be strong enough to live with it. Let that be the real hope for this Tuesday and every day to come.

thanks for reading
Ken

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Gazing into the Journal Glass

I have been looking back at some of my early entries in my journal.
  I was asked by my doctor to start a journal in November 2013 but I procrastinated until mid December 2013.

  Actually it took that long for me to find the energy really. I was very distraught and just getting out of bed was tough. The feeling of guilt for letting down my coworkers. The loss of income. The feeling of uselessness. Why the fuck would I put paper to pen. I don't want to read about how fucked up I am. I'm living it. Why the self flagellation of a journal.


  At first entries are just short to the point. As if the words were hard to squeeze out of my pen.
They are more thoughts and fears rather than observations or revelations of anything that is going on around me.

At first they were all questions.
Will I be able to go back to work?
Will I be able to work at all?
Will I commit suicide to escape my problem.
 How long will my family put up with this.
Am I broken forever.
I miss John Candy, he was a great guy.

All very negative, but reasonable questions for me.

But like anything, the more you do the better you get. Now I can glance back a few months and read it but see it in a different light. You can begin to see some behavioral patterns. You can then make changes to your routine to correct the bad behavior or at the very least realize what a dick you are being.

   I have been working the journal for almost eleven months now. I can't see myself without it now. What a great resource it has become for me. I am not cured but I am doing much better. Still a long way to go. If anything the journal helps me to understand what a battle I have on my hands. I will never be rid of this affliction because I cannot erase my mind. Cannot undo what has been done.

    It is has been said that seeing is believing. How can one believe when there is nothing to see?
Post Traumatic Stress is a real disease. As real as all the physical diseases just you can't see it by looking. It is real as any physical cancer. Consider it as a cancer of the soul, eating away at one's entire being. If left unchecked this cancer will reveal itself physically through anger towards others and self, disassociation, anxiety attacks, chronic fatigue, antisocial behavior most often involving drugs or alcohol, absence from work or family functions and an unwillingness to communicate.

 If you see these signs in others or yourself ask the question. Was there a traumatic event in which there was no control over it's outcome?

If the answer is yes, seek help.

   Everyone has a heavy cross to bear, this one is mine. Be strong, take it and carry on. So, being a Taylor I dealt with tragedy in my ancestral way. Swallow it, bury it deep in your gut, drown it in alcohol and don't talk about it.

I now realize I can never go back to the work I once did. It will surely cause a relapse. What am I to do with myself? That question will take time to answer. It will take actions to solve the riddle.

  I am fighting this cancer in my mind every day. I hope to get it into a kind of remission. From that point I hope to be able to keep it in check by continuing to be conscious of it. Taking the appropriate measures to combat it. Using mindfulness to focus on what I am doing so I don't just run on autopilot. Living in the now is what I need more than ever. Tomorrow will come, but all the planning in the world will not guarantee that I will be there.

So it's one day at a time. My workshop gives me a place to practice mindfulness. I hope that you find a place to practice yours.

Thanks for reading, see you when I have discovered some more answers.
Ken


Journaling




 Keeping a daily journal has become a real help for me. It helps me remember where I was and where I am and how I should be proceeding.

  I usually start the days entry with how I slept. Sleep is very important in combating PTSD. You need your rest to deal with the daily mental strain.
  Next I usually put down how I felt mentally when I woke this morning. Maybe how I felt physically because the depression causes physical pain as well.
 
  I also note my dreams. Were they nightmares, or just work dreams where I struggle for control. Some times the dreams are just about work but nothing difficult goes on.
The odd time I don't remember a dream at all. According to science dreams are just random stuff brought up by the subconscious mind. So why give a shit anyway.

 Because how you feel when you awake from the dream is real.
If I had a bad dream I use it as a starting point to let go of the negative feeling. Understand that I feel this way only because I am letting it be that way. I find it a good practice.
 If later in the day I am going into one of those everything is wrong spins, I try first to recognize what I am doing. Then I ask myself is this real or imagined. (Believe me you can convince yourself of just about anything when you are in this state). If it is real can someone help me or maybe look at it from a different angle. If it is imagined stop thinking about it and let it go. It's like hating someone, total waste of time and energy and they probably don't know it anyway.

 I usually write in what I hope to accomplish today if it is important. Then I will fill in what I did accomplish during the day. Even if I just sat and decided it was more important to do nothing but deep breathing most of the day. Or just sit and pet the dog. Or sneak up on my spouse and scare the daylights out of her. He He.

Later I will note anything during the day that may have triggered a bad reaction or produced negative stream of thoughts. Sometimes I don't realize that something negative was going on until the next day.
  An event can last all day. If you are alone there is no one to say, "Hey what's eating you?,
you may not realize you are so upset. If there is someone around you will realize something is wrong when you tell them " Nothing, why don't you Fuck Off." Obvious indicator you are not having a good day.

 I also look for anything that made me feel better. Like watching the cat chase grasshoppers. Listening to the birds sing in the morning. Making all the labels in the pantry face English side out.
Watch a sunrise. There's a ten minute act of mindfulness.

 Was there any self pity today? If yes give yourself shit and wash your mind with soap.
It is totally useless except for the fact you recognized it.

  Did I do anything for myself today? This one is very important.
Feeling frustrated. Drop what you are doing and go do something totally unproductive. I usually take the Honda Goldwing for a ride. Or if you don't have a motorcycle take a walk in the woods. Move slowly and really look around. Go sit at the lake and watch the waves roll in. The sound and action of the waves is very soothing. After a while your shoulders and neck should loosen up enough for the blood to flow back into your brain so you can think rationally once more.

  Did I do something for someone else today. This is a beauty when you can do it. It is better to give than receive. Makes you feel good, like the Grinch when his heart grows ten times larger.
  One thing I like to do is chop up an extra pickup full of firewood and drop it off to a friend. It benefits them but it benefits you too. You get some mindfulness, exercise, swinging an axe is great tension reliever. That firewood looks like PTSD, Whack, chop, smash. Oh ya......

  Or if you don't like fire, everyone has a lawn that needs mowed. Give someone a hand with they're lawn. Shovel a driveway or at least snow blow out the part the plow pushed off the street. Even if they neglect to say thanks (maybe because they have seen you in slippers and PJ's after 11am on a Wednesday) you still know they were happy to pull in and the pile was gone.

Did I take time to listen to someone else. Helping them with their problem often helps you with your own by recognizing some similarities. Even if their problem seems small to yours in comparison. Problems come in all sizes and cause the same emotions. Only when you don't or can't deal with them do they become monstrous problems.

So take some time out for yourself. Even a short walk can give enough time to figure things out.
Most important like yourself. It can be hard at times because you know yourself so well. Forgive yourself just as easily as you forgive others transgressions.

Thanks for your time
Ken

Monday, 4 August 2014

Buried Deep in My Mind

Since that terrible day.

Sleep, it's just a word anymore. I don't sleep, I slide into unconsciousness.
When you sleep dreams are mostly silly or pleasant or about work.
When I'm unconscious I nightmare.
When I am conscious I take the feelings with me through my day.
They will not leave me. It was only dreams but they might have well been real.

They are always different but very similar. One feeling is common to them all. Sometimes I awake screaming and after each nightmare I am covered in sweat.

Let me lay out what those nightmares were like during the last year that I was working.
These came in different forms but happened almost every night. I no longer wanted to sleep.
What follows is the nightmare I remember most because I had it many times. It was a little different each time but the same feelings were there. It drives you to madness. 

Here we go.........

   Dark heavy clouds lower the sky towards the earth threatening to dump all that is miserable on this place. Cold rain falls from the sky in wandering veils of drizzle. The air is chill and promises of the snows to come.
 Then out of nowhere a tornado. It just popped up and headed in our direction. We ran in fear and took shelter in a derelict barn. Am I hoping to hide from it? Maybe. It was still meandering back and forth out there like some hideous troll hunting for us. To vulnerable here, need a safer place.

  All around are open fields dotted with a house or barn. The buildings look like they had born witness to the blitzkriegs of world war two. One building in the distance seems to have the least damage.The tornado has slipped out of sight but I sure it is still searching.

  The stubbed grass field between here and refuge is a long trek and I keep an eye out for that whirling troll. Just to make things worse a November Witch comes shrieking. Her howling breath is filled with ice pellets that rake your face raw. The inadequate clothing lets the wetness from her spittle sink to your skin. The icy blasts tear mercilessly through to the bone. We stay close and struggle to escape her. Stopping next to an old tree I pause and look at their faces. Wet hair, skin pallid, frightened eyes, blue lips all looking to me trusting I will find them shelter.

  I motion toward the building which still seems miles away. Reluctantly they lower their heads and continue on bent against the weather. We stumble in plow ruts filled with water and some of us fall from time to time. I pick them up and we continue on. I see the tears freeze to they're faces. Hands that have touched the watery ruts are reddened and frozen. They tremble violently from the cold. I hope I can make it. I have to get them to shelter.

 Reaching the building we leave the Witch to wail outside. Her screams are quieted by the remaining walls of the building. The shelter gives some relief. We are weary, hungry and cold. I want to sit down and rest but they must rest first. My heart is heavy. We have to start again. Rest can come later.

 Surveying the building reveals a full main floor covered only with planking. Most interior walls are bare to the studding and the corners of the rooms are dark and cold. The exterior walls that are left hold windows with broken glass and some not there at all.
An area added on to the back looks to have taken a direct hit, only a stained and dirty sink with a couple of supply pipes dangling like broken bones give clue to this being the kitchen.

 There is a brick fireplace to provide some heat using the splintered lumber littering the main floor.
Get that going first so they can huddle around it.

  The upstairs is still half there and you can see right through the roof in some spots. At least the rain is slacking off but it will be back. Promising a good soaking all night.
The driest area upstairs is next to the chimney and what was once a bathroom. Part of the exterior wall is missing but I hope to be able to patch that up for the night with some boards from the main floor. An area off to the left still has a small room that has remained untouched. The children will be dry and warm in there.

  Just need to patch up a few things and go on from there. It will come together over time. A shattered home for our shattered lives. Everything we knew is gone, a little piece of each of us died with them. We are no longer the same, how can we be now that some of us are gone. This is fucking hopeless but I'll keep trying anyway. I don't know what else to do.

   Now it is time to find the entrance to the cellar. Just like I do every time. I dread it but I must check. I duck in and immediately I am filled with fear. This is one of It's places. It looks a little different each time. But it lives here. I can't see It but I know. I just have to leave quietly so as not to wake it.

  I have met up with It on many other nights. Sometimes I just swallow my fear and do my work and get out of there real quick. Other times I could sense It searching around in the dark trying to find me as I stand paralyzed with fear then finally break out screaming at the top of my lungs.
  On two occasions It has brushed against me but I managed to escape. But the second time I found the courage to look to see what it was. I wish I hadn't. You see, in the darkness behind me I saw nothing. But It was right there. I could feel It.

  I leave the black hole behind me hair standing up on my neck. Once I'm back upstairs I ask if the children are Ok. She looks at me and says there is only one. I remember there being two with us when we came here. Then I remember, she is right. No more is said.

  The others have fallen to sleep but I still work on stopping leaks upstairs as the rain gets heavier.
I wonder if this time I will wake up and find this has all been a bad dream. But no this is my lot.
On the main floor I stoke the fireplace with more broken boards. The fire is large but for some reason seems to give little heat. A cold fire in this cold existence.

   I find myself back at the cellar entrance. I must check to see if It is awake and aware of me. If It is we leave now, otherwise we will be leaving at daylight. I descend into the half light of the cellar. This one has stone walls for the foundation. The floor is dirt and uneven. A ditch of water runs across the width of the room and ends over in the darkened corner. The air is dank and smells of dirt and decaying wood. Cobwebs hang everywhere but even the spiders have deserted there traps.

 I am drawn back to the corner where the fetid, sluggish mass flows in the ditch away from me. My heart is beating wildly, I am scared, no, terrified. I have experienced such a panic once before. It is unforgettable.

  There is light coming from the corner now. I come a little closer and find that the wall actually stops short of the side wall leaving an opening to the other side.

  Oh no! It's in there. I have never been this close. Oh man, I am way to close. I am frozen with fear. I want to turn and run but I don't. Incredibly I move  closer to the opening. What the fuck am I doing? Get the fuck out now. If there is a hell, even if only for me, then surely this is the way in. The light is getting brighter. The fear and panic is numbing. I scream but nothing comes out. Fear runs through me like lightning when I see It. This cannot be happening. It doesn't make sense. I want to do something but where to start. I wish the carnage away but it will not. I want to help him. I want to save him but I can't. Everything I have is useless to help him. There is obviously no hope.

  I'm so sorry.
I fall to my knees. My mind cannot accept what has just happened and closes up to keep insanity out. All things that are buried eventually find their way to the surface. The monster from the cellar is within me. It must be brought forth carefully or it will surely kill me.

The toxic beast has a name. Self blame.
The beast was born on that terrible day and was suckled at the teats of self pity.
It feeds on my feelings of responsibility and loyalty to others trying to devour me.
It amplifies my perceived inadequacies, whether real or imagined, and paralyzes me.
I must let it go. Banish it to swirl in a back eddy of time. Never to escape.

But how?
I must find a way.
These dreams leave me feeling undeserving of my family. Leave me feeling undeserving of a life.

You, yourself, as much as anyone else in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. – Buddha
Good old Buddha, he has all the answers.

thanks for reading
Ken