Monday, July 18, 2016

Living in Motion without Emotion - Life with Depression and PTSD

We started this blog to talk about stuff in our lives that make us want to rant. Stuff that makes us want to talk to the world in one way or another. Ted and I have an extremely connected sense of humor and communication. We talked about finding a forum where we could scream into the universe about things that bother us or make us happy and see what comes back. Little did we know that we would have thousands of views on our rants and ramblings. Some of our rants have been comical, some political, some about the heartbreaking state of our country and world. The connecting thread about all of them is that they are all genuine and come from our hearts. 

That being said, I have written this particular blog about eight times since we started, but never published it. I have spent time out of my life at my keyboard pouring out thoughts and just couldn't press that little orange button that says "Publish" on it. I don't know why, but I do know that it was a fear-based decision. A fear of what would you, the reader, think of me. A fear of rejection. A fear of ridicule. And for sure a fear of not being able to put my thoughts and emotion into words without sounding like a lunatic. (No promises on the last one by the time you are done reading this!)

Do you remember back in "the day" that freaking Jack-in-the-Box? Turning that crank over and over waiting for that sadistic clown to jump out? (Side note - who's idea was it to put a clown in there?? No wonder I hate clowns! Well those and Steven King!) Well, take out the devil jokesters and that is my life. Just waiting for it to POP.

I really never know when the feeling of guilt, pain, sadness and being overwhelmed is going to hit me. I don't know when my mood is going to change, when I want to isolate from people and conversations, when my emotions feel so overloaded that I just feel numb. It gets to a point, where I just don't want to feel anything. My thoughts go back to times and situations that I really don't want to visit. My mind is in control and my body follows quickly. 

It is a crazy merry-go-round. Once my mind is in control and I no longer have the ability to get off of the ride, my body starts in on the fun. Sleeplessness, anxiety, gastric issues, physical pain, headache and on and on. And once my body is in full swing, those issues pile right on top of the shit that started it all. 

I always feel like I have been hijacked when it happens. I don't have control and I am along for the ride no matter how hard I resist. I have to ride it out, see where it takes me, and hope it doesn't happen again any time soon. These rides can be short and with mild thoughts, long with very dark thoughts, short with very dark thoughts, long with mild thoughts... and all across the board. And again, I don't have control of it. 

That is one of the hardest things to say out loud, that I don't have control of it. I can't tell when it's going to happen and when it does I can't slow it down. I can mitigate it a little and sometimes, with medication, meditation and exercise, but that is just me and it doesn't always work! We are all different people. There is also the concept that we can "just stop it" when we feel it happening. If it were only that easy. 

What most don't know is that people with depression and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) are operating on a sort of "autopilot" and not always in control. PTSD and depression are exaggerated states of survival mode. We experience emotions that frighten and overwhelm us and believe it or not, we act out accordingly in defense of those feelings we cannot control. Those actions may not seem rational to you or society in general but please be patient with us. We most often cannot stop the anger, tears and other disruptive behaviors that are hard for you to endure.

The trauma we have endured has changed us and just like you, we want to believe that life can return to the way that it was and we can continue as who we were. Unfortunately, this isn't how it works. Trauma leave a large and deep-seated scar on the soul. I don't think it is possible to endure trauma and not experience a shift in our psyche.

There is also a misconception out there that PTSD is only suffered by war-torn Veterans. That's not true. It is caused by being in any traumatic experience; mental, physical or sexual abuse, car accidents, witnessing something tragic... there are a lot of situations that people deal with that change them.

We are not in denial, we are actually coping. It takes a lot of effort to live like this. Even if we don't or can't admit it, we know there is something wrong. When you approach us and we deny there's a problem, that is really code for "I'm doing the best I can". Taking the actions that you suggest would require too much energy, dividing focus form what is holding us together. Sometimes just getting up and doing our daily routine is the biggest step toward the recovery we make. We need a safe space where we can find support and alleviate our stress.

Contrary to the ways we might behave when you intervene, inside of us we know that you are not the source of the problem. Unfortunately, in the moment we could use your face as the image of PTSD, since we have trouble directly addressing our PTSD and depression issues sometimes it is easier to address you. As hard as it seems, continue to approach us. We need you. Your presence matters. PTSD and depression create a great sense of isolation. In our post-traumatic state, it makes a difference to know that there are people who will stand by us. It matters that although we may lash our, don't respond and aren't ourselves, that you are still there, no matter what. Please don't give up, we are doing our best.

There are words and phrases that make me wince when I hear them. One of the questions I get asked a lot is "What triggered this depression?" Guess what? I don't know. Could be something obvious, could be absolutely nothing. Please don't get upset if our answers are not what you are looking for.

I don't like who I am in regards to this part of my life. I don't like knowing that this is a part of who I am. I don't like the dark rides and very dark thoughts. I don't like seeing those people who love me feel helpless or hurt because my words don't make sense to them and actions are worse. I don't like the feeling in my gut that this could be the cause of my death one day. 

I want to like being in crowds again. I want to be able to sit in a restaurant and feel comfortable with people sitting behind me. I want to laugh and joke when somebody comes up from behind me and touches my neck or shoulders by surprise. I want to have dreams that I want to remember. I want to react to loud booms and bangs with wonder and not terror. I want to be normal. 

Here is what I have learned through this journey though... "Fuck Normal". I have friends and family who don't understand me (and might never) and I have those that do. I have days that I can look in the mirror and forgive myself for all the bad shit I have done in my life and there are days that I literally do not look in the mirror because of who I will see. It's just part of my life. Part of my journey. Part of my story that I get to tell. Even as messed up as all of this is, I want to be a example to my kids and grandkids and not a warning. 

If you need are having thoughts of hurting yourself or others please call the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255 or if you are a Veteran and want to speak to somebody who knows specifically what you are going through call the VA Crisis Line at the same number, 800-273-8255 and PRESS 1.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Violent Protests Furthers Their Cause, Not Yours

A day of non-violent protests erupted overnight in St. Paul when demonstrators pelted police with rocks, concrete, fireworks and more.  Twenty one officers were injured and 102 protestors arrested.

This doesn't help anyone.  No one's memory is honored by this type of action.  No one's cause is furthered. 

Rashad Turner, described as a Black Lives Matter leader in St. Paul spoke out against the violence in the Sunday edition of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

“We condemn all acts of violence,” Turner said. “We want to be disruptive, but at no time is it OK to hurt other people.”

Disruptive they were, shutting down I-94 for several hours overnight.

Understandably they received attention.  None of it positive or productive.

Col. Matt Langer, State Patrol chief told the paper, “Our longstanding message has been that there are many places that people can gather and protest and demonstrate and exercise their First Amendment rights, but the freeway is not one of those places,”

In Minnesota it is illegal to be on an interstate highway on foot.

Governor Mark Dayton, who shocked everyone the day after the shooting by admitting that the shooting most likely would not have happened if the driver were white, condemned the violence and the shutting down of a major highway.

In statement he said:

“The occupation and shutting down of Interstate 94 last night were unlawful and extremely dangerous. Twenty-one law enforcement officers were injured by rocks and other projectiles thrown at them by some of the protesters. 
“I am deeply grateful for the heroic efforts of those men and women, who put themselves in harm’s way last night to protect the safety of all Minnesotans. I thank them for their professionalism and persistent attempts to resolve the situation peacefully. 
“I also thank the leaders, who were doing their utmost to stop this very dangerous escalation. Until then, the protests of the last few days have been lawful and peaceful. I thank everyone, who has shown restraint and tolerance. 
“Again, I urge all Minnesotans to remain calm and peaceful during this very difficult time. I urge everyone exercising their First Amendment rights to do so lawfully and without endangering themselves or others."

The violence has no place in protests.  The only agenda it furthers is that of those who feel that BLM should just stand for Bureau of Land Management; that this proves their point that the protestors are really just thugs; that we all are just jumping to conclusions; that Castile wasn't as innocent as what appears.  Hell, he has a HUGE criminal record after all (though all I could find is that he appears to be guilty of is DWB - Driving While Black). Rock throwing and attacks on law enforcement furthers their agenda - not the legitimate protestors' agenda.

The problem that is developing with the violence is the "us" versus "them" mentality; that if you support the police you must hate black people and if you support the Black Lives Matter movement that you necessarily hate the police.  Neither is true nor is it mutually exclusive to understand that there are legitimate issues facing people of color in the United States and that the police have a very difficult job and make split second decisions every day - 99% of which are correct.  More talking, uniting and understanding are necessary, not name calling, division and violence.

Friday, July 8, 2016

I don’t accept the “New Normal”

I was part of a Facebook group, until very recently, that was focused on Las Vegas Veterans. It was supposed to be about helping people and giving an outlet to Vets who needed help or wanted to help. Monday, when I quit the group, there was a post referring to Hillary Clinton not being charged in the e-mail scandal and it said “... the fix is in The FBI has caved in to the political pressure from the Establishment. Our only hope is that members of the American Military will remember their oath to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign AND DOMESTIC!"  Now today we have a Veteran who may have taken ideas like that and took matters into his own hands and murdered five police officers because he saw then as domestic enemies. We may never know exactly what was going through his mind, but that is what it looks like right now. I quit that group when I started seeing the “thumbs up” notifications from others like me, Veterans, and I was embarrassed and ashamed.

I don’t know how to feel from the past 72-hours. Honestly I am sick and appalled that we are where we are. Today I am watching the news in shock and feel numb. But I guess that is our “new normal” response to things like this. White cop shoots black man… Numb. White man shoots kindergartners… Numb. Black man shoots black man… Numb. White man shoots black parishioners… Numb. Black man shoots white cops… Numb. You can see it our response from our leaders and our communities, for fuck’s sake you can see it in the news reporting… same story, just change the names and city and get people to say “Thoughts and Prayers”. No change.

Our new normal is a world of extreme. To be in the middle is perceived as being weak and without dedication. You have to push the boundaries of morals and ethics to be popular and to be seen as outrageous to be heard. It’s not enough to say that you support the 2nd amendment, but we have to say that everyone needs to be a “good guy with a gun” and push to limit who is restricted from getting a gun. Even turning your back on the idea that people who are mentally ill or on the No Fly list or being investigated by law enforcement should be restricted from getting an AR-15 within 30 minutes and buying thousands of rounds of ammunition. 

We have to HATE cops, immigrants, minorities, the rich, the poor, the people who suggest change just to be taken seriously.

Our idea of balance is bloodshed. Our idea of justice is death. Our idea of right is ignorance to ideas.

Turn on any TV, log onto any social media and you will hear people talk about what we need to do to make things better: “If I was there, I would pull my gun out and shoot that bad guy” – yet you have never fired your weapon in a time of danger and stress and may have never even shot your weapon outside the safety of a range and maybe even without your ear protection. You don’t know. You don’t know what it feels like to pull the trigger when you heart is pumping out of your chest and you are shaking uncontrollably. You don’t know. Would you do some good that situation? Maybe. Could you do harm in that situation? Maybe. I hope we can figure out a way for you to never have to find out. Until that you have been in a situation where you can answer those questions, I would suggest to tone down that certainty rhetoric because right now, you have no fucking idea what you are talking about.

It HAS to be ok, to be pro-cop and at the same time know and understand that black people in this country are frustrated and scared. It HAS to be ok to be pro-2nd amendment and think that assault rifles should be banned and it should be really fucking hard to own a gun. It HAS to be ok to think that hate is wrong and that love is an option. It has to be ok. But today, it isn’t.

And I know that there are people reading this right now who read the last paragraph and think, “Of course, that’ how I feel.” I say to you, feeling is not enough. Wanting is not enough. Thoughts are not enough. Prayers are not enough. We have to do something… anything. Please.

Yes, black lives matter and cops lives matter. Guess what, Lives Matter. Our new normal does not have to be the way we have to live and it  is up to us to do something about it. 

Come Together, Before We Tear Apart

THIS is decidedly not the answer. 

A sniper ambushes police in Dallas, killing five, because he was mad at white people and wanted to kill white police officers.  This was met by an attempted escalation of hostilities by a former member of the House of Representatives.

I was looking very hard to find a picture I came across late last night of what the demonstrations in Dallas were like before the gunman cut loose.  It was a pair of Dallas police officers and a protester smiling together.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find it – it was lost amongst photos of carnage, chaos and confusion.
It was a picture of protesters and police doing it right.  A lawful demonstration that was by all accounts peaceful. The police were there to maintain order and used the opportunity for outreach. The way it is supposed to work in the United States.

After the shooting there was solidarity and shared grief.
(PHOTO CREDIT: Ting Shen/Dallas News)
There is no racial divide in grief, just sadness and loss.  In the span of 72 hours seven people were killed in racially motivated – or at least racially charged – incidents. 
In the aftermath, former Illinois Representative (a one-termer – thank you Illinois!) Joe Walsh, apparently while ironing his white sheet and hood, tweeted:

“Real” America?  REAL?  You mean WHITE America, Joey?

You know what is real, Herr Walsh?  Diversity.  Differences.  All shades of color.  THAT is America.  You don’t like it? Get the hell out. Walsh is Irish, right?  Then guess what?  YOU’RE not a “real” American either!

Real Americans celebrate our diversity and confront intolerance (any Colby class of ‘87s out there recognize that?).  Real Americans grow as our country does.  We’re inclusive not exclusive.  We don’t spin hate and divisiveness but recognize that our diversity and differences are what makes us great.
Obviously there are real issues here that need to be resolved. Dialogue is the key to understanding how we’re more alike than we are different and diffusing fear of each other. 

You know what we all want, black or white?
Our kids to grow up safely.  To be accepted for what we bring to the table, not denied a seat at it.  To “not be judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character.”  Opportunity to make a life for our families.  To live in peace.

I pray that we use this dumpster fire of a week to learn that we are stronger together and that dialogue and positive interaction is the only way to change, grow and move forward.
Any of these goals sound color specific to you?  No…they don’t to me either. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

"Black in the Wrong Place"

Here we go again.  Here.  At home.

Philando Castile was pulled over for a broken tail light a Twin Cities suburb.  He had a conceal carry permit, allegedly informed the police officer that he had one and had a handgun when he was asked for his license and permit. 
Shockingly he had both in his wallet in his back pocket.  I know that I usually leave my license out so it’s right there when I get pulled over, but hey…I guess that’s just me.

Castile went to get his information as allegedly requested by the officer or was putting his hands back down.
He was shot dead.  Apparently four times.

For being Black.
Solid school department employee.  Boyfriend.  Father figure.  Son.  Another African American male shot dead by white a police officer just hours after another African American male, pinned to the ground, was shot dead by Baton Rouge police.  The circumstances weren’t the same – no two incidents are ever the same – but the trend continues.

It seemingly never ends.
The most jarring video to me was not the shooting in Louisiana – though that was more than disturbing enough – but the livestreaming video of Castile’s girlfriend immediately following the shooting.  She was calm and respectful.  And she got carted off in handcuffs.  Her 7-year old daughter witnessing it all, the little girl at one point comforting her mother with the words “I’m here with you.”

Castile’s mother told CNN that she always taught her son to comply with police instructions and it sounds like that’s what he did.

And he was killed anyway.

Because he was Black.
Unless something truly unexpected and out of left field comes to light, Castile did everything he was supposed to do.  He followed instructions.  He followed the protocol that is taught in conceal carry classes from what I’m told, but he was shot anyway.

I have no answers.  I wish I did.
Castile’s mother said “I think he was black in the wrong place.”

I’d like to tell her otherwise, but I can’t – she’s right.