Have you ever had someone in your life who disappointed you? Have you ever had someone in your life that you could count on disappointing you? I am guessing your answer is yes. That person is probably not in your life anymore, or at the least the time you commit and spend together is very limited. I feel I am constantly disappointing people, and that’s very discouraging to me. I DONT WANT TO BE THAT GUY that’s allways letting you down. I am very disappointed in myself because I am happiest when I have no commitment to anyone and I know I don’t have to go anywhere and I can just stay home in peace, free of panic attacks. If I do leave the house, I prefer it be at night. I love the dark, I feel safer, but from what? I have no idea. The anxiety attacks are very real, at times just as mild as the rash on your arm or as severe as the car accident you are in, and you find yourself pinned in the wreckage waiting for someone to pull you out. Today I was supposed to be at church to help my mom with a special service we have once a year. I find myself stuck in the wreckage waiting for someone to pull me out. Once again letting someone down. Once again letting myself down. This is getting old.
I had an idea a few weeks ago to just disappear off the grid. I am so tired of being a financial burden to anyone. If it were not for my family supporting me I would have already. Recently I was with a group helping vets and the topic was veterans with PTSD but their symptoms of PTSD went, in my opinion, completely unnoticed that day, but not to me. I noticed the vets not talking to others and the ones facing the door. I could go on and on about the signs from this invisible injury. The signs to me are written in bright neon, very easy to see. Understanding PTSD is not an easy thing to do. I don’t understand PTSD but I can relate to how other are feeling. The symptoms are just crazy, at least that’s the way I sound when I hear myself describe them while doing a presentation or just having a conversation with a friend.
Remember the last homeless person with a sign asking for help? What did you think, how did you feel, what did you do? I know I avoid eye contact at all costs. If I am far enough away I stare, wondering if that will be me soon. Sometimes I give money, but most of the time I don’t have any to give. Right now I am driving by in my jeep with the ac on, But I ask myself if I will be asking him or her to help me survive when I am homeless. The thought of finally taking care of myself by myself is so important to me. The thought of being homeless is scary, but a very possible reality. I know I have huge red flags staring me in the face such as at times my inability to leave the house. My comfort zone is a very small area and feels like it’s getting smaller. I have got to do something about this and soon. I am not the same person I used to be. When I am safe in my comfort zone I am still that person. I remember the me that was in marching band, 4-H president, FFA president, helping out at church, employed and hanging out with friends. That shit just scares the hell out of me now when I even think of leaving the comfort of my house. I need to change my words to change my world.
The name of my website as you already know is understandingPTSD. I did not pick that name, a friend of mine did. I forget what I had come up with. Well, he was right. The number of people trying to understand PTSD is overwhelming. It’s been several months since my last post. In that time I have had 2,141 page views on understandingPTSD from 49 states and 24 countries. Seems like we are all trying to understand.
Mississippi River Camp
I called off the Mississippi River trip about 150 miles down river from my starting point. It’s my own fault I HAD THE WRONG BOAT For that particular part of the river. I think if I had had a sea kayak and less gear and no dog I would still be on the water, but that’s not the case. Scrubs’ face was puffy from all the mosquito and fly bites. She was constantly soaked. The high north bound wind as it funneled up the river, and the south bound daily thunder storm-fed current kept me bouncing and spinning and breaking things. So I called it off. That decision has kicked my ass to this day. I feel like I have let a lot of people down. Most of all I let myself down. Am I too old, did I try hard enough, did I try too hard?
I am not trying to treat or cure anyone’s PTSD with my blog. I am trying to help you understand it as i try to understand it myself . It started out as a journal entry while I was trying to understand PTSD. Talking to the doctors at the VA I can remember feeling normal, which is part of my problem. I loved the part in my school day while in high school when I was in a packed band room. I remember working in the mall at Woolworth’s. I allways had a group of friends around me. John, Danny, Jason, Carry, Sue, Matt, Angie, Brett, Heatherly. The list changed over the years but I have always hung out with my friends. Now those things scare the hell out of me. I DON’T UNDERSTAND IT. As I sit here in the frount seat of my jeep, Scrubs is asleep next to me and I am perfectly fine, but it has gotten to the point where I have anxiety attacks just thinking about going out in public. I hate in when my mom goes shopping on a Friday evening, it so crowded. My niece working in a crowded restaurant, there is not enough money to get me to do that. That’s the part I don’t understand. It always has been so easy for me to make money. I have been working since I was 15. Now I find myself having troubles even finding a volunteer job. I get no benfits from the government since they claim they have lost my military records.
Recently someone from my church, while having a meal at a restaurant, ridiculed someone for being different and not up to his standards and, after thinking about it for a while, he posted it on face book for everyone to get a good laugh. More often than not I feel like I am that guy, with a service dog. The stigma from the media doesn’t help much either.
Fortunately my 3 year old daughter could not care less if we stay home and play or read a book with grandma. I enjoy listening to the song she makes up from watching Sesame Street that only she really knows what she is saying, and she sings it ALL DAY LONG. We go for bicycle rides at the beach, and we go camping. Being out in public, my anxiety still gets the best of me. One problem is my friends don’t understand how much I rely on my service dog Scrubs. She gets so used to them petting her even though I really don’t want them to pet her they do anyway. So I have anxiety about going out in public with them. Scrubs ‘ only reward is me petting her so if she is around me and my friends are giving her attention she is not working for me. So I stay by myself. Camping, bicycling, photography. I am running out of time before my daughter will be in school, and if grandma Jo has anything to say about it she will be in music lessons, and give her a chance with community theater. Her life is about to take a huge change come Kindergarten. I am not panicking yet but the thought of it is putting a time frame on my recovery. Courtney is my pride and joy and my number one priority, my motivation.
Route 66 Arizona, Tom and Scrubs
My bicycle trip across the county from San Diego to the national center for PTSD in Vermont in 2012, I feel, catapulted my recovery in so many ways. For instance, exposure therapy. When I first started I would cry and get quite emotionally involved. The more I did my presentation the less those stories bothered me. Not having the ability to just sit in the house, on my bicycle I really had no place to hide. I had to face people, talk to people, I had to keep going and I did it. The exercise became a drug. My first flat tire really bummed me out. My 10th flat tire was just part of my day. No big deal. That hill is not in my way it is the way. Remember boys and girls, he who peddles up the hill gets to coast down the other side. One of the great rewards of bicycle travel.
How do you train for a cross country ride? I believe it’s more mental than physical. The ride will physically train you as you go. It did for me. My first day out last year was 50 miles up the coast, I thought I was going to die. Oh, the pain I was in. One week later my longest day of the trip was138 miles and it was fun. The mental side of the trip was much more challenging and that’s my reasoning for a second trip. I need to get out of my comfort zone. I need that finish line. I need that sense of accomplishment
PTSD awareness adventure 2013 did not work out as planned that’s for sure but I am wondering if PTSD Awareness Adventure second attempt would be a success. I want to bicycle to some new destination to open a new book. I will not do as many formal presentations but instead do many more informal presentations. Talk to more civic/government groups. Talk with more organizations working with service dogs for vets. Talk to more people, and, above all, work on my anxiety. I have all the equipment I will need, and, in my opinion, some of the best equipment. Between the equipment from the first bicycle trip and the equipment I acquired for the kayak trip, Scrubs and I are set. We do need a new gopro camera. (Hint Hint). We will fully embrace bicycle travel and what it has to offer such as warmshowers.org and other great bicycle touring recources. Now the hard part is to try and convince others I can do this after the disappointing kayak trip.
I have learned from other blogs, and a lot from the school of hard knocks: the ups and downs , the dos and do nots of bicycle travel, how to find places to stay, (shower) how much food and water to Carry and the proper way to eat. Yes, what you eat and drink is definitely not the same. The transition of living out of a bicycle took about 2 weeks or so when everything I was carrying finally found a permant place on the bike. Loading, unloading, flat tire changes all became second nature. The mental and physical challanges of where I would sleep at night,
Pig Barn Home away from home
rest area, woods, side of the road, old gold mine, pig barn at the fair grounds, a really old route 66 motel.
Route 66 Motel room $22.00 a night
someone’s backyard or guest room, hotel. Penthouse apartment in Manhattan, hot springs miles from anyone 9,000 feet up in the New Mexico mountains were some of the finest thoughts I would have during the trip. It was definitely not easy doing it every night but it was fun. So many people travel with reservations and such. My bed for the night planning started when I got up and ended when I found the place I knew nothing about and I called it home. Living in the moment became a way of life. I started thinking what I could do right then and there to solve my problem and that’s what I would work on. Is it the place I will camp In front of me, the rain above me, the flat tire below me, the divorce I am trying to get over, or the 20th dog biting at my heels that brings that burst of energy laced with adrenalin that I need? I was not safe in my house, I was solving problems on my own. I so need another dose of living in the moment, that sense of accomplishment from getting out of my tent and riding and learning patience, having to wait, working hard to see the next state welcome sign. So far, exercise seems to be the best drug for my anxiety. This bicycle trip raising awareness about PTSD is important to me on so many levels.
Thomas Skinner UnderstandingPTSD Illinois
The last bicycle trip I thought was a failure when I finished. I was back home again. I remember the disappointment when I knew I wasn’t better. I had convinced myself the finish line at the national center for PTSD was going to be my cure for PTSD, but it wasn’t, or so I thought. What took me 15 months to realize and someone else I know feeling the same way after recently completing a big accomplishment was I really did get better, much better, in fact. I can do my presentation without crying, I can talk about PTSD, my stories don’t bother me as much as they once did. I realize that’s all I focused on and I got better. The symptoms I ignored stayed with me. Let me explain. I did not work at socializing. Most of the time I stayed by myself. I don’t want to make this trip about the finish line, I want to make it about living outside of my comfort zone or about making everything my comfort zone. Either way ! have work to do.
I have spent weeks working on this blog. Writing, adding and deleting. This text is when I knew I had an ending to this blog. Funny thing is, my friend was at a seminar in Texas on PTSD when we sent these texts.