This year started off looking like it might go much the same way the last several went.
Dealing with PTSD symptoms, dealing with physical disabilities brought about by my long career as an infantryman, dealing with the bureaucracy and red tape with Veteran's Affairs was exhausting and debilitating.
On top of that, at the time I was trying to assist in the advocacy of some Veteran's issues, and other key social/politic issues I have strong feelings about.
On top of that I was bound and determined I was going to be working full time as a small business owner trying to build a clientele in the financial services sector.
Then on top of that trying to be a husband for my wife, and a Dad to our two boys (one of whom lives half the country away doing a job he loves.).
All of that was less than helpful. Two serious mistakes on my part involving some very powerful medications within a few weeks of each other scared the absolute shit out of me. Another downward spiral started and this went dark in a hurry.
My pride took some serious hits from all of that. I was a failure, and had let my family down.
A long meeting with both my psychologist and psychiatrist did not help. The pride took another severe beating and that hole got a bit deeper. They basically said that I was not mentally or physically capable of working at all. That start's a whole new process with Veteran's Affairs.
Visits by a Nurse and an Occupational Therapist to my house didn't help. I turn 47 in a few days and I need a cane to help me walk in some situations. I have had a pole installed to make it easier to get in an out of the shower. Even better I have a shower chair, nice but again a hit to the old pride.
An endless cocktail of medications: anti-psychotics, anti-depressants, pills to take away nightmares I didn't know I was having, sleeping pills (FDA recommends no more than 7 days at a time - I haven't missed a day in 8 years), anti-inflammatory meds to combat side effects of other drugs, stomach pills to combat the damage done by the anti-inflammatories.
None of that helped me get out of the hole that I was in.
I was sent for psycho-vocational testing - this felt more like an aptitude test. That was followed by a physical evaluation which did not go well at all. The facilitator seemed put out when I told her that I would not be able to physically squat down, pick up a box, put said box on a three foot high shelf. Then return the box to the floor for a total of 10 times. Considering that I couldn't finish the previous test of walking laps for 6 minutes...I was able to complete a whole 1 min 20 sec of that.
The whole time, my wife has been there propping me and keeping me in the fight. Over the last twelve months we have been able to spend a ton of quality time together. Spending time discussing plans for yard work and renovations we want to get done. Binge watching "Supernatural" together.
I am 100% certain that was the first of my steps on the climb out that hole.
Around the same time, I slowly stepped back from certain activities on social media. I don't have the desire, or the energy required to be a full time activist on issue that matter to me, especially veteran's issues. The hate, vitriol and absolute garbage that are found social media (most notably Facebook and Twitter) do nothing but fuel those same energies and emotions in a reader. Especially someone like me.
Leaving groups, unfollowing or unfriending certain people helped me up a few more rungs on that escape ladder.
Veteran's Affairs came through with a few favorable decisions after very long waits, which opened some other benefits - both direct financial benefits and some other programs. This was like lifting the weight of the world from my shoulders. I could see the difference it made in the my wife's eyes. I almost recognized myself.
That has given me the time to really focus on myself in a way I haven't been able to for, I'd say a decade. I could see that some of my personality traits that my supervisors liked, where largely stuck points because of me. Standards that I had for myself that didn't apply anymore. Mostly my work ethic. The military ingrained one speed into me - full speed, done the right way, the first time.
I now know that isn't necessary all the time, or even more of the time. Once I realized that, there was a significant change in my mood - for the positive. A few more steps up that ladder.
Then a little over a month ago, I had the pleasure in taking part in the filming of a series of webinars geared at Veterans, active Military, Police, Fire, and EMS with mental resilience and suicide prevention for WARRIORS. Something in that day of discussions flipped a switch.
When your spouse of almost 24 years notices an improvement than there is something happening.
2018 was a rough and bumpy road for a multitude of reasons, but it ending on what I consider a high note and trending up. I am definitely not out of that hole yet, and I know there will be speed bumps.
I have a strong feeling that they will only be speed bumps, and 2019 is going to be an even better year.