My PTSD is not your PTSD.

All I mean by that is that PTSD is different for everyone who suffers from it. There isn’t a PTSD cookie cutter that makes it easily identifiable or treatable. My therapists tell me that all of the time. Each approach is different.

I did two tours in Iraq. The first in early 2003 to mid 2004 and the second from 2007 to 2008. About 30 months total. My first tour I did my job. I was a combat engineer. Think infantry with explosives. We did spend an inordinate amount of time in trucks though. My second tour was all volunteer. We were a security forces company made up of Soldiers from every unit in the State. That’s perhaps enough detail.

My first tour was much more combat oriented than my second. My squad and I were in several engagements. I dealt with it. I was trained for that. I did my job. There were things going on that were building issues within me but I suppressed them. Just like most people do. I was fine. I had nightmares. Headaches. I was on edge. Who cared?

My second tour was interesting. Convoy security. Missions of our size and scope were usually led by officers. The other convoy security companies were all led by officers. We had a lot of responsibility. Missions were generally dull. Unfortunately we had toxic leadership. The culture in our unit was screwed up. Games were played. Even I find myself apologizing to my Soldiers for that time. Things happened. It opened the flood gates.

My first therapist explained that we all have a mental cup and it can only hold so much. We all have the ability to deal with life’s challenges, as long as it stays within our cup. My second tour overflowed my cup. Once it starts overflowing, it doesn’t matter if there were things you could previously handle. Now you can’t.

So here I am. I have PTSD. I have serious anger issues. Depression. Anxiety. I isolate myself. I don’t trust people. I can be violent. I can go on and on. Each sufferer is different. As I mentioned previously, I’ve been to a few Wounded Warrior Project trips. I have a hard time with these. Therapists say that vets like to hang out with their own kind because they understand. Nope. I typically hate being around other vets. I absolutely hate hearing their BS stories. I shut down. We go to meetings and they think I’m a dick. I’m the ornery guy in the corner. It takes awhile to crack that shell and even then, it’s on my terms.

On my last WWP outing, the guy leading the discussion had the audacity to mention that PTSD isn’t permanent. Really? So please tell me why the VA rates my PTSD as “permanent and total”. Their exact rating. I’m so far gone that there isn’t any hope. Yes, for all those therapists out there, I’m talking in absolutes. That’s a big no no. I unfortunately understand the nuances of therapy, I’ve been doing it long enough. I know all of the buttons to push.

My rational brain knows that I can be fixed. That there may still be time. My PTSD brain overrides all of that. That’s probably the biggest symptom. You give up. There’s no hope. You only see and feel negative. Why try? And of course these are the thoughts that compound each other until the only way out is suicide. Everything can be perfect but I don’t see it. I can’t. I have these thoughts daily. Yep. Daily. Some days are worse than others.

I am desperate to make it stop.

I was wondering how this would start.

Here we are. I’m honestly not sure where that is. I’ve spent a lot of time in my head, planning out the things I’d like to say and how I’d like to say them. This is not going to go as planned. That’s a given.

Does everyone start a blog this way? By saying they are not going to do it well or trying to apologize in advance? I don’t want to be that person so that’s the end of that.

I’m not a writer. I have no aspirations to be one. I have a tendency to be very short and matter of fact in my writing. I can blame that on the Army. I blame most things on the Army. I seem to offend people when I write. I blame that on them. That, and I’m not generally a nice person. Don’t be offended. Or, do. I don’t care. If you know me, you may be shocked by some things you read here. I may not be the person you always thought I was. That just means you didn’t know me as well as you thought you did. If you don’t know me, well. Hi. Give me a chance here and we may all get to know each other better.

The reason I’m doing this. That’s the million dollar question isn’t it? Why does anyone blog anymore. No question mark after that one because it isn’t really a question, because I don’t care about the answer. I’m blogging because I’ll need an outlet. I need to rediscover myself and I thought that writing about it would really help me out. Yes, I’m sharing this publicly but that’s really a byproduct of everything. I need this. You don’t, but it may be informative. For us all.

I’m 41 years old. I have been happily married for almost 20 years and I have 5 great, well behaved, responsible kids. I own my own home in rural SW Utah. We have 3 cars, a camp trailer, 2 dogs, 3 cats and 6 chickens. I retired almost 2 years ago at 39. It all sounds idyllic doesn’t it?

Here’s where I drop the other shoe. Be patient with me here. I am not ready to lay it all out there and there’s no guarantee that I ever will.

I was in the Army National Guard for 21 years. Almost 15 of those years were on Active duty. I spent almost 30 total months over 2 deployments to Iraq.

Blah blah blah.

I have severe PTSD and suffered from 2 TBI’s.

I have been seeing counselors (yes, plural. I’ll come back to that) since 2009. In 2015 I tried for the second time to take my own life. It’s hard to understand how anyone with an outwardly perfect life could ever be so depressed or overwhelmed with life to want to take their own. Trust me, it’s possible. After my attempt I was locked up in a mental rehab clinic for about a month. They won’t let you out until you’re better. Well, I’m pretty good at manipulating people and and over the years I’ve become very good at hiding symptoms. So, I did it again. I pretended to be better and they let me out. A week later the VA locked me up for 4 days after a third attempt. No treatment, no counseling and almost no food. Not even a change of clothing. After 4 days they just let me out.

While all of this was going on, the Army began processing me out for mental health reasons. A process that took over a year.

I am now so far down the rabbit hole that I am actually not legally allowed to work. Probably a good thing.

It sure makes it hard to take care of your family though and that creates a lot of stress.

My stress relief has always been cycling. Yes, like a bicycle. More specifically, mountain biking. I love every type of cycling but being out in nature, on a bicycle, has always been my favorite therapy. My recent life has revolved around cycling. I help a buddy with his guiding business. I am a trail maintenance coordinator for a local trails chapter. I have been heavily involved in high school mountain bike teams. The problem is, it kind of makes me a one trick pony and recently, it just hasn’t been helping as much as it used to.

My most recent therapist has suggested I try other things. Branch out a bit.

Last year I tried gardening. I like it but…nope. I’ve tried events with the Wounded Warrior Project where they help you try new things. So far nothing has scratched the itch.

My dad is awesome. A year ago he called my four brothers and I and told us that he was renting Harley’s for all of us and we were doing a four day trip near Yellowstone NP. I had never ridden a street bike before. I didn’t even have my motorcycle license. I got all that taken care of and we were off. Over the next four days I was able to relax and enjoy myself like I never had before. It was life changing.

I’m not a people person. I don’t like talking with people I don’t know or share interests with. Being on a motorcycle was perfect. I could be in a group, interacting with people but not really. I was able to really spend a lot of time in my head, figuring things out. All while enjoying scenery that was spectacular and relaxing. It was a win win.

The problem? Motorcycles are expensive! It has taken me a year to be able to afford the one I’m on. We figured it out and made it happen. In the two months I’ve owned it, I’ve already put 5,000 miles on it. And I’ve made plans. Big plans.

Which I guess brings us full circle as to why I’m blogging this.

I’m leaving on May 25th for what should be an epic trip around the United States. By myself. Two months to figure things out. Or not. I’m hopeful.

I’ll be writing down my thoughts and feelings as I go. What’s helping and what isn’t. I’m open to comments and feedback, as long as it helps. I’ll also post pictures and ride reports just to keep it interesting.

Here’s to a new beginning.