On Stress Addiction

There’s a real strength that comes from knowing your own limits (or, in some cases, seeming lack of limits). I’m writing specifically from the veteran’s viewpoint, but the concept applies to anyone who has consistently overcome obstacles they didn’t think they’d be able to overcome.

It’s easy enough to accomplish the impossible when the choice is taken from you.

In the instance of service, there is rarely ever a choice. Service-members are faced with terrifying obstacles from the time they join – from entering a tear gas chamber for the first time to entering a battle for the first time – and presumably anyone reading this who relates has survived those challenging obstacles and gained the confidence that comes along with it.

Something else comes along with it, too.

“Overcoming the odds” is an addictive accomplishment that can leave us feeling like we’re failing when life finally settles down. The feeling of “I can handle more than this” can often be replaced with “I SHOULD be handling more than this,” and we can easily become addicted to living on the edge of burnout – or worse, on the edge of life and death. There’s a healthy way to process that feeling, and a plethora of unhealthy ones.

I once wrote that “Duty is when idealism must be suppressed in favor of rationality,” but the idealist must eventually come to terms with their emotions once more, and eventually you WILL be presented with choices (for some, this prospect seems far into the future). As someone who is trained to handle the impossible, choosing not to add too much to your plate is sometimes difficult. So make sure the things you add are PROductive and not DEstructive.

Go to school. Buy a house. Get a hobby. Play music. Work two jobs and pay off debt. Help others! (Seriously, no matter how much you’re doing, you’ll eventually feel like there’s no point to any of it if it only benefits you). Get into art. Study. Read. Workout.

The other option is to become addicted to TRAUMA rather than STRESS. I’ve been there and done it, but sometimes it’s like we’re tempted to build a checklist of things that are stacked against us in order to validate (to ourselves or others) what we’ve overcome. It’s important to realize that the world isn’t set out to hurt you. You aren’t cursed to a life of pain. There are a lot of tools and resources out there for you to use your resilience in a positive way, but don’t get set on being in pain just so you can overcome it.

As survivors, we need to be aware of this phenomenon. All this said, I’ll be closing on a house at the end of the month (as many of you know), and have decided to return to school full time in addition to working. I’m very excited to see what I can learn from history, and to delve once more into the humanities.

Let others celebrate your victories with you, not just the trauma you’ve overcome.

More to follow, as always.

-TQV

Why the Interlude

Greetings, friends.

As many of you know, mine is not a “personal” blog. While I write memoir for philosophical purposes on occasion, my primary mission in writing is to help people who “live on the edge” because of their mental health struggles, so I rarely post updates that are exclusively personal. In this case, I’m making an exception:

I wanted to post a brief explanation for why I haven’t written much this week and why my posts may be intermittent for this entire month:

I’ve taken yet another foray into home ownership. Hopefully this is the last time for a good decade or so. This will be my 4th home purchase (with three sales) and my seventh move in eight years. I should do a post about how living in high stress environments is addictive and tends to make you take more risks than you did before, but I’ll have to save that one for another time.

As many of you know, home buying is pretty stressful stuff and nothing ever goes as planned. BUT – I’m very thankful that my wife and I will have the lovely place below to call our home.

While dealing with the home purchase, we also added another member to our family – Lady will hopefully enjoy the fenced in back yard pictured above.

So – steady progress toward our long term goals, but it means taking a brief hiatus from writing so much.

Can’t wait to get back in touch with ya’ll! Keep us in your thoughts until then!

-TQV

Working Class Economics

My thoughts for the day(cade). I’m about over this running in place thing. I’m always strategizing about how to live authentically but also break away from institutional control. Financial independence is the Millennial American Dream – not a house we can’t afford or a truck that shows how in debt we are. I think my generation largely just wants to live a simpler life – and many of us are BUSTING IT to make that happen.

More Ideas for Managing Abnormal Stress Levels (Don’t Pull the Trigger!)

On June 11th, I posted a blog about managing abnormal stress levels. Several folks reached out to me and said that they found it helpful, so I’ve thought of a few new ways that I manage stress and wanted to share them as well. You can check out the first blog, here.

One of the key points in the first blog was recognizing how helpful reading and studying can be in managing stress and mental battles, and I decided to expound on that with my June 20th article titled, “Four Books to Pull You Back From The Brink.” I KNOW those books will help you if you invest the time in them.

Well, I’ve since implemented some new stress control methods in my life and I wanted to continue adding tools to peoples’ kits – so you can read them below:

  1. Spend time in the outdoors. Amanda (My Wife) and I actually have an entirely separate blog on this (The Gypsy and The Bard), and I can’t believe I forgot to mention it during my first edition of this post. Spending time outside in whatever way you prefer is a great way to manage stress. Combine this with the reading suggestion and go read the work of the transcendentalists while relaxing by a private waterfall. It’s sure to restore some energy to your life. You can also incorporate my next tip into this one!
  2. Get an animal. While I always caution against projecting toward humans (IE: Savior Searching), it’s perfectly acceptable to project toward a sweet pupper or other animal. They’re much less likely to disappoint, and you can search for one who has the temperament you need. I just got a little curr, who his gentle enough for my child, but also playful enough for me.
  3. Play an RPG. Don’t knock it til you try it! Playing an RPG, particularly an MMO, is a great way to disconnect from the stresses of your day and unwind a bit. It’s even better if you have friends who will join you. It’s a great way to socialize while also staying away from people – just be sure not to get sucked too far into the cyber realms! As with all things, balance is key.
  4. Blog! Obviously all of you are already doing this, but blogging has really been a great way for me to connect to new people and ideas, and find people who support my own. Thanks for what ya’ll do!

That’s all I have time for today, but I hope some of those tips help! Let me know if they do or if you have any others. Resilience and defiance are how we overcome adversity, but it doesn’t hurt to have a few tricks for managing stress along the way.

More to come, as always.

-TQV

Four Books to Pull You Back from the Brink

I’m keeping it simple in today’s post: here are four books that can help pull you back from the brink.

  1. Many Lives, Many Masters” by Brian Weiss: If you can stomach Eastern Ideology (Which I personally love and connect to more than Western Ideology), this book can really help you find peace about the meaning of life. It’s about a therapist who uses hypnotic regression to help people overcome trauma. He begins to notice a pattern that some people regress to what appear to be previous lives. Over the course of the book, he learns that the more stubborn we are about learning particular lessons throughout our lives, the more difficult progress can become. He even gets some prophetic advice and tells us about why we connect to certain individuals more than others. Just read it, you won’t regret it. Most people I recommend it to read it in one sitting.
  2. Please Understand Me II” By David Keirsey: This book begins with a Myers Briggs personality test, and then deep dives into each personality type, why you process information and feel the way that you do, and how you interact with others because of SCIENCE. It’s very validating to read and helps with self-awareness. Highly recommended to anyone having relationship and communication stress.
  3. The Alchemist” By Paulo Coelho: The only fiction work on my list, this book is sometimes scoffed at by intellectuals (but only because they aren’t intellectual enough to understand it.) This book has won multiple awards, been translated into multiple languages, and helped thousands of people find peace. Follow the journey of a young Shepherd who travels across the world seeking wisdom and ultimately finds peace in an unexpected place. You can read this book time and again and it never gets old – it’s wisdom shared through allegory, and should sit on every poet’s shelf.
  4. Quiet – The Power of Introverts In a World That Can’t Stop Talking” By Susan Cain: If you feel disconnected from a complacent world, and are exhausted by nonsensical falsities and surface level conversation, read about how you can empower yourself to change the world using your natural strengths. Susan Cain literally started a cultural revolution dedicated to the empowerment of introverts; you only need to look at the name of my blog to see how influential her work was for me. A True Visionary who has my honest and utmost respect.

If you don’t feel better after reading those, check out my other blogs on mental and spiritual wholeness, like this one, which gives practical advice for managing stress.

More to come, much love,

-TQV

You Can’t Regulate Suicide Prevention – Here’s What You CAN Do

As a prior enlisted Sailor, I have a way of stating things in a straight forward manner…This article was very nearly entitled, “Let’s Put the “I” Back in Suicide,” but I thought that might be a bit much for a lot of folks.

This is obviously a complicated topic to address, as made obvious by the fact that hundreds of people who are a lot more intelligent and qualified than I am have been attempting to address it for quite some time (and much to no avail). I’d ask that any influencers reading along try to bear with me and see the value-added despite any choppiness. I’m also not claiming to have a 100% solution, because, as we will discuss below…there IS no 100% solution. First, I want to make a couple of broader points that apply to both a person contemplating suicide, and to a person they might approach for help:

  1. We (as leaders, family members, and friends) have ZERO control over the actions of other humans. Society is largely built on the illusion of control, and that illusion is primarily carried by “the fear of consequence”. Think about any establishment or order and there’s bound to be some consequence that holds it all together. (If you aren’t saved, you’re going to hell. If you break the law, you’ll serve time. Disobey an order, you’ll lose a rank. Cheat on your spouse, they’ll leave you.) When a person gets to the point of seriously considering suicide, it means they’ve become apathetic toward a world of consequence. There’s no questioning it: if a person makes that call, it’s their own, deeply personal decision to make. Take your own moral compass and emotions out of it. It doesn’t matter if you think they’re being selfish. It doesn’t matter if the shock wave effects everyone or if someone else has to fill their boots during the upcoming deployment cycle. Those are all valid points, but none counteract that only an individual can decide whether or not to end their own life. In fact, of the folks who contemplate or commit suicide, many do so because they feel they’ve lost control and are making the one decision that ONLY they have control over. This point is critical to all of my later points. What they really need is a reason (sometimes even the tiniest hint of a reason) to choose to live.
  2. THE SAME EMOTIONS THAT CAUSE SUICIDE CAN PREVENT US FROM HELPING TO OVERCOME IT: Fear, Guilt, Shame, Loneliness, and (bet you didn’t think this one was gonna be on this list) Loyalty. I’ll further explore this idea below.

While the use of policy to address suicide prevention no doubt stems from the best of intentions, we have all seen the result of that effort. Military personnel all the way up and down the chain, veterans, medics, firemen, police officers, and even children are still choosing death at alarming rates. The more I develop my mission in the world, the more people reach out to me as someone who can help. I am deeply honored (seriously) to help however I can by offering actual solutions, but I also have to share the lessons and patterns I’ve observed with others who WANT to help, but are doing so the wrong way.

The first thing I generally hear from people who reach out to me from the brink is this: “Dude, seriously, please don’t call the cops.” Or, “Bro, seriously, don’t call my Senior Enlisted Leader.” They expect us to call someone else because they sense our fear of failing them.

Everyone is afraid to feel responsible for another person’s suicide.

There’s no easy answer to why life is so difficult, so it’s difficult to be confident that you can be the one to stop them from pulling the trigger. Going back to point number one though, that simply isn’t your decision to make – it’s not your decision, and therefore, it is not your responsibility. Preventing suicide is not about being anyone’s savior, it’s about helping them find the answer to their desperation within themselves. It’s not that you shouldn’t care, but you MUST accept the fact that they are going to make the call one way or another. You have to be tough (but very gentle) in your love. Allow them to be free and expressive, but don’t allow them to manipulate you. Offer unconditional love, and offer acceptance of who they are…offer support of their dreams for life, and tell them you hope they don’t choose to end their lives, but don’t beg or plead, and don’t feel like you need to pass the responsibility off to someone who is a virtual stranger to them.

People are still afraid to reach out because of professional consequences and because of their own reputation. They hold their careers and the outside perception of who they are in a higher regard than they do their own lives. This is a cultural problem. So many of the people who have reached out to me have told me how stupid they feel for reaching out because “You’re younger than me,” or because “I’m a damned CPO,” or because “I haven’t been through what you’ve been through.” Guilt, shame, and fear prevent communication and cause suicide. I don’t think that’s really news to most people. One relevant emotion I hadn’t acknowledged until recently though, either in my own journey or in my experience helping others, is LOYALTY. Loyalty has a HUGE part to play in military suicide – in all suicides, really. People on the brink don’t want to put “the weight of their demons” onto “someone who has enough to deal with already.” They don’t want to fail their units by not being deployable. And they don’t want to turn to someone who they haven’t already established loyalty with. (Enter “TQV” – it isn’t about saving, it’s about empowering through an attitude of resilience and defiance. It’s about cultural revolution.)

Your Commanding Officer doesn’t want to talk to the CMC about his mental health problems any more than your E-3 does. It doesn’t matter how “good” the CMC is, people want to talk to someone who genuinely cares about them and understands where they’re at (Granted a CMC could do both of those, and most CMC’s would genuinely want to help as evidenced by their decades of service…but think about it from the perspective of the E3 or the CO.) What it takes is a strong team dynamic which is reinforced by personal resilience. Combine that with actual solutions to dealing with high stress situations, and a kindred spirit to discuss spiritual and mental health matters with without having to tiptoe on ice for fear you’ll offend them, and we’ll be well on our way toward reducing those problem statistics.

In short, sending service members to mandatory and redundant annual training is not going to prevent them from committing suicide. What it WILL do is cause service members to feel responsible for the decision of a grown ass person who chooses to end their own life. They’ll think they missed signs that may not have existed, or that they should’ve done more. When approached, they won’t feel empowered to support their peers, they’ll feel obligated to pass them up the chain and further complicate their lives by publicizing what should be an inner-circle issue. Stop pretending that everyone doesn’t go through it. Stop trying to regulate the human experience. Most of all, trust yourself to be the pillar of support a person needs as THEY make a crucial decision about their own future.

Much more to come, as always.

-TQV

Selling my passion project (not to you guys)

Morning guys. I paid five dollars to post this on Craiglist and I’m slightly conflicted about it, so I figured I’d share it here too.

I loved working on my jeep and it helped me through some tough mental times. Grease is great therapy! But I eventually want to write full time and it’s time for me and the wife to get some property, so balanced decisions had to be made. Take a look at the link and the photos to see what I did to the jeep while she was in my hands. There’s also a picture of my beautiful youngling in one.

https://knoxville.craigslist.org/cto/d/harriman-1996-jeep-xj-inline-six/6911774911.html

Have you ever had a mental health project? Share a link in the comments!