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.
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!
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 King James Version (KJV)
The above scripture has always been one of my favorite pieces of literature, and sets well the tone for today’s post. Recently, I was asked by a dear friend, “Damn, man. How do you deal with so much stress?”
As usual, I think the only way to answer the question properly is to “cut the bullshit”. I’m not going to describe everything I’ve been through in my life in this post – I’m writing a full-length book which describes my life and the lessons I’ve learned from it. Instead, let’s use the following as a baseline: You’ve been through something beyond the ordinary, which has invoked the darkest of emotions. You’re so desperate for a break from all the world’s noise that, inwardly, you begin to contemplate whether it’s worth it to carry on. You want to leave the world, but obviously there’s a lot of conflict associated with that decision. You’ve made it past the fear of death and the moral conflict because you’re just too tired to care about that, but there’s still something holding you back from ending your life. Guilt? Honor? A thread of hope that there might be something more to life? Your spouse? Your children? Regardless of what it is – there’s something giving you pause.
How do you manage that level of stress?
Well, first of all, I will state plainly that I lived a very large portion of my life in that state, and ultimately people who are “on the edge” are the truest version of my intended audience as a writer. You can read more about my purpose concerning mental health, here. I spent well over a decade in the conflicted place described above, and if nothing else I did learn to manage it very well. Nobody knew that I was struggling. They all thought I was one of the nicest people they’d ever met, and lighthearted. My burdens were my own (mistake number one, by the way). Anyway, I thought it was high time to compile a list of strategies that might help people who are on the edge in the short-term until I can complete my larger work, which I hope will provide more long-term solutions. So – I hope the below tips will help.
Compartmentalize in a healthy way. We can’t just tuck everything away and not think about it until we explode. That is not healthy compartmentalization. But what you CAN do is to process trauma or pain in doses. You simply hold whatever is hurting you on the edge of your consciousness. You acknowledge that it is there and you acknowledge how you’re feeling, but you don’t let it overwhelm you. This is about focus, mental discipline, and self-control. When you’re in a place that dark you can actually practice this through meditation. Close your eyes, and let whatever feeling makes you panic ALMOST overwhelm you. And then push it back. Continue this process until you know how much you can allow yourself to process before it becomes white noise that you’re desperate to escape. Focus on processing the pain slowly without getting to that point. Don’t suppress, just digest slowly. (In my own mind, I have called this process “funneling.” You can’t just continue to absorb emotion indefinitely. You have to breath it in and breath it out. Let it go and accept it in a balanced way.)
Focus onsolutions. Most people who get to the point of contemplating death are doing so because they are dissatisfied with life. Meaning there’s an actual reason – it’s not just some chemical imbalance. So…Why are you dissatisfied with life? That might not always be an easy question to answer, and SOLVING the problem might be even tougher. But most consequences we perceive that come from solving our dissatisfaction are far less grave than death. If you need to get out of an unhealthy relationship, forgive yourself, or escape a life controlled by debt, there are ways to do all of those things. Come up with a strategy. Ask a friend. Focus on the solution.
READ. I’m dead-ass serious. For nearly a decade I struggled with overwhelming emotions without ever doing this, and one of the greatest breakthroughs I made was that studying can absolutely help process trauma. The fact that people from different cultures even within American use synonyms to describe similar ailments or ideas is a theme in my writing, and whether you refer to them as “demons,” or “mental illnesses,” or “struggles,” or any variation, I think most of us can agree that wanting to die is some sort of illness associated with the mind or spirit. Studying meditation, spirituality, or even reading fiction works (FANTASY!!!) can DEFINITELY help us to elevate and heal our minds and souls.
Live authentically and use your inner voice. For the longest time I was addicted to thinking I was alone in the world. “Nobody understood me.” Well, no shit, Sherlock! When you don’t tell anyone how you’re feeling, you can’t really expect them to know telepathically. Have at least one person in your life that you can tell ANYTHING to. Whether in person or in writing. Be honest with yourself and others and you’ll find the people who you were meant to live life with.
Sleep!!!! Seriously, if you feel like you should die but haven’t slept 8 hours straight for as long as you can remember, start here. Go to bed.
Be careful of projecting and of BAD habits. Real peace comes from within. It’s tempting to hope someone or something will solve all of your problems, and it’s good to find help, but this “on the edge” moment is not a good time for drinking, fighting, smoking, etc. Be careful of how much you “need” other people, but don’t be scared to lean on support networks. Contrarily to detrimental habits, it could be the PERFECT time to start a GOOD habit: working out, mechanics (get a project, like my 96′ Jeep XJ!), or (my personal favorite) writing.
I hope that a couple of those are helpful for anyone who needs them in the short-term. I’ll write more as time allows and I’m trying my best to finish my book for everyone.
I recently shared some of my progress in playing Native American flute, and people really seemed to enjoy it. I thought you guys might also enjoy some of my lyrical writing. I have a lot of original songs on my Youtube Channel – music can be a great healer. Work is keeping me really busy this week, so I thought I’d share some of my historic work. (As a blogging note, using historic work of many kinds seems to be a great way to maintain consistency and reach new followers. It’s hard not to seem rushed sometimes, but most of us are busy and I’ve found my readers to be very understanding and still appreciate the opportunity to be inspired and contemplate new ideas.)
I’m not really a great guitarist by any means, but I do enjoy the instrument very much.
My blog is all about overcoming adversity, and music is a great way to do that.
Despite the fact that I’ve been writing for over a decade and a half, I’m still relatively new to leveraging social media in the endeavor. Doing so involves understanding how to communicate with the human collective, rather than with a single person or small group like most of us are accustomed to. The good news is that, once I get people to the point of reading my articles, they have generally found them impactful or at least moderately entertaining. The bad news?
The bad news is what it takes to get them there.
My most successful article thus far (mind you that I’m still working on a relatively small scale) was entitled, “Terrorist Generosity Gave me PTSD.” Doesn’t that seem a bit…provocative? Well, that’s the crux of my position.
In our world of extremes, people expect to be offended (or to defend an idea that others would find offensive) before they are willing to engage in discourse.
It can be seen all around us, in every facet of life. An author can’t write about religion without either attacking it or accepting it wholeheartedly. You’re either defending atheism or attempting to prove that God absolutely exists. You can’t write about politics without incorporating images of dead fetuses (on the conservative side), or of young immigrants in tears (on the liberal side). In addressing generational gaps, it’s always either a “lazy millennial” or a “close-minded baby-boomer.”
What happened to the 80 percent of people in the middle – the ones capable of having a reasonable conversation without resorting to violent rhetoric and posturing? How have we let the outliers become our socially acceptable norm, and how to we return to a world of reason?
The challenge is this: authors make money when people read their work. They make more when people engage, comment, and share. Culturally, we now HAVE to use provocative language in order to coax complacent people to simply click the hyperlink.
So, how do we fix it?
As journalists, writers, and others who sort of “steer” human culture, we have to learn to use extreme language to coax people back toward reasonable thought. We have to provoke them toward acceptance, and anger them toward open-mindedness. It’s the ultimate challenge in persuasive writing.
“Terrorist Generosity Gave me PTSD” was really just an article about learning to accept the situation, culture, and beliefs of people who are different than we are, but the title stung enough to make a few people who didn’t give a shit about me feel the urge to click. And once they clicked, they were in my world. I could use powerful imagery and wordsmithing to coax them toward a thought they, perhaps, hadn’t considered before. I could weave a story that would lead them into considering the root of one of our world’s major problems.
Any thoughts from other “Guides of the Human Terrain” would be most appreciated.
People are still reasonable. We just have to remind them how to communicate reasonably, and that’s a multi-generational endeavor.
Hey guys and gals – I know there are a lot of super talented folks in my network at this point, and many who aren’t in my network yet.
For those in my network – post a piece that you’d like some extra visibility on, and I’ll share a few that align with my “mission” as time allows. For folks both in my network or outside of it, write a brief description of what your blog offers readers. I’ll be sure to take a look at it and I hope many of my friends will as well. I’m hoping to give back a little and share some of the inspiration ya’ll give me. Simple as that! I think I’ll do this monthly.
Today is the first opportunity I have to express thanks to those reading along so far – I hit my first small milestone as a blogger in reaching fifty followers. If you’re new to my blog, I post “think pieces” fairly regularly, with topics ranging from mental health and self-betterment to philosophical and leadership ideologies. I also write poetry on occasion, and offer freelance editing and writing services. If you’re a seeker of wisdom and truth, I think that I can contribute to your journey while simultaneously learning FROM you, and would be honored to have you join my community. You can read “the crux” of what I do, here.
I also love to help like minded people, and in the spirit of that, would like to congratulate a like minded blogger, Peter, on achieving the same milestone (on the same day!). He’s a veteran and fellow philosopher who is articulate and thought provoking – if you read my stuff, I’d highly encourage you to take a look at his as well. As my community continues to grow, I hope to be able to aid the growth of others who write with intent of positively impacting the world.
Anyway, I wanted to say thank you for the validation of my writing thus far, and for the impact each of you have had on me with your own writing. I believe that a few strong writers can nudge the human collective toward compassion, acceptance, and contemplation, and aid one another in their journeys toward peace. And I’m stubborn enough to help that happen.
I typed in the name of my new website just now, so that I could begin sharing its intent.
As I did so, I felt a bit burnt out. More than that though, I felt the weight of conviction and a rebellious sense of purpose in a world that tells me I don’t have one, or that I can’t have one, or that I’m not qualified to achieve it. That I’m not qualified to achieve my purpose.
You see, I already know what my purpose is. Ever since I was a child, I’ve felt the strong urge to help others. To advocate for the broken, mistreated, or misunderstood. To heal them, show them how they should be treated, and to understand them. It’s all been inspired by my journey to to heal myself, to find those who treat me with kindness, or to find the people I can be understood by.
And they’re out there. You’re out there. It’s just such a complex problem to digest and address with a tone of victory.
The Quiet Visionary. Maybe I’m being too quiet – I’ve never been one to self promote, and I always feel like advocating for my own skills and purpose is too proud a thing to do. I think that a lot of people who can heal our world feel the same. But I couldn’t just start typing after I entered my web-address – there was another step before I got to my present screen. I had to click one more link.
And that’s what this is, right? My site. My blog. My space. My voice.
Mental health awareness is such a huge issue that almost everyone from almost every walk has to at least acknowledge it. Which one of you doesn’t know a person who has ended their life early, or tried to? Which one of you hasn’t thought about doing it yourself at some point, but refused because of faith, honor, love, or fear? How many more could be reading this if they hadn’t already lost that battle?
Fuck mental health awareness. We’re already aware of it.
The problem is that so many people who could honestly contribute to the healing of our country are held back from doing so by misconceptions that have existed for FAR too long. I’m held back from doing so. And that’s not a complaint or a pity party, it’s a challenge. So many people survive adversity and come out on the other side with a story to tell, only to be warned that they shouldn’t tell it.
It’s too private. It’s too shameful. It’s too real. You’re not educated enough. It’s too late to become educated enough – you have a family now. You have responsibilities and bills and all you can do is keep working your life away in a desperate grind to stay afloat.
Nah, man. It’s time to challenge that.
Every single day people are literally choosing to blow their brains out or hang themselves in their own “living” rooms because the way we are treating mental illness is NOT working. NARCAN is now available over the counter, because people choose to run to drugs where a more obvious solution is absent. Almost every veteran I meet has been diagnosed with PTSD, because our nation would rather throw money and mind-numbing drugs at problems than to see them properly addressed. Many within my own circle will judge the stance I’m taking because people should just “turn to God.” I believe that God gave us the tools to overcome adversity together, and it’s not always enough to just project the things that pain us into the sky and be freed of them.
Most of the people you engage with beyond the surface level are proud to share with you conditions which replace their own names in illustrating the adversity they’ve overcome. You’re not a person – you’re a person battling depression. You’re a person battling bulimia, anxiety, PTSD, or anorexia. You’re a person battling. As if anyone out there is not battling.
You’re so thankful when you finally find someone else who is battling the same disease that you are…perhaps they can understand you. Disease, when written regarding mental health, is a word created by other people to monetize issues that have been faced since the dawn of humanity. The truth? The truth is that mental diseases and spiritual brokenness are the same damned thing. Honestly, at this point – with suicide rates skyrocketed and diagnosis at an all-time high – what’s the harm in trying a different approach?
I may not have a master’s degree, or a doctorate (though I hope to find the means to add those tools to my kit), but I think I have an even more valuable tool. MY story. I can help the broken to heal, because I’ve healed from being broken.
Anyone who scoffs at this post or the language in it hasn’t been in the place I’m talking about. But SO many have. And SO many are still there, and hiding it. Military leaders. CEO’s. Waitresses and strippers and whores and soldiers and children and happily married men and women and preachers and teachers and cooks and druggies and the homeless population that we try SO hard not to see. None of them is more important to me than the rest, and none of them has less potential than another. They all just need an advocate. Someone to give them the time of day, an open ear that won’t judge and can offer advice based off of practical experience, not some text book.
That’s the crux of what America’s mental health issue is, and it’s also the key mission of The Quiet Visionary. People don’t need to pay hundreds of dollars an hour to a therapist who tells them only that they’re “intellectualizing their emotions” and lacks any hint of empathy or compassion. If that sounds like a story based on experience it’s because it IS. The one time I sought professional help, I found someone who was professionally disconnected from the world’s problems. Someone who lacked the experience to relate to the world’s darkness. People bound by a code of ethics that prevents true connection or understanding, people who seek to drag the broken into the light without understanding why they haven’t been there in the first place.
Humanity is not a shameful experience. Real answers do exist. Cut yourself some slack. Pain is not something to be hidden. It’s something to be shared that others might better avoid it.
I may not have a degree like they say I should. And now, well into adulthood with a wife and child of my own, I’ve found myself thus far incapable of dropping everything to return to school. Sure, education is a great enhancement for tools forged by hard experience. By what use is a tool adorned with jewels if it’s never been forged in fire and quenched into its most durable form?
Better a plain and humble sword that was made properly than a jeweled one made of softest metal.
I can help you climb out of the pit. I know the path. I’ve been there before. And I’m working so hard for you, behind the scenes. Processing my story into something digestible. Not something to cling to, but something to learn from. And not because I’m better than you or because I’ve been through more, but because it is simply my purpose to do so. To change the broken stigma of mental health “awareness,” and give folks who are in pain actual solutions to their problems.
But every advocate needs an advocate. Help me build my platform so I can help those who are in the dark to understand the darkness, and thus overcome it.
You will hear more from me. If you need help, reach out to me anytime. It doesn’t matter who you are or how we’re related. I see the world’s hidden pains. The only real solution is unconditional love. Whatever happened to unconditional love?