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Choices…… It really does comes down to a choice.

frankl

Viktor Frankl was a neurologist and psychiatrist of Jewish descent, who also survived the Holocaust.  The above quote is from his book Man’s Search for Meaning that talks about his life in the concentration camps of WWII and the impact it had on him. Let’s just say that it is without a doubt, a must-read book for anyone suffering from PTSD.  And, this little quote is the exact thing that I am going to expound upon in this post.

Over the past almost two years of therapy and self discovery I have come to accept that I am a Jungian when it comes to psychoanalytical beliefs and it is probably why I latched on to Frankl in the process.  For me, the ability and power to choose and/or make choices during my journey has been paramount.  Regardless of how shitty I felt or how strong the Itty Bitty Shitty committee in my head was trying to keep me down, I learned that I had a choice.  I could listen to the Committee or simply accept that my day is shitty and stay in bed, isolate myself and dive headfirst into the rabbit hole, or……….  I could make choice for something else.  And, believe me, it is really that simple.  Let me explain why.

Just over a year ago, I was taking part in a residential treatment program for PTSD called Project Trauma Support.  During one of the sharing sessions, I was hit hard with he realization that my PTSD was not the result of a single incident but was a collection of MANY situations.  I was devastated at this realization and I have told others that this was the lowest point in my journey because it was the moment, I understood just how fucked up my PTSD was.  I sat there after the session and cried and cried and cried.  I remember being asked what was the matter and I remember saying “I just realized how fucked up I am.” And I remember being asked by someone, to this day I do not know who, “So what are you going to do about it?”

There it is the question that led me to make a choice.  Do you want to stay “Fucked up” or do you want to move forward?  Do you like the darkness or do you want to get back to the light?  That’s it, that is how simply it is.  A choice to keep on wallowing away in misery or work towards something else.  So, I made a choice and haven’t looked back since.

I know.  You guys and gals are yelling out BULLSHIT on this.  PTSD has nothing to do with making a choice.  It’s not that simple.  You can’t simply decide that you don’t have PTSD anymore.  PTSD is an injury just like getting injured and becoming paralyzed, its not a choice.  Or my favourite, obviously your PTSD isn’t that bad if you think you can choice to be better (yes, someone actually made that comment).  But to all the nigh sayers I will respond with “No bullshit about, sit back and listen”.

Let me peel off the one common argument that being injured isn’t a choice nor is it what we signed up for when we joined the military or became a first responder.  I agree 100%, nobody chooses to get PTSD.   I think we can all agree that PTSD is an injury or illness or disorder that affects first responders and military more than anyone else.  But like any other injury, you have choices to make along the road to recovery.  Simple ones like taking meds, going to physio / rehab, eating healthy, taking care of yourself etc.  Choices to get better.  So no, the injury isn’t a choice but what we do with the injury is our choice.

I know what your thinking, what if the injury is something that you can’t get better from, then what.  Well, let’s talk about Christopher Reeves or Stephen Hawking.  Both were subjected to varying degrees of paralysis brought on by a) a traumatic event and b) a slow degenerative illness, yet both made clear and definitive CHOICES to move forward.  Being dependent on a wheelchair and or various forms of life sustaining treatment were not their choice to make but how they accepted their situation and using it to move forward was their choice.  Reeves went on to live the rest of his life as an advocate for spinal cord research and pushed for many of the advancements we see today in the regeneration of spinal cord injuries.  And Stephen Hawking, well what is there to say.  I am pretty sure everyone knowns what he ended up doing because he chose to move forward and not accept what was happening to him.  (and I mean the science stuff, not that fact that he starred in Big Band Theory.)

Hopefully, you are starting to see what I am getting at.  Yes, getting PTSD is not a choice any of us make nor would we wish it upon anyone.  However, how we use it to move forward is definitely our choice and something that we should be proud to own.  Even when we are at our lowest, we make choices everyday.  Just think of yourself in your journey.  Everyday, you make a choice to get out of bed, to have breakfast, to sit in front of the TV, to take your meds, etc.  Not all our choices are the move mountain types of choices at first, but they are definitely choices.  As the journey continues however, there comes a time when you begin to make those “move mountain” type choices.  This is when you decide that you no longer want to feel the way you do and you begin to make choices to move forward (yes, unfortunately, this is also the point when some people make a choice to end their suffering but I believe that there are other underlying issues that lead to this choice.  Maybe I will get into this at another time.)  But, choosing to remain on the positive track, this is when you choose to take the next step forward.

And yes, this is when you also begin to enter the fabled land of Post Traumatic Growth.  You chose to get a therapist or switch to a new one.  You chose to begin sharing with family and friends (one of the means of attacking stigma and moving away from suicide) that you have PTSD.  You chose to break your isolation.  You seek out peer support and you begin to live for the moment and dream of a future again.  It’s the effect of Growth and my choice to thrive in it that has led me to the understanding that I am grateful for my PTSD.  It has put me on a journey / path for my future, allowed me to met some of the strongest people I will ever know, learn so much about myself and the people I love and that I have the power to choose to move forward towards my dreams.

Making a CHOICE.  It really is simply a question asked, but it is the hardest question that you must answer.  By no means do I have this perfected.  I still make bad choices from time to time, but I recognize them and try to readjust, if I catch it in time.  If not, I try to learn from the wrong choices for the future.  But I made a choice.  And I will continue to make them, good and bad, so that I can continue to move forward.

Just do me a favour.  Start making choices for yourself that will help move you forward, you will be surprised at what happens along the way.

I believe, Do you?

santa

Yeah, you read that right. I believe in Santa Claus.  What’s it to ya????

No, seriously, as a 47-year-old adult who spent the past 19 years witnessing the most dreadful acts that humans can inflict upon each other and what humans endure to survive every day, I believe in Santa.  (insert comparison to believe in anything else that is important to others for a cheap chuckle…….  Not going to happen).  This belief stems from the fact that I have witnessed the power of Santa Claus everyday this month, as I have for the past 47 years of my life.  And this belief has only gotten stronger since my son has ben with us.  So let me explain why, I believe that Santa Claus is real.

My son is 9 this year so I know that the pure innocence of the belief in Santa will be challenged in the coming years, but I have been planning for it now for the past few years.  We have begun to get the questions like, “Dad, do you believe in Santa?” to which I have always answered “Yep” in short order with a definitive reassurance in my voice.  The next question usually is about Santa’s magic to which I reply, “Buddy, you have no idea just how powerful Santa’s magic is.”  So far, that is the extent of the questioning, but I know more is coming, that’s why I laid the foundation for belief early.  Particularly, when it comes to Santa’s magic, post innocence.

What the hell is post innocence you ask?  Well, it is that time after little Billy blabs to his friends that he found out that Santa is his parents, or some other caregiver in his life.  No longer is there an open-ended belief in a charismatic, kind figure who brings joy and gifts to the children of the world.  Innocence is lost.  But what if I said that once the innocence is lost on the belief of Santa, the ideals of Santa become even stronger.

I said that I began to lay the foundation in describing the powerful nature of Santa’s magic and I full heartedly believe that to this day.  Santa’s magic is huge.  Even placing aside, the fables of Kris Kringle, St, Nicholas or whatever other moniker you want to use, there is no denying that Santa is magical, especially when it comes to grown adults with kids.  Who else can make parents repeat the stories of their youth so that they can bring joy and happiness to children?  Who else can make parents pretend to be an Elf for 24 straight days, making sure that the Elf changes locations and disappears at times?  Who else brings joy and happiness to children around the world, if only for just one day?

That’s right, Santa.  The magical part of Santa is that adults spread the magic to children.  What is more magical then making children happy I ask?  So, even when you find out what you believe is the truth about Santa and you enter that period of post innocence, your eyes open up to the realization that even though Santa might not be a real, flesh and body person, the magic and energy that represents Santa is as real as you and I.

Merry Christmas everyone and take a moment today and tomorrow to spread Santa’s magic.

 

PS: This isnt a metaphorical story about Christianity.  It truly is simply the reason why I believe in Santa.  Just enjoy the idea of amgic that one idea can bring to millions.

Gotta have Faith – The George Michael kind.

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Now let’s be clear, I am not talking about religious faith.  If that’s your idea or definition of faith, have at ‘er.  But it is not what I am talking about here nor would I post about religion as that is not my thing.  It’s not up to me to tell someone else what they should or shouldn’t believe.  With that out of the way, lets get back to the post.

The faith I am talking about is something completely different and is more along the lines of hope, with a twist though.  You know what I mean because we all do it everyday of our lives.  We get faced with a choice and when we decide on what choice best fits, we begin to hope that we made the right choice.  But here’s the twist or problem with hope in this context.   When we “hope”, we take ownership away from ourselves and thrust it out to the universe.  We believe that by hoping the planets will align, the birds will soar overhead, the sun will shine the waters will calm and everything will happen as you had “hoped” it would.  It would be great if that happened but ask yourself, how often have the thing you hoped for turned out exactly how you wanted them too?

What if you begin to replace hope with faith?  So, when you get presented with a choice, you make it and have faith that you made the choice that was best for you.  You then sit back, figuratively that is, and let things happen.  You take ownership for what you decided and the course of action you put into motion.  If things work out, you bask in the glory of it all.  If it doesn’t work out, you have faith that you will make a better choice next time because of your learned experiences from making the wrong choice.  See the difference?  Very subtle but the results are huge, especially when you extrapolate them across your lifetime.

Now I know you are wonder why are you reading this philosophical dribble on a blog about PTSD.  Well, if you have been following from the start, you know that sometimes my PTSD brain takes me on these wild SQUIRREL ! moments.  But, I can usually right the ship and get back on course so here’s the reason.

Since my diagnosis, I have been functioning on the premise of faith, although I didn’t really realize it.  At first, I thought it was hope but over the last few months I came to the realization that it has always been faith.  Faith that what I am doing is the right things for me to do.  Faith that if I get up out of bed each morning, I will be able to put yet another piece of my PTSD  puzzle in the right spot and get closer to the big picture view I am seeking.  Faith that if I put in the work, I will reap the rewards.  And, faith that my PTSD isn’t in vain, that there is a reason and purpose for it.

I also began to realize that at various points in time during this journey, I have taken a number of leaps of faith, both figuratively and literally.  But let me tell you about the literal leap of faith that I believe was the most instrumental in my healing.  I had the ability to take part in a high ropes exercise in which, while rigged up with ropes, I jumped off a very shoddy platform that I feared would collapse under my weight.  I jumped trusting or more appropriately having faith in the climb Master’s skills and abilities, particularly his math skills in properly calculating the weight to stress ratio on the ropes.  I had faith that I would be okay if I just jumped and that is exactly what I did.  I jumped and my life was forever changed for the experience.

What I learned was that there will be times during my PTSD journey that I will be in uncomfortable positions in which I will be forced to make a choice.  At those times, I must accept that I just “gotta have faith” and make the choice that I think is the right one.  So far, it has been working for me.  But there are also times that I fear what it would be like if I didn’t have faith that my PTSD journey is unfolding exactly as it is supposed to happen.  When that doubt arises, its easily pushed away by remembering that this type of faith isn’t something that lasts an hour, a day, a week or years.  It becomes ingrained within your thoughts and evolves into part how you live your life.  So, you might not reap the rewards in the near future but if you truly have faith in what you are doing, at some point, you will begin to see the fruit of your labours.

Faith, you gotta have it.

The End of the Innocence.

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Don’t mind the pic just yet, it will make sense in a few minutes after you read the post.

This has been something that I have pondered for several months now.  In fact, I began mulling this over back in July but for some reason, I couldn’t wrap my head around it completely until just recently.  So, here we go but realize that I am not talking about the belief in Santa or the Easter Bunny here.

There is no denying that policing has taken away any semblance of innocence from myself and has done the same to anyone else that chose policing as a career.  I would go so far as to say that the lost innocence conversation would extend to military, and all first responders.  And, it has happened with the full knowledge and consent of anyone agreeing to take on one of those careers.  In other words, you go into it knowing that things are going to get ugly and you are willing to accept that.

But then you must ask yourself, when did this loss of innocence really take place?  Is it the chosen career that did it or is there another point in time that you can pinpoint as the End of the Innocence?  I have figured out that I can answer without a doubt that policing wasn’t the start of this loss for me but it sure as hell is where it has ended.  Yes, a bit controversial to say although I can assure you that this isn’t something that I just proclaimed one day.  This conclusion has been the culmination of months of processing and trying to figure out when it happened and how I know for sure that it ended.

As I moved through the processing of this question, I kept on returning to my second year of university.  I had just started the next phase of my education in the Faculty of Social Work as a bright-eyed young adult who still held the belief that the world was mostly fair, particularly if you followed the rules, worked hard and did what was right.  I had established a core group of friends, four to be exact, who have remained in my life to this point, some 20 years down the road and began in earnest, the forming of my personal views and opinions on life.  Although most of those were adjusted as I entered the social service work force and then the policing universe, the basic foundations were laid.

This was also the time of living for the moment and more importantly, living for having fun.  My friends became he most important people to me as I began to branch out from family.  I worked part time to fund the life of a carefree young adult intent on having as much fun as possible without a lot of worry.  But something else began to happen during this time.  Some of the people who I thought were friends began to evolve away from me and me from them.  I had to begin to focus on my course work and I entered the wonderful world of student placements aka free labour.  Thus, began my education into a part of the world that I had only seen in the news, read in magazines and really had no desire to experience.  But there it was, real world reality.  Humanity at its worse.  The ability to fain ignorance was beginning to dissolve, and I had no choice but to walk forward into it.  The innocence of my youth was now beginning to become the reality of adulthood.

The deeper I dove into the world of social services, the deeper the loss of innocence went.  I began to see the world in a very different light, but I also began to see that things are not all doom and gloom.  There was this little thing called HOPE that could make a difference and stave off the decline into the loss.  It was powerful and allowed for a person to get through without completely losing their innocence.  And it was with that enthusiasm that I went into Depot – HOPE that my actions will make a difference along the way.

Truth be told, it wasn’t long after graduation from Depot that that hope was extinguished.  Within my first three months of my policing career I began to see the world through the narrowed lens of good and bad or good and evil if you will.  Sure, there were good moment but those were quickly taken over by the bad, by witnessing what evil humans will inflict on one another, sometime for no reason of substance i.e. for fun.  In those three months, I dealt with a suicide, numerous knockdown, drag out fights to arrest suspects, risked my life to prevent someone from killing themselves and seen some extreme examples of what one person can and will do to another person.  In the end, the results were too overpowering, and HOPE lost out.  Any illusions of maintaining innocence was gone.  It was the End of the Innocence for me.

Am I bitching about it?  Nope, not in the least.  It was a necessary evil that had to happen for me to survive the job.  And, over the years, as I got involved with bigger and bigger investigations, the idea of innocence became more obscure and distant.  Hope was hidden and this little thing called PTSD began to take hold with a slow dance of emotional espionage.

Funny thing though.  My PTSD journey has taught me a valuable lesson.   My innocence in life ended with my policing career but my hope is still there.  It has evolved from hope into a faith, not based on religion but based on a belief that innocence is still present in my life.  I can now see it and expeirence it in my son and also by looking for the good inherent within every living, breathing being.  Mine might be gone but I can revel in the beauty of witnessing it live on in others.  And when you see it again after being away from it for so long, it truly is a thing of beauty.

More Love, Less Judgement.

 

Ah, the picture.  Almost forgot about it.  The title of the blog post and the picture represents a song that had meaning to a dear friend of mine and myself as well.  So, the first person that correctly names the Artist, the Song and the Album will win a prize (value is about $30.00).  To make it fair, email all answers through the Contact me page on the Blog.  Good luck

 

Where the hell is Waldo?

Yep, that’s the million-dollar question isn’t it? The sad part is that the answer is actually quite simple, I’m right here…..

But there is no denying the fact that I have been MIA for the better part of the last few months.  So, then the million-dollar question becomes, Why?  Well, that isn’t as simple of an answer.  There are some parts of the answer that I can share and some I can’t.  Suffice to say that the break was needed on a few different levels to make sure that I was functioning at my best.

And make no mistake about it, this break wasn’t a holiday in any way, shape or form.  It has been a period of some heavy, roll up your sleeves and dig in mental health / wellness work.  Suffice to say, and evident by the fact that I am posting again, I seem to have pushed through and turned the corner back towards a more balanced life.  It is a reminder that things can go sideways fast and if you don’t catch it quick enough, you will have your work cut out for you.

Like always though, I remain guarded, in a healthy way, to make sure that I keep tabs on how I am doing.  It has become part of my life now.  Constantly checking in with myself to see if I’m doing okay.  It is like my own private game of Where’s Waldo is playing out in my head as I am always wanting to know where I am at emotionally and mentally throughout the day.  So far, I have been able to find Waldo each time even if it takes a bit of time.  I fear that one time however that I go looking for Waldo and he is no where around.  I already have a plan for that (yeah hypervigilance) and will be reaching out to my Care and Support network for some help so fear not.

I know you’re reading this and saying that I have fallen out of touch with reality if I think that I am playing Where’s Waldo in my head but bare with me.  My Where’s Waldo game is simply me sitting down and meditating.  In those moments when my eyes are closed, my mind is focussed on my breathing and I just sit with the moment, I find Waldo.  But the goal is to be consistent because Waldo likes to hide and play tricks so if you aren’t on top of your game, you are in for a long search and a bumpy rollercoaster ride.  When you are on top of your mediation game, the search for Waldo goes fast.

In the last little while, my search for Waldo has begun to happen outside of my meditation times as well.  And this is awesome when it happens.  It means that I am bring mindfulness into my everyday life and I can assure you, things become so much easier to experience.  So, I encourage anyone, whether you are on a PTSD journey or not, to start your own personal Where’s Waldo game.  You might find Waldo and be amazed at what you learn.

On a different note, I have about 3 or 4 posts that I have been dabbling with over the past few months and plan to finish them off in the next few weeks.  One will also include a contest for a fucking awesome prize……  But, working on those posts and taking a break from posting for a bit has also made me examine the future of the CrackedBadge page.  I am looking at a relaunch shortly, more fitting of where I am now and where I am heading in my PTSD / Life journey (see, there is a little hint – the Rabbit hole opened up and this is more than just about PTSD now).