war wounds

War Wounds

WAR WOUNDS

I had just finalized everything to get out of the military, packed up the house, and established our exit plan. Wow!! Get ready for our new life, exciting times, but we had no idea how exciting they would be. It wasn’t like I finalized my war wounds and dropped them off somewhere. 

My family and I moved away from everything we knew for over a decade. I traded in the unknown of me deploying and never coming back for something more certain. By doing this it put me in a position to be there for our growing family no matter what. It was fresh, and exciting, something I hadn’t felt in a long time.

But like the wolf looking for a fresh meal, the past has a way of catching up with you especially my war wounds. As much as I would like to say the past doesn’t or that my war wounds are nothing. There are things that happened that cannot be brushed under a rug.

THE REALITY

I was a Navy SEAL this stuff doesn’t affect me, right? But the fact is, it does. We may be better prepared for what we are about to face. But standing to close to bombs, getting shot at, shooting back, watching death and destruction happen, seeing your brothers not make it home, seeing absurdly shocking things that twisted people can do and everything in between takes its toll.

I had moved away from my community, the ones I could talk to about anything and everything. They may not have the best advice all the time, but they wouldn’t judge me for talking to them about anything. At the same time this was by design, for me personally I had to remove myself from the situation so I could have a fighting chance of a new life. But no matter the distance I put between my future and my past, the memories, pain, injuries, and anything associated lived in me.

The only thing I could do to stay away from my problems was to fully immerse myself in something. Hence going to college. But as I skirted over the problem trying to put a bandaid over an ax wound.  It became blatantly more obvious I had a problem. As I tried to stuff everything down deep and cover it up with college work, or some other activity. My health started to decline, you could see it in my face and body.

My face became a lifeless canvas that had an upside-down smile at all times with an ill-kept beard and my body looked as if I hadn’t eaten in months. As I strutted around my life like nothing was wrong the mental battle that raged intensified. I thought further distance would help, making no friends, relying on myself for everything, refusing to reach out for help. Keeping to myself and having my fucked up mental state do its own dirty work was the last thing I needed to do.

This went on for over a couple of years, living in fear that if anyone found out I had PTSD, TBI, Depression, and Anxiety as a result of my military career that I would be less of a man. That I couldn’t call myself a TEAM Guy, that I couldn’t be viewed in any other way as someone who is broken or dangerous.

THE BIG BANG

I cared too much what others thought of me, and I didn’t care enough about myself to take care of myself. As I was worrying about what everyone else felt about me, the outward expression of these ailments was very prominent and getting worse. I went to nature and took a bike ride.

It was a ride through the awesome mountains of the Salt Lake and Park City, UT area. Beautiful day, listening to the wind, birds, trees, all of nature just hanging out with some of my family and riding. It was an amazing day.

But then I got blessed, I mean I got blessed hard. We were on the return trip back to the car, about 10 miles out before I could hang it up for the day.

Going at a moderate but manageable pace, I hit some loose gravel/dirt coming around a corner and lost control. My front wheel jacked knifed, sending me forward, up and over my bars and straight into the ground with all the momentum and force I created. Landing on my right shoulder, I popped up and assessed my body, and bike.

Everything seemed okay but my right shoulder was in crazy pain, I immediately assessed my shoulder by going through some movements. It seemed okay.

One thing I forgot to mention was my collar bone which was unbroken was trying its hardest to pop through my skin. Instead of breaking, all four ligaments that hold your shoulder in place got ripped apart detaching themselves from their placements. The result was my shoulder sinking about 5 inches, no real ability to lift my arm because there was nothing holding it in place and a whole lot of pain.

Oh did you forget we were still 10 miles from the car? Yeah, so now what?

Well, I couldn’t stay there so I put my hand on the handlebars, and wrapped my spare innertube around my elbow super tight so it would have a hard time bending. I rode the remaining mileage with my arm pinned and taking it slow but with every bump, pain shot through my body. My body went into almost a numb state, giving me a false sense of comfort. A necessary survival mechanism to get me back.

Once we made it back to the car I immediately drove down to my mom’s house to enlist here to take me to the hospital, just in case they gave me something I couldn’t drive with. My wife was out of town so my mom was a logical choice.

THE BLESSING

 

As you can imagine this knocked me out of commission for a while. I couldn’t lift my arm past my hip for 9 months. But it turns out the first surgery I got needed to be corrected so I could regain full function. One more surgery, a lot of physical therapy and in total 1.5-2 years later I could use my arm 100% again.  

But here’s the blessing I couldn’t do anything I was forced to deal with myself, get over myself, and make some kind of change. I was forced to ask for help, step outside my tough exterior and get into the soft, cushy interior. I had to be real with myself.

All the Depression, PTSD, Anxiety, and TBI came forward in full force. I mean I was hitting brick walls everywhere. In college, I had finals and could barely sit for more than 5 minutes before my shoulder yelled out in pain. My professor’s refused to accommodate anything, like perhaps a one-week extension. I had to bite the pain bullet and do my best.

While this was happening I was starting to reach out and ask for help, letting my guard down. During projects, I didn’t take on everything I sat back and took what I could and trusted the process from there.

At the time I was frustrated and hated myself for being unable to do much of anything. But it forced me to look deeper than the surface and ask a lot of questions to myself. Without that crash, I would be in a much different place. Riding the coat tells of my ego off into the darkness of hermitville.

THE LEARNING PROCESS

This was the hard part, recognizing my pride and ego and telling them to shut up. I had no real choice, I was at rock bottom and the only way was up. But I guess I could have sat, and wallowed in my self-pity getting further away from progress.

However, I had no choice, I had to face my fears go through the vivid daydreams, dreams, constant anxiety that someone was going to attack me, fear of crowds, memory issues, having my back to a door or window and everything associated with my ailments and face it all.

Maybe not all at once but in small bites. I had to answer for all my wrongs, take inventory of my past and present behaviors and correct them.

This is a difficult ongoing process, there is no magic pill. Even though they will be very willing to give you all the magic pills in the cupboard. Nothing about this is easy to get through. But I’m here to tell you once you make the conscious decision to change, help will start to show up.

If you are unwilling to change or believe there is nothing wrong, you will continuously be reminded. Maybe not through a Mountain Bike Crash like yours truly. But it will happen. Everything, after you get stopped or stunted, is your choice. The cycle will repeat until you learn to deal with it.

ALL IS NOT LOST

You may be thinking this worked for you but not for me. I understand completely. Because I used to be you, without question. I was the first to renounce anything helpful because my ego and pride were bigger than me.

Our brains are powerful things that can make new connections and disconnect old connections anytime we choose. I associated crowds with danger when I was in the military, sending my heart racing, anxiety, lack of smile, heightened senses and intensity, waiting for my impending doom and trying to see from where and how.

I had to make a very conscious effort to disassociate my current belief about crowds. To be less intense. Tell myself I’m with my family at a park swinging on swings or whatever we were doing. This, however, did not automatically set the default. I had to constantly practice these types of efforts to allow my very deep defaults to be rewritten.

TIEING IT ALL TOGETHER

war wounds

I would like to think my journey has been all rainbows and sunshine. I want everyone to see, a Navy SEAL that is tough and nothing can touch him. That’s what I thought at least. But what I realized is that allowing a fabricated perception into my reality created a destructive false reality. Which kept me stuck in the mud.

It is okay to have emotions and it is okay to allow yourself to mourn, be in need of help, and just be you. No one is born to go to war, be part of domestic violence, be beaten, treated like shit, or treated any less than equal to everyone else. Our War Wounds were never any of our faults. It wasn’t our fault for going through the shit and coming out the other side with problems.

We as a society need to realize these types of things exist. When someone asks for help or is in need of help we are willing to lend a hand. None of us should be afraid of the potential labels or classifications that get put on us. Because if we fear the future, how are we even going to get started?

Look, it is not just up to everyone else to be there when we need help. We are the other 80% of the equation that needs to dump the pride, ego, and whatever else, take responsibility and be willing to change. It is possible to regain happiness and a normal life. But it starts with acknowledgment and being willing.

If you’re unsure where to begin, take a gander at the courses offered on this website. They were created to get to the root of the problem, take responsibility and become mentally unstoppable. You are willing and you can do this take the first step NOW.

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