Thursday, January 29, 2015

Strange Day

Today has been another strange day. Since I did science on my dreams a few nights ago I’ve been having trouble sleeping. Something has been brewing up the surface, and I don’t know what. So far I have a list of symptoms which make a murky picture. Being in unknown territory should feel like a positive since it means boundaries are getting pushed. What doesn’t feel great is feeling completely out of my depth as puzzle pieces are sorted and put together.

Here is a list of symptoms:
Lingering tension
Skin irritation
Lingering swelling
Zoning out for several seconds
Loosing grip in my hands when I zone out
Drift in sense of being
Disengaged with surroundings

In the last several hours I’ve had recurring emotions of anger and betrayal of establishments. Holding onto outmoded absolutes makes dealing with trauma far more difficult when those absolutes prove to be false. As a kid I wasn’t ready to accept how fragile people really are. How fragile I am. Children depend on their care givers for survival. As an adult I rely on polices, military, public administrators, and everyone who makes a defensible society run.

I don’t think I’ve ever had the law work in my favor. Law, order, some kind of system for settling disputes. What we call a legal system is all about convincing people what is acceptable, then limiting “justice” by small budgets, limited man hours, and people pushing to further their own careers by only picking up cases guaranteed to win. Criminals, rapists in particular, get off scott-free because what goes to court is measured by likely success of a case, and not by who is a danger to society.

So. I recently mentioned I’d talk about when I was on the edge. This is a story about when I was on the brink of suicide in May of 2011. I’m am in a much better place now. Difficult times in my life need to be remembered and reviewed upon. Who knows. Maybe writing about suicide will help someone who is going through a tough time.

I knew I had to revisit PTSD after my grandfather had died in the summer of 2010. I survived my deployment to Iraq, and returned home just in time to watch him die. To put Raymond Jackson in perspective, he was a man who had lived a complicated life. As kid his WW1 veteran father beat the hell out of him and his brothers. He served in WW2 as a reconnaissance scout at the tip of the spear from D-Day’s Omaha beach to Berlin. When he returned home and started a family his fits of rage pushed him to beat the hell out of my mother and aunt just like his father did him. When I came into the picture he’d been through years of counseling and in much better place.

He wasn’t ready to die. Death weighed on him until every iota of guilt he carried from the war ate him alive. When Raymond died there wasn’t much left of him to go. Watching him be consumed from the inside drove home that I needed to face my experiences in Iraq or Raymond’s story would repeat with me cast in his place.

PTSD from Iraq was the easy part. There were layers underneath combat stress which couldn’t be explained by anything I’d experienced in the desert. There were surges of emotion with no apparent cause or flashes of images with no context. Most days I felt like a single piece from a 10,000 piece puzzle had been cast before me with an impossible instruction “figure it out.”

Around September I had suspected I had been raped. I went through a gamut which most rape survivors will find familiar. “How could this happen to me? I would have remembered. There is no way since someone would have told me.”

My body remembered though. Anxiety around people. A stutter I developed at six. High marks in school which suddenly plummeted. Fits of aggression. Frequent bouts of depression. Many signs were there, but no one around me know enough about what sexual violence did to a kid.

October of 2010 was when everything became exponentially worse. I was in the driveway sitting with who I thought was my best friend. With tears streaming down my face I pushed out choking sobs to confess, “I think I was raped.” His response? Nothing. He had no engagement, no support, nothing. I walked away thinking he didn’t believe me, and if my best friend didn’t believe me then I must be making it all up. I pushed everything down with an absolute conviction I must have made it all up.

Avoidance doesn’t work. In spring of 2011 I suffered from an intense depression as emotions and images of rape started to bubble up in mass. When nothing was getting better for months, and it looked like it was never going to get better I initiated my three week plan.

In suicide prevention briefings they always ask if you have a plan. I did. I never mentioned it because most people think “suicide plan” and they assume a plan that only to end one’s life. I never liked the idea of giving up until every option was exhausted.

My three week plan was a scaling means of finding any and all available support to deal with my problems. I posted on the Fear the Boot forums about PTSD because I wasn’t ready to talk about rape to another human being. I didn’t want to feel so hurt and abandoned as when I told my “best friend” at the time. I had drill that weekend and spoke with a Chaplain’s assistant, SGT Bailey, I had previously worked with. I remember chatting with him and a random E-6 came up and joined the conversation. They were both supportive of what I had to say on dealing with PTSD and combat stress. The SGT Bailey agreed to schedule a visit the chaplain the next day.

I remember lying on my bed that night stressing about what was going to happen when I spoke with the chaplain. I remember a realization that if one of my soldiers could deal with sexual assault, then maybe I could as well. In that moment I had another surge of emotions with specific details of Ferguson’s office. I knew it had to be real then. That I really wasn’t making up any of this.

The chaplain was supportive, but lack luster. The good parts were recommending me to call the VA and take up free counseling with any local VA clinic. The downside was that he immediately started trying to wring out a diagnosis within four minutes of me sitting down at his office. For anyone looking to see a counselor, psychiatrist, or any behavioral health specialist, never trust anyone who goes for a diagnosis on the first meeting. Any good behavioral health specialist will have several sessions before any diagnosis is on the table. The good ones take their time to get to know you as a person before jumping to any conclusions.

Following drill I went to see my girlfriend at the time up in Toledo. I told her. For the second time in my adult life I was able to talk to another human being about rape. This time I was believed, supported, and taken care of as a person. I set down my three week plan, and decided to keep living.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

TWoM Complete

I haven’t slept. There is a pulsing ache inside my skull. There will be a blog post. Right now I want to see if I can keep up one post per day before I publicize this blog. I’ve tried a few times of the last five years, but after a few weeks I stop for whatever reason. Here is to hoping this time is different.

Another successful game session. My player gave a general glowing review of enjoying all parts of the session. One of these days I’ll learn to just sit with enjoying something instead of ripping it apart to find the flaws. Exposing weak points is often seen a measure of progress, but learning how to savor the good things in life can be progress as well.

One cool part of games running longs is a glut of spare content. My next session has most of its content already planned out and ready to play.

After the game session had concluded I popped open This War of Mine to conclusion. Holy crap is that game compelling. If I were to take away one lesion from my first play through it would be to exploit the bartering system for infinite resources. Eventually all basic crafting components are exhausted. There literally aren’t enough of them in the entire game to complete all the upgrades. However, with enough goods to barter, I could started harvesting NPCs for enough components for one upgrade a day.

This headache is getting worse. I’m off to bad.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Associative Logic

Yesterday’s science got me to thinking. So you have a large umbrella term of Self in the most nebulous and poorly understood terms I have in my incomplete understanding. Within the nebulous term of Self there are two intertwined circuits of Being and Identity. I think of these as two circles tired into a figure eight; always looping into one another. Being refers to physical aspects of self. I exist in this place, at this time, in this body. Identity relates to abstractions like social interaction, self-image, and worth. I Self as a big convoluted blob where there is a circle set somewhere in the middle. Inside the circle is what I accept about myself, and what is outside the circle is what I cannot accept.

Some what I don’t accept makes sense like “I am not a wish dragon named Falcor.” Other parts are based off times where my youth was a shithole. Like “I am worthless therefor…” for all the terrible places associative logic will take it. When a flashback hits I feel I’m back in Iraq without several years of experience of resiliency to help me.

There is a ton of room to work with. This model gives some interesting data which I’ll have to pick apart at a later date.

This War of Mine is a bunch of fun to play. You play as civilians in a bombed out warzone for all the harrowing tension one would expect. Last night ended on a scene where I either get a payload of food or my characters slowly starve to death. Here is to hoping I can scavenge or steal enough to keep my characters alive.

Tonight is another game session. Slowly but surely I’m overcoming anxiety whenever I write down ideas. Being creative while making a fictional world has more pleasure and less guilt. I could get used to this.