By Eric Beach
I said it wouldn't always be pretty... Today... Yesterday... They weren't pretty.
Part of this journey I'm taking you on, a huge part, is a healing journey. I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It comes in many forms, from many different points of origin. In my case its from my time over seas in combat in Iraq 2003.
It rears its head at random sometimes. The last couple of days have seemed random. I've scratched my head trying to figure out why I've had intense depression and rage. We're on vacation and I've been so angry, at times to the point I don't feel safe. I don't feel I'll be able to keep my emotions in check. I've secretly been hoping to get into a fight so I could give this rage purpose.
I was at the mechanic and saw a guy staring at me for what seemed like 5 minutes. I wanted to scream at him "Can I help you?" "Is there a problem?" But I held back. PTSD can make you look for fights that aren't there. Everyone becomes the enemy to include my children and my wife. The baby cries, my 4 year old doesn't listen at times and my wife isn't perfect... How dare they be human... But, in these moments it's all I see. There humanity becomes a negative.
I've made great progress with my PTSD and so have many others, but we still have our days. They have become fewer in number, but it wasn't that long ago I had at least 3 days a week like this. Horrible way to live. Its one of the reasons the veteran suicide rate is so high. 20 a day. ABSOLUTELY HEART BREAKING. I won't be part of that number. I hope to eradicate that number.
So what to do in my state... It was getting late and there was about 30 minutes before sunset. I decided I needed to get out and run. Burn off this adrenaline that had been dumping into my system the past 2 days. I ended up running 3.84 miles at a 9 minute mile pace. Its a good pace for me at this point. In the last .5 miles I started to have a conversation with myself.
I was heading home and decided to keep a faster pace and not quit if it got tough. It got tough... Life always gets tough. Before it got tough I realized how bad a father, husband, son and friend I am when I get like this. My mantra became my wife deserves better, my daughter deserves better etc... I said it over and over. I asked myself is my body in charge or am I in charge? If my body says I'm tired, I can't do this, do I listen or do I tell it the race isn't over?
I deserve better.
I realized in that moment I deserve a better quality of life. It's not just for everybody else. Do I let the relationships in my life, as important as they may be, determine if I'm doing a good enough job or do I tell myself how I'm doing?
I deserve better because when I'm a better man I feel better and my family gets better from me as well. When I tell my body I know its tough, I know you're tired, I know you want to quit but we're not going to, I fight forward. I get stronger.
On this race there are setbacks. Our days won't always be something we want to write about or share with others. Its not a success only journey. I'm not always going to be the best family man, my event times won't always get faster but I'm not going to quit. On any of it. When set backs come I'll take a deep breath, really think about things and when I get that moment of clarity, I'll tell myself your're done quiting. If we don't quit, theres still a chance we'll get better.
Its not a success only life. We aren't perfect. We never will be. Obstacles will come... a lot. It will get difficult. We will fall short. There will be tears. There will be anger. We'll feel like we suck. But if we don't give up and we work, the bad times become the exceptions.
I have been in therapy, I have a service dog and the teachings from the trauma resiliency program, writing, Film making and now I have swimming, biking, running and a literal race to run. If we can find outlets, we can workout our demons. We can learn a lot about ourselves in those moments when it gets hard instead of giving up. Many call it the pain cave. Its a place we put ourselves on purpose in a healthy way (like exercise) where we must give it our all even when it gets hard.
Maybe your pain cave is getting out in public for a while because your afraid of crowds. Maybe its going to the fireworks wearing headphones and during the show, taking them off a listening to the booms. Maybe its picking up the phone and talking to that broken relationship you've been avoiding for years. Maybe it's telling your spouse you love them. Maybe it's planning a date. Maybe its playing with your kids. It takes effort. It takes love and dedication. But when the thing you try gets tough and you enter the pain cave will you quit? or will you address the reality of your situation and really think about it. Will you push forward?
I'm not perfect, but I'm pushing forward. It may take a day or two or longer to get back on track but I'm always working to find the trail.
What trail do you need to get back on?