Demons that Lurk Beneath…Part II

Demons that Lurk Beneath…Part II

(Part I can be found here) (Part III can be found here)

The nightmares just. would. not. stop!

For years.

Even after I retired, eight months later, still the nightmares…every. damn. night.

Vicious, hideous, savagely ending nightmares. I would wake up with sweat down my back, muscles quivering, and fear. Sleep was done after that point.

As a cop, I put in about 15 years total on nights. I hated sleep. Just one more layer of living through some serious shit experienced dealing with human nature gone bad.

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Before I go any further, I need to say this; I am NOT a counselor. If you think you wrestle with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), find someone to talk to and get help.

Right? That’s what everyone is supposed to say. But…

When you’ve seen the darkest of human nature as a cop, combat vet, any flavor of EMS personnel, or you’re the victim of a heinous crime, talking to someone requires trust. That’s hard to come by.

We don’t wake up and say to ourselves, “Hey, I think I might have PTSD.” Nope, not one bit. We actually deny the hell out of it. We won’t believe it and even argue with anyone who says we might be struggling with such a demon.

What we do see is nightmares that we dare not tell anyone.

What we do is bury and repress our experiences that no one else has gone through—that’s just what we think, that we’re the only ones that have had a buddy die next to us in combat, or watch someone die in our arms that was a direct result of some savage attack or car crash.

Why do we bury these things? Usually, because we don’t have the luxury to decompress right away.

One afternoon, I covered a shift, alone. Just how it is for a rural county sheriff’s deputy. I had three big calls during that shift. Two involved family members beating on each other. The third was a riot of about a dozen people with weapons. In between these three calls I handled everything from barking dog complaints to helping motorists broke down on the side of the road.

I didn’t have time process life-threatening situations; I had to put my game face on for the next call. I had to go from someone who needed to end violent situations with violence, to being a sweet charming deputy helping an elderly couple get a tow truck.

It’s wearing. It confuses the internal system.

Then, no support…

An administration that is concerned with numbers and statistics isn’t concerned that you may have just held a child in your arms for its last breath.

And, possibly little support from a home life that did not educate themselves about the emotional and physiological effects of this lifestyle.

So, you bury the experiences just to survive, do your duty, and become a machine.

And that…is where the problem lies.

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I had a friend who noticed some things. Like, I almost always talked about death. Even bragged about being dubbed by the county coroner as Deputy Death—seemed like I was the cop on duty for most of the deaths in the county, and I was the cop that handled every suicide that came in for many years.

My friend suggested that I might be in need of counseling. I scoffed. Yet, when my friend mentioned a list of behaviors I exhibited (shared in Part I), it gave me pause.

Like the frog slowly boiling, I had no idea what was happening except that I thought I was losing my flippin’ mind and figured that if things didn’t get better soon…well, shooting myself sounded like a good idea.

That one conversation started something that led to big changes later. Now, I’m in a much better place mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually because of my friend’s suggestion.

My friend told me I should try Journaling.

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I start with Journaling, because Journaling started big changes for me. It helped me to start to crawl out of the dungeon in my mind.

In an article posted by BJPsych Advances, it cites a study whereby those who journaled about traumatic and emotional experiences for as little as 3 times a week saw great improvement in emotional and physical health.

At the time, I didn’t care what research findings from whatever institute had to say about journaling.

So, I immediately thought it was girlie. Being a S.W.A.T. dude, girlie and a cute pink latched diary book didn’t fit into my macho-scheme of things.

“What the hell do I write about?” I asked my friend.

“Whatever the hell you want, let it rip,” my friend answered graciously, and then reassured me that it wasn’t girlie, and it was for me and me alone, no one else.

So, I began to journal on my computer in Word.

I noticed something interesting, journaling didn’t fix anything at all, but it did bring up a lot of emotion that I had buried.

Dark, curse-filled, bitter entries in the beginning.

I found myself crying at times. Then furious at other times.

In the midst of it all, for some reason, I felt a bit better.

Then, after a few weeks of journaling, I found myself thinking a bit clearer.

Julia Cameron, author of The Artists Way, says this, “Once we get those muddy, maddening, confusing thoughts [nebulous worries, jitters, and preoccupations] on the page, we face our day with clearer eyes.”

Journaling is like turning on a spotlight on the dark things that swirl around inside.

Once exposed, they don’t have the same power over us.

I’ve lived it first hand. I encourage you to do the same.

You don’t have to write long. Don’t spend a lot of time on it, unless you want to. Spend five minutes a day writing your thoughts and emotions down that no one else will read.

It’s a great actionable step to processing and healing. This one thing will astound you.

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You have to start somewhere, and you don’t have to be a combat vet, or any EMS person; anyone can and should do this.

Why?

It’s a simple call to action and if you have a hard time trusting others to speak with, this will help purge some of those misgivings which will lead to the next step: talking to someone.

Journaling is actionable because we take control. Another step in which we live intentionally.

To journal is like opening up the lid on the crawlspace below and letting in the Light and fresh air.

And that is exactly what chases the demons away and will allow you to breathe finally.

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Next week, we’ll cover the rest of the steps that will expose dark areas so that we can Flourish and Thrive.

If you made it to this point, I appreciate you.

You are not alone!

 


Photo by Anna Wangler on Unsplash

Posted by Christian Martin Jr. in PTSD, Reinvention, Self-Improvement
Demons that Lurk Beneath…Part I

Demons that Lurk Beneath…Part I

(Part II can be found here) (Part III can be found here)

There’s a beast within…

…all of us.

And…I’m not one to pretend to be a professional counselor. Albeit, I have worn that hat many times in law enforcement, which means absolutely nothing here.

If anything, being in law enforcement just entrenched some monsters, or maybe we could call ‘em demons, deep within the castle walls.

I tend to think of our lives in terms of a castle.

A fortress that is surrounded by high, thick walls. A moat filled with all sorts of nasty, man-eating creatures. A strong iron gate that serves as the ‘front door’. Archers on the walls to shoot anyone who would dare to venture close.

And then?

More doors, gates, guards, walled areas, and a labyrinth intentionally laid out to confuse, confound, and confusticate anyone who is let in through the main gate, but are never really allowed too close to our hearts—the Throne Room of our being.

Get hurt? Erect more walls.

Fear? Stronger walls.

Trauma? Forget it! No one is ever entering and screw anyone who tries—they’ll be shot down long before they get too close.

Why? Because getting close requires trust.

And…once you lose trust in men, or women, or family, or just plain ol’ human nature, it’s much easier to keep people outside the walls.

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We all live through traumatic events. Some though, are a bit more acute…

Think of the following:

  • Combat vets
  • Police
  • 9-1-1 dispatchers
  • Emergency room personnel and fire fighters

Did I miss anyone? Truly sorry if I did. Leave a note below and nicely point out any I missed.

The fallout from trauma not resolved usually results in…

Higher divorce rates, infidelity, burnout, drug abuse, alcohol addiction, depression, and suicide.

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Imagine Dragons cut a song a few years back called Demons. No matter how many times I watch the video, I can’t get through it without tears.

It’s a moving song; it’s a life shaking video.

This isn’t a treatise on PTSD.

Yet, I’ve been accused…

“Christian, you need counseling,” some have said.

Yeah, I know. Working on it.

Why?

It’s a support system that wasn’t in place the years I was in law enforcement. Not blaming anyone, and I so appreciate the few people that tried to get close during that time, but…

When you deal with traumatic events, it’s usually due to the dark side of human nature. And, if you deal with that dark side, well, you have a tendency to turn dark inside too.

Then, the demons spawn, they lurk in dark corners of our minds and hearts where we have built a fortress around to keep that darkness out.

It’s a strange paradox: that which we build to protect ourselves is the very thing that protects what eats us from the inside.

We smile. We laugh. We say, “Good,” when asked how we’re doing. But it’s all fake.

Then family scratches their heads when we tragically commit suicide or drop off the deep end.

Too dark or disturbing of a post here?

Life is a dark business at times.

It needs light.

It needs air.

It needs to breathe!

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Without a lot of explanation to keep this post short, all I’ll say is that I lost hope standing in a church pew in 2006. It was like someone turned off the switch, and I died inside. Can’t explain it but if you are, or have been there, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Can’t tell you if it was from the fact that I couldn’t save a small boy from dying in my arms after he committed suicide. Or the time I think I could’ve prevented a double homicide. Or the time I actually did save my partner off duty with CPR, but he has no memory of our service together or close friendship we had because he was not breathing for about 3 minutes before I got on scene.

It’s more like the combination of all that plus more.

I won’t bore you with the after effects, later to come, which led me to cling to apathy like flotsam after a ship crashes against a rocky shore.

All I know is that passion ceased, relationships were destroyed, and I was on the verge of suicide. No peace at all; the beast had taken over and it was a matter of time before I succumbed to its vile darkness.

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In 2012, I stumbled onto a blog by accident. It made me think real hard about life; what was important, and what I could do to recover…if I wanted to.

You might not believe this, but what I will share in the next few posts is NOT about the pursuit of happiness.

It’s about healing. It’s about tearing down some walls and letting a few trusted souls in. Folks that can help. A few tips on how to get better.

I don’t pursue happiness, I seek peace. Peace with myself, with my God, with those around me.

And that’s huge, especially when you question faith, God, relationships on every level, AND yourself!

Many don’t understand this process. Nor do they understand the changes, and will condemn you…sometimes, very harshly.

Yet, those who have traveled the Valley of the Shadow of Death (sometimes literally), do understand and will be the last to condemn you. They are the ones who won’t cast a stone because they too were flat on their bellies once when they heard the words in red, “Has no man condemned you? Neither do I.”

Anyway…my next post, I’ll cover a few tips on how I got better. I’d say how you can get better, but then that would sound like I’m telling you what to do and this is not what this blog is about.

So, I’ll leave this with you for now…

#1 – AND foremost…You. Are. Loved. There are good people in this world that care and love you for who you are.

#2 – Begin to love and forgive yourself!

#3 – demons, monsters, and darkness all run when the Light turns on. You need air and you need light, breathe it in, and dark things will begin to transform.

~ Love


Photo courtesy of Imagine Dragons, from their YouTube video, Demons

Posted by Christian Martin Jr. in PTSD, Reinvention, Self-Improvement