A picture example from our trip of my luck taken just after the incident. Driving down the mountain in the jeep, minding my own business following Amanda with our camper. When all of a sudden, out of nowhere I collide with a wasp. Yes that is a WASP sting on my neck that I received while driving. Was going over 30 mph around a curve, lucky I didn't get in an accident and survived. But was I really lucky?
I recently re-read all of my blogs that I have written over the past year or so and going over all that has happened and all that I've been told. I've already touched on a few issues in my blog or on social media but a few things that have been said to me have been weighing heavily on my mind recently.
"You are (meaning me) a survivor."
That could be a compliment. Except it was used in comparison to someone else being a success. Implying (intentional or not) that I was not a success. After all of the setbacks of the past and with all the hurdles yet to come I can't deny that it is true. I am a survivor. But I want to be more. The problem is that desire for more, without the ability to achieve it, just leads to pain.
"I deserve to enjoy my retirement, I've earned it."
Told to me by someone who is retired after a long fairly successful career in explaining why they can't get involved with some of the recent issues I've gone through. I don't dispute that this person earned their retirement but I'm retired too. Maybe I didn't earn it through a long career so it is different? If so, I guess I will never earn the right to enjoy my retirement.
"We're not talking about you."
This one requires a little context as it happened multiple times.
Once, I was at a dinner with a bunch of people that I know well. The talk unfortunately turned to politics and people getting free handouts from the government, and how there are always lines out of the welfare office of people just waiting in line for their exam or interview. That if they can wait in line all day they certainly can just go get a job. I point out that I have waited in a line like that, multiple times. But I needed the help and that was a requirement. And even then I had to fight to prove that I needed the help. But I stood in line, does that mean I should "just get a job?" even though you know all the issues I have? After a laughing reply of "maybe" from one of them thinking as though its a joke, the rest quickly reply, "but we're not talking about you."
But aren't you?
I often play video games with other veterans (some still on active duty) and have ever since I got out. There is a group I found a few years ago and there are quite a few regulars while some new faces come and go. I've gotten along well with many of them, chatted about life in and out of service, fought through deep depressions together. Multiple times now I've heard veterans talking down to other veterans for not being deployed, or not being in a combat oriented unit. Sometimes I remind them that I was never deployed, does that make me less of a veteran too? And they reply, "We're not talking about you."
It sure sounds like you are. At times I can't help but feel that I am less too. That and lose respect for them.
"Must be cool to be retired."
It's not what you think. I'm not just retired, I'm disabled. I have a fixed income with constant issues coming up that demand any extra money we have. Traveling around is difficult and requires a lot of planning and sacrifice. I have little ability to make any extra money. I have little confidence and no direction, though I was starting to find that with my time on the water.
And with the end of that I've been floundering. I setup my whole life so I could do that. Focusing only on things that would further my fishing/boating goal. Giving up gardening ambitions, putting off woodworking and home improvements projects, spending time away from home, and more. With the end of the fishing and boating I feel left adrift without anything, and what's worst is knowing I'm dragging down those that are attached to me without any idea on how to get back on course. I've been trying to get back into gardening, woodworking and more but too many problems crop up. With money and my issues being central to them all. At times it seems like things are insurmountable and that I'm in a prison with no control of my life. But as I've been told before, I am a survivor and I'll survive this.
"I support you(meaning me)."
I've had this website/blog and for over a year now and I've been actively trying to fundraise for the past 8 months. I've had 4 donations, which I am thoroughly grateful for, but I'm honestly contemplating returning them since I'm having doubts whether this project will ever take shape.
I've shared everything I've planned with friends and family. I've received 0 comments on my blog posts or web pages, a few social media shares that I'm grateful for, and a handful more social media comments than shares. Most of which aren't much more than "thoughts and prayers". I look at my site statistics and see how few visits, clicks, and viewing time I get. I'm left feeling like the universe is telling me to stop trying to accomplish my goals, that my ideas are foolish but nobody wants to tell me. So when I hear this comment, it just confuses me.
Looking back on everything over the past year, I feel further away from my goal of getting back out on the water so I can find myself again and eventually start giving veterans an educational but fun experience of their own.
It may or may not seem like it but my current battle is not with those that have said these things. It's not with those that may or may not support me, before now or in the future. My battle is with myself. Will the FV-Escape-Hatch continue on in it's current form? Will the program change in some way big or small? Or will I find some other smaller, more realistic goal to focus on and give in to what I feel like the universe is telling me? Only time will tell what the outcome will be. I will be sure to keep you in the know.
A few months ago, March, was Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness month. I had planned on releasing a blog post documenting many of the struggles that I face in dealing with my TBI. It was supposed to be a way to show the drive I have to move beyond being disabled and never giving up.
No. You didn't miss it. I ended up deleting the entire document. While my intentions for the piece were good, the actual product failed to inspire the emotions I was hoping. In fact, it helped usher me into a deep funk that had me step back while I evaluated my situation.
The blog post itself wasn't enough to drop me into a depression. Don't get me wrong, being reminded of all the hardships I've faced since I began this TBI journey 14+ years ago is hard. But on it's own it wouldn't have brought me into the funk I found myself in. It just added to the stress of family fallout over the boat, financial stress of living on a pretty fixed income, and having an ever growing list of tasks that I found myself unable to accomplish. However, the real clincher was not seeing a path for me to complete my dream project, F/V Escape Hatch.
My plan relied on social networks to help me get the word out in order to help raise funds. I knew that I couldn't just write up a plan and send a request for likes, shares, and money and that's it, though I had high hopes that I would be further along than I currently am. So my vehicle was to document sailing and fishing adventures, woodworking and other house projects, and learning the craft of blacksmithing. I would post these adventures through YouTube videos, Instagram and my blog.
It sounded like a good enough plan. But real life showed the flaws.
1. Sailing Plan - Other than gas, some beverages and maybe a few snacks, sailing on someone else's boat is free.
Sailing Reality - It's a little more complicated for me due to my TBI. Namely, traveling to and from and the cost of the support items that would make it all manageable.
2. Fishing Plan - I had a few offers from people to take me fishing. Some for free, others for just my share of gas, ice, and bait. Sounded reasonable.
Fishing Reality - But again, my TBI made things much more complicated. Namely the difficulty I have in being able to go fishing with just one or two days notice. Usually what happens is I get 1 or 2 invites and than they ghost me. The last guy was "nice" enough to tell me that I'm just not reliable enough for him and he will no longer be calling. So needless to say, this is appearing to be a dead end.
3. Woodworking Plan - Fine woodworking seemed like a viable craft to learn.
Woodworking Reality - But the unpredictable nature of my TBI may mean that I have unplanned delays in a project. Of course during that time the wood moved enough that the joints no longer line up. Which can mean I have to redesign on the fly or scrap a costly piece and redo it. All the projects I had lined up were dependent on very fine joints and I had little ability to make them.
4. House Projects Reality. The basic maintenance isn't good content and the better content stuff is too expensive at the moment.
So I was at the point where no content may mean no fundraising and that means no project. That was just unacceptable. I refused to give up. After so long I found something I want and need to accomplish, taking other veterans out for a fun learning experience on the water.
I am now focused on beginning to blacksmith at home and will soon be creating more content. I will elaborate more on this in the next blog post.
For now, I'm in a better place and moving forward towards my goal. For ways you can help me, please check out this blog post.
Waking up, it's cold and dark. I really want to just stay under the covers and go back to sleep. But that is impossible. My body sends me into a quiet rush to gather some clothes and carefully make my way down the dark hallway with my hands on the wall for balance. I barely make it before the pain in my head caused my stomach to heave up what little was in there. During a brief respite I take my medicine that dissolves under my tongue and use the pain relieving cream and hope they work. I have a few more short moments of "fun" but eventually things settle down. That's good as I have been able to stay out of the ER for years now and I don't want to break my streak.
This is not the first time this happened, nor will it be the last. Often I am surprised by these days, but not this time. Yesterday was a day where my pain just seemed to increase from the moment I awoke. So I am not at all surprised that it has been a rough morning today. Hopefully as the day goes on I will begin to feel better.
Physical labor will be postponed for the day, but I still have lots of computer and planning work that I can complete as I feel up to it. I hope to get back to work on the mantle soon, but in the meantime I will be working on the footage I have so far. One thing I know after living with a TBI for so long, days like this are temporary and i'll be back to it soon as long as I let myself recover.
Til next time, take care all!
It's been almost a month since I've been out on the water. With no end in sight to the issues between my brother and I, my return to the water for this fishing season is questionable. It's quite heartbreaking as I had so many goals set.
But I can't let that stop me from pressing on with my goals. It may mean that it will take longer. The route to my return is unknown. But I am working on it. And it will happen.
I want to prove to other disabled veterans that no matter the obstacle, or how bleak things may look, to always fight. Never give up. You'll have bad days where you want to. You'll have people doubting whether you can succeed. You may even start doubting yourself. But remember, you're living with something few can understand and are still here! You're still in the fight! That proves the determination you have. Use that and find a way. I know I will.
Living with a traumatic brain injury is a difficult companion in life. There are no hard and fast rules for how to manage a TBI because each one is different and manifests in many possible combinations of ailments. There was not a lot of information on TBIs when I first was injured and for quite a few years after. Even now we do not have an idea on what the organic cause is.
My TBI affects me in many ways. I suffer from constant daily headaches that on bad days are quite debilitating and the more activity I do the more I hurt. The headaches also cause many bouts with nausea and vomiting which just makes the pain worse. I don't sleep very well, averaging 4-5 hours a night, sometimes more sometimes less. I have a central auditory processing disorder which makes verbal communication a little difficult, more so with lots of background noise. I have neck pain that has only gotten worse since my surgery in 2010. I also have memory problems, especially short term.
Many treatments were tried before I was retired, and I went through many more treatments after. I've been on most medications, both on and off label. I've done therapies of many stripes. Physical, occupational, emotional, biofeedback, hyperoxygenation,and other western medicine therapies. I've tried chiropractors, acupuncture, and other alternative therapies. I have even had brain surgery. Nothing has delivered relief.
I tried working at several different jobs after I was retired and even went back to school. I was unable to maintain good enough attendance at jobs or school and while bosses and teachers were understanding of my situation, I was unable tokeep employment or stay in school. I was unable to secure any employment after that. Finally in 2011 I gave into the reality that I was truly disabled and applied for Individual Unemployability. After 5 years of fighting the VA and being forced to retain legal counsel after they denied me after a two year wait, as the strain of the fight was too much for me to fight, I was awarded 90% permanent disability and individual unemployability which pays me at the 100% rate.
After 14 years I was finally in a position where I was not going to struggle for the basics in life. Food, water, shelter. I could even start to enjoy life a little and finally put my life together and figure out how you live a fulfilling live. I could contribute to my wife and our success and no longer feel as much like like a burden on the love of my life. We bought a house after living with her or my parents for the first 4 years of marriage and struggling to make rent on a tiny 450 sqft house for another coupe years. We finally have a place we can call our own.
Living with a TBI is still not easy. I still struggle, but instead of struggling to survive I'm now just struggling to thrive. That makes a lot of difference.