The eyes of a Wolf always see straight into your soul ...

...You can't hide the truth from them


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Saturday, 29 May 2010

Re-adjusting ...

Some of the old familiar feelings don't remian in my memory and I forget certain things ... unless I feel something that's been repeated from the past and in very similar circumstances.

I'm feeling so many of those things this morning.

I've started getting back into my usual pattern here:   morning bath for pain relief, check the messages in case I have to do anything, see how things are going on a game that I play with people that I have gotten to know a little around the world.

This morning I was remembering the routine I had gotten into at Combat Stress over the last few days:  Up at 06:00 hrs and then off to gym with two of my mates, breakfast at 08:00 followed by a hot bath for the pain relief and then into a group or a 1-to-1 session with my key therapist.  Lunch at 12:30 hrs, some more therapy around 13:30 hrs, followed by some space to think things through before the relaxation class at 16:00 hrs.  Tea at 17:00 hrs followed by an hour or two of watching the fox with her cubs.

The things that I forgot to mention are probably the most crucial:  there was always someone around to talk with (clinically), there was always a mate around to have a laugh with or talk or mutually support each other if things got particularly difficult.  I was understood, I wasn't judged, I was accepted, I wasn't ridiculed, I wasn't ostracised, I wasn't discriminated against, no one made me false promises, I was treated like a human being, I was accepted, I was with my mates again ... different people in different uniforms that did different tasks ... but it felt as if I was with the lads I'd served with, the lads I miss.

I got back and opened up the mail to find a letter from the NHS stating that they can't provide me with the support that I need.  This is why a lot of veterans don't risk going for help ... opening yourself up makes you vulnerable and brings all the issues into the present.  This can become a very negative and painful experience that reinforces the theme of 'rejection' that the MoD drowned me in when, through their lack of action and responsibility for my well being, they left me with one message ... we don't care about you.  we wrote the political cheques and you were our currency when you were fit and strong ... but now you're just the loose change that we can discard somewhere or a penny that we'd drop on the pavement and not bother to pick up.

I find myself shutting down again in certain ways within the solitude of being here again .

Time to find some food ...


Home again ...

The most difficult bit about attending treatment at Combat Stress is coming home.  The work was hard and the friendhips made there are pricless.

I've just spent a few days at a place where I wasn't subjected to the negative stigma that society seems to attach to people with PTSD.  I was understood, supported and not alone for those days.

It makes it difficult to come back to an empty home.



Friday, 28 May 2010

Evening of day 3 and day 4 ...

It had been a pretty full on day yesterday.  I attended the 'assertiveness' work group as well as a relaxation session ... and one of the lads found my mobile phone that I'd misplaced.  I'm getting a bit of a reputation here for that  as I've misplaced my track suit bottoms now!

Today's workgroup was Art Therapy followed by a 1-to-1 session with my key worker.  One of the guys in the group has a habit of bringing the facilitator right into the group and including them, should they wish to share anything ... he does it in genuine good humour and it's received in that way by the different facilitators.

It's nice to sit in with a group of men that are veterans and share our inner-most feelings and to support each other as we open up about them.  I hadn't attended much in the way of group work before ... but I've made up for that this time.

There's nothing much on now until leaving time so I'm going to head for home earlier than planned and get back to processing some of my recent photography and get back on track with my writing.

It's time to see if the foxes are coming out to play :o)


Thursday, 27 May 2010

Combat Stress ... day 3

Some patterns don't change, no matter how hard I try to make that happen.  I go to bed at about 1am most mornings, sometimes 2 or 3am, depending on how I'm feeling and what I'm doing.

Last night I went to bed just after 1am and the usual stuff happened:  interupted sleep through nightmares, flashbacks and the slightest noise that was out of place.  I'd say that I've gotten more tolerant though as I found myself smiling when the bloke in the room next doort started snoring.  I could feel the noise vibrate through the walls!

One of my mates got me up at 6am and we headed for the gym at 6:30am and I did a series of warm ups and kata til 07:40am.  I'm still waiting for the body to seize up from the build up of exercise.  The general pain in the body has increased a little but there's also good muscle pain in there too, a familiar sign that it's doing me good.

The weather's wet and cloudy today but it's helping me to keep cool as my core temprature's gone up since my hot bath and I'm trying to stabilise it ... but the thirst seems to be increasing.

The next workshop is anger management at 11.15am.

I was looking at where I was on a cycle with regard to internal improvements etc.  It's clear and confirmed now that between the time of being retired on ill health in 2006 and Dec 2007, I had gotten myself to a place where the highs and lows were manageable and not as severe as they currently are.  The reason for the change is that the care that I've had in Nottingham in the mental health services doesn't, currently, give me what I need.  The NHS works on models based on cost analysis and emergency intervention, the kind of long term, structured support that veterans need isn't available.  In my particular case that sent me backwards with regards to coping with PTSD.  I've lost 2.5 years of progress where I had gotten myself to a level that I could cope with, even though it took all day to do it.

Now I'm having to slowly build that back up again and get to that space again.  It's generated another level of anger because men don't often open up to other people about problems, veterans even less so.  To risk opening yourself up and to ask for help makes me feel vulnerable ... so to open myself up to the system only to be told that they can't help me because they can't cater for my needs sends me one message and one message alone ... they are ill equipped and have  a serious lack of awareness of important issues to be able to cope with the needs of Armed Forces Veterans.

I don't know how I would cope if I couldn't come here for a top up and the reinforcing of coping mechanisms.


Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Combat Stress ... Day 2

I had my care plan copied out for me last night and then got into it today. 

The morning started with breakfast and then an OT assessment to make sure that I could use the gym facilities.  So I went in and did a warm up and practised some kata and techniques.  I know that I'm going to be walking like an old man in the morning but what the hell.

so my priorities have been decided for this week's treatment:  release the stress valve and take that stress level down as far as possible, get my medication up to the proper levels and start taking them on time and to re-instate a method via my mobile phone to remind me to take them, to gain further insight into PTSD and where I am with my condition and to get my body moving again re warm ups and martial arts again.

I met with my key worker in the afternoon and we caught up with where I'm at.  I've been working with this person now for about 3 years.  After that I sat and watched the foxes and continued to build on her trusting me.  By the end of the day, she came to within 7 feet of me and then later on bought her 3 cubs scampering behind me, the largest of which seems to be okay with me and my camera.

At 18:30 we went into the evening session which entailed watching a DVD therapy session that gave me further insight into the conditioning that took place when I began training with the armed forces.  This was followed by an open and honest discussion with the facilitators and participants that led to some bonding as a result of said people daring to open up to eachother.

I had just enough time and daylight left afterwards to go and watch the foxes and cubs again before coming here and letting you know what's happening.

time to relax with a cup of tea.

Later :o)


Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Combat Stress ... day 1

Some things don't change.  I was lying in bed this morning thinking about what today would bring or the feelings that it would alow to surface.  I thought about why I was doing this:  what do I hope to gain from attending a week of treatment here?  Will it help me?  Will it make any of my symptoms worse?

The usual stuff.  This is my third visit here now.  Last year I resigned myself to the fact that I can't cope with PTSD on my own and that this therapy, be it on my terms and a more condensed time frame, is a neccessary part of my coping mechanism and it does help me.

I left Cornwall at 7am and got here just before 12pm.  Traffic wasn't bad at all.  I felt thew usual surge in anxiety as I drove in through the security gates, which was immediately buffered by the staff that welcomed me in and gently processed me through the arrival procedure:  shown to my room, given a cup of tea and then had my body stats checked out (height, weight and blood pressure), followed by donating a sample of urine.   I was then  interviewed by a member of staff that assesses where my mental health was at with regards to PTSD.  The interview finished just in time for lunch.

After some tasty grub I went into the first of the group sessions that I'll attend during the stay.  This one was about depression and how it affects us, why it comes about and the cycle that takes place including how it affects my behaviour.  It was like doing a refresher course and it allowed me to gauge where I am in terms of the way that I react to certain events.  I listened to what other veterans had to say about where they were in the cycle and listened to their stories unfold; seeing myself in similar circumstances with regards to trying to fit in to a society that alienated me ... and I recognised again the struggle within myself that the current hype of awareness has caused .. all of a sudden the public know about PTSD and how it's caused and some people thank me for serving ... but I really don't know what to do with that because it seems a 189 degree turn around on the way that society treated me before ... and still does in a lot of ways as the stigma towards people with mental health problems remains.  The stories go deep and there's a sense of camaraderie in the group as we dare to open up to eachother as strangers, sharing feelings that many of us haven't shared with those we love ... if we're lucky enough to have that sort of relationship.  For most of us the relationship is that of a father to his children ... some of the other guys talked about the experience of living with PTSD with a partner.

It was nice to bump into a mate here that I'd gotten to know at my last visit.  It kind of helps to have a laugh and switch off with someone to balance out what would otherwise be a really heavy week.

Time to chill out and have a walk around the grounds.  I want to find out if the local pack of foxes have cubs.



Meeting Derek ...

Twas a good meet.   We met at the car park of Portreath Beach and then headed off to a local pub and spent the afternoon catching up with eachother, just as we used to do when I lived in Cornwall.  The relationship with Derek is one that's very easy to slide back into as he's a very easy going person and we bounce of each other with regard to our humour as well.

We discussed ways of getting our work noticed or published and I felt a new awareness of the range of his writing when I heard more about some of the projects that he's been involved with.  Long may that continue.

He's a happy chappy on the whole and I hope we get to meet up again soon.

I'm out of Cornwall now and trying to bring the shutters down on the sense of emptiness that being away from Josh and Laila engenders ... and focussing on the work I have to do here.


Monday, 24 May 2010

Taking a break before some hard work ...

It's time to head back.  The house is silent, apart from it's conversation with the elements ... the only sound I hear as I write are the songs of different birds that frequent the lovely, fragrant gardens of the grounds of Chy Worval.  If you're looking for a relaxing holiday location in Cornwall, you won't do any better - I guarantee it.   If you're a birder, you'll get so see bull, gold and green finches on the grounds amongst other species, including both species of woodpecker in the area.  the tidal river brings in a host of wading birds including egrets.

Chy Worval is a holiday lodge run by the Paxton family, Heather and Mike.  I've known Heather since we worked together at Truro Citizens Advice Bureau back in 1996 or 1997, which was my last post since leaving that service.  They're an amazing, supportive, fun, loving family and their children are just as lovely.

Saturday myself, Josh and Laila wandred around Truro and had lunch at Shanaz Indian restaurant.  I took some photos of Josh doing some free running on Porthtowan Beach.  Yesterday we spent the day by the Helford River with my kids, Josh and Laila and their son, Tom.  The day was hot and we shared a picnic on the beach and played with stones ... and had a relaxing day with laughter and pleasant conversation.

Later that afternoon myself and Josh went to watch Laila at her riding lesson.  She wanted some shots taken and 'Dad' obliged.  It was difficult dropping my kids off home this time as we know that we won't see each other now until the summer holidays ... but, we'll have 2 weeks together then.  Mike, Heather and Tom kept me suitably occupied for the rest of the evening, which included Tom giving me a tour of his cool pad.

Tomorrow I start a week of treatment at 'Combat Stress'.  They're working as hard as they can to get Veterans in for more treatment but they need increased funding.  I have some collection boxes for them, so if you feel you can help, please get in touch as anything we can help raise will go towards treating Veterans with mental health difficulties.

Time to get ready to head off to meet Derek.



Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Can certain attitudes change?

A friend asked if there was an alternative way to exist apart from complaining to organisations that crap on you or confronting those that try to bully you.  It's a valid question to a PTSD sufferer ... but there are certain parameters that need to be explored before the issue can be explained to my satisfaction and present a more accurate picture of the issues involved.

In some ways the question is a 'no-brainer' ... but that's from my perspective.  Remember the post a few weeks ago about 'Have you seen that group on Facebook? 'I Dont Need Anger Management ... You Just Need To Stop Pissin Me Off !!'?  The post was called 'Just for a laugh' on 21 April.  While it may have been for a laugh, there was a serious under current within the almost flippant attitude of the post.  I'm going to elaborate on those feelings:

Do I ever start trouble?  No.
Am I rude to people?  No.
Have I had to risk my life or my well-being to help or protect others?  Yes - most of my life.
Should I expect an acceptable code of behaviour from Society?  Hell yes!

By nature, and the various occupations that I've carried out in these 46 years to date, I've always been in the role of one that is defending or protecting someone or myself.  My life has been spent in service of that role.  The way that I do that may change ... but the role remains consitently a part of my journey and is my purpose in life.  I have brought change to various arenas at great personal cost.  It's in my nature.

How am I supposed to react if someone disrupts treatment that I rely on to cope with my disabilities? Or to someone that threatens me with violence?  Even if I didn't have PTSD?  Would you back down from people that tried walking over you or wanted you to live in a shadow of projected fear?  Is that how you would choose to live to avoid confrontation?  It might work in a small community where you rely on eachother to a degree ... but then I think the likliehood of a neighbour in that sort of environment offering physical violence as dish of the day would be rare.  City life is different and when you have a neighbour that fancies himself as the big boy of the close and he's trying to play the big man ... you do have to stand up to him because there are subtle under currents of other issues involved when you consider the politcal make up of the area ... and they all lead to an ugly space.

'Civilised' societys' morals in England, on the whole, are in decline and I don't play a part in that.  I expect decent manners and professional conduct from organisations.  I expect people to act fairly and honestly with eachother.  Even though I know that a good part won't.

If I choose to lower my standards ... what example am I setting for my children?

If I choose not to back down, what message am I giving to the incompetent organisations that may be responsible for my well being?  What will that mean for the next veteran or civillian down the line?

If I choose to back down from a bully, even if it does mean the loss of my life, what does that say to both the bully and society?  The only difference between now and standing up to a bully in the past is that I had a uniform on then.  Nothing much has changed.  Apart from the triggered symptoms of PTSD.

Society is losing its way ... there are small pockets of balanced resitance ... but most of society are sheeple (hybrid of people and sheep) and they'll go toward whoever's pulling the hardest. I'll not lower my standards though. I'll not conform to a society where the leaders feather their own nests rather than look after the populace; where living for one's own ends without any consideration for the greater good is preached.  The salary has become the main motivator of career choice and vocations are becoming a thing of the past ... and ultimately, that will affect how you are treated by other organisations and companies.

So if people like me change and back down, things will get worse for the people that don't stick up for themselves and maybe they'll deserve that society ... but I have to keep trying to make them toe the line ... because my children will inherit all of this and I would prefer that there's still some honour, professionalism and common decency available to them and that they carry those qualities within themselves ... for the greater good.

To some Native Amercian or First Nations tribes, the nature or 'properties' of a wolf is to be a pathfinder, protector and teacher.

So I guess the answer is this:  You can't be a wolf with no teeth  (...and that balances out the caring and supportive nature of the animal).


Friday, 7 May 2010

Osprey watching ...

Scotland was beautiful, thought provoking and captivating.  A lot of the  weather was what you'd expect in that area as mountainous areas seem to have a few weather systems active all at once.

The days were cold and the nights colder.  I was in a lot of pain by day two and having to use the TENS machine a lot.  I'd be lost without it ... that and a hot bath.  Liz and Neil had one running for me when I needed it.  They looked after me  :o) (thanks Guys).

I saw a different osprey and started to get acquainted with it as I watched it hunt the small lochs in Mossat.  I watched him circle the three ponds and positioned myself amongst the bushes in an area that allowed me to view him hovering over the three locations.

All of a sudden he hovered for about 2 seconds, folded his wings and dived!  Strike!!  He seemed to like sitting there in the water as his talons pierced his prey, which in this case was a trout. 

That gave me a couple of seconds to move quickly so that I could photograph him taking off with his meal but I couldn't get the angle I wanted.

If you want to see the osprey at a place that isn't overcrowded, head to Mossat Fishery, Little Bridgend Farm, Mossat, Alford, Aberdeenshire AB33 8PL.  Tel 01464 861 000.

All the best


Saturday, 1 May 2010

On the road again ...

So, after an appointment to decide the way forward with regard to coping with PTSD, I hit the road and drove over the border to Scotland.

The last thirty miles or so were windy roads besides rivers enshrouded by mists that spilled onto the roads that made reading the roads more difficult; my SatNav acting as a silent navigator, warning me of dangerous twists and turns.  Twenty miles in I was taken by surprise as I came upon a very slim, stone bridge at a dangerous angle ... a slight skid and turn corrected the attitude of the car and the journey through the mist continued.

The roads gained altitude and I imagined what beauty existed around me that had now been swallowed up by the darkness; some of the blank canvas being painted by the memories that came back to life from roads previously travelled.  On descending altitude I saw the river mist glowing through the dark of the night, showing the promise of the beautiful scene to come as darkness relinquished it's hold to the daylight.

I got Liz and Neil's place for 10:30pm and was welcomed with hugs from them and Angus and Jamie, as well as being pounced upon by the three dogs.  I met these guys about 3 or 4 years ago now.  I was photographing the captive European wolf pack at Kingussie and we got to chatting about them.

Liz and Neil are always asking me up and I guess a part of me is very cautious at not wearing out my welcome.

I went for a walk today, with Neil, the first one in nature since Nepal.  The ankle injury that I picked up last year was complaining, sending sharp pain signals but it was worth it.  It was good to walk the land here.  It always energises me.  It feels wilder, like real wilderness, untouched in places ... allowing the energy of the Earth to be felt, accessed more easily.  The experience was more heady as an osprey and a couple of buzzards were sighted.

I was re-introduced to the guy that owns the local fishery and have his permission to stake out his ponds to try to get a shot of ospreys on the hunt.  That starts tomorrow.

The rest of the day was spent in pleasant company, whilst sharing food, laughs and conversation.

More later ...


Osprey - Nature section

Osprey - Nature section
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