Flash, Bang, Flashbacks

Fireworks burst over Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford/Released)

Fireworks burst over Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford/Released)

Fourteen years ago, I formed my most vivid holiday memory to date. July 4, 2001 is a day I will not be forgetting.

Dirk, the true genius of DIY plumbing, made our family an arsenal of firework-powered weapons. Most notably, he made a series of steel pipe “guns” which shot bottle rockets. As you can imagine, my thirteen-year-old self thought many things about this. “Cool, guns!” and “Is my aim good enough to hit Dirk between the legs?” were the two that stand out most.

What didn’t occur to me (and cut me some slack, I was a kid), was that bottle rockets could catch things on fire. The list of flammable materials happens to include baggy tie-dye t-shirts. I was a BIG fan of baggy shirts back then. You see where I’m going with this?

After about 5 horrible, hilarious, terrifying, and thrilling minutes, I dodged a bottle rocket aimed straight at me. Except, I was a fat, slow, uncoordinated teenager. My “dodge” ended up being a “catch the bottle rocket in my right armpit.”

The initial explosion was kinda sucky. Loud, sudden, and hot, the BANG felt like I’d been punched. Right in the armpit. By a very hot fist. It took me a whole 3 seconds to realize that my underarm was hosting a exothermic party. When I realized I was on fire, I froze. I remember every damned millisecond of the following event.

There was a tickling sensation on the back of my arm. It felt like a warm hand was lightly resting on my shoulder. I thought about this, and couldn’t think of a single rational explanation. Then I looked over my shoulder. The smell got to me before my eyes got the picture. Smoke.

Not the crisp smoke of a wood stove, or the oily smoke of barbecue meat. No, this was an acidic, acrid, and all around chemical smell. My eyes saw a waver of smoke before my nose gave me the emergency update that my body hadn’t figured out yet: There was a fire in my shirt, no innuendo involved.

I tried to pull the shirt off, but it was, you know, around arms and a neck and stuff. Very inconvenient. I basically tore it off. The fire had cut away at the side, so it split pretty easily. Thank God for old cotton. The thin material was easy to tear, and there was no plastic to stick to my newly raw skin.

I inspected my shoulder, found a few burning threads hanging off of my elbow, and let the adrenaline take over for a minute. My animal-brain kept shouting “STOP, DROP, and ROLL, MOTHERFUCKER!” Meanwhile, my human-brain was shouting “IF YOU HIT THE GROUND, YOU WILL GET AN INFECTION, IDIOT!”

Obviously, I was of two minds on the subject.

As a tie-breaker, I ran into the house. I was crying uncontrollably now. Adrenaline has this side effect people don’t talk about much. It destroys your remaining energy. Adrenaline might get you out of the fire, but it might not get you out of the woods. I found my mom, showed her my shoulder, and asked for help. This part was all blubbery, as I recall, and I was an adult before I learned that adults actually CAN understand the gibberish their terrified children are spewing. Well, sometimes.

My mom tore off a chunk of Aloe Vera (that was a plant that paid for itself hundreds of times over, I tell you what), and rubbed soothing, healing, gooey plant blood all over my shoulder. The burn was minor, but it covered about four inches of my back, and about half of my armpit. I couldn’t hold my arm right for about four days. Thank God I wasn’t in school, writing would have sucked.

I spent the rest of the day inside. I went outside to see the fireworks (but only the ones that were pointedly aimed at the sky), and I went inside when I got uncomfortable. I remember an elevated sense of anxiety, and general discomfort from my shoulder. I was okay.

And then the nightmares came. Not long after, the flashbacks came, too.

Happy 4th of July. Happy birthday, America. Everyone: Stay safe, stay wise, and enjoy the show.

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GNU Free Documentation License

GNU Free Documentation License

Today I joined my family in wishing an amazing 70th birthday to a dear family member. She asked us to each write her a poem, considering what it will be like to be living an 8th decade. My wife and kids are close relatives, and wrote from the heart.

But me… I’m a new addition to this family. I haven’t had the chance to express how much she means to me. This was remedied today, I hope. Happy birthday, Margaret. You are amazing.

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Night Pills in the Afternoon

Yesterday, I was dealing with some anxiety. Between cleaning and getting things ready for our kids to come home from vacation, I had a long list of tasks to do above and beyond my normal workday. At some point, I went upstairs to get an anxiety pill. I grabbed some other things, too, then headed back downstairs. When I got downstairs, though, I couldn’t remember actually taking a pill.

At this point, I was berating myself for forgetting why I was going upstairs in the first place. I went upstairs, checked my medicine cabinet, and then it hit me. I had taken my 10 o’clock meds at 1:30 in the afternoon. This included some anxiety medications, but also several medications which make me drowsy. Tough luck for me, I still needed to go to my therapy appointment at 3:00.

I drove there and back again without too much trouble. Once I got home, though, I got some serious sleepy time. I managed to stay up until my actual bedtime, but it was not fun. I played some games and such, and read a little. I know it sounds silly that I fought so hard to stay awake, but if I don’t keep my sleep schedule very regular, I end up waking up at 3am and not sleeping again until the afternoon.

TL;DR: I took my meds at the wrong time, and it kicked my day in the ass. Please remember to take yours on time, too!

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Wil Wheaton on UROK

Wil Wheaton, the most beloved of nerds, opened up to Project UROK about his anxiety and depression. It is a heartbreakingly beautiful video, so I’m sharing with you what I saw:

If you want to see more of these, Project UROK is a great group of people, who you should totally share. Here’s their YouTube Channel.

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I’m Not Okay: Help!

Jenny sent me a link to the article included below, and it made me happy inside. It will forever live on a wall in my house, because I need perspective too. If you have something that helps you, tell us about it! Share in the comments. We are all learning different things that help, and I could use some advice too, you know.

From Eponis.Tumblr.com, this article was originally published and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Are you hydrated?  If not, have a glass of water.

Have you eaten in the past three hours?  If not, get some food — something with protein, not just simple carbs.  Perhaps some nuts or hummus?

Have you showered in the past day?  If not, take a shower right now.

If daytime: are you dressed?  If not, put on clean clothes that aren’t pajamas.  Give yourself permission to wear something special, whether it’s a funny t-shirt or a pretty dress.

If nighttime: are you sleepy and fatigued but resisting going to sleep?  Put on pajamas, make yourself cozy in bed with a teddy bear and the sound of falling rain, and close your eyes for fifteen minutes — no electronic screens allowed.  If you’re still awake after that, you can get up again; no pressure.

Have you stretched your legs in the past day?  If not, do so right now.  If you don’t have the spoons for a run or trip to the gym, just walk around the block, then keep walking as long as you please.  If the weather’s crap, drive to a big box store (e.g. Target) and go on a brisk walk through the aisles you normally skip.

Have you said something nice to someone in the past day?  Do so, whether online or in person.  Make it genuine; wait until you see something really wonderful about someone, and tell them about it.

Have you moved your body to music in the past day?  If not, do so — jog for the length of an EDM song at your favorite BPM, or just dance around the room for the length of an upbeat song.

Have you cuddled a living being in the past two days?  If not, do so.  Don’t be afraid to ask for hugs from friends or friends’ pets.  Most of them will enjoy the cuddles too; you’re not imposing on them.

Do you feel ineffective?  Pause right now and get something small completed, whether it’s responding to an e-mail, loading up the dishwasher, or packing your gym bag for your next trip.  Good job!

Do you feel unattractive?  Take a goddamn selfie.  Your friends will remind you how great you look, and you’ll fight society’s restrictions on what beauty can look like.

Do you feel paralyzed by indecision?  Give yourself ten minutes to sit back and figure out a game plan for the day.  If a particular decision or problem is still being a roadblock, simply set it aside for now, and pick something else that seems doable.  Right now, the important part is to break through that stasis, even if it means doing something trivial.

Have you seen a therapist in the past few days?  If not, hang on until your next therapy visit and talk through things then.

Have you been over-exerting yourself lately — physically, emotionally, socially, or intellectually?  That can take a toll that lingers for days. Give yourself a break in that area, whether it’s physical rest, taking time alone, or relaxing with some silly entertainment.

Have you changed any of your medications in the past couple of weeks, including skipped doses or a change in generic prescription brand?  That may be screwing with your head.  Give things a few days, then talk to your doctor if it doesn’t settle down.

Have you waited a week?  Sometimes our perception of life is skewed, and we can’t even tell that we’re not thinking clearly, and there’s no obvious external cause.  It happens.  Keep yourself going for a full week, whatever it takes, and see if you still feel the same way then.

You’ve made it this far, and you will make it through.  You are stronger than you think.

End quote.

Remember to love yourself. You deserve it, motherfucker. If you want to download a printable version of this for your home, you can download it here.

Posted in Anxiety, Coping Skills, Daily Update, Mental Illness, PTSD, Self Harm, Suicide | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coping Skill: Minecraft

minecraft logo

Image: Mojang

Yesterday was just hell for me. My kids are on vacation, thankfully, so I was allowed to be a pitiful mess all day without worrying them. My migraine lasted well into the morning. When I finally slept, it was up against the shower, near the toilet with a pillow, a teddy bear, and a blanket. (Thanks, Jenny!)

I woke up to cats rubbing me, loving me, and trying to eat my fingers. I hadn’t thrown up, but I had skipped my evening meds because of the nausea. My daily meds can cause nausea on their own, and I knew they wouldn’t have helped me any last night. So I took what I could, and took a shower.

We went shopping, and I went to work.  I bought a tray of danishes, and ate them like the sad, stupid person I felt like. I enjoyed them immensely. Sometimes, I tell you, it is worth feeding your irresponsible side. Especially when it feels validating and safe. It’s also a great way to dodge your diet!

For my downtime, I spent some serious time on Minecraft. It is one of my favorite coping tools. No, seriously. Minecraft lets me kill things when I’m angry. It lets me grow things when I feel nurturing, and it lets me build things when I feel creative. Oh, and if I mess up while building in Minecraft, it’s easy to delete the mistakes. So much better than painting, in that regard.

I’m also taking a server design course, which means I can make a pretty good stab at using Minecraft to learn greater life skills. Yay for entertaining learning!

I spent a large portion of the evening killing monsters, because making things die is a great way to spend your day. Especially if you don’t have to rinse blood off of your lawn. Which reminds me of a story I’ll have to tell another time.

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This isn’t a real post because migraines can die in a fire. I just wanted to tell you to have a good week, and to love yourself. I’ve spent a pretty good amount of time in the last 12 hours wishing I could die, and not in a suicidal way. Totally in a I-can’t-do-anything-to-feel-better kind of way, which might sound the same, but totally isn’t.

In other news, I took a bunch of quizzes online today, and I’ve learned that my ultimate job in the 16th century is a mercenary, my “secret” twin is Loki the Norse troublemaker, and that I have more migraines that President Obama. All good things to know about oneself, I think.

To feel good this week, I’m staring at pictures of Boggle. He really does help. Here’s one before I go:

Posted in Mental Illness | 2 Comments