The “Ghosts” in my Darkness

This is not an easy blog for me to write, but I’m feeling called to expose my secret for the sake of those who may be suffering in silence.

I have been diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) that has been linked to my career as a Correctional Officer. Think of me as you will, I am no longer concerned with stigmas and shaming. Believe me, this condition is as real as any physical disorder and just as devastating.

No, I’m not looking for sympathy. I want to reach out to those who are ‘there’ and feel that they have nowhere to turn. I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m yelling the words below, however, these are from personal experience and cannot be stressed enough.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

YOU ARE NOT WEAK.

YOU ARE NOT A BURDEN TO YOUR FAMILY OR ANYONE ELSE.

PLEASE TALK TO SOMEONE AND GET HELP.

IF YOU THINK THAT YOU ARE FOOLING THOSE WHO KNOW YOU BEST INTO BELIEVING NOTHING IS WRONG, YOU ARE ONLY FOOLING YOURSELF. THEY NOTICE, TRUST ME.

YOUR LOVED ONES MAY NOT ‘GET YOU’ BUT THEY WANT TO HELP.

YOUR FAMILY MAY NEED TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP AS WELL, BECAUSE PTSD IS TRAUMATIZING TO THOSE WHO LOVE YOU. IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT THAT YOU HAVE PTSD, BUT IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO SEEK HELP AND WORK AT RECOVERING.

SUICIDE OR NUMBING WITH DRUGS, ALCOHOL, OR WHATEVER POISONOUS “COPING” MECHANISM YOU MAY CHOOSE, IS NOT THE ANSWER.

My pride got in the way and I waited too long. In fact, if you want to talk, I am available at markbierman3@gmail.com. I promise confidentiality and lay no claim to being a professional counsellor, but I will do my best to give support and listen. I want you to know that you are not being intrusive if you email me to talk. I have friends who are dealing with PTSD and it is therapeutic to share with others who ‘get it’.

I’ll spare you the gruesome details of how I came to this point, that’s not what this blog is about. I’m currently off on disability for my condition and receiving professional help. I will say one fact that came as a surprise to me. In spite of all the violence, death, and life-threatening situations that I have endured, the biggest contributor was the feeling of betrayal at the hands of those who were supposed to protect me and my coworkers. They were negligent. There is a geographical and bureaucratic detachment, combined with ignorance of the realities of our job. In addition, there is also, what seems to me, an apparent lack of concern because we are deemed unimportant. I will stop there, because I become angry just thinking about it.

PTSD can be caused by a single traumatic event, or, in my case, cumulative events. It is not just an issue for first responders, anyone can be afflicted.

No one has the right to tell you to, “Suck it up, it’s all in your head.

That’s complete bulls**t!

I’ve lost six coworkers to suicide over the years and there are more that I did not know personally. I have also seen too many drink themselves to death, all to numb the pain. If that is what “sucking it” up means, count me out!

If you need immediate help because of suicidal thoughts, please contact a help line or the police. You can get better, there is hope and help in the darkness.

Here is a poem I wrote sometime ago that sheds a bit of light on what living with this issue can feel like. I composed this at my worst. I am glad to say that I no longer feel this way most of the time.

What Haunts Me.

Morning light through window shines, but I wish for darkness to remain,

For with the light, come the demands of life, far too much

“Take your meds!” they preach. “They will help to reduce the pain.”

I swallow them down to banish the ghosts, yet never escape their clutch

What happened to the man I used to be? Full of life and no dark stain,

He’s but gone, a phantom from another time, never to return again.

We are all different, and I know we have different values, beliefs and situations, but here are a few things that have helped me on the road to recovery.

My belief in God.

My wonderful and supportive friends and family.

Prescribed and monitored medication.

Professional counselling.

Leaving the situation (work).

An attitude of gratitude, yes, concentrating and giving thanks for the blessings in my life.

Regular physical exercise.

Volunteering as much as I can in these strange days of COVID.

Good nutrition and sleep (not always easy but it will come with time).

Being outdoors, especially enjoying nature.

Pets.

Avoiding the news and social media, at times.

Your thoughts control your emotions, so I’ve been taught to practice a technique called CATCH, CHECK, CHANGE: If you have a bad thought capture it, check the rationale behind it, change it to something positive. This one takes some work.

This list is not exhaustive, and you will discover your own path to healing.

Just one more thing before I close. I want you to know, especially the wonderful friends I’ve made at Rave Reviews Book Club , that if I don’t respond to comments in a proper time frame, participate in supportive activities, blog, or retweet, I’m probably having a rough day and cannot focus. It’s nothing personal. It’s taking me forever to write my second book because of this.

I’m on the mend and fighting back, and someday I’ll finish that book. 🙂

Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones. You deserve a great life and there is always hope.

Silver#writephoto

silver-1

A shoal in a stream of humdrum

Anchored till there’s naught left of me

All else roams free

Waters lap and return downstream

Winds kiss my nape as they blow past

Grain by grain they erode and scar me

I envy those grains, for they’ll travel far

Those lush green hills will never shade me whole

My brethren, so close, yet unreachable

Subject to the same fate, they suffer together

I’m condemned to a solitary demise

In spite of all, I’ve learned to cope

For when darkness falls, and the skies are clear

Starlight guests shine in my watery mirror

Written for Sue Vincent Weekly Write Photo Challenge

Feathered Guests

A good Saturday morning to all! Today, the sun shines with only a few wispy clouds dotting the sky. I want to tell you about a little adventure we had on our yard last week. The tale proves that your feet don’t need to carry you past the gatepost to create lifelong memories.

The COVID Pandemic has slowed the world, and though not a pleasant experience, it has taught us to appreciate the simpler pleasures. Like the little duck, we named Griffin, that wandered onto our lawn last week.

At first, we were surprised by the proximity to which we could approach Griffin. We reasoned he must belong to a local. Tanya put a shout out on social media, but no owner came forward.

There were some guesses as to what type of duck, and the gender. Know-it-All Google had the answer. A comparison of photos led to the conclusion that our guest was a Muscovy.  No one had the stomach to physically check for gender, so we relied on an online list of observed behaviors that indicated it was a dude.

Now, Muscovy ducks dine on mice, snakes, and other vermin, so in my books that makes Griffin a hero. We all agreed Griffin was welcome to stay.

Griffin chose the area under the treehouse and our kids happily tended to his needs.

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Just make yourself comfortable, Griffin. Need anything?

 

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Um . . . I’m no expert on drinking from a frisbee, but wouldn’t the water stay in better if you leave your feet out?

 

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How about a bucket, is that better?

Homemade duck bath, equals one happy fowl.

 

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Meanwhile, in the front yard, this poor baby needed saving. Reuntited with a chirping Mother Robin moments after this was taken.

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That night we camped in the wilds of our backyard, and when I awoke and exited the tent, Griffin was under the treehouse, standing guard.

Well, for us older folks, and perhaps just us Canucks, the whole story ended like an episode of the Littlest Hobo.  The next day we woke to find Griffen had moved on. Perhaps to brighten the day for another COVID weary family.

 

A Few Inspirational Quotes

Good morning, afternoon, evening, or midnight . . . or whatever time you are reading this. As I post this, it’s 9:30am an Tuesday, June 9. May blew past like smoke in a hurricane!

The kiddos will soon  finish Quaranschool, and are getting antsy. I have to keep an eye on them so they stay focused and away Minecraft. I honestly can’t say I blame them. 🙂

Today, I’ve decided to share a few of my instagram posts that I’ve written.  They contain, well, you decide. Have a great day, evening, night!

Everyone has their story.

bridgesmall

The sign reads. “Tamworth has it!” We should put that to the test.

Dr.suess

Choose your perspective.

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What most authors/bloggers hope for.

Story

Remain grateful.

Soar

Have some fun!

color

 

From Rocks to Radiance!

First of all, I cannot emphasize enough that I take NO credit for the beauties that you’ll see in these photos. My role in this whole operation was merely to gather some stones, and I didn’t even collect all of them.

The credit belongs to my lovely wife, Tanya, and our two daughters, Amanda and Isabel. So often, author’s blogs, at least mine, center on the craft of writing, but neglect to show appreciation for the many other avenues of creative expression.

I’m so fortunate to have found someone who’s talent for visual art far exceeds my own. Tanya has a diploma in Interior Design and runs her own business. Her past experience also involves producing amazing three-dimensional cakes, sorry no photos for those. I know someone, among my readership, who has the same talent.

But for today, I’ll focus on a recent project. You see, there is an area along our home’s exterior that juts over the flowerbed. A lack of rain and sunlight prevents most plants from growing there.

Left to me, that spot would remain a barren oasis. Oh, let’s face it, the flowerbeds would be dandelions.

Fortunately, the rest of my family has far greater vision for this type of thing. So, here are a few photos that demonstrate Rocks to Radiance!

Take one bag of rocks, preferably smooth and shaped as close to the image you wish to portray as possible.

“Me? Why I’m just a little ol’ bag of rocks.”

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From the mundane to the beautiful!

A comparison:

Dull rocks in absentia:

A quarantine trip to the Rocky Mountains!

I hope you enjoyed this little foray into the world of visual arts. Let’s show our appreciation to those who brighten our world by honoring their talent!