Good for my soul

If you ask me, I'll tell you I'm more of an introvert than an extrovert. My friend, J, argues with me that I'm full of crap and really, truly an extrovert. I usually disagree but last night may have swayed my mind a bit. Being around my TR people last night at one of the monthly socials was overwhelmingly good for my soul.

I didn't realize how badly I need to be with my friends - see them, touch them, hug them, talk with them - until I first hugged J yesterday afternoon. I had to fight back tears at several different points and I'm typing this with tears in my eyes right now. I needed yesterday/last night in so many ways. Of course, all of this would be easier if they all just lived in my town. But that's a different story. 

Over the course of my life, I've had 7 people I know commit suicide. It's never easy. It never gets any easier. The questions you ask yourself are always the same and the answers never come. The shock and the horror and the heartbreak are just as overwhelming the 7th time as they were the first. It's a brutal path to walk each and every time. And the fact that my friends - people I love and care about - are walking that path breaks my heart in a different way that is no less brutal.

Today is James' memorial service. I do so wish I could be there simply to lend a shoulder or an ear to those that need it and pay tribute to a guy I wish I had the privilege to meet. 


Ride Along #1

Had my first ride along this weekend for my EMT class. This one was MUCH more mellow than the last one I did...

My medic, K, was wonderful. Easy going, smart, experienced, seen and done some crazy stuff. He splits his time between the private service I rode with and a larger municipal service closer to where he lives. This is his 16th year in EMS and he's quite the jack of all trades.

My EMT, R, is this young, beautiful blonde MMA fighter. I believe this is her fourth year as an EMT and she's hilarious, irreverent, and sarcastic. She has also seen and done some crazy stuff and nothing seems to really faze her.

The shift was actually quite quiet and the 'white cloud' that usually follows an EMT student was firmly in place. We didn't get a call until we were a good 3.5 hours into the shift. And then that call was canceled because the purported patient got up and walked away. So much for that.

Less than an hour later, we got a call for a possible cardiac arrest on a young person (over 18 but not by much). By the time we arrived on scene, the patient had been declared dead and our call was canceled.

Our most interesting call was for an elderly patient that had fallen, struck their head, and was bleeding. They had a syncopal episode and struck their head on the way down. Because of previous heart problems, they were on a blood thinner and it was difficult to get the bleeding under control. We blew through 2 trauma dressings, 2 ice packs, a ton of 4x4 gauze, several pair of gloves and 2 pillowcases (one was used as a makeshift compress until we could get hands on a trauma dressing) and a bunch of hardcore direct pressure and still we weren't able to get it truly under control before getting to the hospital. Then, just to keep things interesting, our patient started having substernal chest pains as we arrived at the ER.

Following that was a young patient suffering from PTSD with suicidal indications. It had been a rough weekend for this person and they had reached the end of their rope. After waiting for the police department to secure the scene, we transported the patient. It was interesting to watch my EMT interact with the patient and I learned a lot in the way she did so.

Last call of the night (again, slow shift) was a patient that had been assaulted. We had the pleasure of working with the local PD as they secured this scene as well. There had been an altercation between roommates and the patient had some superficial lacerations but refused transport.

My medic and EMT encouraged me to practice as many skills as I could and I'm grateful. Back in SoCal, we were told to sit down and shut up and observe but don't DO anything. Here, they firmly adhere to the adage that the best way to learn is to DO. I'm grateful. But what I'm more grateful for is the fact that it all felt so...NATURAL. Yet again, I feel like I am at home. Dark senses of warped humor, trauma assessments, patient interaction...another missing piece falls into place.

I'm so glad I didn't give up.

Stages of grief

My friend, V, drew the picture above last year and just shared it today, in the wake of one of our TR member's suicide this past weekend. I didn't know J but so many of the people I love did, and watching this all play out is heartbreaking. And infuriating.

Let me caveat: this is not about me in any way, shape, or form other than the fact that I am writing from my perspective. This did not happen TO me. It's happening TO them. But I do feel the effects of it and, in order to be strong and help my friends through this, I need to process all of this and deal with it. This is the best place to do that.

Even though this didn't happen to me, there are stages to this just like there are for the people dealing with the fallout of J's suicide. There was shock and then sadness, and now there is anger. But how are you supposed to be angry at a dead guy - a dead guy that fought his demons for so long and then, apparently, just got tired? How are you supposed to be angry at a dead guy you didn't even know?

Because I am. I'm so damned angry. I watch my friends struggle with their grief, their helplessness, their fear, their shock, their anger and rage, and all I want to do is punch this guy. And then hug him and tell him tomorrow will be better. And sit with him to make sure he holds on to see that. But I can't. And they can't. And that just makes me angry all over again.

There are things I want to yell and scream and shout here, but I can't because the idea that someone that loved him would see that and misconstrue my anger - moreso at the situation than at him, but it's easier to be angry at a person than an abstract concept - also breaks my heart and I can't do that. By all accounts he was a great guy - full of sarcastic, cynical, larger-than-life LIFE. And then it was gone and it terrifies me to think that the vacuum he created in the wake of his suicide might suck others that I love into it. And, because my default in the face of fear is anger, I am just so enraged.

I want all of my people in my sight line right now. I want them all in my living room so I can lay eyes on them and see that they are ok. I want to be able to look them in the eye and tell them in all honesty that they are loved and treasured and that my phone is on 24/7 and I'll drop whatever I can drop to be there. Thankfully, I have a family that gets it. I want to hug them all. It's not possible but that's how I'm feeling right now.

When we were in college, MacGyver was working on the Jeep after it had died on him at work, and the hood came crashing down on his head. It was a pretty impressive laceration that required a good handful of staples to close up and some observation afterward due to the minor concussion he sustained. My instinct to all of that - once the initial situation had passed - was to keep him close to me. I didn't want him out of my sight for several days. It's like that now - circle the wagons and draw in tight. There is a TR social tomorrow in Kansas City and I'm looking forward (in a way) to it moreso than I did NatCon. I need to see my people (that part *is* about me), make sure they are ok, hug them.

Long and hard. (get your minds out of the gutter)


Goodness, what a day

We lost one of our own today. I'm sure you've heard about the 22 a day statistic that is out there, purporting that 22 veterans commit suicide each day. Valid or not, Team Rubicon lost one of our own to suicide today. It's heartbreaking and enraging and terrifying all at the same time.

When Clay Hunt killed himself, I wrote about the range of emotions that wrought. I'm finding they are being dragged back up again tonight. My worry then is the same as it is now:

I don't know what the answers are. I don't know if there ARE answers. That's the scariest part of all of this. What if we do everything right - EVERYTHING - and it's still not enough? Then what? How do we keep from losing more people like Clay? I don't know.

What if there are no answers? What the hell do we do then? And what kind of message does it send to that person that is struggling mightily and doesn't have access to the resources that Clay or J had access too? These guys were SURROUNDED by people that knew of their struggles. They knew the demons these guys faced. Hell, J was ASIST trained - he was trained to know what to look for, how to help those facing exactly what he was facing.

And yet, here we are. Again.

Five fucking years later and no closer to an answer. How do I protect the people I love - that hold pieces of my heart - from this? I don't know how. I didn't know J - hadn't had the chance to meet him yet. But I'm watching my friends' hearts break over this and I'm helpless to do anything. And I hate it. I hate every damned moment of it. I want to wrap them all up in a bubble and protect them from this. From all of it. And I can't. It's not possible.

I hate this. With every fiber of my being, I hate this.



It’s been 7+ months since I jumped in with Team Rubicon at MOBEX Trigger and I’ve still not recovered (not sure that I ever will and I’m OK with that) so I don’t know why I thought giving myself a week to recover from NatCon was going to make a difference. But my head is a little clearer than it was a week ago and I’ve (mostly) caught up on sleep so I’ll jump in and see if I can manage some kind of recap. 

First off, it was fantastic! From a logistical standpoint, the venue was perfect, the programming was solid, the guest speaker (General Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) was wonderful, the food was amazing, and the company/people were good for my soul. The weekend could not have been any better. The Hilton Anatole was an incredible setting - probably one of the nicest hotels I’ve stayed in. I didn’t get a chance to experience their lazy river or swimming pools but the garden area was beautiful and the amenities were quite luxurious. My room was nice…I think. Can’t say I spent a lot of time in it. I’m sure my roommate thinks I’m nuts, but I didn’t go to Dallas to sleep. Not including cat naps, I racked up an impressive 7 hours of sleep over 3 nights. But that was my plan going in so it wasn’t a big deal. Thankfully the kids had Monday off from school so I was able to sleep until noon and catch up a little.

My experience in Dallas was similar to my first Milbloggers’ Conference. I spent the majority of the time in Dallas just soaking it all in. I felt like the world’s biggest sponge and all I could do a lot of the time was just…BE. It was twofold: I was over-the-moon happy to be back with my regional team. In many ways, we’re a family and this was a wonderful reunion. On top of that was the conference itself, and just the idea of being in the room with all of these people I admire the heck out of - who do so much for so many and are rock stars in their own right - was enough to overwhelm me. So I spent a lot of time just soaking it in. I watched. I listened (two ear holes, one mouth hole. I tried to apply that ratio to how much I listened versus talked). I tried to commit everything to memory so I could go back and relive it later. 

And I knew I was going to do this. It’s how I process things so none of this came as a surprise. I knew I wasn’t going to engage as much as I would have liked this first year. I did better than I expected and met/talked to a bunch of new people, but there are so many more I want to connect with so that’s my goal for next year. However, next year will probably hold a different challenge in that I expect the organization to have grown significantly, which means that next year’s convention will be even bigger (and the possibility exists that I will not be invited - I wasn’t actually invited this year. Instead, I was standing in for one of the regional managers that couldn’t make it). So who knows? 

There are a lot of big, structural changes coming and a lot of uncertainty as they are rolled out. No one really knows what the actual secondary and tertiary effects will be and a lot of things are up in the air. Some people are really stressed about this, which is completely understandable. It’s hard to avoid stress when the parameters you’re use to functioning under are either shifting or dissolving. Change is tough and I’m the first to admit that. I don’t do change well and it makes me all panicky. However, the team I work with…I’ve never had the privilege - and it is truly a privilege - to work with a team that felt more like family than this group of people. It overwhelms me on at least a weekly basis and sometimes more. If any group of people can make it through these choppy waters, it’s this group.

Just today, I was brought to tears by someone saying something as simple as ‘Welcome home’. Silly but profound, all at the same time. For so long - most of my life, to be honest - I’ve rarely felt ‘at home’ anywhere other than in my own home. And, being a military spouse for so long (and being rather transient as a college student before that), even my own home felt foreign a lot of the time. As a kid, I never felt completely like a city-dweller, even though I lived in SoCal but I also didn’t feel like a country kid. In school, I didn’t have a particular group of friends that I specifically identified with. I was blessed to have good friends but they were spread out across different social groups and I never really fit in completely with any of them. Same goes for college - I was usually on the periphery. Ditto for my time as a military spouse. 

And then I find TR. And I find these people that have my back - physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually - in every way a family should. And they let me have theirs. That feeling is POWERFUL. Overwhelmingly powerful. It brings me to my knees if I dwell on it too much, and I’m not sure if it’s the fact that they have my back or that they let me have theirs, because that is an honor in and of itself. To be needed like that, outside of my own family, is fulfilling and humbling. 

And the more I ponder all of this and dig into why all of this is so overwhelming to me - this concept of family outside of blood - I realize that part of it has to do with the fact that I am unfamiliar with it simply because I have never served in combat and never really been a part of a team or an organization where these kinds of bonds are formed. So it’s new and intoxicating and wonderful. I’m sure I’ll find a balance at some point but for now I just kind of revel in it and do my best to put that momentum I feel to use. It oozes out of me at times and I’m not used to that either but I’m getting there. 

The conference itself was good - lots of TR Kool Aid, as it were. Not so much of a ‘leadership’ conference in that there wasn’t much in terms of leadership development. I would have liked to have seen that but the weekend was chock full of plenty of other useful information and experiences - functional breakouts, ‘speed dating’ with topics like ‘CEO/COO Q&A: Culture, Mission, & Org Strategy’, ‘Comms: Story Yelling, Tattoos, & Brand Friggin’ Standards’, and ‘Membership: What’s Your Safeword?’. All of these had little nuggets of wonderful information embedded in them, particularly for this newbie. 

The welcome dinner Thursday night featured guest speaker and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph F. Dunford. He was a riot and did not disappoint. The hope is that, when he retires, he will don a grey shirt and join us. I suspect he will. 

...my TRibe...
I think the best part of the entire weekend was the people - the ones I already knew and the ones I was privileged to meet. TR has a fantastic online presence and being able to faces to names was great. And the time spent with my regional people is always time well spent. I Also got to take my first Uber ride and that was really cool as well. I convinced them all to try Korean food and that was a raging success. We sang songs at a piano bar, some of us rode elephant statues.

It was a good weekend. I miss them all already and can’t wait to see them again in a few weeks for our Regional conference. 


Eight years

I was going through some boxes in the basement and stumbled across a letter my dad wrote me back in 1995. It was random...and rare. He didn't write me many letters but when he did, they were always a glimpse into his mind. Having moved out at 18, I didn't get a chance to talk to him as often as I would have liked so the letters he did write to me were a sweet treasure.

It's been 8 years that he's been gone. Eight years. How does eight years feel like eight days sometimes?

Heading to Team Rubicon NatCon soon and I'm grateful. Being surrounded by wonderful people who do incredible things, planning to do even more incredible things in 2017 will be good for my soul. And rather than stuff this all down and gut it out alone (as is my want), I've stepped out of my comfort zone and given a couple of good friends a heads up so that if they see me wallowing too much, they can kick my butt and get me out of my head. Hopefully I will be having too good of a time for it to be an issue, but it's good to know they are there if I need them.

I dread this week each year but this year, I'm going to do my best to revel in the changes that are being wrought in my life because they are the right changes. They are good changes. And I feel like I am on the right path. Finally.

My father would be pleased and that is what I will focus on. I do so miss him but I am oh so grateful for the time I had with him.


When I was a child...

I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown
The dream is gone

I can remember my first panic attack in first grade. My mom had taken me to school and dropped me off and by the time first recess rolled around, I was a mess. I couldn't breathe. I felt scared and anxious all at once. I felt like I was going to fall through the ground into an undersea ocean with the ground closing up around and above me as I drowned. So I went to the school nurse and told her I felt sick. She called my mom and my mom came and brought me home where I felt safe.

I never explained any of this to my parents - I couldn't. I didn't have the vocabulary to do so. My panic attacks were infrequent and I could never discern a pattern or a trigger. And I assumed that everyone dealt with them in some form or another so I saw no need to say anything. I learned coping mechanisms for when they did hit and pretty much forgot about them in between.

When I was in my early 30s, I remember listening to either my sister-in-law or a friend describe what a panic attack feels like and it was like a light switch was flipped. So THAT was what I had been dealing with off and on all my life! Panic attacks. It was weird to put a name to something that had been nameless for so long.

They are still pretty infrequent. Most of the time, I can anticipate them - they are usually a result of too many stressors in my life. For instance, the one that nailed me in 2013 was as I was buying my house...by myself. MacGyver was in Korea and I was doing the single parent thing, buying a house, scheduling a move across town, and scheduling a move from Kansas to Korea. It made sense. The one that nailed me last week came out of nowhere.

People keep telling me I have a lot on my plate and that's somewhat true, but not really. I stopped working at the end of July. I'm going to school full time but my classes are only a few days per week. The material is somewhat review. Swim season hasn't yet really started back full swing. I'm loving my work with Team Rubicon. I have wonderful people surrounding me. My family is good. It made no sense. And it's those panic attacks - the ones that sneak up on me and make no sense - that really do me in. I can still feel the effects of this one. I'm still shaky. I can feel that if I isolate myself (as is my want) I will slip right back into it. The ones with no discernible cause are the ones that scare me. How do you defend against something like that?