Overcoming the odds

I’ve overcome many odds that were clearly stacked against me in my life, and not without help. I’ve had God and many friends along the way who have been involved in my overcoming these odds and helped me to manage the ones that cannot be overcome, like PTSD and Major Depression. Now, for some, the mental disorders are considered “obstacles that have been overcome” at some point. That’s terrific if you’re able to overcome those odds in your life. Mine, however, will only ever be “managed” due to their severity and chronicity. That’s okay. Effective management of mental illness is not nothing, by any means! Let me give a brief history of odds that I’ve overcome in my life.

First, there was joining the military 21 years ago. I was military police, a machine gunner, and (later) an armorer and a fitness trainer for the officers as an enlisted troop. When I was deployed to the Middle East as a machine gunner, I developed PTSD. I was put in the position of armorer after surviving the Middle East, and did very well there until I refused to follow an unlawful order, which was my duty under the UCMJ. I took my complaint all the way to the President of the United States. After being hospitalized for the first time for PTSD, I became a fitness trainer at the officers’ gym. I had a military psychiatrist who “didn’t treat Christians”, of which I was one. After my second hospitalization in Ward 9C at LRMC for PTSD, I was given an Honorable Discharge under medical conditions. I had served a little over three and a half years in the military. It then took 15 years of American Legion representation, fighting the system, and Compensation and Pension Examinations, and appeals to get my disability rating and benefits from the VA. I overcame the odds, though, and kept fighting. Fifteen years was, at the time, fully half of my life, and it was a long, difficult, and frustrating battle in its own right.

Next, another challenge was running concurrently alongside my battle for my mind in the military. I had a severe and chronic injury to my right ankle in the military that required an immobilizing brace to be worn. I was told by every surgeon I came across that it couldn’t be fixed and that I’d never be able to go without the brace again, much less be active the way I wanted to be. I was in that ankle brace for over 16 years with no hope of ever being able to even walk again without it. My psychiatrist, however, sent me down to the indoor bouldering gym to get me to try climbing as a coping mechanism for my PTSD. I worked at it, I loved it, and I became strong again. One day, I decided to go climbing without my ankle brace on and, though shaky, found that I could do it. I overcame that injury of 16+ years and no longer wear the immobilizing ankle brace, or any ankle brace for that matter. During that time, I also learned to set bouldering problems, which I was getting good at (I could set a mean V4 and even set a popular V5) before the new gym was built. I helped set a few problems at the new gym, which was a lot of fun because I had a great crew to work with.

Now I’m facing another set of odds to overcome in the form of recovering from a left wrist fracture that occurred almost a year and a half ago when I was hit head-on by a driver who is currently charged with reckless driving. It totaled my truck and left me with a concussion, a right chest contusion, and a fractured scaphoid bone in my wrist. Miraculously, after five months in a hard cast and soft splints, my wrist healed without surgery, which is unheard of. I’m climbing again, but not at the level that I was prior to the motor vehicle accident. This, too, I will overcome, though. Not my first rodeo with “unbeatable odds”. Though it’s a slow process, I will overcome. Nobody and nothing, including the pain, can stop me. Climb on, because I’m going to.

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