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Chapter 4 - Take Care of Yourself

The road to recovery begins with self-care. Self-care necessarily requires an honest look at how you are doing with the daily routine of your life. Sometimes that honest assessment is driven by a moment of clarity or some event that opens a window into your soul. In my case, I wasn't that lucky. It happened for me at a time my life had bottomed in a place close to despair. I was walking around so sleep deprived that I was literally bumping into things in my zombie like state. The PTSD driven nightmares were so disturbing that I was up every night for most of the night, and could sleep only during the daylight hours. Even then, I slept fitfully for only a few hours at a time. If I went out at all it was to see my oncologist about the cancer. My eating habits were lousy, and I was getting no exercise. Other than that, my life was a D-.

When I finally blurted out to my doctor this sad state of affairs, he immediately picked up the phone and called one of the staffers in another building to set an appointment for me with a support unit that dealt with mental health problems for his cancer patients. I got started with an excellent therapist meeting twice a week with her for individual therapy sessions. She taught me many things in the course of the next two years, but the most important of them was that I must take care of myself. The progress that I made was painful and fitful. Part of it was re-learning the importance of the mind-body connection.

My wife, who was smarter than me about such things, brought some literature home from church about personal fitness training that just happened to be a handout from the best trainer in the city. (So chosen in a recent popular poll). After I summarily rejected the flyer, she just left it on the kitchen table. One day I picked it up, read it, and understood that it was what I needed. Since my birthday was coming up, I asked her to get me a gift certificate for his gym. She did, and I went. Some eight years later, I am still training three days a week with an intense program of strength and aerobics exercise. It has become one of my lifelines.

As you already know, any training routine requires some attention to nutrition in order to produce real benefit. Regular exercise caused me to pay more attention to what I was putting in my body. My eating habits got better in several different ways. As a type II diabetic, this has had additional benefit to my overall health. I am able to avoid having to take insulin by simply eating more sensibly. The really unexpected gain from my training program has been via the mind-body connection. The reason that all of our military outfits put emphasis on fitness is that it makes us better warriors. The reason that it's important after the wars are over is that it makes us feel better. It is rare to come home from a workout without feeling more positive than when you left. Anyone who suffers from PTSD can use all the positive they can get.

I can hardly believe that I wrote this chapter. I am probably the prototypical couch potato, and have been so for most of my life. That I now should be stronger in my '70s then I was in my '60s just amazes me. Kenneth Cooper, who wrote the first book on aerobics, said it simply but powerfully: "fitness equals health."

To this, I would add, take care of yourself, because if you don't, it is unlikely that anyone will.

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Last updated on August 10, 2011