The Healing Journey Project

Renewal and Transformation Through Kung Fu

Progress Journal

Futures and Foundations

Posted by Robert Bibeau on July 25, 2011 at 1:28 AM

The past seven months have been busy.  The last time I blogged, I was recovering from surgery.  Since then, I have left the Wounded Warrior Battalion, returned to full duty overseeing the training of Recruits, established plans for my future, worked hard at improving my family life, watched my son grow and developed my Kung Fu.  I have also been asked to speak at several events and detail my story of recovery.  Those opportunities were a great privilege and extremely fulfilling.  The items I listed seem easy to rattle off right now, and it may not seem like a good excuse to have forgone my blog.  Truthfully, as I got settled back into work that didnt have the "safety net" of the Wounded Warrior Battalion, I often felt overwhelmed.  That being said, I do question how much more effective I might have been these past many months had I been blogging.  The point being that I feel like the blog lays a good foundation for ensuring that the rest of the Healing Journey Project is occuring as intended.

In an effort to maintain better continuity of the Healing Journey Project, at least from a blog perspective, I am going to make every effort to post every Sunday night.  Posting every day proved to be exceedingly taxing, and every seven months ineffective.  I feel like once a week is a good tempo... I mean it works for syndicated columnists right?  So for anybody who is still taking a look at the site, check back in a week too!

Now that the business of explanations and justifications is out of the way, lets get down to some of the more interesting things...

The foundation that Kung Fu has lain down for me defies words.  Being as I havent written in a while, It may be easier to describe this than it other wise would.  Have you ever had a friend that was over weight whom you lost contact with and then, months later you see him and he has lost a tremendous amount of weight?  Had you been exposed to that friend everyday, you may not have noticed the change as day by day it is subtle, where as after months of seperation it is a significant change noticed in a moment.  I feel like this may be the same type of situation.  At least as far as the foundation for my future which Kung Fu has built and the change it has effected in me both since I began my study and since I last wrote.

In May I ran a Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test (PFT), it's an annual requirement and one that I am these days happy to fulfill.  out of a possible 300 points, I earned a score of 297.  The test is comprised of three events pull-ups, crunches, and a 3 mile run.  Each event offers a possible 100 points where 20 pull-ups, 100 crunches in 2 minutes, and 3 miles in 18:00 is a perfect score.  I maxed the pull-ups and the crunches and ran the 3 miles in 18:22.  Pretty good considering I NEVER do any type of physical training beyond Kung Fu.  NEVER.  How ever, an extreme nearly elite state of physical fitness hardly details the change and foundation which my Kung Fu training and teachings have developed for me.

To accurately describe the change I will need to take you back to the state my psyche was in shortly after I was medevac'd from Iraq.  As a Marine, and especially as a Marine Infantry Officer, I pride myself on physical fitness and an agressive almost knuckle dragging personality.  Paradoxically, having been my battalion's Intelligence Officer during "The Surge" in 2007, I also fancy myself a bit of an intellectual.  This is not intended with any sense of bravado or a boastful nature, it just simply... is.  This was all especially true on September 29, 2008.  The day before I got hit.  By October 1, 2008 things were beginning to change for me.  I knew that something was wrong though due to the nature of Traumatic Brain Injuries, I didnt know what.  I knew I was in pain, but figured it was temporary, and secretly wondered why I was suffering any pain at all.  Shortly I became filled with doubt.  Doubt about my abilities as a commander, my physical abilities, my tactical abilities, my leadership abilities.  I had doubts of whether or not a stronger man could have sustained that hit better than I did, whether a better tactician would have seen the bomb before it exploded and I even had doubts of whether or not I was actually hurt.  After I got medevac'd from Iraq this sense of self doubt maginified.  Although I had absolutely ZERO control over the medevac, there was an irrational side of my brain wondering if I were a coward because I had "let them" medevac me.  When I found out about the positive results of an MRI revealing precisely where the injury had occured in my brain I doubted that it could even be the appropriate scan or an older injury.  Basically, everything that was presented to me, I had doubts and paranoia's about.  As the medical intervention which I so desperately needed took hold, so did the side effects.  Weight gain being at the forefront but an acknowledgement that many of the things which I had so long prided myself on where now unattainable for me coincided.  In essence, the blow from that bomb to my pyshce was absolutely, unequivocally destructive.  The blast didn't hurt my perception of self, it didn't damage my perception of self.... No.  That blast completely destroyed my perception of myself.

Once you recognize, that the man in your mirror is... unrecognizable, perceptions of the world around you become distorted too.  Feelings of hope often turn to despair for no real reason.  Irrational paranoia's, fear of getting hurt again, fear of losing family members or friends, elevated states of alert and anxiety and a constant never ending state of pain rule the day and an inability to sleep or worse yet fall asleep only to wake up multiple times or suffer nightmares rules the night.  Addtionally the slef doubt continues to manifest and plague and within a few months of having returned home it was coupled by an extreme sense of betrayal.  None of these feelings were intended with any malice toward anyone, but they were there and they were intense and they were absolutely uncontrolable.  It wasn't long until these feelings, symptoms, fears, doubts, paranoia's, anxiety, elevated states of alert, constant pain, a sense of dread and hopelessness for my future and destroyed perception of self had me frequently considering suicide.  The consideration began as a lack of care if something bad were to happen to me eventually it became a calculated risk versus gain analysis.  Obviously this was not something I was willing to discuss with anyone as the recognition that there was too great a risk in the discourse.  Two things happened that pulled me from the precipice.  The first was the announcement by my wife that we were going to have a child.  The second, was that I found Kung Fu.

I can distinctly remember during my second deployment, post injury but prior to medevac, being convinced that I would die there in Iraq and never know the joys of being a father.  When Tiffany told me we were going to have a child, I am sure it saved my life.  However, when you are in the type of state I was in, a high like that will wear off.  Finding Kung Fu and having a committed desire to learn something new each day, the recognition that it was alleviating pain and the fulfilling nature of the training, kept me going until my son was born.  Later, the creation of the Healing Journey Project itself and the assistance and recognition of the good will of American's willing to actually support Wounded service members helped keep me going.  But none-the-less, had I not had those first two items occur, I would not have made it.

Now that the stage has been set detailing the severity of my condition at the time I found Kung Fu it may be more apparent the change that has occured.  That being said as recently as the last time I blogged some of those symptoms were still present although at a diminished level.  Of course by that point the desire to take my own life had long since past but the occasional self doubt and paranoia's were present.  Admittedly those still on occassion persist and to a degree, when I am suffering them now, I notice them more than I did when they were constant.  They are also easier, by and large, to deal with now.

I mentioned, that there was a sense of dread associated with my future.  It is important to both note that feeling is gone and to discuss what that dread was associated with.  I was afraid at the time, that I would be forced out of the military, at the time my sole motive for recovery was vengeance.  I was going to kill as many of the people who had hurt me as I could and it didn't matter to me if that occured in Iraq or Afghanistan or anywhere else.  The thought of not being able to get on another combat deployment scared the hell out of me.  Worse still was the recognition that while I can DO anything, within obvious reason, there wasn't anything else that I WANTED to do.  That fear of not being able to find fulfilling employment was absolutely debilitating.  I am quite happy to say that I am no longer plagued by that sentiment.

Tonights title, Futures and Foundations eludes to the premise that Kung Fu has developed for me a new foundation upon which to build my life.  It also is providing my a future and in the meantime offering some extremely fulfilling experiences.  For example, I was recently in Pennsylvania on a work trip.  After a long workout (of Kung Fu obviously) I was getting ready for bed when I recieved a text message from Tiff.  It was a video she had shot on her iPhone of our son Jaxon mimicing my Kung Fu.  I am telling you it is EXTRAORDINARILY fulfilling to see your own son mimic something that is so important to you.  Additionally my teacher and I have started building various Kung Fu training products which is the perfect blend of my passion for woodworking and carpentry and my passion for Kung Fu.  Additionally, due to the enhanced quality of life I have been enjoying thanks to my Kung Fu, those feelings I described associated with the previously destroyed perception of self are gone.  They had been wrecking my family life in addition to my own life and having a renewed sense of self worth has had huge implications for my family life.  I am able now to enjoy being a part of a family.... thats a huge success in it's own right, but having realized this the vengeful nature I had embraced is completely removed.  In that respect Kung Fu brought me a sense of peace.  It also has assuaged the fear of what to do with my life next.  I have talked with my teacher about this many, many times.  It is my intention to start my own school.  This may occur in the next 20 months or it may not occur for another 12 years.  It all depends on when I get out of the Marine Corps.  Also there is a self imposed reuirement to begin my school with zero debt which means that if I do get out of the Marine Corps before I am eligible for retirement, I may have to go to work for someone else for awhile... the point being, I have a plan for my future.  Something I didn't have the last time I wrote.

So maybe that 297 PFT isn't that big of a deal in its own right, but it seems to assign a tangible numeric value to how I am doing in a lot more respects than a simple metric of physical fitness.

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Reply Mario
3:06 PM on July 25, 2011 
Rob, I am happy you are taking up your blog and this site again. Your story is empowering to others, more so than you may think or even imagine. I do have a suggestion..... it would be fantastic if you would post the clip(s) of little Jax doing kung fu. That is so funny and so cool! I will get back to checking your site every monday to see your new posting.

Thank you,

Reply P.J.
12:16 AM on July 26, 2011 

Just read the blog and I'm starting to get a grip and understanding about how life has a purpose. We just have to find it..glad you found yours and I'm starting to find mine through the synergy of various things we have discussed in person.

Reply cheri
11:04 AM on July 27, 2011 
Congratulations on the 297! That is, in itself, an achievement!

You have worked very hard, and that is paying off in many ways. I'm happy for you and proud of you.

I look forward to Sunday.


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