by John Adams
Filed Under Black Lions, Combat PTSD, Courage, Healing, Military, Pain, Peace, Return To Vietnam, Tears of a Warrior, Trauma, Veterans, Vietnam Today, War | Comments Off on Healing From The Wounds Of War
Two Quotes from Rumi:
(Rumi was a 13th-century poet of immense talent. His work highlights the power of literature in its ability to transcend time, language and geographic locations)
1) Healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer controls our lives.
2) The wound is the place where the light enters you.
Filed Under Black Lions, Combat PTSD, Courage, Events, Faith, Family, Healing, Hope, Journey, Love, Pain, Peace, PTSD, Return To Vietnam, Tears of a Warrior, Veterans, Vietnam Today, War | Comments Off on GETTING UNSTUCK
by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
It isn’t easy to move forward in life when you seem trapped by events that happened in the past. Often times the harder you try to get unstuck, the more bound you become to that very past. So how does one resolve such a dilemma? It probably won’t be without effort, time, and even some painful moments.
In the book/movie, The Shack, the lead character is tormented by an unimaginable personal tragedy. No matter how hard he tries to move forward beyond his pain and horrendous memories, he can’t. Being caught in a terrible incident he is unable to see past his pain to the extent that very little joy or happiness can enter his life. In order to heal he is forced to go back to the place (the shack) where he got stuck; the place where the horror, the anguish, and the future was taken from him.
I think this is what Tony was doing when he decided to return to Vietnam. In order to heal more completely he made a choice to go back to the place where he became stuck, a space that over the last many decades unconsciously became his “shack”. Since his military service in Vietnam he has worked incredibly hard to move beyond the memories and the demons, but there were still times when the burden of combat obscured his vision and ability to live fully. As part of the healing process he had to exhume the old earth in order to plant and allow for new growth to occur. He will be explaining more in his future blogs.
Toward the end of the movie there was a beautiful metaphor about life. A truism that most of us already know…. life is not neat or precisely organized. It is messy, bumpy, and often unbalanced. Yet, it is this very assortment of messiness and disorder that make us who we are and who we can become if we are brave enough to return to our “shack” to become unstuck.
So what is your “shack”? What might you do to become “unstuck: (that doesn’t mean you have to physically return to a specific location to heal). Just know that this “becoming unstuck” will most likely not be easy, orderly, or without some deep potholes. It is a journey, like Tony, you may need to take alone. However, the reality is that you will not be totally on your own. Like Tony you will have the thoughts, prayers, and support of family and friends that will accompany you in spirit and hope.
A LONG WAY BACK
by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D.
Not 100% sure why my husband wanted to go back to Vietnam to the very battle sites that caused such immense pain and trauma. Many years ago we took a cruise to Vietnam and he expressed a desire to return, especially to Nui Ba Den, The Black Virgin Mountain. This was a combat zone where many people were killed and injured and he was a part of one of the worst battles on May 13, 1968.
Several months ago he had an opportunity to sign up for a trip that would arrange for him to visit some of the combat zones in which he fought. The journey would only include a driver, an interpreter, and my husband. It wasn’t something I was terribly comfortable with at the time. Even our sons were concerned and wanted me to go with him to make sure he would be able to handle the emotional strain of the tour. However, this wasn’t an option for the group who was arranging the excursions. Many friends and fellow vets questioned why he would ever want to return to a place that caused such extreme trauma. It is not a trip for everyone, but he felt the need to return as part of his healing process. Somewhat like carrying a huge boil inside your mind and heart. Some doctors say the boil will eventually dissolve. Some days it was smaller, but others times it grew out of control. The fastest way for many to rid themselves of a boil is to lance it…. relieve the puss and infection and allow it to heal from the inside out. I think that is what Tony is trying to do. Taking the risky step to “lance” his boil and release some of the ghostly infection that has impacted his heart, mind, and soul for most of his life.
Needless to say as the time grew closer so did both of our anxieties. When President Trump announced his immigration ban it caused an incredible pandemonium across the world, including Visas for Vietnam. Fortunately, Tony was able to obtain his Visa before this ensued. One of our biggest fears was that he might get over there and not be able to get back home due to unstable world conditions within and between our governments. Every day we waited to see if the trip would be canceled which made the entire visit even more stressful.
Finally the day arrived. I was nervous. He was nervous. And his service dog, Bailey, was a mess. Poor Bailey could tell something was going on and it wasn’t a happy event. The day Tony left, Bailey sat at the front door and cried, then wandered the house as if I hid Tony somewhere. It was going to be a very long ten days.
I won’t go into much detail but after a 36 hour grueling flight he arrived, extremely tired yet ready to begin his quest of finding peace and solace from the demons that have haunted him for almost fifty years. The last few days have been episodes of ups and downs. Times when I’m sure he questioned what in the heck he was doing so far from home without his immediate support systems. All of us here were equally apprehensive. I will let Tony relate his story once he is ready. For me and our sons, we will be relieved once he is back home, safe and sound.
As for Bailey, I can’t imagine how ecstatic he will be when he finally can stop sitting at the front door or checking the house for Tony’s presence. For me, I may miss the numerous extra walks we do daily to keep him occupied – I’m losing pounds but my legs are aching. Maybe I’m not losing that much weight – after some of our outings I stop and treat myself to a large Chai Ice Cream Chiller (better than Prozac) … then take several doggie treats to reward this faithful, but wearisome pooch.
These last ten days have been emotionally charged and physically exhausting for everyone. Making such a life passage really is a long way back but necessary in order to make a restored long trip home.
by Tony Seahorn
We often talk and write about spending time in nature as an important element of the healing process.
For those with Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD or more accurately PTS), finding solace in natural places helps us realize and appreciate the marvelous wonders of the world.
Following is a link to an article that appeared this weekend in Parade Magazine worth reading.
Living in awe…
Guest post by Jennifer McGregor
Photo via Pixabay by JakeWilliamHeckey
PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, affects millions of Americans every year, yet there is still a stigma surrounding it that leaves many people too uncomfortable to start a conversation about it. Often, the reluctance to talk about it stems from either a lack of knowledge or fear of the things that can accompany PTSD, such as substance abuse or depression.
It’s important to find ways to let this fear go, whether you suffer from the disorder yourself or have a loved one who does. PTSD can absolutely be manageable with the right treatment, but the first step to healing is usually starting a conversation.
The causes for PTSD are many and varied, so treatment can depend on the root cause. The most common reasons for post traumatic stress disorder are witnessing military combat, witnessing or being involved in a serious accident or terrorist event, and being the victim of sexual or physical abuse. Often, alcohol or drugs work to numb the pain from bad memories or help the sufferer sleep following nightmares, and the sufferer may form an addiction that leaves them depressed, isolated from friends and family, in declining health, or suicidal. For this reason, it’s imperative to know the warning signs of depression and suicide and be open with loved ones about what’s going on.
If you suffer from PTSD and are feeling negative effects that have you worried about your well-being, it’s important to let go of the fear and shame often associated with the disorder and ask for help. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to family members or friends about your feelings, consider calling a hotline, finding an online support group, or contacting a therapist. Trained professionals can help you leave behind negative thoughts and memories, learn to control the track your thoughts take and focus on more positive energy, and help you learn that there is no shame in either PTSD or the events that caused it.
Depression and anxiety can be overwhelming at times, especially if isolation has occurred. Finding alternative therapy may be helpful once you’ve contacted a therapist–do not try to self-diagnose your condition. Rather, consult with a professional to see what will work best for you. It could be medication, particular methods of therapy, or both. But there are things you can do at home to relieve the stress and anxious feelings, including art therapy, exercise, or finding a service dog. Animals can be wonderful companions and can help tremendously in lowering stress levels.
If substance abuse is involved, take heart; studies have shown that exposure therapy–in which the PTSD sufferer is exposed to painful memories over and over in order to face them and find healthy ways to cope–is hugely successful in sufferers who have problems with drugs or alcohol.
“The exciting thing in my view is that the study supports people with drug and alcohol problems having access to other forms of psychological interventions, rather than being fobbed off and told to sort out their alcohol or drug problem first,” says Michael Farrell, director of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Center.
It’s important to remember that help is out there. Don’t give up hope. If someone you love is suffering with PTSD or addiction issues, don’t be afraid to let them know you’re concerned. Start a conversation and reach out; you might just save a life.
Jennifer McGregor is a pre-med student, who loves providing reliable health and medical resources for PublicHealthLibrary.org users. She knows how difficult it can be to sift through the mountains of health-related information on the web. She co-created the site with a friend as a way to push reputable information on health topics to the forefront, making them easier and quicker to find.
Filed Under Courage, Faith, Fishing Therapy, Healing, Healing Waters, Journey, Life, Love, Military, Peace, PTSD, Renewal, Rushing Wind, Tears of a Warrior, Wounded Warriors | Comments Off on VINCE THE PRINCE
By Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D.
Once upon a time there was a very young boy who lived an incredibly difficult childhood. He was the oldest son of a family of five children – two younger sisters, one brother and a step brother. At eleven years old he became homeless, kicked out of his family by an abusive father. Drinking and beatings by his dad were endured on a regular basis. For five years he lived on the streets until he was old enough to join the army (1956-1965). Being of Navaho Indian decent, Vince the Prince was a fledgling warrior, and warriors always fight with perseverance and courage.
However, the trauma of his early childhood experiences followed him into the military. He was always in trouble, and believed he would get shot, knifed, or killed in prison. Life was pretty hopeless. Anger often consumed him, a normal coping mechanism many children of abuse use to mask their pain and unpredictable daily circumstances. But, Vince the Prince was a survivor, often called a “smart ass”. Being tough kept him alive, and being enraged kept him “feeling”.
How does a person ever survive such a life? According to Vince the Prince in 1970 he found faith in the spirit of the Lord, and this discovery saved him. Talking with him was pretty amazing as he could quote scriptures from the Bible better than most clergy. His personal commitment to the Lord handed him the hope that he lacked in his younger years and offered him a purpose in how he would live the rest of his life. In 1973 Vince was ordained as a street Evangelist. His parishioners were those confined to the jails and prisons in Chicago. He worked with the street people offering kindness, optimism, and faith. Having this new mission made him think of others before himself. He was no longer in the survivor mode, but in a vocation of serving those who, like him in his early years, were crushed by life experiences far beyond the control of a young boy. In 1983 he even completed his GED after having only a fifth grade education. Yep, pretty darn remarkable.
I asked him at the end of one of our conversations “What has been your greatest lesson?” His response, “No matter who or what you are, in God’s eyes you are precious.” And, ‘When all else fails turn to Jesus.”
Vince the Prince continues to work with young teens, many who are homeless like he was in his early years. Who better to understand their struggles, their fears, and their despair? Who better to provide a sense that no matter how dire your circumstances may seem there is always hope and that hope can lead to a miraculous future. Living life with purpose and a wicked sense of humor make Vince the Prince a very special human, indeed.
(I recently spent a week with Vince at a remote fishing camp in Canada called Rushing Wind. Tony and I were invited to work with veterans who have experienced the effects of combat and are finding ways to heal from the wounds of war.)
Listen peacefully to the wild call of the Loon.
By Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D.
(Photos and pilgrimage credit: Diggs Brown)
How many of you know about the Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage? It is a five hundred mile walk from Southern France to Spain, but it can take many different routes. “The Way of St. James” was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages during the Middle Ages, together with those to Rome and Jerusalem, and a pilgrimage route on which a plenary indulgence could be earned;other major pilgrimage routes include the Via Francigena to Rome and the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
The Way can take dozens of pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela. Traditionally, as with most pilgrimages, the Way of Saint James began at one’s home and ended at the pilgrimage site. However, a few of the routes are considered main ones. During the Middle Ages, the route was highly travelled. However, the Black Death, the Protestant Reformation, and political unrest in 16th century Europe led to its decline. By the 1980s, only a few pilgrims per year arrived in Santiago. Later, the route attracted a growing number of modern-day pilgrims from around the globe. In October 1987, the route was declared the first European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe; it was also named one of UNESCO‘s World Heritage Sites. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camino_de_Santiago)”
One of our friends, a veteran who served in Iraq, is currently on the arduous Camino journey. He began in France and is expected to take at least a month to complete the mission. On the first day of his walk, seventeen miles, resulted in some pretty ghastly blisters on his heels. Not a good way to start such a lengthy trek. Yet, in spite of the pain, foot sores, and body aches he continued his travel. The reason for taking such a quest is a personal objective of which the pilgrim only knows. He may or may not have a specific reason for going through this venture. It may be finding some external spiritual enlightenment. It may be finding answers to questions regarding life that he is still forming.
For him the reason isn’t as important as the path he is traveling, He is finding his own Way as he walks each step. Some days he says he’s content to be able to empty his mind and observe the scenery, the quiet, the road only as it appears. Perhaps by doing so, he is able to release some of the anxiety, demons, we all seem to collect throughout our life; for him especially his time in Iraq. What is crucial to this endeavor is principally the act of the doing. He is open to find whatever he finds.
Perhaps this is the essence of any real journey/challenge… the willingness to not fully know or even expect a certain outcome, but the ability to merely accept whatever may come forth and acquire gratitude for whatever may ensue.
I’m not sure I would be able, brave enough or even want to engage in such a venture. It would take a tremendous amount of stamina and trust to do so. Our friend in one of his comments talked about an 84 year old man who is on his fifth Camino. Amazing, humbling, and truly commendable. Today he is more than half way through his quest. We are eager to hear more about his amazing experience and we say a prayer every day for his safety and well-being.
Thank you Diggs, for sharing your remarkable travels with us. We hope this trip brings you everything you may or may not have imagined. Be well. Be at peace. And return home soon with Arthur where you both are missed.
Filed Under American Patriotism, Bless Our Troops, Combat PTSD, Courage, Dogs, Military, Post-Traumatic Stress "Injury", PTSD, Service Dogs, Tears of a Warrior, Trauma, Veterans, War Dogs, Wounded Warriors | Comments Off on Courage Revealed
by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
It is easy to see what courage looks like. We observe it in the acts of those who, in spite of intense danger or inconceivable suffering, or endless determination, an individual continues to live on. To move forward. We see it in the movies where it makes us feel safe and in control in events we know we may never survive.
But what does courage sound like? Does it reveal itself in words, in songs, in other types of media? Perhaps real courage sounds like Silence. The silence of grief that cannot be expressed in words. The silence of a heart being shattered. The silence of hidden tears and silent screams.
And what does courage feel like? It may be different for every person, yet, individually it contains some singular similarities. Our feelings, much like hearing, is silent beyond ourselves. Emotions, an element of feelings, come at anytime, day or night. It cannot be quantified, perhaps because we may not be able to find a beginning or end in its infinitesimal existence. You see, feelings go beyond emotions. They are deeper, often jumbled together with anger, love, gratitude and sadness. We feel what we feel. Attempting to put feelings into words can be exhausting, exasperating, and mostly ineffective.
Courage, like feelings and hearing is also Silent. It is very much present. There is both a sweetness and bitterness in courage. The sweetness of living through a reality that many may never experience. The bitterness resulting from that very same experience. It is not about the “why me”, “how come”, or “what ifs” of suffering. Simply having the courage to accept the experience for what it is— an experience that changes a person from the before to the now – and beyond.
We spend too much time trying to define/identify courage. Most results are superficial at best. For if, as I believe, courage is found only in the Silence… the empty spaces between the noise and what is seen, heard, and felt. We often miss or mistakenly identify courage. Its potential seed lives in most of us, yet, it can only be germinated when or if the time presents itself. For some of you reading this piece may think, “What the heck is she rambling about?” For others, those who have lived the courage, you may only nod your head and silently say “true”.
Filed Under Brain Injury, Dogs, Post-Traumatic Stress "Injury", PTSD, PTSD treatment, Service Dogs, TBI & PTSD, Tears of a Warrior, TED Talk, Vietnam Today, Wounded Warriors | Comments Off on TED TALKS AND PTSD
By Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
It continues to be an overly busy few months. We are waiting for things to slow down a bit, yet, as soon as we are done with one “To Do List” another pops up with an even bigger task sheet. It begs the question as to whether we are really that harried, or if we are more easily exhausted because we aren’t all that youthful any more. OK, don’t go to that disheartening place.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to do a TED Talk at Colorado State University where I’m a professor in the Education College. Of course my topic was Post Traumatic Stress. After months of putting together the talk and multiple practice sessions, the day finally arrived. Truthfully, when I was first accepted as a speaker I was quite excited. As the day for the TED event grew closer I became more anxious. It wasn’t the fear of talking in front of large groups of people – we do that often. It was trying to fit twenty years of research and essential information into a fifteen minute timeframe that drove me to panic. This was more like the old television show, Name That Tune, in which the contestant was given only the first three or four notes of a song and expected to know its name; a seemingly impossible task for discussing Post Traumatic Stress and its effects on the brain, body, and spirit.
As I entered the stage area I felt like Katniss from the Hunger Games, going into a life and death battle without the proper equipment. You will have to listen to the talk (the information is in this blog), to see the results. Be sure to go to watch the very end for a surprise appearance of our service dog, Bailey. Tony, unbeknownst to me, brought him to the event and sent him up on stage at the very end of my talk. OMG!!!!
Ted Talk: 15 minutes worth hearing!
Understanding PTSD’s Effects on Brain, Body, and Emotions | Janet Seahorn | TEDxCSU – YouTube