Healing Event

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By Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D.

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There is nothing more healing than being in nature, especially in the beautiful North Platte River Valley of Saratoga, Wyoming. The town, its people, and several organizations made possible another opportunity for veterans from the Cheyenne VA Hospital to spend three days fishing, golfing, horseback riding, biking, enjoying the hot springs, and of course eating…. lots and lots of eating.

 

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This picturesque place is where ten veterans found a few moments of peace and rejuvenation.

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Kristi Reuben, the therapeutic recreation director for the Cheyenne VA Medical Center brought her group of combat veterans to Saratoga, making their first stop for a picnic lunch on the Snowy Range Mirror Lake.

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Once again, the Saratoga Hot Springs Resort hosted the group where they slept in comfortable, cozy bungalows. Many have never experienced such luxury and spacious surroundings. The mission of every person at the Resort was to take excellent care of their guests and make sure the veterans’ stay was a relaxing and exceptional occasion. On Thursday, Tom and Dixie Arthur invited the group to spend the afternoon and evening at their amazing Upper Cedar Creek Ranch where the veterans were treated to horseback riding, fishing in a beautiful lake setting and indulge in a barbecue of three types of elk sausages and scrumptious elk hamburgers that were a gourmet’s delight. Condiments from Old Baldy Club completed the dinner while desserts were home baked brownies and lemon bars from Sandy Streeter and Carol States’ kitchen. Every year the veterans enjoy the stunning surroundings and spend hours chatting and sometimes even sharing the stories behind their war trauma.

 

 

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Offering such a unique event can only transpire when many individuals, organizations, and sponsors come together to provide services, fund raisers, and activities that meet the needs of our wounded warriors. Many volunteers act as guides, chauffeurs, and personal attendants to each veteran. Truly it does take a village to heal our wounded and Saratoga, Wyoming does an amazing job.

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At the end of this year’s affair one veteran commented to Kristi that “if he died tomorrow he would be happy”. He spent three days soaking in the healing spa waters and rode a horse all the way from the ranch’s corral through green meadows to the top of the mountain for the barbecue. Perhaps this special time of immersing in nature may help our wounded veterans physically and mentally reflect on the healing process and the wondrous power of nature. Perhaps they will be able to recollect the solace of this place where they felt refreshed, safe, and at peace. The power of nature, the power of animals, the power of people and the commitment of a small Wyoming community are the genuine powers behind therapeutic healing.

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REMEMBERING OUR VETERANS

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REMEMBERING OUR VETERANS

By Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D.

Today has been quite special.  We spent the day with hundreds of other veterans and their families along with the community viewing the traveling Vietnam Wall. It is the second time Fort Collins, CO has been honored by the wall’s presence.

For many it will be the only Vietnam Wall 2017time they are able to see the full list of those who died serving their country in a faraway land known as Vietnam. The cost of all wars is much more than somber. Even today our young men and women continue to serve in similar faraway lands.

Yet, some Americans have forgotten the cost of freedom. As a nation, fewer have served than not served and those who have served their families have also served.  Kinfolk have had to endure the intense anxiety and loneliness of days without a loved one. Nights spent wondering and praying their beloved person is safe.

It is important, not just on Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day, we think about our veterans and their families.  We must think about the sacrifices these individuals have made in behalf of our country and for each of us. We must think about and understand that Freedom is far from free. We need to recognize others have paid a significant price for our liberties; a price that allows the rest of us to enjoy a life of peace, prosperity, and security.  And we need to make sure we live our days in ways that honor the privilege of being able to be in such a great country.

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A thank you, also, to our first responders and their families – your daily support makes a huge difference to our cities and communities.Bailey by army symbol

Guest Post by Sally Harper

Battling_PTSD_(4949341330)For many soldiers and veterans who return home after a war, PTSD is a scary proposition that can affect them. It is a mental health condition whose symptoms may include reliving traumatic events, flashbacks & nightmares, persistent fear, feelings of anger, horror & detachment and guilt. Inability to sleep, concentration issues, aggressiveness and self-destructive behavior are other symptoms of the condition. PTSD can also have devastating effects on victims, families and caregivers who live through the experiences of patients who are suffering.

Early detection is crucial in treating PTSD with standard remedies including psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and drug treatments. For patients who are not willing to discuss their trauma with a therapist, virtual reality-based therapy is also an option. The main aim is to keep their identities as soldiers, but steer away from the trauma of the war so that they can integrate into society easier and live normal lives. Stress management, exercise and good diets are complementary ways to cope with post-traumatic stress.

Take a look at this article for more information on the causes and symptoms of stress as well as how to control it.

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War & Peace

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I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.

by John Adams

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A LONG WAY BACK

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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.

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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.

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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.

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by Tony Seahorn

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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…

Feeling Awe May Be the Secret to Health and Happiness

 

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Learning To Live With PTSD, Letting Go Of Fear

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Guest post by Jennifer McGregor

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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.

 

 

 

By Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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(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.)

 

 

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Listen peacefully to the wild call of the Loon.

 

 

 

 

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